NCAA Wrestling Championship Preview
Next weekend, Penn State wrestling heads to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines, Iowa. A large amount of the competition was in the Big Ten Championships, but some wrestlers will face a very different scene than last weekend. The seedings for the tournament were released yesterday.
Nico Megaludis, who placed third at Big Tens, is seeded fourth in the NCAA Championship. Megaludis lost to Jesse Delgado of Illinois, who is seeded second. They won’t meet again unless they both make it to the finals. Megaludis would also have to face top-seed Alan Waters of Missouri to get to the finals, and third-seeded Matt McDonough of Iowa is also someone to lookout for to make it to the finals. Besides Nikko Triggas of Ohio State, the rest of the seeded competition is from outside the Big Ten and are from teams which Penn State hasn’t played, which could make things interesting for Megaludis and the other Big Ten opponents. Megaludis will likely make it to the semifinals, where it will become interesting to watch if he can pull of an upset and improve upon his second place finish last year.
Jordan Conaway, who placed fifth in his first appearance at Big Tens, is seeded 11th at the NCAA Championship. In his first bout, Conaway faces unseeded Vinny Dellafave from Rutgers. Conaway has already defeated Dellafave earlier this season in a 6-1 decision. If Conaway wins, he will likely face fifth-seeded Chris Dardanes of Minnesota. Dardanes defeated Conaway 7-2 in the consolation semifinals of Big Tens. If Conaway ends up consolations, he will likely face unfamiliar non-Big Ten opponents.
Unseeded Bryan Pearsall, who placed fifth at Big Tens, awaits an opponent as he is attached to a pigtail match. The pigtail match features Connor Hanafee of Army and Joey Lazor of Northern Iowa, neither of whom Pearsall has faced. If Pearsall wins, he will move on to likely face undefeated second-seeded Kendric Maple of Oklahoma. If Pearsall loses to Maple, he will have a long way to go in order to place with lots of competition ahead of him.
Andrew Alton, who placed fourth at Big Tens, is seeded 11th in his second NCAA appearance. While Drake Houdashelt of Missouri may seem like an easy bout for Alton, the past month just hasn’t been the same since he’s returned from his suspension, but assuming Alton wins, he will likely face sixth-seeded Dylan Ness of Minnesota. Ness and Alton have not faced each other, despite being in the Big Ten together. The 149 weight class had lots of upsets at Big Tens, and it should be interesting to see if any of these match ups repeat at NCAAs. The top five seeded wrestlers are not from the Big Ten, and only 5 out of the 12 seeded wrestlers are from the conference. Ivan Lopouchanski, who defeated Alton in the third place bout, is seeded tenth. If Alton puts on the performance that he did in consolations at Big Tens, he could place.
After placing sixth at Big Tens, Dylan Alton is seeded eighth at his second NCAA appearance, where he placed third last year. Three of the top four seeds are from the Big Ten, but most of the other seeded wrestlers are from outside the conference. Alton is in a pigtail bout with Jake O’Hara of Columbia, who he should beat. He will then face Donnie Tasser of Pitt, who Alton defeated 7-3 earlier this season. Alton would then likely face ninth-seeded Frank Hickman of Bloomsburg. If Alton were to make the quarterfinals, he would likely face top-seeded Jason Welch of Northwestern. Welch and Alton have an interesting history. Last year, Welch defeated Alton 2-1 in the regular season, but Alton defeated Welch, who was seeded ahead of him, 6-2 in the 3rd place bout. Besides second-seeded Derek St. John, Alton has faced and defeated many of the other seeded wrestlers. If Alton gets back into top shape, he could have an upset or two and return back to a third place finish.
David Taylor is seeded second, after winning last year’s NCAA Championship. Taylor teched the third-seeded Peter Yates twice last season, and he had a major decision this season over fourth-seeded Tyler Caldwell. Top-seeded Kyle Dake of Cornell is Taylor’s biggest foe at NCAAs. Dake has beaten Taylor three times in the past calendar year: at the Olympic Trials, at the NWCA All-Star classic in November, and at the Southern Scuffle. Dake is seeking his fourth NCAA Championship, and Taylor hopes to beat Dake for the first time. Due to the quality of this matchup, the NCAA tournament will begin at the 174 weight class and finish at the 165 weight class.
Matt Brown will be a great wrestler to watch throughout the tournament, as it is his first time at the NCAA Championships and there are high expectations after he won the Big Ten title. To get to the finals, Brown will likely have to face third-seeded Mike Evans of Iowa or sixth-seeded Logan Storley. Both wrestlers have defeated Brown in the regular season, but Brown defeated Evans in the championship bout at Big Tens. Brown has not faced Chris Perry of Oklahoma State, but Perry has two losses this season to Storley and unseeded Todd Porter of Missouri.
Top-seeded Ed Ruth is seeking his third NCAA championship. Ruth has pinned second-seeded Ben Bennett of Central Michigan, he also had an 11-9 decision over third-seeded Robert Hamlin of Lehigh, and a 7-3 decision over fourth-seeded Steve Bosak of Cornell. Ruth should have no problem continuing his perfect season.
After a third place finish last year, second-seeded Quentin Wright hopes to be back on top of the podium. Wright pinned third-seeded Matthew Wilps of Pitt earlier this season and has never faced top-seeded Dustin Kilgore of Kent State. Both Kilgore and Wright are undefeated seniors this season, and this likely matchup will be an interesting one to watch.
Unseeded Jimmy Lawson faces unseeded Jeremy Johnson of Ohio. Johnson defeated Lawson 5-2 earlier this season. If Lawson were to make it to the next round, he would likely face third-seeded Alan Gelogaev of Oklahoma State. While Lawson will likely end up in consolation rounds early on, the experience Lawson is getting as a sophomore is invaluable if he remains the heavyweight starter.
Penn State is favored to win the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year. While Ruth is favored to win and Taylor and Wright are expected to come in second, the other players will need to pull their weight in bonus points and in the consolation rounds to make Penn State champions once again.