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Rutgers & Big Ten at the NCAA Wrestling Championships: Preview

College wrestling focuses on Cleveland beginning on Thursday

NCAA Wrestling: Division I Wrestling Championship Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the final weekend of the collegiate season as teams gather in Cleveland for the NCAA Wrestling Championships. Rutgers is sending six wrestlers to the tournament, for of whom were seeded last week when the brackets were released.

Penn State is the defending team champion, with champions at 149, 157, 165, 174 and 184 pounds last year. But they were the second place finisher at the Big Ten Championships to Ohio State, and the NCAAs is even crazier when it comes to declaring a team champ. Getting wrestlers through, picking up bonus points, having somebody else knock off the team you’re fighting with. Those two teams, though, are certainly the front runners in Cleveland.

The NCAA Championships is a phenomenal event if you’re a wrestling fan. And if you’re not, it is still an athletic/sports spectacle that is unique in its history and culture. You need to get to one if you’re a sports fan. But I digress....

The Big Ten is sending 88 wrestlers, including 56 seeded grapplers and five No. 1 seeds, across the 10 weight classes.

Eighty Big Ten wrestlers earned spots in the NCAA Championships field by virtue of their Big Ten Championships finish, while eight others received at-large bids. The conference is sending at least seven wrestlers in each weight class, including seven in the 197- and 285-pound weight classes, eight in the 133-, 157- and 174-pound weight classes, nine in the 184-pound weight class, 10 in the 125-, 141-, 149-pound weight classes, and 11 in the 165-pound weight class.

Full bracket here

The full championships schedule is available here.

125 pounds

Top Seed: Darian Cruz, Lehigh

Returning champion/highest place winner: Darian Cruz (Lehigh) DEC Ethan Lizak (Minnesota), 6-3 Both return to the tournament

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: Nick Suriano - 4

Rutgers Opening Round: J.R. Wert, a redshirt senior from Rider. Wert went 17-6 and took third at the EWL Tournament. If Suriano beats Wert, he would face the winner of the No. 13 Zeke Moisey (West Virginia 22-9) - Kyle Norstrem (Virginias Tech 11-14) match.

Big Ten Wrestlers in Tournament: No. 2 Nathan Tomasello, Ohio State (11-1), a three-time All-American; No. 3 Spencer Lee, Iowa (17-2); No. 8 Ethan Lizak, Minnesota (26-5) the returning runner up; No. 10 Sebastian Rivera, Northwestern (26-5); No. 14 Luke Welch, Purdue (29-9); RayVon Foley, Michigan State (28-9); Drew Mattin, Michigan (19-12); Elijah Oliver, Indiana (17-12); Travis Piotrowski, Illinois (17-8)

Bob’s thinking on Suriano’s chances: He absolutely has the talent and will to medal and be an All American. The Committee seeded him in a spot to give him that advantage. If Suriano can get on a roll, he ultimately would have to face Lizak or Cruz in the semifinals. He needs to take one step at a time; NC State’s Sean Fausz will be a challenge. Beat him in the quarterfinals and an AA is his.

133 pounds

Top Seed: Seth Gross, South Dakota State

Returning champion/highest place winner: Seth Gross, runner up to Iowas Cory Clark, 4-3

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: Scott DelVecchio - unseeded

Rutgers Opening Round: 14 seed Korbin Myers, Edinboro (27-9) Myers is a redshirt sophomore and made it the NCAAs last year, going 1-2. Laste in the season, Myers beat Oklahoma’s Jake Rubio, 12-3. In an early season match up, DelVecchio topped Rubio 16-6. At the Midlands, Myers decisioned Jens Lantz, 6-1; DelVecchio beat Lantz by the same count in RU’s dual with the Badgers. If DelVecchio tops Myers, he’ll likely face Ohio State’s Luke Pletcher in the next round.

Big Ten Wrestlers in Tournament: No. 2 Stevan Micic, Michigan (22-2); No. 3 Luke Pletcher, Ohio State (26-2); No. 16 Mitch McKee, Minnesota (18-6); Ben Thornton, Purdue (26-11); Jason Renteria, Nebraska (8-4); Dylan Duncan, Illinois (20-7); Corey Keener, Penn State (16-8)

If you’re snickering at a Jackrabbit being the top seed, don’t. Gross made it to the finals last year and South Dakota State is a top 15 team. He knows what it takes to get there and there’s really no serious opposition til the finals.

