- Michigan entered the dual ranked 8th. 4 of their 5 top 20 ranked wrestlers competed
- Wisconsin entered unranked. They had 2 top 20 ranked wrestlers
- Grant Pizzo (125) wrestled for the still out Sean Boyle. Boyle has fallen out of most ranking due to the fact he has yet to compete.
- Mike Hillock (149) wrestled for Eric Grajales. Grajales is ranked 4th.
- 3 bouts included rematches of guys that met each other at the Cliff Keen invitational.
- Michigan was 1-1 in duals. This was their first B1G contest
- Wisconsin was 5-1 in duals. This was their first B1G contest
Wisconsin @ #8 Michigan
This set up to be an assumed win with some good matchups for the Wolverines. One of the anticipated bouts didn’t work out. Michigan took the lead and then released it, being down by as much as 4 midway through the dual at 8-12. They rattled off 4 straight wins to go 1-0 in the B1G with a 21-12 win. This was a disappointing dual for a couple Wolverines that fell to upsets. On the bright side, the weaker links stepped up.
Bout By Bout
- 125 – Grant Pizzo(UM) major dec. Austin Hieptas(UW) 9-1. Pizzo picked up his first B1G dual win, stepping in for Boyle. He dominated a weak opponent in Hieptas. Not surprised to pick up the win, even with a backup in. But, Pizzo getting the major was a nice touch. Michigan leads 4-0
- 133 – Tom Kelliher(UW) dec. #12 Zac Sanders(UM) 8-4. Kelliher was beat out of a tough tournament Sanders finished 4th at. This was disappointing. Sanders has fallen to 15th in the latest ranking as a result. Kelliher was fairly competitive last year at 125, but, this should have been a comfortable win for Michigan. Michigan leads 4-3
- 141 - #4 Kellen Russell(UM) major dec. Thomas Glenn(UW) 10-2. Glenn doesn’t offer much competition to Russell and Kellen has been wrestling strong since suffering his first defeat in two years. Michigan leads 8-3
- 149 - #9 Cole Schmitt(UW) dec. Mike Hillock(UM) 5-3. I was hoping to see a Grajales Schmitt match, but, Hillock got the call and did pretty well. I think Schmitt may be over-ranked, but, Hillock showed he could stay with a top 20 wrestler at least. Michigan leads 8-6
- 157 - Shawn Perry(UW) dec. Brandon Zeerip(UM) 5-2. First of the 3 rematches from Cliff Keen and this was a reversal for Wisconsin. Zeerip won 3-2 last time. These are two borderline top 20 guys, so the flopping of wins isn’t a surprise. I still believe Zeerip has enough to distance himself from Perry and up the rankings by year end. Wisconsin leads 9-8
- 165 - #17 Ben Jordan(UW) dec. Dan Yates(UM) 8-3. Same score from last time these two met at Cliff Keen. Yates has fallen from being in the top 20 to begin the year. Two decisive losses to to a 17th ranked wrestler don’t bode well. Wisconsin leads 12-8
- 174 - #11 Justin Zeerip(UM) major dec. Frank Cousins(UW) 10-2. The senior campaign for Justin continues. He rolled over Cousins at Cliff Keen 11-1 and did so again 10-2 in this dual. Cousins is a RS Fr. Tied 12-12
- 184 – Hunter Collins(UM) dec. Timmy McCall(UW) 4-3. McCall has had a solid season for Wisconsin, so a good win for Collins. I’ve expressed he is the weak link of this lineup, so, him stepping up to get a win in a close matchup is big. Michigan leads 15-12
- 197 – Max Huntley(UM) dec. Jackson Hein(UW) 4-2 SV. Overtime needed for Huntley. I expected a win here. Huntley is a fringe ranked wrestler. Fist B1G dual win for him. Michigan leads 18-12
- Hwt - #18 Ben Apland(UM) dec. Cole Tobin(UW) 8-4. Apland needed a little comeback to avoid another upset on the night. He did and then coasted to a win to seal the win. Michigan wins 21-12
Solid win and moving on. Michigan is on a bit of a break till the 29th for a Mat Town Invitational. Then they hit the duals hard with the first 3 being B1G matches.
After Cliff Keen Invite
- Michigan hasn’t put out a full strength lineup yet for any duals or tournament. This last weekends Cliff Keen Invite was the closest, still missing just 9th ranked 125lber Sean Boyle.
- The Wolverines have had two exhibition tournaments, a dual win at Buffalo 27-13, a dual loss at #11 Pitt 13-19 and a second place finish at Cliff Keen.
- Michigan went without #9 Boyle(125), #1 Russell(141), #6 Grajales(149) and Collins(184) for the Buffalo Dual. Only putting Grajales back in for the one at Pitt.
- Kellen Russell missed both duals as he was selected to the NWCA All-Star match. He ended up pulling out and not wrestling, but, was still honored.
- Michigan was ranked 8th with 7 top 20 wrestlers. (125 Boyle 9th, 133 Stevens 13th, 141 Russell 1st, 149 Grajales 6th, 165 Yates 18th, 174 J.Zeerip 11th, Hwt Apland 13th)
Recap by Weight:
- 125 – Grant Pizzo has filled in for Boyle, losing both dual matches and posting a 1-2 finish at Cliff Keen. Would have been interesting to see how Boyle did at CK. He would have made 4 top 10 competitors at the tournament.
- 133 - #13 Zac Stevens posted major decisions and bonus points in both duals against unranked wrestlers. He went 4-2 and a 4th place finish at Cliff Keen. His losses came to #4 Stieber from Ohio (6-14) and #18 Keith from Harvard (0-6), while picking up a win against #17 Kiley from Nebraska (7-4). Solid showing for Stevens.
