For the first time, the Big Ten’s are headed to New Jersey! Rutgers University, to be exact. On Saturday and Sunday, 14 schools from the nation’s most dominant wrestling conference will meet to compete for Big Ten supremacy. With the of the top three teams in the country, along with seven of the top-ten, the tournament has been dubbed by some as “mini-nationals.” Last season, six of the ten NCAA Champions hailed from the Big Ten and three NCAA finals feature a pair of the conference’s wrestlers squaring off with each other. Suffice to say, many of the matches that will take place at the RAC will be sneak previews of what is to come in Minneapolis in the NCAA quarters, semis, and finals. As usual, the Big Ten is the leader in NCAA automatic qualifier allocations. Wrestlers will be competing for 79 berths at the NCAA Championships, spread across the ten weights.
The big question all year has been, “Can anyone catch Iowa?”. Tom Brands’ crew looks poised to capture their first NCAA Championship since 2010, but before worrying about nationals, his team has the Big Ten Championships. The Hawkeyes are an imposing group, one that rivals their last national championship team in 2010. All ten of Iowa’s entrants having received pre-seeds in the top-three of their respective weight classes. Two Iowa wrestlers are undefeated and will garner one-seeds. They can rack up team points in large tournament settings, plus the depth to battle back for third place at most weights. All-in-all, it’s going to be very tough for another to knock off the Hawks this weekend.
If anyone can chase down Iowa, it’s Penn State. The Nittany Lions are aiming for their fifth consecutive national title and ninth in ten years. While this year’s edition of the Penn State team has the usual high-powered national championship contenders, there are more holes than usual. If Cael Sanderson’s team has any hopes of catching Iowa, they’ll need to be firing on all cylinders. A mainstay amongst the Big Ten and NCAA championship contenders for the better part of a decade and a half has been Ohio State. Even though the Buckeyes aren’t projected to be able to win the B1G tournament, they do have two top seeds and another wrestler seeded second. Another team to watch is Nebraska. Mark Manning’s Cornhuskers have All-American contenders at most weights and are maybe the most balanced team in the conference, not named Iowa.
After the big four, there is Wisconsin who has improved by leaps and bounds in less than two years under Chris Bono. Northwestern possesses the artillery needed to thrive in this event and the NCAA’s. They will outplace many teams that defeated them in dual meets. Minnesota continues to be dangerous and returns a team with three All-Americans. Finally, one of the feel-good stories of the regular season was the development of Purdue. The Boilermakers had a year full of “best or first since” type milestones. They have multiple wrestlers that are vying to become the first AAs under Tony Ersland.
Before the tournament gets underway, we have a weight-by-weight preview of all of the action that will take place at the 2020 Big Ten Championships.
Automatic Qualifying Spots (8)
Potential Quarterfinal to watch: #11 Michael DeAugustino (Northwestern) vs. #14 Patrick McKee (Minnesota)
Potential Semifinals: #1 Spencer Lee (Iowa) vs. #19 Justin Cardani (Illinois); #6 Devin Schroder (Purdue) vs. DeAugustino/McKee
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