The Big 12 tournament gets underway at 11 am central time Saturday morning with the finals set for 1 pm Sunday afternoon. TOM will be live from the tournament all weekend long providing live updates here and on twitter @theopenmat. Feel free to tweet us questions and we’ll do our best to find the answers. Our Big 12 preview can be found here for your reference and brackets are posted here. Please join us as the 2017 Big 12 Wrestling Championship unfolds!
Finals Preview (March 5th, 8:57 am)
#7 Josh Rodriguez (North Dakota State) vs. #10 Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State)
Rodriguez is a two-time NCAA qualifier who reached the round of 12 a year ago and has been in the top eight all year long as he looks to cap his career with an All-American finish. Piccininni is a redshirt freshman wrestling in his first college postseason. This has the potential to be a historic match as none of the former WWC teams that joined the Big 12 before last season’s tournament has ever won an individual Big 12 title. Rodriguez is that favorite to do just that while Piccininni will be looking to keep the Cowboys perfect tournament going.
#3 Seth Gross (South Dakota State) vs. #4 Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State)
The second of only three weights where Oklahoma State is the underdog might be the marquee match-up of the championship round. Gross dealt Brock his only loss of the season back on January 22nd in a fantastic 6-4 clash. Brock had the opening takedown in that one, but Gross’ ability to create scrambles and capitalize on them was too much in the end. The winner here could earn the two or three seed in St. Louis which would be a nice boost in a deep, competitive weight. If Brock can finish shots quickly, he has a chance to win. If there are a lot of scrambles, Gross will like his chances.
#1 Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) vs. #8 Bryce Meredith (Wyoming)
A rematch of last year’s NCAA finals at 141 pounds should be the first time Heil has been tested this weekend. The defending national champion extended his winning streak to 35 matches with his first two falls of the season on Saturday and now will look to beat Meredith for the fourth consecutive time. The Wyoming junior looked good yesterday, but he has yet to prove too much of a threat to the man from Oklahoma State.
#2 Anthony Collica (Oklahoma State) vs. #15 Davion Jeffries (Oklahoma)
Collica is gunning for his fourth Big 12 title against a wrestler he has beaten five times in a row in Jeffries. However, the Sooner sophomore was magical yesterday conjuring victory from two matches that seemed to be going against him. He’ll have to be better from the start in this one as Collica will overwhelm him if he starts slow. For the Cowboy senior, this is a chance to lock up the number two national seed.
#6 Joe Smith (Oklahoma State) vs. #8 Clay Ream (North Dakota State)
Smith has yet to surrender a point and notched his first win over a top-20 opponent this season when he handled Archie Colgan (Wyoming), 8-0. Ream, the 2016 Elite 90 Award winner for Division I wrestling, has been to the national tournament twice and has booked his third trip in two weeks. He has All-American aspirations and has been wrestling well. This is a difficult match to predict with Smith not having looked great against better competition, but seemingly in the best form we’ve seen from him in 2016-17. Ream will test him regardless. This one will be a scrap.
#9 Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State) vs. #13 Dylan Cottrell (West Virginia)
Cottrell has had a strong second semester to put himself on the fringes of the All-American conversation. He could boost his resume for a national seed with an upset win over Rogers. The Cowboy sophomore was in the round of 12 up at 174 last season and was widely expected to be a threat at 165. He has been, but he has taken some weird losses due to his wide open style. As usual, Rogers’ match will be fun to watch, but it will be interesting to see if he can get Cottrell to stand and trade with him.
Matt Reed (Oklahoma) vs. #8 Kyle Crutchmer (Oklahoma State)
Reed might be the most surprising Big 12 finalist this season after storming through the bracket from the five seed to qualify for his third NCAA tournament. Crutchmer survived another tight bout with 2016 All-American Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State) in the semi-finals as he looks for his second Big 12 title. He has beaten Reed three out of four times in his career, but lost to him in the last match of his season 2015-16 season. Crutchmer sustained an injury in that match.
