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TOM’s American Wrestler 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championship Preview – 174 and 184

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We are back again and there are only two days remaining before the party starts. Tomorrow morning our special sections will go up. All the action will be on ESPN3 and ESPN. Also, TOM will have a live chat and live audio for everyone. Hope you all stop in and chat with us.

Today we are looking at the 174 and 184 brackets. We are looking forward to breaking these down. They may be the most wide open weights in the tournament. These weights by far have been the toughest to figure out. Both these weight will be important in the overall team race as well.

Let’s get this thing going.


174

  • 2010 National Finals – Jay Borschel (IA) Dec. Mack Lewnes (Cornell), 6-2
  • 2006 National Finals – Ben Askren (MIZZ) Dec. Jake Herbet (NW), 14-2

Top 12 Seeds

  1. Jon Reader (ISU)
  2. Ed Ruth (PSU)
  3. Mack Lewnes (CORN)
  4. Colby Covington (ORST)
  5. Chris Henrich (UVA)
  6. Ben Bennet (CMICH)
  7. Nick Amuchastegui (STAN)
  8. Mike Letts (MD)
  9. Ethan Lofthouse (IA)
  10. Nick Heflin (tOSU)
  11. Austin Meys (LEH)
  12. Mike Benefiel (OKST)

From a seeding perspective this one seemed like they got it right. It is a tough one to seed. John Reader was the clear number one. Reader has not loss this year and his looked very good doing it. One thing is for certain he will have his work cut out to make the finals. He really does not have an easy match at all. He kicks thing off with Michigan’s Justin Zeerip. We expect Reader to get past him, but it is not a match he can just coast through. He most likely he will face Purdue’s Luke Manual in the second round. Manual may not have had the season he wanted, but none the less he can not be overlooked. He has wrestled a tough schedule and has been right there in most matches. Reader does win though and moves on.

The next grouping is loaded and will be filled with some good early round match ups. Iowa’s Ethan Lofthouse will meet the winner of Morrison and Henderson. This one is tough to predict. Morrison is solid and Henderson is unpredictable. We are going with the more consistent guy in Morrison. Either way we see Lofthouse getting the best of both guys and working his way into the second round. There he will most likely face Maryland’s Mike Letts. Letts seems to be at the top of his game coming off his ACC championship run. He beat the number five seed here for that title. Lofthouse has been ok but not stellar. If Letts wrestles like he did at the conference championship we could see him getting past Lofthouse. But we also think Lofthouse is wrestling pretty well and think he earns a hard fought win here.

The next group has two guys we think could make some noise this year. Virginia’s Henrich is expected to get past Arizona State’s Eric Starks. Then we think he will face Oklahoma State’s Mike Benefiel in the second round. Henrich only has two losses and on paper one would think he is a heavy favorite. Benefiel has won eight of his past ten with his only losses coming to top seed Reader during that stretch. We think that Benefiel gets the upset here and moves into the quarters.

In the next group we think it is Oregon State’s Colby Covington’s to lose. He should be the heavy favorite to make the quarters from this group. We think he will face Franklin and Marshall’s Fullowan in the second round.

Top Half Quarters

  • Reader vs. Lofthouse
  • Benefiel vs. Covington

Cornell’s Mack Lewnes is in pretty good shape to make the quarters. He opens with Meys of Boston and could be looking to add some bonus for his team in that match. Then we think in the second round he will face a tougher test in Ohio’s Nick Purdue. Purdue is a tough kid that should push Lewnes. Lewnes wins though and moves into the quarters.

The next set of guys should be a bit more interesting. Lehigh’s Meys will square off against Curran of Michigan State in the first round. Not the easiest draw for Meys but expect to see him move on. Central Michigan’s Ben Bennett will have a tough first round match with Rutger’s Caruso. This should be a close one, but we are going with Bennett who seems to be wrestling at the level most of us expected him to be at. With that said, the Meys and Bennett match should be exciting. We really like what Meys has been able to do this year. The issue is that he has been a bit inconsistent. This will be a battle that we see Bennett winning.

Stanford’s Nick Amuchastegui started the year out on fire. Two of his three losses came at the hands of the fourth seed Covington and his other loss came to Meys. He reversed the loss to Meys though. He will be tested by a scrappy Ben Jordan but we do believe Amuchastegui moves on. Look for him to meet up with Ohio State’s Nick Heflin in the second round. Heflin has quietly put together a nice season. This will be close with Amuchastegui getting the win and earning a spot in the quarters.