- 141 – Michigan put out Donnie Watkins for both duals in place a Russell where he dropped both two unranked wrestlers. Russell Returned for Cliff Keen for a 3rd place finish and a 6-1 record. His loss was to #15 and Freshman Hunter Stieber from Ohio (5-6). He notched wins against #20 Pennesi from WVU (8-1), #12 Nevinger from Cornell (7-1) and #2 Novachkov in a tiebreaker from Cal Poly (same guy he beat for the National Title last year). Bump in the road against Stieber, which he will see again a few more times. Russell tends to wrestle on the edge with his tremendous feel and confidence, opening himself up for something like that. The tournament winner was #5 Mangrum from Oregon State, so the field was pretty stacked at this one.
- 149 – #6 Grajales missed the first dual where Mike Hillock fell to an unranked. Grajales returned for Pitt and dropped a close one to #3 Nauman (2-4). Grajales almost got his rematch at Cliff Keen, but, Nauman fell in the quarters, while Grajales took down #17 Walsh from Indiana (19-4) and #5 Von Ohlen from Air Force (9-1) to win the 149lb title. Grajales dominated the tournament.
- 157 – Brandon Zeerip won both is duals against unranked competition. He made a run at Cliff Keen before losing to #1 ranked and returning national champion 0-6 in the quarters. No signature wins yet for Zeerip or bad losses. I’ve said I think he is a top 20 wrestler by the end of the year. He wrestled like it last year before getting wore down in his first full season. He’ll still be in the fringe after this tournament.
- 165 – #18 Dan Yates off to a slow solid start. Picked up both dual wins against unranked guys. Posted a 4-2 record as well as a 7th place finish at Cliff Keen. His losses were against #12 Burak from Northern Colorado (6-9 in a tiebreaker) and #16 Ben Jordan from Wisconsin (3-8). He gets another shot at Jordan Sunday when Wisconsin comes to Michigan for a dual.
- 174 - #11 Justin Zeerip is up and running in his senior campaign. He went 2-0 in duals with a pin and 4-1 at Cliff Keen with a 2nd place finish. He was aided by a med forfeit in the semis against #1 Amuchastegui from Stanford, but, only lost in a 5-6 tiebreak loss to #7 DesRoches from Cal Poly in the finals. He is certainly one to look out for this year.
- 184 – Chris Heald filled in for Collins for both duals, going 0-2. Collins returned for Cliff Keen and went 1-2. His shot at #3 Bosak from Cornell ended in him getting pinned. This continues to be the weak spot for the Wolverines.
- 197 – The lone Newcomer to the projected starting lineup Max Huntley has started off strong. He pinned in his dual at Buffalo and dropped a close one to #7 Wilps from Pitt (2-6) in the other. He went 3-3 with an 8th place finish at Cliff Keen. In doing so he picked up a win against #19 Smith from Cal Poly (11-5) and closed the gap to Wilps in a 4-6 lose. The Big Ten has some quality at this weight they need Huntley to compete.
- Hwt – #13 Ben Apland got a tech fall in his dual against Buffalo and then dropped a 1-3 tiebreaker loss against an unranked at Pitt. He fell in the quarters of Cliff Keen to an unranked Capone from Ohio (2-5). Dropped another to #16 Barlow from Kent State (1-3 in a tiebreaker) and then won the 7th place match over #20 Felix from Boise State (10-2). Finished with a 4-2 record.
Michigan looks to still be getting into the swing of things. Which is fine, it’s a long season. A Full lineup would have won the Cliff Keen tournament. Ohio certainly showed they will make a big leap this year with their freshmen. Michigan has a home dual Sunday the 11th against Wisconsin that should provide a couple good matchups as they kick off the B1G schedule.
Michigan will enter the season as a top 10 pick nationally and in the upper half of the B1G, around 4th behind the likes of Iowa, Penn State and Minnesota. The Wolverines return 9 of 10 starters, including 6 NCAA qualifiers and a National Champ. This year, some notable names for other B1G teams might be taking an Olympic redshirt. Hit biggest by this are Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Badgers are a very star driven team, so those losses will leave a big mark on the lineup. tOSU is coming off a down year to begin with.
- 125 Sean Boyle (Jr) – Boyle is coming off a 28-15 season where he was 4th in the B1G, an NCAA qualifier and one tournament win away from being an All-American. He wrestled to his potential at the end of the year, but, was stuck behind 3 elite level wrestlers in conference. One leaves this year in NU’s Precin, bumping him to 3rd best. Nationally, look for him just outside the top 10. Maybe 11th. Cracking the top 10 should be a good year for him.
- 133 Zac Stevens (Sr) – 23-17 in 2010-11, 5th in the B1G. NCAA qualifier. 5th was a great finish in the conference for him at a packed weight. With Wisconsin losing Graff this season, Stevens should be an easy top 5 finisher and push for 3rd. Although I think he can compete with anyone, Iowa’s Ramos and Illinois Futrell are maybe at a tier above him. Nationally he looks to be ranked probably 10th.
- 141 Kellen Russell (RS Sr) – Returning National Champion with an undefeated season of 38-0. He won the B1G, but, that’s given. What should we expect? Well, he losses some of the tougher conference competition with only Iowa’s Marion really pushing him. He didn’t lose to him last year and why should he this season. I think anything less then another national championship would be a disappointment for him.
- 149 Eric Grajales (RS So) – Grajales was a top recruit coming out of high school and forced to wrestle at a weight probably too high for him last year. He still managed a 18-14 record, coming on strong at the end to finish 2nd in the B1G and an NCAA qualifier. He was one tournament win away from All-American status. There isn’t much difference in the national and conference outlook as the B1G peppers the national scene with 7 in the top 15, led by defending B1G champ, PSU’s Molinaro. Grajales will have a lot competition for that second spot, but, we should expect him to own it and maybe make a run at Molinaro. He will enter the season in the top 10.
- 157 Brandon Zeerip (RS So) – Zeerip was a puzzling case at the end of last year. He compiled a 27-13 record including 6-4 in the conference regular season. Yet, he failed to place at the B1G meet. Maybe his first year as a starter wore him down. His early performance was encouraging though, giving last years lineup a needed boost early. Initial rankings look to have him 7th in the B1G and just in the top 25 nationally. But, he has competed with and even beat some of those ahead of him. He could be a key piece to the team standing.