#4 Nolan Boyd (Oklahoma State) vs. Dylan Gabel (Northern Colorado)
When these two met at the Southern Scuffle, it got out of hand with Boyd winning 18-3 in seven minutes. The Oklahoma State senior has been in command this weekend and will be a strong favorite to win his third Big 12 title. Gabel secured his first trip to the NCAA tournament and became Northern Colorado’s first ever Big 12 finalist. He is playing with house money and that could make him dangerous. You can see our interview with him after last night’s match lower down the page.
#5 Jake A. Smith (West Virginia) vs. #8 Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State)
Weigel has looked like a different wrestler this weekend, avenging his loss Nate Rotert (SDSU) with a comprehensive 9-0 major decision in the semi-finals. Smith beat Weigel three times a year ago, but lost to him in their last meeting at the 2016 NCAA tournament. Weigel is the defending Big 12 champion and both men look like All-American contenders in two weeks. Expect a tough, tight match here. If Weigel can get a takedown, he’ll be in great shape.
#6 Austin Schafer (Oklahoma State) vs. Dustin Dennison (Utah Valley)
The Oklahoma State senior is back and appears healthy after missing the last month of the season. Dennison wasn’t supposed to be here, but he upset Ross Larson (Oklahoma) to reach the finals. Schafer is a heavy favorite to keep his fantastic season going. If he wins, he’d head to the NCAA tournament with just one loss, to Jacob Kasper (Duke). That could lead to a nice national seed.
Team Scores to Start Day 2:
- Oklahoma State 155.5
- North Dakota State 70.5
- South Dakota State 64.5
- Oklahoma 63
- Wyoming 50
- Iowa State 49.5
- West Virginia 42.5
- Northern Colorado 33
- Utah Valley 32
- Air Force 22.5
Day 1 Recap, Day 2 Morning Session Preview (March 4th, 10:46 pm)
Day one is in the books at the 2017 Big 12 tournament with second-ranked Oklahoma State, as expected, dominating. The Cowboys won all 20 of their matches on Saturday and turned Sunday’s finals into a dual against the rest of the conference. John Smith’s squad had just three decisions as they piled up 155.5 points to lead by an absurd 85 over North Dakota State. The Bison are a surprising second with South Dakota State and Oklahoma close behind. Sunday starts bright and early at 8 am central with the consolation semi-finals and all placement matches except for the finals, which will be at 1 pm. Let’s take a look at the matches and qualifying scenarios for the morning round. There will be true fourth matches if necessary to determine qualification spots, but no true second.
Ben Gillette (South Dakota State) vs. Christian Moody (Oklahoma)
Kyle Larson (Iowa State) vs. Drew Templeman (Wyoming)
With four spots available at 125, the winners of these matches will be in the driver’s seat pending the necessity of a true fourth bout. Remember, if the fourth-place finisher has already beaten the fifth place man, no further match will be wrestled. Both these bouts are rematches from the regular season with Moody and Templeman getting the win last time around. The Wyoming junior is a strong favorite while the Moody/Gillette match should be much closer.
Dylan Hyder (Air Force) vs. Cam Sykora (North Dakota State)
Rico Montoya (Northern Colorado) vs. Earl Hall (Iowa State)
This weight also has four bids with Hall and Sykora being solid favorites to earn them. Hyder survived in sudden victory to get this far while Sykora looked great in his opener, winning by technical fall over Montoya, but then ran into a buzzsaw in Seth Gross (South Dakota State).
Joe Wheeling (West Virginia) vs. Timmy Box (Northern Colorado)
John Meeks (Iowa State) vs. Mike Longo (Oklahoma)
Four more spots are on offer at 141 and Box, the sixth-year senior will want one bad. He has never met Wheeling, but both wrestlers looked strong in their wins while getting beat soundly by finalists in their losses. Longo crushed Meeks, 15-0, in late January and will look for a similar result to take him back to the NCAA tournament for the third time.
Jerry McGinty (Air Force) vs. Cole Mendenhall (Wyoming)
Grant LaMont (Utah Valley) vs. Alex Kocer (South Dakota State)
McGinty and Kocer both had a chance to beat Davion Jeffries (Oklahoma) before falling to the Sooner who had a wild day one. This is the fourth consecutive weight with four automatic bids and the Kocer/Mendenhall tandem look likely to walk away with them. McGinty is a tough veteran who has never been to the NCAA tournament. He’ll have his shot early tomorrow morning.