Bob’s thinking on DelVecchio’s chances: Not being seeded means you’re facing an uphill climb, and that’s tough under any circumstance. Myers is good, but if Scott is “on”, he can move on. Pletcher only beat DelVecchio by two in the dual, so.....

141 pounds

Top Seed: Bryce Meredith, Wyoming

Returning champion/highest place winner: Dean Heil (Oklahoma St.) returning champion, seeded sixth

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: no participant

Big Ten Wrestlers in Tournament: No. 4 Joey McKenna, Ohio State (16-1); No. 8 Nick Lee, Penn State (27-5); No. 11 Michael Carr, Illinois (17-5); No. 15 Nate Limmex, Purdue (25-14); No. 16 Cole Weaver, Indiana (24-10); Ryan Diehl, Maryland (12-12); Chad Red, Nebraska (21-9); Thomas Thorn, Minnesota (18-11); Eli Stickley, Wisconsin (19-12)

Meredith is a two time All American at Wyoming, and was a semifinalist last year when he lost, ultimately finishing third in the nation. He upset NC State’s Kevin Jack last year, and will need to get past Jack again to get to the finals.

149 pounds

Top Seed: Zain Retherford, Penn State (26-0)

Returning champion/highest place winner: Zain Retherford champion, Brandon Sorenson, Iowa -third place

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: Eleazar DeLuca - unseeded

Rutgers Opening Round: Steve Bleise, Minnesota (18-7) in a pigtail bout. DeLuca decisioned Bleise 3-2 at the Midlands, but Bleise pinned DeLuca in the 7/8 match at the B1G tourney. The winner of their bout gets No. 3 Grant Leeth of Missouri (22-2).

Big Ten Wrestlers in Tournament: No. 2 Brandon Sorensen, (21-2); No. 5 Ke-Shawn Hayes, Ohio State (27-5); No. 7 Ryan Deakin, Northwestern (30-6); No. 13 Colton McCrystal, Nebraska (21-5); No. 16 Alfred Bannister, Maryland (23-8); Malik Amine, Michigan (15-12); Cole Martin, Wisconsin (17-12)

Retherford was named the NCAA Most Dominant Wrestler in 2017 and won the Hodge Trophy as the outstanding wrestler. He might duplicate that. A two time NCAA champion, he beat No. 2 Brandon Sorenson in the dual match, 6-2. Who beats him?

Bob’s thinking on DeLuca’s chances: Wrestling in a pigtail means you’re wrestling an extra bout as two unseeded wrestlers compete in a “play in”, like in NCAA basketball. Will DeLuca be ready to prove his last bout at the B1Gs was an anomaly, getting pinned by Bleise, and turn the tables? He was 2-4 down the stretch of the regular season; he needs his “A game” from the opening whistle to have a chance of moving onto the podium.

157 pounds

Top Seed: Hayden Hidlay, NC State (22-0)

Returning champion/highest place winner: Jason Nolf, Penn St. defending champion - seeded third; Joey Lavallee, Missouri - second in 2017, seeded second; Michael Kemerer, Iowa - third in 2017, seeded sixth

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: John Van Brill - 15

Rutgers Opening Round: Alex Klucker, Lock Haven (25-9) Klucker is a redshirt sophomore who scored a tech fall over Nick Santos when RU and LHU met. That night, Van Brill moved up to 165 and faced No. 10 Chance Marsteller, losing by major decision. Klucker won the 157 title at the EWL tournament and Marstellar placed second at 165. The winner of their match gets the winner of the Kennedy Monday-Joseph Lavallee match.

Big Ten Wrestlers in Tournament: No. 3 Jason Nolf, Penn State (21-1); No. 5 Alec Pantaleo, Michigan (17-5); No. 6 Michael Kemerer, IOWA (22-1); No. 7 Micah Jordan, Ohio State (22-6); No. 8 Tyler Berger, Nebraska (22-8); No. 14 Andrew Crone, Wisconsin (27-10); Jake Short, Minnesota (16-11)

Nolf, the returning champion, was injured in the Rutgers dual. He sat out the rest of the season before wrestling in the Big Ten Championships. But he took a medical forfeit in the semifinals ultimately finishing sixth behind Kemerer. Until the injury, Nolf looked like a pretty good bet to win it all.

