You know a tournament is loaded and tough when we'll wrestlers duking it out for 9th place. As it has been for nearly all of its existence the BIG 10 will once again be the toughest qualifier in DI, hence why it also has the most amount of allocations.
***TAKE NOTE*** - This will be a very special BIG 10 Wrestling Championship as it will be the final Championship where wrestling is fully represented. What I mean by that is that in the 128 years that BIG 10 wrestling has been around (This is counting both when the conference was known as The Missouri Valley Conference & when it was known as The Western Conference) every school in the BIG 10 has had wrestling.
1895 to 2023, it has been all for all. Meaning that if a school was in the BIG 10, it had a wrestling program. That's 128 years of full representation.
This year with Iowa, Rutgers, Maryland, Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, Indiana, Purdue, Northwestern & Ohio State it makes 14 schools in the BIG 10 & 14 of them have wrestling.
AND...this will be the final year of 100%. Year 1 through year 128, 100%.
Year 129, will be 87.5%
UCLA & USC are joining the BIG 10 conference & while we can all wish, hope & pray, when the 2023-2024 wrestling season starts, they most likely won't be fielding varsity programs.
Year 129 of BIG Wrestling will be the first year in 129 years where wrestling isn't fully represented. Instead it'll be 14/16.
This is an extremely historical moment, as the BIG 10 was the final conference in all of collegiate wrestling to have full representation. Now some may want to argue the American Rivers Conference in NCAA Division III, but I don't. I don't because that was originally the Iowa Conference from 1927-2018, and during that time Parson's had & dropped wrestling, as did Iowa Wesleyan & St. Ambrose (which have both since reinstated).
The BIG 10 is the only conference in all of collegiate wrestling to have an entire history of every school fielding a wrestling program & that all comes to an end after this year.
Spots Available: 9
In many ways the BIG 10 tournament can be just as tough as the NCAA tournament & 125 lbs is proof. I think I may be the only person alive who cares, but the BIG 12 gives out medals to the top 8 place-winners & I cannot believe that the BIG 10 doesn't! They give medals to the top 3! In a tournament like this, earning a top 3 finish is an extremely tough thing to do!
This bracket alone has four All Americans, two of them two timers & one of them a three time national champion. Not to mention another who was R12.
*NOTE* - Malik Heinselman of Ohio State had his season cut short. I'm almost positive that he won't be able to apply for a medical hardship, so his career also comes to an unfortunate end. Nevertheless it was a great career that saw many accomplishments, that include being a four time NCAA qualifier. He placed at many important in-season tournaments over the course of his career including 5th at this season's Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.
99.99999999999% positive our champion here is going to be Iowa's Spencer Lee, who has absolutely dominated in both BIG 10 & NCAA competition this year. His closest match within the conference thus far has been with Minnesota's Patrick McKee, who he defeated 7-1. His next closest match was with Jack Medley of Michigan, 11-2. Other than that, he's pinned everybody & often in the first period. This includes a 4:35 fall over Eric Barnett of Wisconsin, a 2:56 fall over Matt Ramos of Purdue, a 2:01 fall over Michael DeAugustino of Northwestern & a 38 second fall over Liam Cronin of Nebraska.
Cronin ironically enough is not one of the returning All Americans in this bracket, but he is going in as the *2 seed. He has been fighting injuries his entire career, & he finally has a season at full health & we're getting to see exactly what he's made of. This includes an 11-2 major over DeAugustino, as well as an 11-6 win over Mckee, a 7-3 decision over Barnett & a 3-1 decision over Dean Peterson of Rutgers.
Ramos who was R12 last year at 133 lbs, has adjusted extremely well to his new weight class. Within the BIG 10, he has a 4-3 decision over Barnett, a 4-2 decision over McKee, a 7-1 decision over Jacob Moran of Indiana & a 10-3 decision over Braxton Brown of Maryland.
Barnett despite whatever happens during the regular season or for that matter, even what will happen here at the BIG 10's, seems to always wander on to the award stand once the NCAA's hit. 8th in '21, he was 7th in the nation last year. Among his BIG 10 victories this season, a 15-0 technical fall over Gary Steen of Penn State, a 6-2 decision over Peterson, 4-3 over DeAugustino & 5-4 over McKee.
