Monday, February 27, 2023

2023 BIG 12 Preview (March 4th-5th)


Some of these weight classes take up to 8 guys apiece and in the end it'll be obvious that based on result, it simply isn't enough. Ironic isn't it? Like I said in my ACC preview & as all say in all of my NCAA DI conference previews, 2023 is the year where being top 33 will truly mean something. 

125 lbs
Spots Available: 6
Contenders: 10 

We have 10 very talented wrestlers here & only 6 spots available to them. Just think, if Iowa State's Kysen Terukina wasn't hurt, we'd had 11. This is going to be a barnburner, an all out fight. Earning allocations here at 125 lbs BIG 12 is gonna be a war. 

Killian Cardinale of West Virginia hasn't faced a whole heck of a lot of the in-conference competition yet this year, but I'd still consider him a top dawg for a conference title. 7th in the nation in '21 he was a hair from earning AA #2 last year. He owns a 3-2 decision over Prata. 

Noah Surin of Missouri was one match shy of All American honors himself last season. When on, he's a tough Tiger to tame. Major decisions over both Jore Volk of Wyoming (11-1) & Prata (8-0), he snuck past Reece Witcraft of Oklahoma State 2-1. 

Kase Mauger of Utah Valley has quietly had himself a respectable season. Within the NCAA overall, a few ugly losses, but within the conference he has more than held his own. One of his favorite noises in the whole wide world is to hear the combination of an extremely loud whistle & the flat hand of a certified NCAA official slap the mat.  He hears it fairly often. A 4:23 fall over Eli Griffin of California Baptist, a 3:50 fall over Tanner Jordan of South Dakota State & a 4:34 fall over Stevo Poulin of Northern Colorado. 

This is the Lancers first year of post season NCAA DI wrestling & if they are to have any qualifiers, Griffin is going to be one of them.  While pinned by Mauger, he's also pinned Mauger (3:29) & he owns a 10-1 major decision over Volk. 

If you're much for parity (and you might as well be this is NCAA DI wrestling) Volk owns an 11-1 major over Mauger as well as a 7-1 decision over Jordan.  He also owns a 4-2 decision over Poulin.  As to his inconsistency? Well you could sum it up easily but just saying this is DI wrestling & you consistently have to be at your best as you're often facing the best of the best night after night. I think it's also fair to say that a lot of guys have roller coaster rides in their first season of varsity competition. It takes time to get used to the grind. The Cowboy is gonna have himself an outstanding career as long as he stays healthy.  Q or No Q, preferably Q of course that has already been proven this year. 

Poulin....To me it wasn't that long ago we saw a phenomenal pee-wee on the mat with a mohawk haircut that just dominated every other kid he stepped out there with. Now he's in college competing amongst the best in the nation. Let's me know how old I've gotten & how fast time flies. Among his notable in-conference wins on the season a 4-0 decision over Griffin, a 9-2 decision over Jordan & a 6-0 decision over Tucker Owens of Air Force. 

Prata was R12 at the NCAA's last year & now this season he's gonna have to fight like a madman across the water just to finish within the top 6 within the BIG 12 to make it back to the NCAA's. He owns a 7-2 decision over Witcraft. 

Jordan has an on and off switch & when it is on, he's capable of doing a lot of good things. This includes earning a top 6 finish here.  Among his notable wins on the season, a 5-3 decision over Griffin, a 4-2 s.v. over Prata & a 6:10 fall over Owens. 

Owens, an outstanding rookie on the Falcon team, owns a very impressive 12-4 major over Mauger. 

Lastly well within the fight, we have Witcraft. Taking over for MIA Trevor Mastrogiovanni, he's really stepped it up for the Cowboys showing himself as an excellent replacement. A NCAA qualifier in '20, he owns a 9-5 decision over Jordan. 

133 lbs
Spots Available: 5
Contenders: 9

Again, welcome to Omaha Beach. We got ourselves a battle. 