Clark Glass (Oklahoma) vs. Archie Colgan (Wyoming)
Alex Mossing (Air Force) vs. Colston DiBlasi (Iowa State)
There are just three spots at 157 pounds in the Big 12 which means this mini-tournament will send only the champion to St. Louis. Glass and Colgan are both ranked in the top-20. DiBlasi rode Glass for the entire second and third periods in a 1-0 quarter-final upset. That could be the do-or-die third-place bout, but Mossing and Colgan won’t go quietly.
Branson Ashworth (Wyoming) vs. Luke Zilverberg (South Dakota State)
Keilan Torres (Northern Colorado) vs. Andrew Fogarty (North Dakota State)
If these matches look incredibly tough then you and I see it the same way. There are five automatic bids at this deep weight so the winners in the consolation semi-finals are in. The losers get another chance, but they’ll still face a dangerous opponent in the fifth-place bout. I see Ashworth and Torres squaring off there, but these four could end up in any order without much surprise.
Kyle Pope (Wyoming) vs. David Kocer (South Dakota State)
Kimball Bastian (Utah Valley) vs. Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State)
When Matt Reed (Oklahoma) pulled back-to-back upsets to reach the Big 12 finals and steal one of the three automatic bids, it left Kocer and Weatherspoon as ranked wrestlers who can’t both finish in the top three. Bastian could trouble Weatherspoon as those two battled into sudden victory earlier this season. Pope is going to struggle against Kocer.
Parker Von Egidy (West Virginia) vs. Carson Powell (Iowa State)
Tyler McNutt (North Dakota State) vs. Martin Mueller (South Dakota State)
With no true second place matches, the automatic qualifiers are set at 184 with only the finalists heading to St. Louis for certain. However, finishing one spot out of the allocations qualifies a wrestler for at-large consideration and getting a couple more solid wins never hurts. None of these guys have a strong case, but for McNutt and Mueller, their teams are fighting for a runner-up finish so team points are big.
Cordell Eaton (North Dakota State) vs. Brad Johnson (Oklahoma)
Marcus Harrington (Iowa State) vs. Nate Rotert (South Dakota State)
There are five automatic bids at 197 so, just like 165, each of these wrestlers gets two chances to get one more win. The man to watch here is Rotert. After topping Eaton to start the day, 9-4, he got drilled, 9-0, by Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State), who Rotert beat earlier this season. The South Dakota State junior was injured on February 9th and has struggled a bit since then. He has only beaten Eaton, twice now. If he struggles against Harrington, there will be legitimate questions about his All-American potential. Eaton and Harrington look to be the guys most likely to end up in the fifth place match desperate for a win.
Brandon Tribble (Wyoming) vs. Ben Tynan (North Dakota State)
Quean Smith (Iowa State) vs. Ross Larson (Oklahoma)
Larson is a surprising participant in the consolations after being put to his back and never recovering in a semi-final loss to Dustin Dennison (Utah Valley). He should be able to secure qualification by taking down and an old foe in Smith. The Iowa State senior beat the Sooner twice back in 2013-14 but has since been pinned four straight times by Larson. Tynan is a solid favorite over Tribble as well. We could see Smith get a shot at Tynan for true fourth if events unfold as expected.
Dylan Gabel becomes Northern Colorado’s first ever Big 12 finalist and qualifies for nationals.
We caught up with him after the match.
Team Scores Before the Evening Session:
- Oklahoma State, 76.5
- South Dakota State, 43.5
- North Dakota State, 39.5
- Oklahoma, 39.5
- Iowa State, 27.5
- Wyoming, 27
- Northern Colorado, 16
- West Virginia, 15
- Utah Valley, 8
- Air Force, 4
Semi-Final Preview (March 4th, 1:20 pm)
Jose Rodriguez (North Dakota State) vs. Christian Moody (Oklahoma)
Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State) vs. Drew Templeman (Wyoming)
Moody had to survive a strong test from Kyle Larson (Iowa State), but when a late review did not put the match into overtime, the semis were set. Rodriguez, Piccininni, and Templeman all looked impressive on their way to bonus point wins in the opening round. Templeman beat Piccininni last season, while the Oklahoma State 125 was redshirting, in the Reno TOC finals so keep an eye on that one. Expect Rodriguez to roll past Moody, though the two have never met.