McKee hasn't looked as good this year as he has in year's past, but keep in mind the Gopher gets Golden in the post season. He was 3rd at the 2021 NCAA championships & 5th last year. He knows how to win when it matters most. A 5-1 win over Lujan & a 10-2 major over Moran on the season.
Medley spending time behind other Wolverines hasn't seen the NCAA championships since 2020, which because of COVID-19 he didn't even get to participate in. So technically if he qualifies this year, it will be his second qualification, but his first time actually wrestling at the NCAA tournament. He owns both a 24-11 as well as a 12-3 major decision over Jacob Moran, a 6-3 decision over Lujan, a 12-6 decision over Brown & a 19-3 tech over Steen.
Brown, a talented freshman for the Terrapins, owns a 9-0 decision over Moran, a 4-1 decision over Lujan, a 8-0 decision over Peterson & a 1-0 decision over Steen.
DeAugustino has suffered from a series of injuries this season & it's doubtful that he'll be at 100% for the BIG 10's considering he was injured in the finals of the Last Chance at Iowa State, which wasn't all that long ago. Nevertheless he was 4th in the nation last season & still a threat. He has a 3-2 decision on Peterson for the season.
Peterson another talented freshman, owns both a 3-1 as well as a 10-6 decision over Medley, a 8-4 decision over Lujan & a 21-6 tech over Steen.
Lujan owns a 1-0 decision over Moran
Lastly Steen has most certainly taken his lumps this year, as he's lost via technical fall to three of his BIG 10 opponents. However, he could be a key to stopping anyone for a plausible upset over the Nittany Lions. He does own a 3-1 s.v. over Lujan for the record.
Spots Available: 9
Another incredibly tough weight class. 5 returning All Americans, one of them a two time NCAA champion. Add in two more who have been NCAA R12.
Roman Bravo Young of Penn State, a favorite to win gold here as well as the NCAA championships, has mostly dominated the BIG 10 competition this year. His closest match was a 4-2 contest over Dylan Ragusin of Michigan. Other than that, an 8-2 decision over Jesse Mendez of Ohio State has been as close as it has gotten. We're looking at falls over both RayVon Foley of Michigan State (6:26) as well as Brody Teske of Iowa (6:49) & a major decision over Taylor LaMont of Wisconsin.
Lucas Byrd of Illinois a two All American taking back to back 5th place finishes the past two seasons, will be one of the wrestlers looking to make the BIG 10 finals. He owns 8-1 decisions over both Joe Heilmann of Rutgers and Foley. A 5-2 decision over Chris Cannon of Northwestern, a 5-1 decision over LaMont & a 3-0 decision over Kyle Burwick of Nebraska.
Mendez, arguably one of the best true-freshmen in all of NCAA wrestling, has thus far had a tremendous season that could very well include a BIG 10 finals appearance. A 3-2 victory over Byrd, he also majored Foley 10-2. A 22-11 major over Burwick, 5-1 wins over both Ragusin & Heilmann, he defeated Cannon in overtime 6-4.
Ragusin R12 last season, a 12-1 victory over LaMont, a 2-0 victory over Heilmann & a 1:34 fall over Henry Porter of Indiana.
Cannon much like Barnett at 125 lbs, seems to always find himself on the award stand at the end of the NCAA's despite anything else that happens during the year. He's been 7th in the nation that past two seasons. BIG 10 wins for him include a 7-4 decision over Aaron Nagao of Minnesota, 6-1 over Burwick, 4-1 over LaMont & 7-3 over Heilmann.
Nagao owns a 4-2 s.v. over Burwick, a 9-4 decision over Foley & a 5-1 decision over LaMont.
Heilmann an NCAA qualifier last season, owns both a 6-1 decision over Porter and a 4-3 decision over Foley.
I have to ask myself in regards to Nebraska, how difficult it was for Manning to choose between Burwick & Boo Dryden. Both in my opinion are fine candidates, who are both NCAA qualification material. Ultimately they went with Burwick, who is a two timer NCAA qualifier.
Foley is a four time NCAA qualifier, who was 7th in the nation back in 2019. Since moving up to 133 lbs from 125, he hasn't found success as successfully as he did 8 lbs lighter. It's been a tougher road. Nevertheless he does have moments of brilliance & that includes majoring Ragusin 12-4 earlier this season.
Teske was R12 at the 2021 NCAA championships. He owns both a 5-2 decision over Burwick & a 4-0 decision over LaMont.