Three time NCAA runner-up Daton Fix of Oklahoma State who's hoping to trade in his abundance of silver for gold here in a couple of weeks, will first have to earn some BIG 12 gold before he thinks about NCAA gold. I do not see him having any issue winning a title here.  The closest match he's had thus far amongst his BIG 12 competition is a 5-2 decision over Zach Redding of Iowa State. Other than that, he's dominated the field. An 8-1 decision over Kyle Biscoglia of Northern Iowa, he nearly tech'd Connor Brown of Missouri 14-3. An 11-4 decision over Jace Koelzer of Northern Colorado, he's majored Wyatt Henson of Oklahoma twice by scores of 14-5 & 15-6. 

It's been one heck of a ride for Brown. A career full of challenges, it is finally coming to an end.  He was an NCAA qualifier al the way back in 2018 & half a decade later, he has a chance to make it back. He owns a 7-4 decision over Henson. 

Redding an NCAA qualifier in '21, could likely be our runner-up this BIG 12. He seems to have Biscoglia figured out. It's always close, as it was in their last 4-2 s.v. meeting, but Redding seems to always come out on top. He also owns a 9-7 victory over Brown & a 4:12 fall over Henson. 

Biscoglia who should get a shot at Redding to break the curse, owns both a 3-0 victory over Air Force's Cody Phippen & a 2:00 fall over Henson. 

Phippen.  I've been writing the same thing about this guy season after season for the last three years. He's made my "Best to not qualify" list every time & it's often been in the position of "one match shy."  I swear if he finishes in 6th place this tournament, I may very well pull each hair out of my head individually one by one.  This is it. Senior year, last chance. He's got what he's always had, the tools. Now it's time to finally make it happen and punch that ticket. A 10-2 major over Hunter Leake of California Baptist & a 6-1 decision over McGwire Midkiff of North Dakota State. 

Henson is a tough wrestler & while he doesn't have any notable in-conference victories yet this season, that could change at the BIG 12's. 

Midkiff owns both a 10-3 decision over Henson & a 4-1 decision over Koelzer. 

Leake, along with Griffin remains among California Baptist's best bet for an NCAA qualifier. Owns both a 7-2 decision over Midkiff & a 4:37 fall over Redding. 

Lastly is Koelzer who like Henson doesn't have any notable in-conference victories yet this season, but was an NCAA qualifier last year. 

14l lbs
Spots Available: 7
Contenders: 11

NCAA R12 last season, Andrew Alirez has an opportunity this season to become the first NCAA DI champion in the history of Northern Colorado wrestling. First, he'll go about trying to win a BIG 12 title. Thus far he's looked outstanding Vs the competition. An 18-6 victory over Job Greenwood of Wyoming, it was a 10-4 decision over Ty Smith of Utah Valley. A 2:20 fall over Jordan Titus of West Virginia, he defeated Alan Hart of Missouri 8-4. A 10-3 win over Clay Carlson of South Dakota State, he majored both Carter Young of Oklahoma State (12-4) & Dylan Drogemueller of North Dakota State (13-5). 

Mosha Schwartz who at one time was a teammate of Alirez's, now gets to challenge him for the BIG 12 title. A two time NCAA qualifier, he owns an 8-6 victory over Young, a 4-1 decision over Titus, a 3-1 decision over Swiderski & a 6-1 decision over Hart. He's also defeated Cael Happel of Northern Iowa 2-1, Drogemueller 6-2 & Carlson 8-2. 

Hart a three time NCAA qualifier was R12 last season.  He owns a 26 second fall over Droegemueller, an 11-2 major over Titus & a 7-1 decision over Swiderski. 

Young an NCAA qualifier last season has looked very sharp at times this season & knowing Oklahoma State's history within this tournament, wouldn't be all that shocking to be seen in the finals.  A 4-2 victory over hart, it was a 5-1 decision over Titus & a 15-7 major over Happel.  He also owns a 5-3 decision over Schwartz & a 3-0 decision over Swiderski. 

