photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com
Last weekend we saw five conferences hold their championship events to kick off the postseason portion of the 2021 DI season. While there were plenty of exciting matches and memorable moments, it seemed like an appetizer for this weekend’s main course. The giant steak on the center of the college wrestling plate is, of course, the Big Ten! The top three teams in TOM’s latest NCAA Tournament-style rankings hail from the Big Ten, as do half of the top-ten and 11 of the top 25. Individually, eight of the ten number-one ranked wrestlers call the Big Ten home. Long story short, this tournament will be a preview of NCAA semifinals and finals at many different weights.
The odds on favorite heading into State College are the Iowa Hawkeyes. Tom Brands’ team was a heavy favorite last year, but didn’t get the opportunity to compete due to the cancellation of the national tournament. That left the Hawkeyes with a bad taste in their mouths as the traditional power had their first national title since 2010 within their sights. This year’s Iowa squad comes into the conference tournament with four top-seeds and three others seeded second. A potential thorn in the side of the Hawkeyes comes from a young Penn State team. Cael Sanderson’s bunch has six freshmen entered in the tournament, along with one sophomore. While the Nittany Lions are young, their freshmen are all blue-chip-type recruits and have big scoring capabilities. Right behind the top-two are Michigan and Nebraska. Both have veteran-laden groups that are battle-tested and capable of winning with a couple of slip-ups from the favorites.
Below we have outlined the preseeds for all ten weights, picked out a great quarterfinal or two (or three) to keep an eye on at each weight. With such deep weight classes, there’s always a darkhorse or two lurking at each weight. We’ve tried to identify one per bracket and then picked a pair of semifinals and then placewinners. Finally, based on the projected top-eight at each weight class, team race predictions.
1) #1 Spencer Lee (Iowa)
2) #8 Liam Cronin (Nebraska)
3) #9 Malik Heinselman (Ohio State)
4) #11 Patrick McKee (Minnesota)
5) #12 Rayvon Foley (Michigan State)
6) #10 Eric Barnett (Wisconsin)
7) #13 Devin Schroder (Purdue)
8) #14 Michael DeAugustino (Northwestern)
9) #15 (133) Dylan Ragusin (Michigan)
10) #19 Justin Cardani (Illinois)
11) #15 Robert Howard (Penn State)
12) Jacob Moran (Indiana)
13) Dylan Shawver (Rutgers)
14) Zach Spence (Maryland)
Automatic NCAA Berths Allocated: (8)
Quarters to Watch:
#2 Liam Cronin vs. #7 Devin Schroder
#8 Michael DeAugustino vs. #9 Dylan Ragusin
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