- 165 Dan Yates (RS So) – Yates had a solid 2010-11. He was 24-14, 5th in the B1G and a NCAA qualifier. He is another one, like B. Zeerip, that can compete with most those ahead of his 7th B1G ranking. Wisconsin’s Howe taking this year off helps. The favorite, PSU’s Taylor, may be at another level then Yates. Beyond that, he should push for a top 3 finish. Nationally he ranks just in the top 25, but, has the potential to be a top 15 guy.
- 174 Justin Zeerip (RS Sr) – Justin showed flashes of top level talent as well as crashes. He finished last year 16-15, 8th in the B1G, NCAA qualifier (although was 2 and out). That line is in no way a good representation of him. Mid-season I thought he may have a shot at All-American status and wouldn’t have been surprised with a run at it even after a disappointing conference tournament. There is a solid top 4 in the B1G ranked in the top 10 nationally that I would expect him to be competitive with. He’ll enter the season in the top 20.
- 184 Hunter Collins (RS Jr) – This was the weak spot for the Wolverines last year and will be the only weight without a ranked wrestler this season. Collins went 8-19 and was two and out at B1G’s. Collins is a ways off the top tier talent in the conference (like PSU’s Wright, Iowa’s Grambrall and Minnesota’s Steinhaus), but, may still be able to contend for that 5th spot. Everyone catches a break from Wisconsin’s Rutt taking the year off. If Collins can crack the top 25, that’s a plus.
- 197 Max Huntley (RS Fr) – The fresh face of this years team. They need to replace a 3-time NCAA qualifier in Anthony Biondo. Huntley sat out last year. His only exhibition action ended in injury. A product of Blair Academy, he looks to enter the season ranked in the top 25 and around 7th in the B1G. Tough weight for a underclassmen, but, Huntley has enough talent and experience to make this a solid spot for Michigan.
- 285 Ben Apland (RS Jr) – The curios case of Ben Apland. Here is a kid that has shown he could beat anyone in the B1G. But, just about the whole weight is a head scratcher for the conference. The top 7 or 8 could finish in any order. He was 18-15 last year, 6th in the conference and an NCAA qualifier. He’ll enter the season just outside the top 15 nationally and around 6th in the B1G. If I sorted out the madness and made a guess, I’d say he could make a run at 4th and should at least make 5th to have a successful season for him. That would be a top 10 national finish most likely.
Michigan kicks off with some exhibitions in early Nov. Don’t usually see a lot of starters in these. The regular season then gets going with a couple duals against @ Buffalo and @ Pitt. Pitt’s a mid ranked team nationally, so that should be a good early season test.
The Cliff Keen Invitational in early Dec. will help show the individuals how they are stacking up nationally. Also a good evaluation of the team.
B1G season kicks off in mid-December with a mat town invitational in PA and dual with a top 25 CMU at home mixed in.
As far as the B1G, Michigan host 4 teams. Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana and MSU. Illinois looks to be ranked just behind the Wolverines and is the only top 10 team at home. They’ll hit the road for Northwestern, Minnesota, Ohio State and Penn State. Those are some tough trips. Northwestern is a top 20 team. Minnesota and PSU are top 5. They catch a break missing top ranked Iowa. They’ll need to make sure and secure the Illinois win and pick off one of Minnesota and PSU to have a shot at the B1G dual title.
The year ends with some great wrestling. Cliff Keen duals mid-February (an extremely fun tournament), B1G’s in the first part of March and then NCAA’s.
Michigan didn’t get their lineup sorted out till after that early season Cliff Keen tournament last year. We have a much better understanding heading into this season, but, you never know till they get on the mat. I hope to break down matchups again this year on the big duals and tournaments along with recaps.
Early Look to Next Season
Michigan hired two new coaches. Sean Bormet and Donny Pritzlaff.
Sean Bormet – One of the nations top freestyle coaches who has been involved coaching with multiple world teams and was on the latest Olympic team staff. He holds the 2006, ’08 and ’10 USA Freestyle Coach of the Year titles. He’s a former Wolverine as well. 2 time All-American and 2 time Big Ten Champ while at Michigan. I think his strong freestyle experience will help draw interest of recruits nationwide. That Olympic style presence seems to have been missing.
Donny Pritzlaff – He is coming over from his associate head coach position at his alma matter, Wisconsin. He specialized with middleweights. The Badgers have been a surprise team the past few years, flying up the ranks. He served as the recruiting coordinator while they brought in 3 top 20 classes, including the #2 class in ’08 and #4 in ’11. He was a two time NCAA Champ and 3 time Big Ten Champ himself.
These are two big additions Michigan needed. With the Newer Wrestling Center and strong season, they needed something like this to continue the momentum.
2011 – 2012 Outlook
Key Losses: Anthony Biondo(197)
Returning Starters: Sean Boyle(125), Zac Stevens(133), Kellen Russell(141), Eric Grajales(149), Brandon Zeerip(157), Dan Yates(165), Justin Zeerip(174), Hunter Collins(184), Ben Apland(Hwt)
As you can see, Michigan returns almost the entire team that made a good run last year taking 5th in the Big Ten and 15th Nationally. Kellen Russell is the returning 141 NCAA Champion. I’d expect him to stay at 141. It created a tough spot for RS FR Grajales last year, since 141 would probably have suited him better. Grajales still managed Big Ten runner-up at 149 and should be a strong member for next year.
7 returners made the NCAA tournament last year with only a poor late showing from then FR Brandon Zeerip preventing an 8th.
Additions: Camryn Jackson (Lansing Eastern HS)
Jackson will redshirt IMO. He claimed his first State Championship as a senior this last year. A very athletic, but, raw wrestler that will need to get adjusted to college competition.