Henry Porter owns a 10-5 decision over Foley.
LaMont in many ways is in the same boat as Foley. He found much success at 125 lbs, including a 5th place All American showing at the 2021 NCAA championships. He's a four time NCAA qualifier, but will have to fight like Hell to make it 5. Just goes to show you how incredibly tough the BIG 10 truly is.
Available Spots: 9
Contenders: The Entire Conference
Real Woods 6th in the nation last year for Stanford, has thus far proven himself to be an excellent commodity for the Hawkeyes since transferring in this season. A BIG 10 champion hopeful, he's defeated both Beau Bartlett of Penn State (4-1) & Brock Hardy of Nebraska (6-4) in close matches. He tore Frankie Tal-Shahar of Northwestern apart in a 17-2 technical fall. Earning an 8-1 victory over Jake Bergeland of Minnesota & a 9-2 decision over Joseph Zargo of Wisconsin.
Despite an ugly loss on the last dual of the season, freshman Hardy has looked exceptionally good this season. A 30 second fall over Cole Mattin of Michigan, he tech'd Danny Pucino of Illinois 16-1. A 9-0 major decison over Bergeland, he also owns a 4-0 decision over Filius, a 6-0 decision over Tal Shahar & a 7-2 decision over Zargo. His closest BIG 10 match beyond his loss to Woods, a 8-6 s.v. over Dylan D'Emilio of Ohio State.
Bartlett an NCAA qualifier last season, owns a 7-2 victory over Mattin, a 7-1 decision over Jordan Hamdan of Michigan State, a 12-1 decision over Joey Olivieri of Rutgers, a 5-2 decision over Kal Miller of Maryland & a 4-2 decision over D'Emilio.
Bergeland was 7th in the nation last season. He owns a 3-2 decision over Hamdan, a 12-0 decision over Cayden Rooks of Indiana, a 12-2 major over Pucino and a 1-0 decision over Zargo.
Tal-Shahar, an NCAA qualifier last season, is one of those wrestlers who seems to often win or lose by a point or two. A 2-1 victory over Bergeland, a 3-2 decision over Zargo, a 5-3 decision over Olivieri & a 3-2 decision over D'Emilio .
D'Emilio despite being the *9 seed, could very well end up placing rather high. A two time NCAA qualifier, when he's hot, he's difficult to cool down. He's defeated Mattin twice this season by scores of 7-5 & 6-2. He also owns a 10-2 major over Rooks, a 6-3 decision over Miller & a 6:23 fall over Hamdan.
Not sure if Olivieri won the varsity spot outright or if Sammy Alvarez is injured, but none the less the spot belongs to Olivieri this weekend. The '22 NCAA qualifier owns a 15-2 major over Rooks, a 2-1 tiebreaker over D'Emilio, a 16-4 major over Hamdan, a 3-1 decision over Mattin & a 2-1 decision over Miller.
Filius is another guy much like D'Emilio how has the capability of getting hot this time of season. Matter of fact, the best he's ever wrestled in his career was at both the BIG 10's & the NCAA's last year. He's a *8 seed & if he got as high as 3rd place, it would not surprise me. A 12-6 decision over D'Emilio, he also owns an 8-5 decision over Bergeland, a 15-3 major over Rooks & a 8-3 decision over Miller.
Pucino owns a 3:35 fall over Filius, an 8-6 decision Tal-Shahar & a 5-2 decision over Miller.
Mattin owns both an 11-3 major over Hamdan & a 6-2 decision over Zargo.
Zargo an NCAA qualifier last year, owns a 7-4 decision over Filius.
Miller, one of the best true-freshmen that Maryland has ever had, owns a 6-4 s.v. over Rooks.
Hamdan an NCAA qualifier in 2021, owns a 2-1 decision over Miller
Rooks a 2021 NCAA qualifier owns a 12-5 decision over Hamdan.
Spots Available: 9
This is gonna be a fun weight class. If seeds hold up, we are going to see probably the best semi-finals of the tournament, as well as an excellent final & an excellent consolation final. We have four guys here, all capable of walking out BIG 10 champion.
Austin Gomez of Wisconsin, our *2 seed, was 4th in the nation last year. Among his BIG 10 wins a 6-2 decision over Shayne Van Ness of Penn State, a 17-10 decision over Chance Lamer of Michigan & a 5-3 win over Max Murin of Iowa.
