March 5, 2010

Wrestling Wreport: 2010 Big Ten Championship edition

Penn State makes the trip to Ann Arbor, Michigan for the 2010 Big Ten Wrestling Championship beginning Saturday and ending with the finals on Sunday at 2:00 PM. The Nittany Lions enter the tournament with 7 top four pre-seeds. The official brackets come out today, the pre-seeds came out Tuesday. The coaches will meet prior to the event and set the final official brackets and some seeds could move a little but usually not. The only portion of the tournament that will be televised is the finals Sunday on the Big Ten Network. It's extremely disappointing that we won't see more of the event <sarcasm> but I guess the Big Ten Men's Swimming & Diving championship which occurs the same time as the semifinals draws more viewers than Wrestling. </sarcasm>

Let's get to it…

First off, the Big Ten has been allotted 56 automatic qualifying positions by the NCAA. They break down accordingly:
125 - 6
133 - 5
141 - 5
149 - 8
157 - 4
165 - 5
174 - 6
184 - 5
197 - 7
285 - 5

If you are new to this, the NCAA allocates automatic positions per weight to each conference depending on a list of criteria. If a wrestler finishes in one of those qualifying positions they are automatically going to the NCAA championship. After the conference championships are over the coaches vote on "wild card" entries or wrestlers who have not automatically qualified but have an otherwise impressive body of work over the season. Basically the more ranked guys you have at a weight the more automatic positions you'll have. Take for instance 149 in the Big Ten, it's absolutely stacked so they get to send 8 while 157 is as weak as 149 is strong so they only get to send 4. Got it? Good.

133 Bryan Pearsall (3-21), 174 Justin Ortega (6-18), 197 Clay Steadman (8-10)

Let's just get the unpleasantries out of the way, I'm lumping these guys together in one big pile of FAIL. Let's not sugar coat this, these guys are two and out. Steadman beat out Dave Crowell in a recent wrestle-off to claim the 197 position but I don't expect much from him. Actually if there is any of the three that could possibly eke out win it will probably be Steadman but I'm not counting on it. A win from any of these guys would be bonus points for the Nittany Lions.

125 - Brad Pataky (24-6)
125 lbs. Pre-Seeds
1. Angel Escobedo, IND
2. Matt McDonough, IOWA
3. Zach Sanders, MINN
4. Brad Pataky, PSU
5. Cashé Quiroga, PUR
6. Nikko Triggas, OSU
7. John Deneen, ILL
8. Drew Hammen, WIS
Brad comes into the tournament sporting a 6-1 record in Big Ten duals. Pataky finished fourth last season to qualify for nationals. Unfortunately we don't know what to expect from Pataky because the only wrestler in the top 5 he faced was McDonough who he lost to 7-2. Sanders didn't wrestle in the dual and Pataky received a forfeit. Pataky does have a win over Escobedo when he beat him 4-3 in a dual last season. Pataky beat Sanders last year in the Big Ten Championship on his way to the 4th place finish. This is a weight that is wide open, if Brad stays under control and wrestles smart he could finish a lot higher than his seed.

Fearless prediction: 3rd place

141 - Adam Lynch (11-10)
141 lbs. Pre-Seeds
1. Reece Humphrey, OSU
2. Mike Thorn, MINN
3. Montell Marion, IOWA
4. Adam Lynch, PSU
5. Ryan Prater, ILL
6. Juan Archuleta, PUR
7. Dan Osterman, MSU
8. Cole Schmitt, WIS

Lynch enters the tournament the 4th seed with a 6-2 Big Ten record. Lynch's two losses were to Humphrey by tech fall and Thorn by fall. He did beat Marion in the Iowa dual but he'll be in the other bracket. This has been somewhat of a dream season for Lynch, what other wrestler could have a record that is 1 win over .500 yet get the 4th seed in the conference. I'd like to believe Lynch will wrestle the tournament of his life but finishing in the top 5 to qualify should be the realistic goal for Penn State fans.

Fearless prediction: 5th place
149 - Frank Molinaro (27-3)
149 lbs. Pre-Seeds
1. Brent Metcalf, IOWA
2. Lance Palmer, OSU
3. Kyle Ruschell, WIS
4. Frank Molinaro, PSU
5. David Cheza, MSU
6. Andrew Nadhir, NU
7. Mario Mason, MINN
8. Nick Bertucci, PUR

This is one weight were the seeds could change before the tournament. Molinaro is 6-2 in the Big Ten with his two loses coming to Metcalf and Palmer but he beat Ruschell 6-5. Frank lost to Ruschell in the Big Ten tournament last year on his way to an 8th place finish at 141. Frank majored Nadhir of Northwestern, just missed out on a major against Cheza and manhandled Mason 7-3. Molinaro's chances will greatly increase if he can get the 3 seed, his loss to Palmer was a slim 5-3 decision so it's possible he could slip by him and make it to the finals. There's no way in Hell anyone is beating Metcalf.