The bottom has Penn State’s Ed Ruth. Ruth has wrestled well all year. He should move into the second round to face Minnesota’s Scott Glasser. At the start of the season we would have been somewhat optimistic for Glasser. That really is not the case now. After seeing how Ruth controlled him in the dual we just can not see how Glasser could have made up that much ground on him. Ruth advances.

Bottom Half Quarters

  • Lewnes vs. Bennett
  • Amuchastegui vs. Ruth

In the first quarter we have Reader vs. Lofthouse. We are not sure that Lofthouse is far enough along to earn the upset here. That is not a knock on Lofthouse as much as it is a testament to how Reader is wrestling. Look for Reader to earn the decision and move to the semi-finals. The next match should be a good one. As we stated before, Benefiel has been wrestling much better. Covington only has one loss and that came back at the beginning of December. In a close one we have Covington advancing.

On the bottom half of the bracket we start things off with Lewnes and Bennett. These two have met twice this year with Lewnes winning both times. Bennett was able to close the gap, but we do not think he can close it enough to take Lewnes out. In a match we find interesting we have Amuchastegui and Ruth. Starting this round Ruth needs to make sure he wrestles all seven minutes. What we mean is that it appears at times that once he builds a lead he tends to start to shut things down. We are not sure that Amuchastegui will be able to keep up with Ruth from a scoring perspective. Ruth advances to the semi-finals.

Semi-finals

  • Reader vs. Covington
  • Lewnes vs. Ruth

This first semi-final should be a real fun match. In his past 15 matches Reader has won 12 of them by bonus. That is pretty impressive. Covington has also been putting up a lot of bonus. This one will be real close and in the end we see Reader securing his spot in the finals.

The other semi-final we know will be a barn burner. To add even more pressure to this match it has major implications on the team race. These guys met earlier in the year with Ruth earning and impressive 11-6 win. So, does Lewnes have a game plan to reverse the decision? Will experience play a role in this one? There are a lot of questions that will be answered on the mat. We think that if Ruth wrestles the way he has, he will win this one and move on to face Reader.

Finals

  • Reader vs. Ruth

These two have not met yet and that may be an advantage to Ruth who has what we call a unique style. Ruth is very fluid and makes some things just look easy. Reader is a grinder that will keep pressure on you all day long. All of this should make for an interesting match. Look for this one to be decided late in the match. We are going with Reader as your 2011 National Champion.

TOM’s Prediction for All-Americans (Note this may not be the exact order)

Jon Reader
Ed Ruth
Colby Covington
Mack Lewnes
Nick Amuchastegui
Mike Benefiel
Ben Bennett
Ethan Lofthouse

184

  • 2010 National Finals – Max Askren (MIZZ) Dec. Kirk Smith (BSU), 10-3
  • 2006 National Finals – Shane Webster (Oregon) Dec. Roger Kish (MN), 3-2

Top 12 Seeds

  1. Chris Honeycutt (EDIN)
  2. Robert Hamlin (LEH)
  3. Steve Bosak (CORN)
  4. Travis Rutt (WI)
  5. Joe LeBlanc (WYO)
  6. Ryan Loder (UNI)
  7. Chris Perry (OKST)
  8. Kevin Steinhaus (MN)
  9. Quentin Wright (PSU)
  10. Josh Inhen (NEB)
  11. Kirk Smith (BSU)
  12. Grant Gambrall (IA)

This weight is by far the toughest weight for us to do predictions on. There are so many early round matches that will be close it is amazing. The weight is also loaded with question marks; will Wright wrestle the same way he did at Big 10’s? How injured is Smith? Can Loder keep surprising people? Does LeBlanc get back on track? How good is Honeycutt?

See what we mean? It is nuts all the different ways this one could unfold. Let’s not wait any longer. Your top seed is Edinboro’s Chris Honeycutt. He is perfect on the season but has not had the toughest schedule. He does have a convincing win over Bosak though. We predict that he gets past a tough Arand of Oregon State in the first round and will most likely await Navy’s Rebertus. Rebertus is one of those guys you can never take lightly. They have met once this season and Honeycutt won by a score of 6-4. This may be a close one but we expect to see Honeycutt in the quarter finals.

The rejuvenated Quentin Wright will face a tough Virginia wrestler in Fausey in his first round match. Look for Wright to earn the victory and move to the second round. We also see Minnesota’s Steinhaus getting past McCroskey in his first round setting up the rubber match with Wright. The first time these guys met Stienhaus really over powered Wright in a match that was never close. Then in the Big 10 finals Wright used his quickness to earn a hard fought battle that literally came down to the last second. We think that Wright is back on top of his game and wins a match that may come right down to the end again. Also, we believe that who ever does win this match will be in the finals.