Seth Gross (South Dakota State) vs. Cam Sykora (North Dakota State)
Earl Hall (Iowa State) vs. Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State)
Gross did not look sharp in his opener, giving up a pair of reversals, but it did not matter as he overwhelmed Jacob Rubio (Oklahoma) and picked up the fall in 3:41. Sykora was outstanding taking down Rico Montoya, 15-0 in 4:43. Gross should get to the finals, but it will be interesting to see if Sykora can push him. Brock got Oklahoma State on a fall streak while Hall looked half asleep early, but won, 3-1. Brock beat Hall, 7-4, in the dual and it would be surprising if the result wasn’t something like that again.
Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) vs. Timmy Box (Northern Colorado)
Mike Longo (Oklahoma) vs. Bryce Meredith (Wyoming)
Heil came out aggressive, building a 13 point lead before pinning Taylor Nien (North Dakota State). He’ll take on Box after the sixth-year senior got past John Meeks (Iowa State), 3-1. The two have never met, but the top-ranked Heil is a big favorite. Meredith put up nearly four minutes of riding time on his way to a major decision, while Longo was in control, but couldn’t separate himself. Look for the Sooner to be scrappy and hang around, but Meredith’s big move potential could come into play as it did in the dual when Meredith pinned Longo late.
Anthony Collica (Oklahoma State) vs. Cole Mendenhall (Wyoming)
Davion Jeffries (Oklahoma) vs. Alex Kocer (South Dakota State)
Jeffries pulled off the greatest escape of the opening round when, trailing by one with a re-start coming and five seconds on the clock, the Sooner sophomore somehow found a reversal to steal a 7-6 win. He’ll need to be better to stay with Kocer who looked rock solid in a 10-0 win. Collica was another pinner for Oklahoma State in the quarters as Mendenhall was pushed by Grant LaMont (Utah Valley). The Oklahoma State senior looks like a man on a mission.
Joe Smith (Oklahoma State) vs. Archie Colgan (Wyoming)
Colston DiBlasi (Iowa State) vs. Clay Ream (North Dakota State)
Oklahoma State fans will head to the afternoon break loving what they saw out of Smith as he needed just one period to pile up 16 points for a tech-fall win. He’ll need more of the same this evening when he battles Colgan. The Wyoming 157 was not overpowering in his opener, being pushed into the second set of tie-breakers before emerging victorious. DiBlasi stunned Clark Glass (Oklahoma), 1-0, by riding the Sooner for the final two periods. With just three automatic bids at this weight, Glass can’t afford another mistake while DiBlasi gets a shot at Ream to punch his ticket to St. Louis. The North Dakota State man was never troubled in a 5-2 win in his opener. He is the solid favorite to end DiBlasi’s run before it picks up too much steam.
Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State) vs. Luke Zilverberg (South Dakota State)
Andrew Fogarty (North Dakota State) vs. Dylan Cottrell (West Virginia)
Rogers went boom to earn a fall in 1:13 and now faces another match with Zilverberg, who he beat 8-3 in January. Zilverberg handled a tough opener against Yoanse Mejias (Oklahoma) with style, shutting out the two-time NJCAA national champ, 4-0, avenging a loss from last month. Rogers could pin at any time, but if he gets a little wild, Zilverberg could make him pay. The bottom semi is fascinating as Dylan Cottrell (West Virginia) has been building towards a strong post-season and looked the part in his opening 8-1 win. Andrew Fogarty (North Dakota State) upset Branson Ashworth (Wyoming), 5-3, also reversing a February loss. Both these guys suddenly look like dark horse All-American candidates. That should be a good one.
