Oklahoma State looks to win its first NCAA wrestling title since 2005 and NCAA-record 35th overall this weekend at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. The Cowboys will take nine wrestlers to the tournament, including No. 1 seeds Daton Fix at 133 pounds and heavyweight Derek White.
First round, 11 a.m. on ESPNU
Second round, 6 p.m. on ESPN
Quarterfinals, 10 a.m. on ESPNU
Semifinals, 7 p.m. on ESPN
Medal round, 10 a.m. on ESPNU
Finals, 6 p.m. on ESPN
125: Redshirt junior Nick Piccininni (30-0)
Prior NCAA tournament results: Round of 16 in 2018
Piccininni received the No. 2 seed after his first undefeated regular-season. Sebastian Rivera of Northwestern (25-1) took the No. 1 seed after winning the Big 10 championship over reigning NCAA champion Spencer Lee of Iowa (18-3). Rivera has two wins over Lee this season, while Piccininni has one. Rivera’s lone loss this season is to 2018 NCAA finalist Stevan Micic of Michigan (14-0) at 133 pounds.
Piccininni opens the tournament against Northern Illinois’ Bryce West (15-14). He should score bonus points there then meet Indiana’s Elijah Oliver. Piccininni was likely going to face North Carolina State’s Sean Fausz in the second round, but Arizona State’s Ryan Millhoff withdrew from the tournament causing the bracket to be shuffled. Piccininni lost 9-5 to Fausz, a three-time NCAA qualifier, in their dual match last season in Italy.
Piccininni and Fausz could still meet in the semifinals, if Fausz gets by Lee in the second round.
In the quarterfinals, Piccininni is expected to meet Princeton’s Pat Glory or North Dakota State’s Brent Fleetwood. Piccininni holds wins over both men, including a decision over Fleetwood for the Big 12 championship. A quarterfinal win likely sets up a rematch against Lee in the semifinals.
Rivera, Oregon State’s Ronnie Bresser and Virginia’s Jack Mueller are the top three picks to make out of the top side of the bracket.
133: Redshirt freshman Daton Fix (30-1)
In the deepest weight class in the country, Fix emerged as the top overall seed with only one loss to Pittsburgh’s Mickey Phillipi, who took the No. 4 seed. Fix not only as the No. 1 seed, but he also has a great draw with Micic, Rutgers’ Nick Suriano, Iowa’s Austin DeSanto and Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak all on the other side of the bracket.
Fix starts off with the winner of a pigtail between Binghamton’s Zack Trampe and Oregon State’s Devan Turner. He’ll need to score bonus points there and in his second round bout against Cal State Bakersfield’s Sean Nickell or West Virginia’s Matthew Schmitt. In the quarterfinals, Fix will likely meet Missouri’s John Erneste, who he beat 9-2 in the dual.
A semifinal match for Fix could be against Phillipi, Iowa State’s Austin Gomez, Ohio State’s Luke Pletcher or Wyoming’s Montorie Bridges. Fix has two wins over both Bridges and Gomez, but hasn’t wrestled Pletcher.
141: Redshirt junior Kaid Brock (19-7)
Prior NCAA tournament results: Fifth in 2017, 2018 at 133
Brock, a two-time All-American at 133, starts the tournament against Buffalo’s Bryan Lantry, but would very likely meet No. 2 Joey McKenna of Ohio State. A win by Brock over McKenna would play a big role the team race while loss sends him to a deep path in the consolation bracket to earn All-American status for a third straight year.
149: Redshirt freshman Kaden Gfeller (28-4)
Gfeller started the season as Brock’s backup at 141, but a shoulder injury to Boo Lewallen opened up a spot for him and he’s taken full advantage. Gfeller was undefeated until running into the top-seeded Anthony Ashnault of Rutgers and No. 5 seed Matthew Kolodzik.
Gfeller opens the tournament against Virginia’s Ryan Blees then would likely meet Iowa’s Pat Lugo in the second round. Lugo beat Gfeller 7-4 in the dual. The rest of Gfeller’s path to the final would include Ohio State’s Micah Jordan and Duke’s Mitch Finesilver.
165: Redshirt junior Joe Smith (18-6)
Prior NCAA tournament results: Fourth in 2017, Sixth in 2016 at 157
Smith was the last wrestler in with the No. 33 seed even though he received one of the Big 12’s automatic qualifying bids. He’ll wrestle a pigtail match for an opportunity to wrestle No. 1 Alex Marinelli of Iowa. A match between Smith and Marinelli will be the most watched bout in the first round. An upset for Smith would be a huge confidence boost and be the story of the first day.
If Smith gets by Marinelli, the path isn’t easy as Big 12 champ Demetrius Romero of Utah Valley and Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis could be waiting in the quarterfinals.
174: Redshirt senior Jacobe Smith (28-4)
Smith looked really good at Big 12s after wrestling up at 184 for most of the second half of the season. He draws Michigan State’s Drew Hughes in the first round then should meet Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola, who beat Smith last year.
To get to the semifinals, Smith will have to avenge his loss to Labriola then upset No. 2 Daniel Lewis of Missouri. The two did not meet in the dual this season. Former NCAA champion Zahid Valencia of Arizona State likely waits in the semifinals.
184: Redshirt sophomore Dakota Geer (25-5)
Geer somehow was given the No. 26 seed despite beating No. 20 Will Sumner of Utah Valley twice at Big 12s. Anyway, Geer meets No. 7 Nick Reenan of North Carolina State in the first round. An upset over Reenan means a matchup against Big 12 runner-up Sam Colbray of Iowa State. No. 2 seed Shakur Rasheed of Penn State will likely be waiting in the quarterfinals.
197: Redshirt senior Preston Weigel (11-0)
Prior NCAA tournament results: Injury default in 2018, Sixth in 2017, Qualified in 2016
Weigel only wrestled 11 matches this season due to injury, but he made them count and earned the No. 3 seed. He has a great draw with several opponents, if wrestled to seed, he already holds wins over. A Big 12 title rematch with Iowa State’s Will Miklus could be set for the quarterfinals and a semifinal bout against Ohio State’s Kollin Moore appears likely.
Penn State’s Bo Nickal, who is a pinning machine, is on the top side of the bracket and should cruise to the final as he tries to win his third straight title.
Heavyweight: Redshirt senior Derek White (28-1)
Prior NCAA tournament results: Round of 16 in 2018
White earned the No. 1 seed at heavyweight in a bracket that’s become a three-man race to the top of the podium. White’s only loss this season is to Minnesota freshman Gable Steveson, who was undefeated until he fell to Penn State’s Anthony Cassar. White defeated Cassar at the Southern Scuffle.
Both Cassar and Steveson are on the bottom side of the bracket and would meet in the semifinals. The three wrestlers that pose the biggest threat of an upset for White are Lehigh’s Jordan Wood, Pittsburgh’s Demetrius Thomas and Michigan’s Mason Parris. White has one-point wins over Wood and Thomas this season.