Fearless prediction: 3rd place

157 - Cyler Sanderson (25-4)
157 lbs. Pre-Seeds
1. Dustin Schlatter, MINN
2. Cyler Sanderson, PSU
3. Colton Salazar, PUR
4. Kurt Kinser, IND
5. Jake Kerr, IOWA
6. Dave Johnson, MICH
7. Sean Nemec, OSU
8. Clint Arlis, ILL

Sanderson missed out on All-American honors last season after reaching that goal as a sophomore so this is his last chance. Sanderson is 6-2 in the Big Ten losing to Kerr by 2 and Schlatter by a 4-0 score. Cyler can most definitely beat Kerr and if he makes it to the finals I think he can beat Schlatter. In the Minnesota dual Cyler had a tough time escaping from the bottom position against Schlatter and that was really the difference in the dual. You better believe that older brother Cael and the Penn State coaches have been working hard on getting out from bottom with Cyler. This is also a weak weight and the Nittany Lions could get some bonus points, Cyler got a pin in 4 of his 6 Big Ten dual victories.

Fearless prediction: BT Champ (call me a shameless homer)

165 - Dan Vallimont (23-6)
165 lbs. Pre-Seeds
1. Andrew Howe, WIS
2. Ryan Morningstar, IOWA
3. Colt Sponseller, OSU
4. Dan Vallimont, PSU
5. Paul Young, IND
6. Kyle Bounds, MSU
7. Cody Yohn, MINN
8. Conrad Polz, ILL

This is also Dan's last chance at a Big Ten championship and it's not completely out of the question. Vallimont was 5-3 in the Big Ten with all three losses coming to the guys ranked ahead of him. He lost by 2 to both Morningstar and Sponseller so those could easily be turned around. Howe is tough and he's not a real good matchup for Dan but if Vallimont stays on the offense and doesn't get too conservative anything can happen.

Fearless prediction: 3rd place

184 - David Erwin (26-6)
184 lbs. Pre-Seeds
1. John Dergo, ILL
2. David Erwin, PSU
3. Phillip Keddy, IOWA
4. Mike Pucillo, OSU
5. Travis Rutt, WIS
6. Eric Cameron, IND
7. Hunter Collins, MICH
8. Nick Corpe, PUR

Along with Sanderson, Erwin is Penn State's other hope at a Big Ten Champ. Erwin finished with only one loss in the Big Ten dual meet season, losing to Dergo of Illinois in sudden victory over-time (or should that be sudden defeat). Erwin didn't get a chance to face Pucillo of Ohio State but that probably won't matter since he'll be in the other bracket and he probably won't beat Dergo. David does have some close victories over Keddy, Rutt and Collins so things could go the other way if Erwin doesn't stay aggressive.

Fearless prediction: 2rd place

285 - Cameron Wade (18-7)
1. Nate Everhart, IND
2. Dan Erekson, IOWA
3. Cameron Wade, PSU
4. Ben Berhow, MINN
5. Eric Bugenhagen, WIS
6. Corey Morrison, OSU
7. Ben Apland, MICH
8. Alan O'Donnell, MSU

Wade just missed out qualifying for nationals last year and I don't think he'll make the same mistake this time around. Wade lost to Everhart in the 5th place bout 7-2 in Big Ten's last year but hasn't wrestled him this season. Wade is 6-2 in the Big Ten this season losing to Berhow 4-2 and Erekson 6-1. This is another weight that could produce bonus points, Wade pinned Apland of Michigan and Shrewsbury of Northwestern.

Fearless prediction: 4th place

So there you have it, if things pan out like I envision, Penn State will be sending 7 to nationals. I think Wade, Erwin, Vallimont, Sanderson, Molinaro, and Pataky are sure bets to advance on, Lynch I'm not so sure about. In the end Iowa is absolutely loaded and anything short of the earth opening up and swallowing half their wrestlers, they will repeat as Big Ten champs. The goal for any wrestler is a championship but in the end PSU needs to qualify as many wrestlers as possible. Check back for updates throughout the weekend.

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