Happel has really stepped it up this season. Two wins over All American Carlson, 4-1 & 8-6.  He also owns a 6-4 decision over Greenwood, a 9-4 decision over Smith, a 13-9 decision over Titus & a 4-3 decision over Swiderski. 

Carlson, 8th at the '21 NCAA's & a R12 last year, has proven that he he knows how to win in challenging situations.  He owns a 4-3 victory over Young & a 6-5 decision over Greenwood. 

Titus owns an 11-3 major over Swiderski.  As to Swiderski he's taken his lumps in his freshman season, but he's also proven himself to be more than capable of earning a top 7 showing here. 

Drogemueller a two time NCAA qualifier, owns a 7-3 decision over Greenwood. The type that will not want to be overlooked or understudied. Dangerous, dangerous man on top. 

Smith & Greenwood fit the same description. Neither are slated to be among the 7 & both are more than capable of it. Greenwood owns a 7-6 decision over Smith & he also upset Young earlier this season 4-3.  

Smith owns a 7-6 decision over Carlson. 

149 lbs 
Spots Available: 7
Contenders: 11

11 guys. 7 of them will go. 4 of them will not. The fight here is real. Could get bloody. 

Brock Mauller of Missouri is already a two time All American. 6th in '19, he was 5th in '21. He'll be among those in the hunt for a BIG 12 title. Close, he's beaten both Kellyn March of North Dakota State & Victor Voinovich of Oklahoma State by 3-2 decisions.  A 4-2 s.v. over Mitch Moore of Oklahoma, it was a 3-1 decision over Colin Realbuto of Northern Iowa. Stuck Paniro Johnson of Iowa State in overtime at the 8:45 mark, with a 10-2 major over Sam Hillegas of West Virginia. 

Realbuto, has looked real good this year. The '22 NCAA qualifier owns an 8-5 decision over March, a 5-4 decision over Voinovich & a 10-7 decision over Hillegas. He also owns a 6:18 fall over Isaiah Delgado of Utah Valley. 

Johnson, one of the rare among the freshmen who still has an outside shot at the NCAA title, will first look to win a BIG 12 title. A 5-2 decision over Delgado, he also owns a 3-1 decision over Voinovich & a 14-4 major over Hillegas. 

Among the Bison who have made vast improvements, count in March, who very well might march his way to a BIG 12 title. he wrestles anything like he did at the Southern Scuffle, that could be our actuality. A 5-3 s.v. over Voinovich, he owns falls over both Delgado & Alek Martin of South Dakota State. A 5-3 s.v. over Northern Chris Sandoval, he handled Moore 5-0. 

Voinovich within his first season as a varsity Cowboy has shown to have a fantastic gas tank. In a situation like this, it may very well prove to be his greatest asset. He owns a 7-2 victory over Sandoval, a 3-1 decision over Martin & a 2-0 decision over Moore. 

Hillegas owns a 5-4 decision over Martin. 

Sandoval, an NCAA qualifier all the way back in '19, is looking at his lost shot to return to the national tournament. He owns a 10-2 major over Martin & an 8-6 s.v. over Delgado. 

Dylan Martinez has done what few have done in the modern day history of the NCAA's. He's had an outstanding senior season thus far, despite not having all that spectacular showings the other three years.  Among his victories, 3-1 decisions over both Delgado & Martin. 

Moore a three time NCAA qualifier, was one match shy of All American honors in '21. Now he's in the fight of his career, just to add another qualification. A 3-1 s.v. over Voinovich he also owns a 3-1 decision over Delgado.

Martin owns a 9-7 s.v. over Delgado. 

157 lbs
Spots Available: 7
Contenders: 10 

This group is rather shy. At least in terms of being one match short of All American honors anyway. Among the talent here, four of the wrestlers have finished top 12 thus far in their NCAA careers. 