David Kocer (South Dakota State) vs. Matt Reed (Oklahoma)
Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State) vs. Kyle Crutchmer (Oklahoma State)
Kocer and Crutchmer looked like the two best wrestlers in the field, hammering their first opponents. Weatherspoon should be in that conversation, but he was unable to get much going, nipping Kyle Pope (Wyoming), 3-2. Reed’s win over Kimball Bastion (Utah Valley), 6-4, was one of his best this season. He could hang with Kocer in the next round and really show he is getting back to his potential. Crutchmer has gotten the best of Weatherspoon the last two times they’ve met, but that will also be a close match between two former All-Americans.
Nolan Boyd (Oklahoma State) vs. Carson Powell (Iowa State)
Martin Mueller (South Dakota State) vs. Dylan Gabel (Northern Colorado)
Boyd and Gabel look likely to square off in the finals and neither gave any reason to doubt that theory in strong opening wins. Mueller made his lone point, a second-period escape, stand up as he squeaked past Parker Von Egidy (West Virginia). He could be the fly in the ointment if he can pick off Gabel, but he’ll have to find some offense to do it. He lost their last meeting, 7-4. Carson Powell (Iowa State) got the call with Pat Downey no longer with the Cyclones and made the most of it, winning 6-0 to earn a shot at Boyd. Boyd rolled him, 14-2, last time around.
Jake A. Smith (West Virginia) vs. Brad Johnson (Oklahoma)
Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State) vs. Nate Rotert (South Dakota State)
Smith received a stronger challenge from Marcus Harrington (Iowa State) than some may have expected, but he was up for it, winning 9-5. Now he faces Johnson who is solid, but not on the level of the West Virginia junior. Weigel was impressive against Tanner Orndorff (Utah Valley), easily navigating what could have been a tough match. Weigel’s early takedown was key and then he went to work on top, getting the tech, 15-0. When Rotert won, 9-4, it set up a fantastic clash between he and Weigel. The two have split matches with Weigel winning at the Big 12s a year ago and Rotert upsetting the Cowboy in their dual this season. If Weigel can get a takedown, he should cruise. If he can’t, it will be a nail biter.
Austin Schafer (Oklahoma State) vs. Ben Tynan (North Dakota State)
Dustin Dennison (Utah Valley) vs. Ross Larson (Oklahoma)
The return of Schafer had to lift Oklahoma State’s spirits and he looked good, getting an early takedown, scoring a tilt, and then pinning his man. It will get a little tougher in the semis against Tynan who gave up the opening takedown to Quean Smith (Iowa State) before roaring back to win, 7-2. Dennison didn’t exactly overpower Ben Tribble (Wyoming), but he got the job done. Unfortunately for him, he now faces Larson who looked strong in a 16-0 tech-fall win. Larson did the same to Dennison at this tournament in 2016 last season, rolling over the Utah Valley heavyweight, 18-0. If the final is anything other than Schafer/Larson it will be a big surprise.
Matches to Watch in the First Round/Pigtails (March 3rd, 5:24 pm)
Trey Andrews (Northern Colorado) vs. Drew Templeman (Wyoming), 125
The highly anticipated semi-final between Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State) and Templeman (Wyoming) isn’t a given, especially with Templeman drawing Andrews in the first round. The Northern Colorado senior has proven capable of knocking off ranked wrestlers when he is wrestling well. If he is on this weekend, we’ll know right away. Templeman beat Andrews 6-1 less than a month ago, but this is more about Andrews and whether he puts his best foot forward.
Cam Sykora (North Dakota State) vs. Rico Montoya (Northern Colorado), 133
This is similar to the Andrews/Templeman bout in that Sykora is a clear favorite with a solid win over Montoya in 2017. However, just like the 125-pound match above, this match is more about seeing if Montoya can right the ship and flash the form he has at times this season when he looked like a top-20 guy. It might not matter as Sykora is very good, but this match could be closer than it was last time when the North Dakota State freshman won, 8-3.
Earl Hall (Iowa State) vs. Cory Stainbrook (West Virginia), 133
Hall is a two-time All-American who should handle Stainbrook, but he also has a history of sleepwalking a little bit. This will be his opening match of the tournament and Stainbrook is no slouch. Watch this one closely. If Hall scores early, he should be fine, but if it stays close or Stainbrook starts to build a lead, look out.
