Wrestling season is reaching it's conclusion soon. The big conference tournaments are this weekend including the excellent Big 10 tournament, the MAC tournament, the EIWA and the EWL tournies. As a wrestling fan this is my second favorite weekend of the year (after the NCAA tournament weekend!). I'm picking Penn State to win the Big 10 tournament, and old conference foe Missouri to win a tight race in the MAC.
The Big 12 is a major wrestling conference but unfortunately has only 4 teams...it's a runt conference! 3 of the 4 teams are classic wrestling powerhouse programs though, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and the Sooners. There is a complaint in the wrestling community that the Big 12 gets too many qualifiers to the NCAA tournament for it's size. 60% of the wrestlers in the Big 12 make it to the "Big Dance" of wrestling. However 62% of the Big 10's wrestlers make it and there isn't much complaint about that. As a matter of fact the Big 10 routinely sends guys who finish lower than 8th at their conference tournament to the NCAA tournament, which I find ridiculous since there are only 8 All Americans per weight. If you can't even finish in the top 8 in your own weight you don't deserve an invitation (in my opinion). But I digress...on to the Big 12 preview!
The 2014 Big 12 Wrestling Championship will be held on Saturday, March 8, at McCasland Field House in Norman, Okla. Doors open at 1:30 p.m. CT, with the semifinal round beginning at 3 p.m. All four league squads will be in action for the 18th annual event.
The event’s semifinal matches as well as the consolation round beginning at 5 p.m. will be shown live on the Big 12 Digital Network powered by Campus Insiders on Big12Sports.com. Championship rounds will be broadcast live on FOX Sports Oklahoma Plus beginning at 7:00 p.m.
The Big 12 has 24 qualifiers this year. If a wrestler doesn't finish high enough in the tourney he won't likely get an invitation, but at-large invites are sometimes given to highly ranked wrestlers who don't qualify in their conference tournament. For example if Maple was injured in his first match he'd likely get an at-large invitation. Don't expect a wrestler ranked lower than #10 to get an at-large invitation though (unless his RPI was ridiculously tough). At 174 all 4 wrestlers have already qualified, but at 184 there is only 1 qualifier.
Technically OU and OSU were "co-champions" this year in the Big 12 regular wrestling season, tied at 3-1 in conference. However OSU has a far superior team and it took a lot of luck for OU to win the first Bedlam match (the Sooners were curbstomped in the return match in Stillwater).
125 Pounds - 3 qualifiers
1. Jarrod Patterson OU 16-2 #7
2. Eddie Klimara OSU 17-7 #14
3. Earl Hall ISU 18-10 #23
4. Cory Stainbrook WVU 0-0 UNR
Jarrod Patterson has returned and is the top seed at 125 pounds. Patterson wrestles Cory Stainbrook in the first round. Stainbrook was a 4 time placer in High School at Walsh Jesuit (never won state though), so he presumably is used to "bigtime" wrestling. He's never wrestled a college match though, and Patterson is a tough go in his first match. I expect Jarrod to win a fairly easy decision here, but don't expect bonus points...Patterson rarely gets them. In the other half of the bracket Eddie Klimara from OSU wrestles Earl Hall from ISU. Hall is no slacker, but Klimara has two wins over him this year, including one by major decision. Klimara should win this one to set up a finals match vs Patterson. Patterson has been sitting out for the last few weeks, so I expect his rust to show in this match. Klimara by decision.
133 Pounds - 2 Qualifiers
1. Jon Morrison OSU 23-1 #4
2. Cody Brewer OU 19-6 #11
3. Nathan Pennisi WVU 17-9 #25
4. Shayden Terukina ISU 6-12 UNR
Jon Morrison is the number 1 seed here, with OU's Cody Brewer at #2. Morrison will easily hammer Terukina from ISU, probably by major or tech fall. Brewer owns a big win over WVU's Pennesi and won't have any problem here. Brewer closed the gap a little on Morrison in their last match and I expect will give Morrison all he can handle. Morrison's experience earns him a tight win, but don't be surprised if Brewer pulls off the upset.
141 Pounds 3- Qualifiers
1. Colin Johnston WVU 28-6 #14
2. Anthony Collica OSU 26-7 #17
3. Nick Lester OU 16-10 #22
4. Gabe Moreno ISU 15-18 UNR
Johnston from WVU is the top seed in this weight. Collica from OSU has a couple wins over Lester this year including an 8-7 "upset" at the first Bedlam dual. Expect more of the same here. This weight isn't real strong at the Big 12s and any of the top 3 seeds could win. Lester actually has a lot of talent and could win the whole thing if he brings his "A" game, which he does about 10% of the time. I expect Collica from OSU to pull off a mild upset to win the championship here.
149 Pounds - 3 Qualifiers
1. Kendrick Maple OU 20-4 #5
2. Josh Kindig OSU 19-7 #9
3. Luke Goettl ISU 14-13 UNR
4. Mike Morales WVU 18-6 #18
Maple is the favorite at 149. He's split a pair of decisions this year with #2 Kindig, but the last match was a dominant 7-3 win by Maple. Interestingly the #3 seed is lower ranked than the #4 seed from WVU. Expect both the top 2 seeds to advance and for another easy win by Maple.