Bob’s thinking on Van Brill’s chances: JVB is seeded but he has a tough first bout. Klucker isn’t seeded but he is a conference champion; he’ll want to show the committee they made a mistake by not seeding him. As with DeLuca, John needs his best to get past Klucker.

165 pounds

Top Seed: Isaiah Martinez, Illinois

Returning champion/highest place winner: Vincenzo Joseph,Penn State - champion, seeded third; Isaiah Martinez, Illinois - seeded first; Logan Massa, Michigan - third place, seeded seventh

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: Richie Lewis - 6

Rutgers Opening Round: Quentin Perez (25-8) from Campbell University. Perez is a junior who was an NCAA qualifier last year and is in this year’s tourney by way of an at large bid. He took third at the SoCon tournament

If Richie Lewis is going to be a national champion, the path goes through the guy in the orange singlet, just as it did at the Big Tens. Isaiah Martinez is a two-time NCAA champion and three-time All American. When RU was at Illinois, Lewis was out of the lineup.

The winner of the Lewis-Perz match will take on the winner of Isaiah White and Demetrius Romero. Nebraska’s White is the 11 seed at 23-6. Romero is 25-7 out of Utah Valley.

Big Ten Wrestlers in Tournament: No. 3 Vincenzo Joseph, Penn State (20-2); No. 5 Alex Marinelli, Iowa (16-3); No. 7 Logan Massa, Michigan (16-6); No. 10 Evan Wick, Wisconsin (23-6); No. 11 Isaiah White, Nebraska (23-6); No. 12 Nicholas Wanzek, Minnesota (22-10); No. 13 Te`shan Campbell, Ohio State (17-10); Bryce Martin, Indiana (15-8); Jacob Morrissey, Purdue (21-18)

Arguably the deepest and best weight class in the country, 165 is a monster. Last year’s champion, Vincenzo Joseph, is the three seed and the guy he pinned in the finals, Martinez, is back at No. 1. Virginia Tech’s David McFadden is the two seed and is 31-0. The Big Ten had ten autoqualifiers in the weight and nine of them are seeded.

Bob’s thinking on Lewis’ chances: Lewis is wrestling as well as anyone right now. A six seed says the committee respects his record and ability. He can get through the first two rounds which puts hm in medal contention. That puts him in the semis, likely against Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph who beat him 5-4 in their dual. Retribution time?

174 pounds

Top Seed: Zahid Valencia, Arizona State (27-0)

Returning champion/highest place winner: Mark Hall (Penn St.) DEC Bo Jordan (Ohio St.), 5-2 in last year’s final. Hall is the two and Jordan the six seed this year. Valencia took third in 2017 defeating Michigan’s Myles Armine who is seeded fifth.

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: no competitor in tournament

Big Ten Wrestlers in Tournament: No. 2 Mark Hall, Penn State (28-0); No. 6 Bo Jordan, Ohio State (23-5); No. 5 Myles Amine, Michigan (21-6); No. 15 Dylan Lydy, Purdue (32-12); Devin Skatzka, Indiana (22-11); Ryan Christensen, Wisconsin (24-13); Joseph Gunther, Iowa (16-7); Johnny Sebastian, Northwestern (26-10)

As noted above, the top four placewinners from last year’s tournament are all back and all seeded. Their combined record is 99-11 That’s a lot of experience, and it would lead you to think all four could be back in the semifinals this year, although No. 3 Daniel Lewis from Missouri (29-0) might disagree.

184 pounds

Top Seed: Bo Nickal, Penn State (26-0)

Returning champion/highest place winner: Bo Nickal returning champion; Myles Martin, Ohio State - fifth place

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: Nick Gravina - 14

Rutgers Opening Round: Christian LaFragola (Brown) Gravina got to the tournament the hard way, via an at large bid. He had been at No. 9 in the last coaches’ panel and had to wrestle two non-scoring bouts Sunday morning - both of which he won - at the Big Tens to raise his standing for the selection committee. LaFragola (19-9) is a junior from Little Egg Harbor in south Jersey. He qualified for the NCAAs last season and placed fifth at the EIWA Cjampionships.