Davion Jeffries (Oklahoma) vs. Jerry McGinty (Air Force), 149
The theme of this round is watching guys who are sometimes really good and sometimes not so much to see if they can get off on the right foot. This is the case for Jeffries who has the ability to hang bonus on McGinty. However, the Air Force senior will be game and if Jeffries has one of his bad matches, we could see a stunner. If the Sooner sophomore goes out and takes care of business, winning handily, it will be a great sign for his post-season chances.
Gabe Moreno (Iowa State) vs. Christina Monserrat (West Virginia), then Alex Kocer (South Dakota State), 149
The injured senior who used to be really good, but now is struggling to regain that form is always an interesting storyline to me. Moreno’s shoulder, which he has injured twice now, was good enough for him to start wrestling back in November, but there were reports that he didn’t fully trust it. That lack of confidence combined with an experiment dropping to 141 may have contributed to his worst college season. Still, he is entered here which keeps him alive for one more tournament. Monserrat beat him 9-6 on February 12th. This story should end with Moreno bowing out meekly. However, if he beats Monserrat it could be the start of something special. Kocer is a strong opponent, but you never know.
Clark Glass (Oklahoma) vs. Colston Diblasi (Iowa State), 157
Glass is a two-time NCAA qualifier who has finished third in three consecutive Big 12 tournaments. He has bigger goals this time around looking to win a conference title and become an All-American in his senior season. That means navigating tricky matches like his opener with DiBlasi. Glass should win this match, but DiBlasi has big move potential and the Sooner wrestles a lot of close matches, like the 5-4 decision he took the last time these two met. That is a very thin margin against a dangerous wrestler.
Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State) vs. Keilan Torres (Northern Colorado), 165
Assuming Torres can get past Koy Wilkinson (Utah Valley) in their pigtail, two old teammates will square off in the quarters. Rogers was a true freshman in Stillwater during the 2014-15 season when Torres, a redshirt freshman was still around. Torres transferred to Northern Colorado for a better chance at making the line-up and is wrestling in his second consecutive post-season. Rogers is a wild ride and worth watching no matter who he wrestles, but a match-up with a familiar opponent who also likes to go big should not be missed.
Yoanse Mejias (Oklahoma) vs. Luke Zilverberg (South Dakota State), 165
Mejias, a two-time NJCAA champion before coming to Oklahoma, has had some spectacular performances, like his pin of Bryce Steiert (Northern Iowa), and some not so good ones, such as his 10-5 loss to Keilan Torres (Northern Colorado). He beat Zilverberg, 5-3, last month and should so so again here if he is going to make a legitimate run at a podium finish in St. Louis. Zilverberg has, historically, been a solid wrestler who wasn’t going to trouble the better wrestlers at his weight, but he has been much improved lately, losing only to Mejias and Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State) in 2017. The winner of this one gets another crack at Rogers, something I’m sure both men would relish.
Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State) vs. Tanner Orndorff (Utah Valley), 197
Weigel is the only Cowboy not seeded in the top two at his weight class and he opens with a tricky encounter with Orndorff. The Utah Valley redshirt freshman is just 21-12 on the year, but he has several good wins and many more instances where he pushed a strong opponent. Even worse for Weigel is that Orndorff scores a lot. Weigel is outstanding defensively but can struggle to score himself. If Orndorff can get a takedown, he’ll have a chance to pull the upset. Weigel needs to win this one to set up a potential rubber match with Nate Rotert (South Dakota State).
Austin Schafer (Oklahoma State) vs. Kerry Powers (Air Force)/Jack Kuck (Northern Colorado), 285
It doesn’t matter who takes the mat across from him, Schafer, who has missed more than a month with an injury after shocking everyone with his outstanding performance this season, will be worth watching. The career 197 who bumped up to 285 in his senior season to help the team has one weekend of competition to prepare for the NCAAs and a possible All-American run. I’m not sure anyone knows what he’ll look like, but if he is even close to healthy, he shouldn’t have too much trouble. If the match goes three periods it will be interesting to see how his conditioning holds up.