157 Pounds - 2 Qualifiers
1. Alex Dieringer OSU 25-1 #2
2. Justin DeAngelis OU 15-4 #19
3. John Nicholson ISU 11-13 UNR
4. Tim Wheeling WVU 10-12 UNR
This is a one horse race. Dieringer will score two bonus point decisions here. DeAngelis from OU should win his first match, but the next match with Dieringer will be looming over his head like the sword of Damocles. Dieringer by major in the finals.
165 Pounds - 2 Qualifiers
1. Tyler Caldwell OSU 22-3 #4
2. Michael Moreno ISU 25-6 #8
3. Clark Glass OU 18-11 UNR
4. Ross Renzi WVU 20-15 UNR
Tyler Caldwell is a big favorite in this class. I hate watching him, he's a stallmaster type wrestler, nevertheless this turncoat (two time AA at OU before transferring to OSU) is very hard to beat, he's excellent on the mat and a great defender on his feet. Moreno hammered Glass 13-0 in their last match and will easily advance to the finals where he will be smothered by Caldwell in a low scoring match. I expect Glass to win in the 3rd place match against Renzi.
174 Pounds - 4 Qualifiers
1. Andrew Howe OU 23-0 #1
2. Chris Perry OSU 23-1 #2
3. Tanner Weatherman ISU 23-13 #11
4. Bubba Scheffel WVU 29-7 #24
This is the most anticipated weight class at the Big 12 tournament this year. Andrew Howe has been an absolute wrecking ball this year, obliterating anything and everything in his path. He has a technical fall win over the quite good Weatherman from Iowa State. Howe has been wrestling 184 most of the last month and destroying guys 10 pounds bigger than he is, including the #1 seed at 184 in this tournament. That being said he has 1 close match this year (4-2), and that was against Chris Perry from OSU. To be fair to Howe although the score was close the match was never really in doubt. Perry does have the potential to beat Howe though... after all he is the defending NCAA champion at this weight. Perry wants a piece of Howe and although he was disappointed not to wrestle Howe at the 2nd Bedlam dual last month Perry showed Howe respect by saying he didn't think Howe was the kind of guy to dodge any competition. That was a decision by Coach Cody which disappointed a lot of fans (on both sides) who were wanting Howe/Perry II. Cody's line of thinking...why risk a #1 seed on a dual match that OSU has already won? Makes sense to a coach. Expect Howe to win a tough match with Perry in what I think might very well be a preview of this year's national championship match. Perry is quite tough, but I give him only about a 20% chance against Howe. The 3rd place match at this weight should also be very good, not much separates Weatherman and Scheffel.
184 Pounds - 1 Qualifier
1. Nolan Boyd OSU 28-10 #22
2. Danny Chaid OU 10-7 UNR
3. Leland Weatherspoon ISU 22-9 UNR
4. Mac Mancuso WVU 20-12 UNR
Easily the weakest weight at the Big 12 tournament this year. Boyd has a major decision win over Mancuso and should easily advance to the finals. Don't ask me how Chaid got the #2 seed here. He's only 10-7 overall and is 1-5 in his last 6 matches. Not only that but he hasn't wrestled in over 5 weeks. I'd have given the #2 seed to Weatherspoon and the #3 to Mancuso. I expect Chaid won't win a match at this tournament, but if he does it'll likely be in the 3rd place match. Boyd is the class of this weak weight and should win both his matches.
197 Pounds - 2 Qualifiers
1. Kyven Gadson ISU 23-2 #1
2. Travis Rutt OU 20-4 #7
3. Blake Rosholt 11-7 #21
4. Leo Trindade WVU 16-14
Gadson has a narrow overtime win over Rutt this year and gets the nod for top seed. Rutt has been in a rut lately (haha, I went there!). He's lost 3 matches out of his last 7 to drop from #3 to #7 in the rankings. Amazingly John Smith has chosen to go with Blake Rosholt here, OSU's equivalent of Nick Lester. He'll have a first round match against Rutt, who pounded him on the way to a major decision in the first Bedlam dual. I see Gadson winning a decision over Rutt in the finals, but Rutt has the potential to pull an upset. I wouldn't surprised to see Rosholt lose both his matches.
Heavyweight - 2 Qualifiers
1. Austin Marsden OSU 18-6 #18
2. A.J. Vizcarrando WVU 18-17 UNR
3. Quean Smith ISU 8-14 UNR
4. Ross Larson OU 21-8 #21
Another strange class. Marsden has lost his only match this year against last seed Larson. However Larson has lost both his matches to the #2 and #3 seeds, including a 13-2 major decision loss to Quean Smith, who is at best mediocre. In spite of that Larson is ranked #21 in the country despite losing 6 of his last 10 matches. I'm expecting Marsden to avenge his earlier loss to the slumping Larson, but if Larson pulls off the upset don't be surprised if he then loses to Quean Smith in the finals! I suspect Larson will win a match at the conference tourney although he's been terrible lately.
I'm picking OSU to blow away the field with OU coming in a distant 2nd, with ISU and WVU trailing far behind in 3rd and 4th place respectively. OSU should send 9 qualifiers to the NCAAs, with OU bringing 7, ISU 5, and WVU 3.
Thanks to www.big12sports.com for information regarding hosting information and times of the events. Rankings and records of wrestlers acquired through the NWCA website.