Jared Franek of North Dakota State is perhaps the best wrestler at 157 lbs yet to taste that All American accolade.  A forerunner to win the BIG 12 title, many of his matches may be painstakingly close, but in the end, getting your hand raised is all that matters. A 4-2 s.v. over Jarrett Jacques of Missouri, he owns a 3-1 s.v. over Jacob Wright of Wyoming & a 6-2 decision over Jacob Butler of Oklahoma. He also owns two victories (4-1 & 6-2) over Vince Zerban of Northern Colorado. 

Kaden Gfeller of Oklahoma State has been one to make magic happen at various points throughout his career.  One match shy of All American status last season, he owns two victories over Butler (7-1 & 14-3).  He also owns a 5-3 decision over Alex Hornfeck of West Virginia, a 3-1 victory over Jason Kraisser of Iowa State & a 4-3 decision over Jacques. An 8-1 win over Cael Swensen of South Dakota State, he defeated Zerban in overtime 7-5. 

Jacques has been to the NCAA tournament four times. One of those you look back on and wonder how he hasn't managed to earn AA honors yet.  R12 in '21, this will be his last shot.  Could he win the BIG 12 title here? It'd have to be his best day, and Hell, why not? If you're gonna have your best day at the conference tournament, might as well make it your last one.  A 4-3 victory over Hornfeck & a 2-0 victory over Kraisser, he defeated Wright 10-8. 

Wright also R12 in '21, owns a 6-4 victory over Kraisser, a 4-3 victory over Swensen & a 2-0 victory over Zerban. 

Derek Holschlag is among the Schwab lead gang who has made vast improvements between this season and last. Among his notable in-conference victories, a 6-4 decision over Gfeller, a 4-3 decision over Wright & a 4-1 decision over Kraisser. 

Swensen owns a 3-1 decision over Wright, a 3-1 decision over Holschlag & a 4-2 decision over Zerban. 

Kraisser a 5-3 decision over Hornfeck. 

Rounding out our contenders, Butler was an NCAA qualifier last year & Zerban owns a 9-7 s.v. over Hornfeck. 

165 lbs
Spots Available: 8
Contenders: 9 

165 lbs BIG 12, I believe that who is slotted to go will go to the NCAA's, although there is one monkey wrench here who could steal a spot. 

The final everyone is expecting here is '21 NCAA champ David Carr of Iowa State Vs '22 NCAA champ Keegan O'Toole of Missouri. I'd say it has a high probability of happening, but I wouldn't call it a guarantee.  There's a lot of good talent in this bracket, just itching for an opportunity to knock off one of these two kings.  Carr defeated O'Toole rather soundly earlier this season by a 7-2 decision. He also owns a 5-3 decision over Wyatt Sheets of Oklahoma State, an 8-2 decision over Peyton Hall of West Virginia, a 20-6 major over Austin Yant of Northern Iowa, and an 18-6 major over Gerrit Nijenhuis of Oklahoma. 

O'Toole owns a 3-0 decision over Hall, a 15-8 major over Mikey Caliendo of North Dakota State, a 14-4 major over Sheets 7 a 4:05 fall over Nijenhuis. 

Hall a match away from All American status in '21 & 8th in the nation last season, owns an 8-2 decision over Nijenhuis, a 5-2 decision over Yant, a 6-2 decision over Sheets and an 11-3 major decision over Baylor Fernandes of Northern Colorado. 

Caliendo has proven himself as far as I'm concerned to be a darkhorse candidate for an NCAA title & in being so, that also makes him a darkhorse candidate to win a BIG 12 title. He owns a 10-5 decision over Nijenhuis. 

Cook, no wins of note within the conference, but he was an NCAA qualifier in '20 & the guy has a nasty habit of putting opponents on their backs when least expected.  He's not one to overlook. 

