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Big Ten Wrestling Championship Preview: 125 - 157 pounds

The best wrestling conference in the nation puts 80 auto-qualifier spots on the line this weekend

Roy DeBoer with permission

The Big Ten Wrestling Championships begin this Saturday at Michigan State’s Breslin Center. Penn State, which won the regular season B1G title with a 9-0 mark and is the defending Big Ten and NCAA Champion, is certainly a favorite to win the tournament. But Ohio State is right behind the Lions and the title is not necessarily a runaway. Unless you are a PSU fan, in which case you believe it is your birthright. Sorry, I’ll step down from the soap box now.

Last year, Rutgers finished the tournament tied for eighth place with Wisconsin. Anthony Ashnault was RU’s only individual titlist st 141 pounds.

2017 Big Ten Championships Team Results

125 pounds

Returning champion/highest place winner: Ethan Lizak (MINN), 3rd

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: Nick Suriano (20-0) / 1

Rutgers vs. Field: Suriano is 5-0 with wins over Maryland, Iowa (not vs. starter), OSU (not vs starter), Nebraska, and PSU

Top Seed: Nick Suriano, Rutgers

This weight is ridiculously loaded. Nathan Tomasello was the Big Ten champion last year at 133; he comes in at the three seed. Illinois’ Travis Piotrowski took fourth at the weight in 2017; he’s only the nine seed. Ten wrestlers will go to the NCAAs as the Big Ten has that many allocations at 125. The tricky issue here is Suriano’s 5-0 Big Ten record. He didn’t wrestle Lizak (five seed) or Tomasello (three) or Piotrowski (nine) or Iowa’s Spencer Lee (two). And having been out since early February, how will he be physically?

133 pounds

Returning champion/highest place winner: Stevan Micic (MICH) 3rd, Luke Pletcher (OSU) 4th at 141*

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: Scott DelVecchio (18-4) / 5

Rutgers vs. Field: DelVecchio lost a close 4-2 decision to two seed - and then No. 3 - Luke Pletcher of Ohio State. Three seed Mitch McKee (Minn) also edged DelVecchio, 8-6. And Scott has wrestled some strong bouts down the stretch, going 7-3 in 2018.

Top Seed: Stevan Micic, MICH

With seven allocations, Scott DelVecchio is in a fairly good spot, although the fifth seed is in the top part of the bracket meaning it meets the top seed in the next round. Micic has beaten the two (Pletcher) and three (McKee) seeds already in dual matches.

141 pounds

Returning champion/highest place winner: Tommy Thorn (MINN) 6th

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: Michael Van Brill (13-11) / unseeded

Rutgers vs. Field: McKenna topped Van Brill on a major decision. Second seed Nick Lee (PSU) was put to the test, topping the Knight 5-2.

Top Seed: Joey McKenna, OSU

Ahh, if only Anthony Ashnault was healthy. This is a very good, but not that deep weight class. It does send eight on to the NCAA tournament, but the highest seeded returning wrestler was sixth last year. However, top seed McKenna spent his first two years at Stanford where the Blair Academy grad was a two-time PAC-12 champion.

149 pounds

Returning champion/highest place winner: Zain Retherford (PSU) 1st, Brandon Sorensen (IOWA) 3rd

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: Eleazar DeLuca (10-9) / 6

Rutgers vs. Field: DeLuca’s record is just above .500, but he has had some stunning wins, like the one against Ohio State’s then-No. 5 Ke-Shawn Hayes (five seed).

Top Seed: Zain Retherford, PSU

The national publications have asked the rhetorical question, “Can anyone stop the Zain train?” He’s the returning conference and NCAA champion and certainly has shown he can pour it on. He’s 22-0 on the season. Sorenson, the two seed, lost to Retherford 6-2 in their dual. The Big Ten will send nine 149 pounders to the national tournament, so the entire field is seeded, 1-14.

157 pounds

Returning champion/highest place winner: Jason Nolf (PSU), 1st Michael Kemerer (IOWA) 2nd

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: John Van Brill (18-9) / 8

Rutgers vs. Field: Van Brill has been going strong in the closing weeks of the season. JVB didn’t face Kemerer and lost to four seed and then-No. 6 Micah Jordan (OSU), 11-5. And, of course, he was the opponent when Nolf was injured; see below.

Top Seed: T1. Michael Kemerer, IOWA, Jason Nolf, PSU

How, you may ask, can you have a tie for the top seed? Nolf had to take a medical default when he was injured in his match against John Van Brill. He’s the returning champion and, with a 19-1 record, deserves the spot. But, similar to Nick Suriano last season, PSU wants Nolf to be physically ready to wrestle at the national tournament. What most people are expecting is for Nolf to step on the mat, shake hands, and then take the default. He would be qualified for the NCAAs and can rest his injured leg. And with Kemerer (18-0) being the guy who lost to Nolf in last year’s B1G final, he certainly has earned the tie.


We wrap up the preview with the five upper weight, 165 through 285.

Big Ten Wrestling Championships Central - click here

NCAA Conference Allocations

On the Banks graphic