Sammy Sasso of Ohio State our top seed, was an NCAA runner-up in 2021 & 5th in the nation last year. He's defeated Yahya Thomas of Northwestern twice this season (8-2 & 2-1 tiebreaker) & also has a 53 second fall over Graham Rooks of Indiana, a 12-1 major over Ethen Miller of Maryland & a 6-3 decision over Van Ness.
Murin the *4 seed, is one of the best wrestlers in the nation yet to All American. Three times the R12 at the NCAA's, he owns a 4-1 victory over Van Ness, an 11-7 decision over Blockhus & a 10-4 decision over Lamer.
Thomas another BIG 10 champion candidate, who was 3rd at the 2021 NCAA's, owns a 3-2 decision over Murin & a 2-1 tiebreaker over Blockhus.
Now do we have some bracket busters in this group? You betcha!
Van Ness is a Nittany Lion & if he were to get hot and pull off some upsets, it wouldn't surprise me any. A 19-9 major over Miller, he's defeated Rooks twice by scores of 8-2 & 17-5.
Blockhus could be another. He's kept it close with both Murin & Thomas. A three time NCAA qualifier, he owns a 6-2 decision over Rooks.
Lamer owns a 5-3 decision over Miller & Rooks is a two time NCAA qualifier in his own right.
Spots Available: 10
Every season the BIG 10's has a certain amount of chaos & unpredictability. Things happen on the mat, that don't even seem plausible on paper. If I can predict unpredictability, I say that it has a very good chance of happening at 157 lbs.
Our forerunner for champion here is 2022 All American (4th) Peyton Robb of Nebraska. The Husker is undefeated on the season with some very impressive wins. This includes 2-0 victories over both Brayton Lee of Minnesota & Trevor Chumbley of Northwestern. He owns a 5-4 decision over Paddy Gallagher of Ohio State & a 7-3 decision over Kendall Coleman of Purdue. A 7-2 decision over Iowa's Cobe Siebrecht, it was 11-3 over Garrett Model of Wisconsin & 12-6 over Chase Saldate of Michigan State.
If the BIG 10's is to crown a true-freshman champion, that true freshman is likely to be Levi Haines of Penn State. The rookie took Model apart 16-6 as he also nearly majored Gallagher 14-2. A 8-2 decision over Derek Gilcher of Indiana, he also has a 3-2 decision over Siebrecht & a 3-1 s.v. over Will Lewan of Michigan.
Coleman a three time NCAA qualifier, owns a 9-5 decision over Lewan, a 6-5 decision over Chumbley, a 5-2 decision over Lee & a 10-3 decision over Gilcher.
5th in the nation last year, Lewan owns a 5-3 decision over Model, a 6-4 s.v. over Gallagher & a 4-3 tiebreaker over Gilcher.
Siebrecht bided his time as a backup for a while & now he's showing the Hawkeye faithful that he's an AA contender. A 6-3 decision over Chumbley, a 3-2 decision over Model, a 4-0 decision and a 3-1 s.v. over Lewan among his victories this season.
Saldate a two time NCAA qualifier owns a 3-1 s.v. over Lewan, a 3-1 decision over Lee, a 5-4 decision over Gallagher & a 4-0 decision over Gilcher.
To be quite honest I was rather surprised to see Illinois' Mike Carr's name in the preseeds. He's only wrestled four times this season & I thought he was out with an injury. Nevertheless his name is listed & he does own a 12-7 decision over Siebrecht. He is also a two time NCAA qualifier.
Model an NCAA qualifier last season owns both a 4-3 decision over Coleman & a 4-2 decision over Gilcher.
Chumbley owns a 5-3 overtime decision over Gallagher, a 6-1 decision over Model & an 8-4 decision over Lee.
Lee is an interesting case. At one time in his career he was an NCAA champion contender. He suffered some injuries which prematurely ended his season last year & the road to recovery has been quite rough. He currently stands at 4-7. The 2021 6th place NCAA All American does own a 3-2 decision over Gilcher & despite what happened during the regular season, could very well find his oldself here at the BIG 10's.
Gallagher owns a 4-3 tiebreaker over Chumbley and Gilcher owns both an 8-2 decision over Saldate as well as a 5-4 decision over Gallagher.
Whoo!! And we're only half way through too! More BIG 10 preview coming your way soon!