Michigan’s recruiting has not impressed for the 2010 or 2011 class with 0 top 150 kids and being ranked out of the top 25 both years. That can be turned around quickly with a strong 2012 that they have I commit already (Jordan Thomas ranked #22) and some more top talent they are eyeing.
Teams Michigan is Chasing
Iowa and Penn State were two young teams last year that will be plugging any losses with top talent again. Iowa’s recruiting has been the #1 class in 2010 and #20 last year. They also got a big transfer in that plugs their biggest hole right away. Penn State’s classes have been #2 in 2010 and #4 last year. Michigan was a noticeable step behind these programs and they haven’t done anything to show they are making up the difference.
Minnesota fell short of the Hawkeyes and Nittany Lions, but, were a clear #3 in the B1G. They will be looking to replace some lost senior leadership. They ranked #5 in 2010 and #15 last year in recruiting. If they stay healthy, they will keep themselves above Michigan.
Wisconsin survived on top individuals and not a strong team as showed by there loss to Michigan in the dual, but, higher placing in the tournament. They lose one B1G champ from last year that I think opens the door for Michigan to separate themselves from the Badgers. They have recruited well, but, no game changers that will make an immediate impact.
Newcomer Nebraska took 12th last year nationally, just above Michigan(15th). They lose some pieces, including the #1 wrestler in the nation, but, their recruiting (#7 in ’10, #2 in ’11) will help that out. They will be a good test for the Wolverines. To bad they don’t dual with us next year.
Northwestern has been a solid team of late. They had a #3 recruiting class in 2010. The losses they take this year will be too much to keep up.
Look for Ohio State to make some big strides. They took 8th last year in the B1G. Injuries hit them hard with some incoming freshmen. Taking a look at their recruiting and you’ll see they have the talent. 2009 class - #11, 2010 class - #8, 2011 class - #1. How all these unknowns work out determines their season.
Michigan is working with a strong returning team. They just haven’t been able to string together enough things to compete for team championships. Kellen Russell(141) will anchor this group. Justin Zeerip(174) needs to put together the senior season he is capable of. After that, I look at Eric Gajales(149) and Brandon Zeerip(157) to be able to big players. Boyle(125), Stevens(133), Yates(165) and Apland(Hwt) need to be consistent pieces to have success. Hunter Collins(184) was last years weak point. He needs to take a big step forward. 197 will be filled by either Matt Hart(RS FR) or Max Huntley(RS FR). Huntley comes from powerhouse Blair Academy and has a decent HS profile.
The Wolverines lose key guys after this year (Russell, J. Zeerip and Stevens). So it’s important they make the most of this roster. After this, recruiting needs to improve and quickly. I would like to see them push Minnesota for the 3rd place spot, but, I don’t know if they are capable of it. My worry is that any slip-up opens the door for a line of 4 or 5 solid teams capable of passing them up. I am penciling them in early at 4th.
Personal Note: I enjoyed updating on the Wrestling Team last year and was sorry to cut it short for family reasons which I can’t thank the MGO community enough for their thoughts and prayers for us. Things have progressed well in that area and I’m excited for another good wrestling season.
Big Ten Wrestling Tournament
Michigan took 5thwith 1 champion in Kellen Russell, who also won the tournaments outstanding wrestler award. This was about where I thought they would end up, with some exceeding expectations and some falling short. It averaged out, however, one would be curious to see if the ones falling short, pulled through a little better, where they might have ended up. Probably not enough to move their placing, but, would have put them more in the mix with Minnesota and Wisconsin for 3rdand 4th. Instead they stand alone as the clear 5thbest with an 86.5 score. 6thand 7thwere 64(ILL) and 62(NW) respectively. Wisconsin was 4that 103.5 and Minnesota 3rdwith 109.5. The tournament came down to the last weight with Penn State edgeing out Iowa 139 to 138 for their 1stBig Ten Title.
- Penn State – 139
- Iowa – 138
- Minnesota – 109.5
- Wisconsin – 103.5
- Michigan – 86.5
- Illinois – 64
- Northwestern – 62
- Ohio State – 57
- Purdue – 51
- Indiana – 50
- Michigan State – 49.5
Here’s a weight by weight break down of the tournament:
As far as the favorites, everything went as expected with McDonough(Iowa) and Precin(NW) meeting in the finals. After falling to Precin in the semi’s, Sanders(Minn) wrestled to 3rdof Boyle(UM). Surprises here would be the fall of Pataky(PSU), a 4 seed taking 7thand Eppert(PUR), Kelliher(UW) taking 5thand 6thas 7thand 8thseeds.
Michigan: Boyle won his key match in the quarters over PSU’s Pataky, keeping him away from Sanders in consolations until the 3rdplace match. He held serve against everyone he should have beat losing only to eventual champion McDonough and 3 seed Sanders. Placing 4th, Boyle earns a bid into NCAA’s
- 1st– McDonough(Iowa) 3-1 Dec over Precin(NW)
- 3rd– Sanders(Minn) 12-4 Maj Dec over Boyle(UM)
- 5th– Eppert(PUR) 3-0 Dec over Kelliher(UM)
- 7th– Pataky(PSU) Tech Fall 16-1 over Olanowski(MSU)
A 1 and 2 seed final with Long(PSU) winning a tight one over Graff(UW) for the title. The other half of the 4 contenders placed in the top 4. The surprise was probably the fall of Mele(NW), a 5 seed taking 8th. Stevens(UM) and Paddock(OSU) were two low seeds that placed above expectations.
Michigan: Stevens came in a 7 seed and lost his first match to Graff(UW). From there he wrestled to a key match with Thorn(Minn) where the win was the difference between wrestling for 5thor 7th. His 5thplace finish earns him an automatic bid to NCAA’s.