Nijenhuis is a two time NCAA qualifier, owns both a 10-6 & 6-5 win over Sheets as well as an 8-5 decision over Cook. 

Sheets I can see being a surprise this tournament. A three time NCAA qualifier, he completely came out of no where to earn 8th place All American honors in 2021. I mean by all accounts he wasn't even really supposed to be in the tournament. He was NOT originally one of the 33 qualifiers, but instead a last second alternate for another wrestler who was unable to participate. The idea of him coming out of nowhere once again to do something special before his career is all said and done, is a possibility. Could very well happen here. 

Yant is a two time qualifier in his own right & Fernandes owns an impressive 7-3 victory over Sheets. 

174 lbs
Spots Available: 6
Contenders: 12 

In terms of qualification, a very tough weight class. There are 12 eligible candidates here & only half of them will be headed to the NCAA championships. 

Peyton Mocco of Missouri was one match shy of All American honors last season. Looking sharp, he owns a 4-3 decision over Dustin Plott of Oklahoma State, a 10-4 decision over Scott Joll of West Virginia, a 12-3 major over Tate Picklo of Oklahoma & a 7-5 decision over Julian Broderson of Iowa State. He's also defeated Gax Sax of North Dakota State twice. A 3:20 fall & a 7-4 decision. 

As he's fought through injuries & other mishaps, Demetrius Romero of Utah Valley has proven when healthy, he's as good as anyone. 6th in the nation in '21, he owns a 7-4 decision over Lance Runyon of Northern Iowa, a 4-2 decision over Cade DeVos of South Dakota State & a 13-5 major over Andrew Berreyesa of Northern Colorado. 

Plott, a 6th place All American last season had defeated Berreyesa twice by scores of 10-4 & 11-2. He owns a 12-7 win over Moccco, a 7-3 win over Runyon, a 14-11 win over Joll, a 13-7 win over Broderson & a 7-2 win over Picklo. 

DeVos a two time NCAA qualifier, owns a 9-5 victory over Plott, a 7-4 victory over Sax & a 2-1 victory over Berreyesa. 

Runyon, an NCAA qualifier last season, owns an 8-1 win over Joll. 

Picklo, among the youth of the bracket, owns an 8-1 decision over Joll, an 8-5 decision over DeVos, an 8-4 decision over Sax, a 9-5 decision over Runyon & a 3-2 decision over Broderson. 

Sam Wolf, one of the Falcons in line for his first qualification, upset Romero earlier this season 5-3. 

Berreyesa owns a 1:48 fall over Sax

Hayden Hastings, already a four time NCAA qualifier & a R12'er at last year's championships, will now fight like Hell for a 5th trip. 

Joll owns an 8-2 victory over Broderson & Broderson owns both a 0:24 fall over Hastings & a 3-0 decision over Sax. 

Rankings are one thing, results are another. Let's see how this one unfolds. 

184 lbs 
Spots Available: 4
Contenders: 7 

3rd in the last two NCAA championships, I'd call Parker Keckeisen of Northern Iowa one of the best in the nation yet to win a national title.  He'll have some challenge against Marcus Coleman of Iowa State whom he beat earlier this season 7-5, but he's still the odds on favorite to win the BIG 12 title.  He also has a 4-1 victory over Keegan Moore of Oklahoma & a 7-2 decision over Colton Hawks of Missouri. 

Coleman, already a four time NCAA qualifier, was 7th in the nation last season. He owns a 5:53 fall over Travis Wittlake of Oklahoma State & a 4-2 decision over Hawks. 

Wittlake could turn out to be a surprise BIG 12 champion, as he has yet to face Coleman or Keckeisen this season. A likely *3 seed, he'd have to upset both in order to do so.  He has a 3-1 win over D.J. Parker of North Dakota State, a 3-0 victory over Cade King of South Dakota State & he's defeated Hawks twice by scores of 6-4 & 2-0. 

Parker owns a 2:58 fall over Keegan Moore of Oklahoma. 

