March 16, 2010

Wrestling Wreport: NCAA Championship edition

Penn State heads to Omaha, Nebraska, for the 2010 NCAA Wrestling Championships on March 18-20. The Nittany Lions will send 6 wrestlers total with 4 of them seeded in the final brackets. Former All-American Cyler Sanderson is seeded 4th, returning All-American Frank Molinaro is seeded 5th, returning All-American Dan Vallimont is 6th and senior David Erwin is No. 11. Brad Pataky and Cameron Wade are unseeded. Sanderson represents PSU's best chance at an individual national champion but this is the championship and anything can happen.

Will there be another wrestler to join Phil Davis, Penn State's last national champ?

125 - Brad Pataky, (26-8) unseeded

Brad has a tough draw getting put in the same bracket as top seed Angel Escobedo of Indiana, but to get a shot at Escobedo, Pataky will have to get by Jarrod Patterson of Oklahoma, the 9th seed. Brad beat Patterson this season 8-6 in the Virginia duals back in January. If Brad wins he will most likely face 8th seed Matt Steintrager of Central Michigan. If Pataky wins both he will face Escobedo in the quarterfinals.

Reasonable outlook - Brad was within one win of All-American status last year in the NCAA's and that has to be on his mind. Pataky has been up and down this season that's why he has a 10-8 record against the field. If Brad can wrestle his best, he could easily finish an All-American but he could just as easily leave empty handed yet again.

Prediction – All-American but barely

149 - Frank Molinaro, (29-5) 5 seed

Molinaro actually got a decent draw starting out with Donald Vinson of Binghamton. Frank should win that easily and then face either Eric Albright of Pitt or Mario Mason of Minnesota two wrestler Molinaro has destroyed this year beating both by at least 6 points. A victory there and Frank gets a rematch against Kyle Ruschell of Wisconsin who Molinaro beat earlier in the year and then lost to in the 3rd place bout in the Big Ten's. Frank got caught and pinned on a wild scramble so he will be looking for redemption. A win there and it's on to face top-seeded Lance Palmer of Ohio State.

Reasonable outlook - I think it's safe to say that Frank will win his first two bouts easily. He already beat Ruschell once this season and was beating him when he got pinned so I think Molinaro will get revenge and make it to the semifinals to face Palmer.

Prediction – All-American (it would be a disappointment if any less)

157 - Cyler Sanderson, (28-4) 4 seed

Cyler starts out against Bryan Deutsch of Northern Illinois. A likely victory there sets up a match with either Dan Gonsor of Virginia or Tyson Reiner of UNI, both unseeded wrestlers. A win and Sanderson would most likely face Steve Fittery of American the 5th seed.

Reasonable outlook – Cyler doesn't face a ranked opponent until the quarterfinals and should easily make it that far. If Sanderson can make it to the semifinals he will most likely face top-seed J.P. O'Connor who Sanderson lost to 8-2 earlier in the season. It's no easy task but if Sanderson can pull off the mild upset of O'Connor in the Semi's I like his chances in the finals.

Prediction – All-American (I don't think Cyler will get by O'Connor)

165 - Dan Vallimont, (26-7) 6 seed

Dan will face Matt Epperly of Virginia Tech who Vallimont beat 4-3 this season. The winner most likely gets Rick Schmelyun of Bloomsburg the 11th seed. Vallimont owns a 2-1 victory over Schmelyun in the first dual of the season. The winner of round 2 will most likely get Nick Marable of Missouri, the 3rd seed in the quarterfinals.

Reasonable outlook – The sky's the limit for Dan, he has beat a lot of the guys in his bracket and the highest seed (No. 2 Jarrod King of Edinboro), Vallimont lost to by a slim 4-3 score earlier in the year. If Dan keeps his offense up, especially on his feet he could go deep in the tournament.

Prediction – All-American

184 - David Erwin, (29-8) 11 seed

David starts out against Erich Schmditke of Oklahoma. Erwin hammered Schmditke 9-3 back in January. A win likely sets up a match against Maxwell Askren of Missouri the 6th seed.

Reasonable outlook – It's tough to say how Erwin will make out, it's his first NCAA tournament and it can be a humbling experience. Askren has never impressed me I think David makes it on to most likely face Dustin Kilgore of Kent State who Erwin lost to 11-5 this year.

Prediction – just misses out on All-American status

HWT - Cameron Wade, (20-9) unseeded

Of all the Penn State wrestlers, Wade has the toughest road. Cameron gets Zachery Rey of Lehigh, the 3rd seed, to start off. Cameron lost to Rey 5-2 in the dual earlier this season. If Wade could somehow sneak by Rey things would get a little easier until the quarterfinals.

Reasonable outlook – I don't think Wade will make it by Rey in the opening round. That means he will have to do all his damage in the wrestle-backs and that's just too hard to predict.

Prediction – not much chance at All-American status but it will be a good experience for Wade

So if my cheery outlook is correct PSU will walk away with 4 All-Americans 2 of which will be returning next season. I don't think that's an unrealistic prediction, I think Molinaro and Sanderson are locks, Vallimont has a good shot and Pataky is so-so. Cyler is Penn State's best chance at a national champion but he will need to wrestle the best of his career, I don't see anyone else coming close.

TV Coverage
March 19 Wrestling NCAA quarterfinals 10:30 a.m. ESPNU
March 19 Wrestling NCAA semifinals 7 p.m. ESPNU
March 20 Wrestling NCAA medal round 11 a.m. ESPNU
March 20 Wrestling NCAA final 7:30 p.m. ESPN, ESPN360


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