- 1st– Long(PSU) 7-3 Dec over Graff(UW)
- 3rd– Ramos(Iowa) 6-2 Dec over Futrell(ILL)
- 5th– Stevens(UM) Forfeit over Paddock(OSU)
- 7th– Thorn(Minn) 6-4 Dec over Mele(NW)
Michigan’s Russell walked away with outstanding Wrestler of the tournament after winning the toughest weight in the Big Ten. The top 4 wrestlers in the nation placed in the top 4 here with Russell beating Thorn(Minn). Thorn won in OT over Marion(Iowa) who he lost to in the dual. Marion’s hype as the guy that could knock off Russell took a big hit as he ended up in 4th.
Michigan: Russell was the winner and Outstanding Wrestler. He beat eventual 3rdplace Kennedy(ILL) in the semi’s before winning his final over Thorn(Minn). He was Michigan lone champion and of course earns a bid into NCAA’s
- 1st– Russell(UM) 8-4 Dec over Thorn(Minn)
- 3rd– Kennedy(ILL) 9-6 Dec over Marion(Iowa)
- 5th– Alton(PSU) 6-4 Dec over Friedley(NW)
- 7th– Richey(IU) 5-3ot Dec over Fleckenstein(PUR)
First big surprise matched the expected in the finals as 6thseed Grajales(UM) took on 1stseed Molinaro(PSU). The dream run came to an end here for Grajales though. It certainly wasn’t an easy path, beating the eventual 3rdand 4thplace finishers. Nadhir(NW) the 2ndseed fell to 4thas one of the victumes of Grajales. Schmitt(UW) the 5thseed came in after a poor showing since returning from injury. He finished 8th.
Michigan: Grajales went on a tear here beating Ballweg(Iowa), #3 seed Kinser(IU) and 2ndseed Nadhir(NW) before falling to #1 Molinaro(PSU) in the finals. A great run for the freshman. In his match against Molinaro, you could see the difference between the favored veteran and Grajales. He didn’t have much chance, but, put together a good fight. He’s earned his bid to NCAA’s and should be fun to watch in the future.
- 1st– Molinaro(PSU) 3-0 Dec over Grajales(UM)
- 3rd– Kinser(IU) 6-4ot Dec over Nadhir(NW)
- 5th– Terrazas(ILL) 9-1 Maj Dec over Zilverburg(Minn)
- 7th– Osterman(MSU) FALL 1:00 over Schmitt(UW)
Expected final between Taylor(PSU) and St. John(Iowa), with Taylor winning by a little closer then expected. He was the clear cut favorite. Only surprises were at the bottom half of the places with Michigan native and Illini Morse(ILL) having an impressive tournament, finishing 7th.
Michigan: Not a good showing for Zeerip. A 6 seed coming in, he went 0-2, ending his tournament as a victim of Morse(ILL) by a Maj Dec. Zeerip is someone I thought could possible fight his way into the 5thplace match and could settle for 7th. Not placing doesn’t get him an bid to NCAA’s and his showing makes an at-large bid unlikely.
- 1st– Taylor(PSU) 8-3 Dec over St. John(Iowa)
- 3rd– Welch(NW) 4-3 Dec over Young(IU)
- 5th– Salazar(PUR) 4-2 Dec over McMurray(MSU)
- 7th– Morse(ILL) 4-0 Dec over Nemec(OSU)
A lot of questions were surrounding the return of Howe(UW) from injury as this was his first appearance since. He looked back to form, winning his 3rdBig Ten Title. The 4 and 3 seed flipped places as Janssen(Iowa) got revenge on Yohn(Minn) from their dual.
Michigan: Yates won an overtime match against Vollrath(PSU) to guarantee the 5thplace match, where he had to come from behind and pin the 5thseed Polz(ILL). That win got him the last bid at that weight for NCAA’s.
- 1st- Howe(UW) 3-1ot Dec over Sponseller(OSU)
- 3rd– Janssen(Iowa) 4-2 Dec over Yohn(Minn)
- 5th– Yates(UM) FALL 3:22 over Polz(ILL)
- 7th– Vollrath(PSU) FALL :57 over Bialka(NW)
Wide open weight after eventual champion Ruth(PSU). He won by beating Heflin(OSU) who edged out each match along the way to the finals. Lofthouse(Iowa) had a good tournament as a 5 seed taking 3rdwhile Glasser(Minn) didn’t as the 3rdseed taking 5th.
Michigan: Bad tournament for the other Zeerip brother. He lost to Heflin(OSU) by 1 and would have taken on Jordan(UW) in the semi’s, who he has beat already this year. Instead he fell into consolations and lost to Glasser(Minn), another guy he beat earlier in their dual. This sent him into the 7thplace match against MSU’s Jacobs where he lost in OT. A could have 2ndplace finish turned into 8th. Luckily 8thgot him the last NCAA bid.
- 1st- Ruth(PSU) 8-5 Dec over Heflin(OSU)
- 3rd– Lofthouse(Iowa) 4-1 Dec over Manuel(PUR)
- 5th– Glasser(Minn) 6-1 Dec over Jordan(UW)
- 7th– Jacobs(MSU) 6-5ot Dec over Zeerip(UM)
The shock of the tournament. 8thseed Wright(PSU) made a dream run to win the weight class and in turn, won the team title for PSU. He knocked off #1 Rutt(UW) in the quarters and beat #2 Steinhaus(Minn) in the finals who had Majored him not too long ago. 7thseed Magrum(OSU) fought his way to a 4thplace finish. The upset of Rutt effected Gambrall’s(Iowa) path as he settled for 5th.
Michigan: Collins was unseeded and lost first to the eventual champion Wright(PSU) 10-2. Then he lost in the consolations to Magrum(OSU). Finished 0-2, not placing and not getting any bids.
- 1st– Wright(PSU) 4-3 Dec over Steinhaus(Minn)
- 3rd– Rutt(UW) 6-0 Dec over Magrum(OSU)
- 5th– Gambrall(Iowa) 10-2 Maj Dec over Dallago(ILL)
- 7th– Kissel(PUR) 5-3ot Dec over Hinton(MSU)
The top 2 seeds Brandvold(UW) and Lofthouse(Iowa) got to the finals with Brandvold winning. Powless(IU) took a tough path after losing in the first round to an unseeded Dickenson(MSU), only to win out and finish 3rd, beating Dickenson in his final.