Moore a two time NCAA qualifier, owns a 10-6 victory over King. 

Hawks, owns both an 11-2 major over Parker & a 4-3 decision over Moore. 

Spots Available: 6
Contenders: 7 

As far as I'm concerned, this is a four man battle for the BIG 12 title that should result in two very good semi-finals & an excellent final. 

Three time NCAA qualifier Tanner Sloan was a match away from All American honors in '21.  I would imagine he'll either be the *1 or *2 seed for the championships.  He owns a 4-3 decision over Evan Bockman of Utah Valley, a 7-0 decision over Luke Surber of Oklahoma State & an 8-2 decision over Owen Pentz of North Dakota State. 

Pentz is our darkhorse to win the BIG 12 title. A likely *4 seed, the two time NCAA qualifier is gonna have to use his phenomenal pinning skills in order to pull off the upsets. He's done so before, so it's easy to imagine him doing so again. 

Rocky Elam, a two time All American (5th in '21 & 4th in '22) of Missouri, like Sloan is likely to be either the *1 or *2 seed.  An 8-1 victory over Pentz & a 4-0 victory over Yonger Bastida of Iowa State. 

Then we have Bastida who was 5th in the nation last year. He owns a 5-3 decision over Bockman, a 7-2 decision over Surber & a 17-8 major decision over Austin Cooley of West Virginia. 

Both Surber & Bockman, NCAA qualifiers last year, could also be within the mix if they have a really good day. After all Surber did defeat Elam earlier this season 5-4.  He also owns a 14-5 major decision over Cooley.  I think it's more likely that they'll be duking it out for the 5th & 6th place slots though. 

Spots Available: 8
Contenders: 9 

NCAA R12 in '21, the favorite to win a BIG 12 title here is Wyatt Hendrickson of Air Force. Thus far against the in-conference competition he has faced, he has been rather dominate. Pinning West Virginia's Michael Wolfgram in just 37 seconds, he tech'd A.J. Nevills of South Dakota State 16-1. A 13-2 major decision over Juan Mora of North Dakota State, he defeated Tyrell Gordon of Northern Iowa 7-2. 

Zach Elam of Missouri has been twice the R12 at the NCAA's himself. I believe it's likely he'll duke it out with Iowa State's Sam Schuyler in the semi-finals should neither one face upset.  He owns a 6-3 decision over Wolfgram, a 5-3 decision over Mora, a 3-1 s.v. over Gordon, a 2-0 decision over Josh Heindselman of Oklahoma & a 4-2 decision over Konner Doucet of Oklahoma State. 

Schuyler has shown vast improvements since transferring from Buffalo.  The two time NCAA qualifier defeated Elam earlier this season 5-3. He also owns a 2-0 victory over Heindselman, a 4-2 decision over Wolfgram & a 4-1 decision over Gordon. 

Nevills is one of those guys that you never quite know what to expect out of. He has his moments of glory & he also has his moments of not looking so great.  The three time NCAA qualifier has a 4-3 tiebreaker over Doucet, a 3-1 s.v. over Heindselman & an 8-3 decision over Mora. 

Wolfgram, an NCAA qualifier last year, owns both a 3-1 decision over Heindselman & a 7-4 decision over Gordon. 

Heindselman a tow time NCAA qualifier, owns a 4-2 tiebreaker over Mora, a 4-2 s.v. over Gordon & a 2-1 tiebreaker over Doucet. 

Doucet returned the 2-1 tiebreaker over Heindselman & also owns a 3-1 decision over Wolfgram. 

Gordon, an NCAA qualifier last season, has a 3-1 s.v. over Nevills, a 2-1 tiebreaker over Mora & a 3-2 decision over Doucet. 

Tons of 1 & 2 point matches among these guys, as well as sudden victories and tiebreakers. Hard to say  what order they finish in, but the top 8 go here, so only one will be left out. 

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