The great matches keep coming in the first round at this weight. Wyoming’s LeBlanc will face Purdue’s A.J. Kissel. When is the last time the two guys from the All-Star match met in the first round of nationals? Not sure but it tells you this will not be an easy open round match. Look for LeBlanc to advance to the next round. We expect he will face Iowa’s Grant Gambrall in the next round. We see Gambrall winning his pigtail and first round matches. This is another one that is hard to pick. Gambrall is a tough wrestler who should really push LeBlanc. We are going with LeBlanc to move on.

As we move down we find a first round match up between Oklahoma’s Schmidtke and Pitt’s Thomusseit. These guys are pretty evenly matched which should make this a good one. Look for Thomusseit to get the win. In the second round we think he will be facing Rutt of Wisconsin. Rutt only has two losses all year and is one of the better guys at the weight. Look for Rutt to win again and move into the quarters.

Top Half Quarters

  • Honeycutt vs. Wright
  • LeBlanc vs. Rutt

Cornell’s Bosak is sitting in very good shape. We fully expect to see him cruise into the quarters. We just do not see any of the other guys in this part of the bracket taking him out. Who he faces may depend on how healthy Boise State’s Kirk Smith is. We are anticipating a second round match up between him and Northern Iowa’s Loder. Loder is a real dark horse in this field. He has gone 16-1 the last two months with his only lose coming at the hands of LeBlanc. He reversed that result at the conference tournament. We are not confident at all that Smith is healthy so we are going with Loder making the quarters.

Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry will have the always dangerous Tony Dallago in his opening round match. Perry has seemed to have turned the corner and been wrestling very well. Look for him to get past Dallago. In the next round we are predicting he will face Nebraska’s Josh Inhen. The last time these guys met Perry won 3-2 in overtime. Expect a tight low scoring match again with a similar result. Perry moves to the quarters.

Closing this out we see both Hamlin of Lehigh and Rinaldi of Rutgers getting out of the first round and meeting in the second. These two have met twice and both matches Hamlin came out on top. We do not see that changing here and Hamlin moves into the quarters.

Bottom Half Quarters

  • Bosak vs. Loder
  • Perry vs. Hamlin

In the first quarter we expect a real battle. We think that that Wright is now wrestling with confidence and that could be dangerous for anyone. Honeycutt will need to score early in our opinion and control this match from the top position. We see Wright getting the upset and moving into the semi-finals.

He will face the winner of LeBlanc and Rutt. This should be a great match that most likely ends in the 3-2 range. Rutt lets people stay in matches and when you do that with a guy of LeBlanc’s skill it can be problematic. We see LeBlanc winning a very strategic paced match.

Now we are going with the second big upset of the round. We have Loder knocking off Bosak. Loder has really been impressive the last half of the season and has shown he can not only go with anyone in the country, he can beat them as well. It is not like we would be floored to see Bosak win and he will have the added incentive that if he wins, it will be huge for the team race. But, in the end, we see Loder advancing.

Semi-finals

  • Wright vs. LeBlanc
  • Loder vs. Hamlin

We would venture to guess that none of you expected our prediction to look like it does so far. That is fine and we may very well be way off base. That does not mean we drank Charlie Sheen’s Tiger Blood or that we ride around on a super cool Unicorn. It means this weight is loaded with parity.

We start with Wright and LeBlanc. Look for this one to also be low scoring with a lot of fighting for position. We think that Wright will push the pace early and try to create scoring opportunities in the scramble situations. It should be a close one but we are going with Wright to score his second straight upset.

Loder and Hamlin should be an interesting match. Look for this to start pretty slow. Scoring opportunities will most likely be few and far between. Hamlin owns two wins over Loder already this year and we are hard pressed to think he reverses those losses. Look for Hamlin to win this one and put himself in the finals.

Finals

  • Wright vs. Hamlin

These two met very early in the year with Hamlin winning by a score of 4-3. Here is how we see it, if and we mean if, Wright gets this far he will be “that” guy having “that” tournament. There is always one of them and this year it may be “Q”. Now on the flip side Hamlin has impressed us all season long. He has been consistent and clutch for the Mountain Hawks. This should be an awesome match if it happens and we are going with Wright.

TOM’s Prediction for All-Americans (Note this may not be the exact order)

Quentin Wright
Robert Hamlin
Ryan Loder
Travis Rutt
Chris Honeycutt
Steve Bosak
Kevin Steinhaus
Joe LeBlanc