Michigan: Unlucky tournament for Biondo. His first match took 3rdseed Brown(PUR) into OT before losing and dropping him into the consolation bracket. In his first match there, he got 4thseed Powless(IU) who was upset in the first round and eventually took 3rd. That took Biondo out of the tournament with no auto-bid and puts his hopes on an at-large spot. He’ll be near the top of the list ranked 11thnationally.
- 1st– Brandvold(UW) 5-2 Dec over Lofthouse(Iowa)
- 3rd– Powless(IU) 6-2 Dec over Dickenson(MSU)
- 5th– Yohn(Minn) 3-2 Dec over Brown(PUR)
- 7th– Capone(OSU) 2-0 Dec over Barczak(ILL)
I have to eat me words here. Rasing(Iowa) did have a favorable route though. He missed 2ndseed Alcala(IU) who was upset by Rizqallah(MSU) in the quarters and didn’t have to deal with top seed Wade(PSU), who had a bad tournament, in the finals. Instead he used his size advantage to beat redshirt Freshman Nelson(Minn) to win it all. A big surprise came from Bugenhagen(UW). A 6thseed with no impressive wins on the year, beats #2 Alcala and #1 Wade on his way to finishing 3rd. Wade did redeem himself with a Maj Dec over Apland(UM) for 5ththat sealed the title for Penn State.
Michigan: Apland has been an inconsistent wrestler for Michigan this year. He lost early to Nelson(Minn) in the quarters and had to work his way through the consolation bracket until he fell to Rizqallah(MSU) in OT to get into the 3rdplace match. That sent him to 5thwhere he was majored by Wade(PSU). Finishing 6thdoes get him the last auto-bid for NCAA’s
- 1st– Rasing(Iowa) 5-2 Dec over Nelson(Minn)
- 3rd– Bugenhagen(UW) 6-1 Dec over Rizqallah(MSU)
- 5th– Wade(PSU) 9-0 Maj Dec over Apland(UM)
- 7th– Alcala(IU) 5-2 Dec over Kuhar(NW)
Michigan finishes with 7/10 placers, with all 7 also getting bids to NCAA’s. They’ll have Biondo(197) and B. Zeerip(157) hoping for at-large spots.
NCAA Tournament starts March 17thand runs through the 19thin Philadelphia, PA. I’ll get together a pre-view for the Michigan grapplers.
Big Ten Tournament kicks off Saturday and goes through Sunday where the finals will air on the BTN at 4pm.
To start, let me say the strength of a tournament is singling out the top teams and finding a champion. Slotting the remaining teams into where they belong is where its weakness is to me. It will be interesting to see how the Iowa Penn State battle will play out as I see them as the favorites to win it and they may be separated by a very slim margin. Minnesota isn’t far behind if both seem to falter. From there your looking at 3 teams fighting for 4th-6th in Wisconsin, Michigan and Northwestern. Illinois, Indiana and Purdue look to have solid showings. Ohio State and Michigan State will be the bottom dwellers. If you’d like to see a very pro-Iowa outlook, check here.
Here’s a weight by weight break down of the tournament:
Bracket Outlook: This weight is setting up for a McDonough(Iowa) Precin(NW) final. The only thing coming close to making this not happen may be the semi-final with Precin and Sanders(Minn), but, I still don’t see that happening. After Sanders there is a bit of a drop-off to Pataky(PSU) and Boyle(UM). Pataky, a senior, spent some time injured having returned just a few weeks ago. He split two matches with Boyle, winning the latter. Another drop-off from there as about 4 guys will have a legitimate fight for the final 3 spots. Top 5 spots get automatic bids to NCAA’s.
Favorite to win: Matt McDonough(Iowa)
Top contenders: Brandon Precin(NW), Zach Sanders(Minn)
Where Might You Find Your Wolverine: With the 5th seed, Boyle is already in the quarterfinals in probably his biggest match against Pataky(PSU). Winning that match sets up the best path for him to place high. Losing that quarterfinal would drop him on the side of the consolation bracket that would run into the Sanders(Minn) Precin(NW) loser before the 3rd place match. Both I consider a lose for Boyle. I’m not optimistic he gets into the semi’s and see him winning one match in the consolations before getting slotted into the 5th place match, where he would be the favorite. That would get him his NCAA bid. Probable Target Range: 4th-5th.
Bracket Outlook: Loaded weight for the B1G. Semi’s will provide just as much entertainment as the finals with 4 guys I wouldn’t be surprised if any of them won it all. Long(PSU) has in my mind been wrestling the best down the stretch. A bit of a surprise he got the #1 seed though. Graff(UW) had been the favorite until his loss to Long. Ramos(Iowa) went undefeated in B1G duals, with beating Long and no wrestling Graff. Long will have to get past a surging Futrell(ILL) who should get to the semi’s but has the toughest quarterfinal with Mele(NW). Graff and Ramos are the other semi. Those 4 will figure out the top places. I don’t see anyone beating Mele for 5th. 8 spots get automatic bids to NCAA’s. So if all the seeded wrestlers (Thorn(Minn), Stevens(UM), Paddock(OSU)) wrestle to expectations, they’re all in. Paddock may be the most in risk.
Favorite to win: Long(PSU)
Top Contenders: Ramos(Iowa), Graff(UW), Futrell(ILL)
Where Might You Find Your Wolverine: A 7 seed for Stevens will see him have to get a first round win to make sure he places. After that he’ll run into Graff(UW). From there he’ll run into a very important match in the consolations with Thorn(Minn). Thorn won this matchup earlier in a dual 11-7. Winning that match guarantees a 5th place match where he wouldn’t be the favorite against Mele(NW) but would do no worse then 6th. With 8 qualifiers he shouldn’t have a problem there. Probable Target range: 5th-7th.