Big Ten Wrestlers in Tournament: No. 1 Bo Nickal, Penn State (26-0); No. 2 Myles Martin, Ohio State (27-2) 5) Domenic Abounader, Michigan (23-5); No, 7 Taylor Venz, Nebraska (23-7); No. 10 Emory Parker, Illinois (21-3); No. 11 Ricky Robertson, (24-9); No. 14 Nick Gravina, Rutgers (17-5); Brandon Krone, Minnesota (11-8); Mitchell Bowman, Iowa (12-11)

Nickal and Martin are 1-2. Hard to argue that they can’t make it to the finals. NC State’s No. 4 seed Pete Renda (21-2) has already lost to Martin, 8-1, in the closing dual of the season. And Nickal topped Lehigh’s No. 3 Ryan Preisch (14-2) in a close 3-2 match at Lehigh. But they are in opposite brackets; if chalk holds, then it would be Nickal-Renda and Martin-Preisch in the semis.

Bob’s thinking on Gravina’s chances: Nobody deserves to be a champion more than Nick Gravina, if for no other reason that he’s been banged up and, maybe more than anything else, is a great kid. Unfortunately, that isn’t enough to get to the podium. But Nick could, though, and could move to the semis with some strong work. If Nick gets through the first round, he gets Lehigh’s Ryan Preisch, the three seed. Preisch is good, losing to top seed Bo Nickal in their dual, 3-2. But Gravina only lost to Nickal by a point. I’m thinking he can do this and move to AA territory.

197 pounds

Top Seed: Kollin Moore, Ohio State (22-2)

Returning champion/highest place winner: Kollin Moore, Ohio St. pinned Jared Haught, Virginia Tech for third in 2017; Haught (26-2) is seeded third

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: no competitor in tournament

Big Ten Wrestlers in Tournament: No. 1 Kollin Moore, Ohio State (22-2); No. 5 Shakur Rasheed, Penn State (20-3); No. 14 Cash Wilcke, Iowa (18-7); No. 16 Christian Brunner, Purdue (23-9); Hunter Ritter, Wisconsin (26-9); Eric Schultz, Nebraska (18-9)

Kollin Moore has two losses on the season: to Anthony Cassar (PSU), 6-3 and to then No. 7 Michael Macchiavello (NCSU), 7-5. Cassar isn’t in the tournament and Macchiavello is the four seed. PSU’s Shakur Rasheed and Macchiavello (four seed) are in the bottom half of the top eight, meaning Moore has a pretty clear shot through to the semis. Take your pick of who he meets there, Rasheed or Macchiavello.

285 pounds

Top Seed: Kyle Snyder,Ohio State (12-1)

Returning champion/highest place winner: Champion Kyle Snyder (Ohio St.); eight seed Tanner Hall (Arizona St.) took third in 2017;

Rutgers Wrestler/Seed: no competitor in tournament

Big Ten Wrestlers in Tournament: No. 1 Kyle Snyder,Ohio State (12-1) (2) Adam Coon (MICH) 25-1 (3) Nick Nevills (PSU) 26-5 5) Samuel Stoll (IOWA) 19-4 (12) Youssif Hemida (MD) 27-5 Shawn Streck (PUR) 28-13 Conan Jennings (NW) 25-10

Snyder doesn’t have a lot of matches as he was winning a world title when the collegiate season began. Michigan’s Adam Coon is the only one to beat him this season and he’s at No. 2. Four of the top five seeds are B1G wrestlers, and there were a couple of interesting bouts along the way. Nevills lost to Snyder in a high scoring 15-10 bout and the Coon match was the next to last dual of the season. Snyder took revenge in the Big Ten title bout with a 4-2 sudden victory win.

TV Coverage

Wrestling, like so many other college sports, has become more widely appreciated and worthy of TV coverage. The NCAA Wrestling Championships is no exception. Beginning on Thursday, you can watch it all.