Bracket Outlook: The premier weight for the B1G. The winner here might very well be the tournaments outstanding wrestler. The top 4 seeds are the top 4 ranked wrestlers in the nation and the 5th seed is ranked 7th. Russell(UM) has beat them all this year, but, they have been close matches. Kennedy(ILL) spent some time injured. Another weight were the semi’s will be just as entertaining with Russell and Kennedy (pending Kennedy beats 7th ranked Alton(PSU) in the quarters) and Marion(Iowa) Thorn(Minn). Hard to pick against Russell since he’s been winning them all. Since Marion’s return, I don’t think there has been a better contender for that #1 spot. I see a clash of them in the finals. Thorn and Kennedy will be a good 3rd place match. Alton and Friedley(NW) should manage to get the last of the 6 automatic bids.
Favorite to win: Russell(UM)
Top Contenders: Thorn(Minn), Marion(Iowa), Kennedy(ILL)
Where Might You Find Your Wolverine: Russell is the 1 seed and favorite to win. Won’t be easy though. He’ll have 4th ranked Kennedy in the semi’s and the winner of 2nd ranked Marion or 3rd ranked Thorn. He’s beat them all, but, Marion had the best shot at knocking him off this year. Probable Target range: 1st-4th.
Bracket Outlook: Here is a weight with a clear front-runner, a good guess at his finals opponent and then a lot of questions. Molinaro(PSU) and Nadhir(NW) seem like the most likely to find the finals with Molinaro to win. Schmitt(UW) is the biggest question mark. Had a high ranking before being injured earlier in the year and since returning has been unimpressive. Terrazas(ILL) and Kinser(IU) have had solid years. Grajales(UM) has been extremely inconsistent notching some impressive wins with head scratching losses. In the B1G tourney there is less surprises unlike the NCAA’s. With 8 bids, the seeded guys should all manage.
Favorite to win: Molinaro(PSU)
Top Contenders: Nadhir(NW)
Where Might You Find Your Wolverine: Grajales has a 6 seed needing to get into the quarters to make sure to place. From there I don’t see a certain unless he got to the finals against Molinaro(PSU), but, a more then likely loss in the semis against Nadhir(NW) or in the quarters against Kinser(IU). Grajales has the potential to do damage, but, Im not extremely confident in him. Lots of tough matches and being a bit undersized and young, makes for a tough go. I think Kinser nips him in the quarters leaving him to beat Osterman(MSU) again to solidify the 5th place match and getting there after losing to Terrazas(ILL). Could find the question mark Schmitt(UW) here for 5th. With 8 bids, I think he’s safe to get that. Probable Target Range: 2nd-6th.
Bracket Outlook: Taylor(PSU) has been impressive here all year, beating everyone decisively. St.John(Iowa) will have a good semi with Welch(NW) that I see St.John winning. That semi will be better then the final. I don’t see anyone else that could get Welch after that. Salazar(PUR) and Young(IU) will be the two most likely to get that 3rd place match with Welch. The biggest match for a bid might be in the consolations between Zeerip(UM) and McMurray(MSU). Winner there clinches a bid.
Favorite to win: Taylor(PSU)
Top contenders: St. John(Iowa), Welch(NW)
Where Might You Find Your Wolverine: Zeerip is a curious case. He got the nod over McMurray(MSU) for the 6 seed even though he just lost to him 8-2. He has the ability to compete with anyone after the top contenders. He’ll have Welch early in the quarters sending him to the consolations. There he’ll draw that crucial bout with McMurray. He wins there and he could fight his way to the 3rd place match. A loss and no auto-bid. Probable Target Range: 4th-7th.
- St. John(Iowa)
Bracket Outlook: Big wrench was thrown in here when Howe(UW) said he was coming back. He suffered a major knee injury early in the season and this tournament will be his first action since. He is a 2 time B1G champ and returning National champ. But, if there was a weight more wide open to walk in and win after an injury, this might be it. Not to say it doesn’t have it share of solid wrestlers though. How healthy and how far Howe can go is the biggest wildcard. Sponseller(OSU) was the favorite before the return. Yohn(Minn) and Janssen(Iowa) recently had a tight 6-4 match that Yohn came out ahead on. They’ll push Howe and Sponseller before most likely ending up fighting for 3rd. Yates(UM) and Polz(ILL) will probably find themselves in a very important match for 5th considering there is only 5 bids available here.
Favorite to win: Howe(UW)
Top contenders: Sponseller(OSU), Janssen(IA), Yohn(MN)
Where Might You Find Your Wolverine: Yates got a 6 seed and will run into Yohn(Minn) who has beat him earlier. He’ll drop to the consolations and find LaBlanc(IU) most likely. He’ll need that to guarantee a 5th place match and unless he beats the Janssen(Iowa) Howe(UW) loser, that’s where he’ll be. Probably have Polz(ILL) there in that critical battle for the last bid. Probable Target Range: 5th-6th.
Bracket Outlook: Fr. Ruth(PSU) is primed to win here, but, it’s a tight battle for who the next best is. Glasser(Minn) has a tough road, but, might be that guy. He’ll have to avenge to Jordan(UW) and beat 2 seed Heflin(OSU) again to get to the finals. Manuel(PUR) got a bad seed in my mind as he could very well be the second best guy, but, finds himself, as the 4 seed, taking on Ruth in the semi’s. That’s is he can tackle the tough task of Lofthouse(Iowa). It’s a very tough side of the bracket. Any of the other sides 4 top seeds wouldn’t be extremely surprising if they went all the way as well. I think Heflin is most likely to fall short of his seeding. The depth at this weight for the B1G is evident in their 8 bids.
Favorite to win: Ruth(PSU)
Top Contenders: Manuel(PUR), Lofthouse(Iowa), Glasser(Minn), Heflin(OSU)
Where Might You Find Your Wolverine: Zeerip caught a 7th seed, one below Jordan(UW) who he beat. Zeerip has some impressive wins under his belt, including Jordan and Glasser(Minn). That 7 seed will pit him against Heflin in the quarters who he lost to 2-1 this year. Getting a win there would bring the Jordan Glasser winner in the semi’s, which again, he has beat both. That’s 2 doable wins away from being in the finals and would be huge for Michigan. While there isn’t a match, until he’d make the finals, that he would be overmatched, there also isn’t an easy bout. Losing to Heflin probably brings Jordan and then Manuel(PUR)/Lofthouse(Iowa). I think there is a good chance he could run into Heflin again for 5th. At the least, shouldn’t have a problem getting his bid to NCAA’s. Probable Target Range: 2nd-7th.
Bracket Outlook: Rutt(UW) looks like the favorite here with a final against Steinhaus(Minn) most likely. That’s going off how Steinhaus looked in his dual beating Grambrall(Iowa). From there things get pretty close among the rest. Dallago(ILL) and Hinton(MSU) will be a good quarter match. The consolation bracket will be full of tough matches as well. This is a key weight for the team score with Iowa and PSU. Gambrall could help the cause with a big win over Steinhaus in the semi’s. Wright(PSU) has had a disappointing season to this point and he needs to turn in a much better showing for the Lions. He’s a big move wrestler, capable of catching anyone. 6 bids up for grabs and the last three could be a fight among 5 wrestlers.
Favorite to win: Rutt(UW)
Top Contenders: Gambrall(Iowa), Steinhaus(Minn)
Where might you find your Wolverine: You won’t find Collins seeded. The only Wolverine to miss out. He’ll need to pick up a win in that first round in order to make the podium. Collins only wins have been against other unseeded wrestlers, with no promising showing in his losses to others. Placing would be tough for him. Getting a bid seems out of the question. Probable Target Range: 8th-Not Place.
Bracket Outlook: Lots of top level talent here for the B1G. The top 6 seeds rank in the top 11 nationally. Figuring out who makes a run may be tricky here. Lofthouse(Iowa) has been on a tear and looked impressive. He hasn’t wrestled the favored and 2nd ranked Brandvold(UW) though. Also, Yohn(Minn) has made a less then impressive return from injury lately, but, before that was one of the top contenders nationally. He looked very rusty against Lofthouse in their dual, but, its been two weeks since then. Yohn kicks off with a tough quarterfinal draw against Powless(IU). The Brown(PUR) Biondo(UM) quarter will be another good one that round. The semi’s will be stacked, but, I can’t see anything other then a Brandvold, Lofthouse final. 6 bids are available here and after the top six seeds, there is a pretty obvious drop-off. I don’t think there will be any other surprises there.
Favorite to win: Brandvold(UW)
Top Contenders: Lofthouse(Iowa), Yohn(Minn)
Where Might You Find Your Wolverine: Biondo is the bottom man among the to 6. I see him falling out of the championship bracket quick with a loss to Brown(PUR) in the quarters. Then assuring his bid with a win in the consolations against Barczak(ILL). From there, a combination of Yohn(Minn)/Powless(IU) in the next round and for 5th, will be where he ends up. Both of which I don’t see him winning. Probable Target Range: 6th.
Bracket Outlook: The big boys. Wade(PSU) is the favorite, although vulnerable. He’s lost to Rizqallah(MSU) and needed to pull off a big comeback pin to beat Apland(UM). Alcala’s(IU) only loss has been to Wade. The 3rd seed Rasing(Iowa) has been on a rise of late, knocking off some top competition. Throw in Apland and Nelson(Minn) and I wouldn’t be surprised to see any of those 5 win it all. Most likely, you’ll see a Wade Alcala final though. I’m not convinced Rasing can continue his hot streak and see Apland knocking him off in consolations. Nelson might be the most likely to stop Wade and make the finals.
Favorite to win: Wade(PSU)
Top Contenders: Alcala(IU), Nelson(Minn), Rasing(Iowa), Apland(UM)
Where Might You Find Your Wolverine: Apland has had a disappointing finish to his regular season. He caught a tough seed at 5, having to face Nelson out of the gate in the quarters. That leaves a lot of work to be done in consolations. Will find himself in a key match against Rasing to get into the 3rd place match. I think he pulls it off and might see Nelson again for 3rd. Probable Target Range: 1st-5th.
Like I said, this looks like a PSU Iowa battle. It could come down to the bonus points each wrestler can pick up for them, but, most likely, how a few weights work out will be the difference.
For Penn State, they go in with 5 top seeds and favorites win each weight. 3 of those weights I don’t see PSU being tested (149,157,174). The other two are pivotal towards edging the Hawkeyes (133,285). Those both have serious contenders from Iowa in Ramos(133) and Rasing(285). Penn State needs to make sure they cash in where they are favored as much as they can since they are hurt by 2 weak weights (165,197) to Iowa’s 1 (149). If Wright at 184 and Pataky at 125 both come in with top 4 finishes and the 5 favorites come through with any big stumbles, Penn State walks away with it.
Iowa is working with a more well rounded lineup then having heavy hitters. 125 with McDonough is the only weight they are favored. But, the Hawkeyes will be shooting to place in the top 4 at up to 9 weights. They have a history of turning it on come tournament time and some of the key weights they need to do that in may be motivated after their low points against Minnesota.
Minnesota’s the only team with 10 seeded wrestlers. They are just lacking the firepower to pick up enough points to get in the mix.
The battle for 4th will be fun, although, Michigan has beat each of the contenders here heads up. In a tournament though, Wisconsin may have the advantage. They have 4 legit shots at B1G champions with Howe making a return. Those go a long way in moving up the tournament ladder. Northwestern has a couple shots at the finals earning them some decent points.
For Michigan its all about placing. They look to place in all but 1 weight. Hitting the high end of their target ranges will make a push at Wisconsin for 4th. As I see it, 5th may be where they end up.
1. Penn State
10. Ohio State
11. Michigan State