Photo: Tony Rotundo

Big Ten Tournament Preview


With the regular dual meet season coming to a close we are heading into the conference tournaments. Of course the big ten is the hardest conference by far and there are many highly anticipated matchups to watch. Let us run through the main competitors at each weight and look at the projected champions.


  1. Nick Suriano (Michigan)
  2. Drew Hildebrant (Penn State)
  3. Eric Barnett (Wisconsin)
  4. Malik Heinselman (Ohio State)
  5. Patrick McKee (Minnesota)
  6. Drake Ayala (Iowa)
  7. Devin Schroder (Purdue)

There is no real way of telling how the seeds will fall after Suriano and Hildebrandt but Drake Ayala coming off of injury and competing against Nebraska is bound to shake some things up. Whether it be in the finals or in the consolations.

Suriano is of course the favorite year but with Drew Hildebrant now at Penn State and they are typically known for peaking perfectly at the right time who knows if he could shake some things up. I would not bet on this upset personally, Suriano seems to be the clear favorite at the weight with a major or Heinselman and McKee. He was tested and brought to deep waters by Hildebrant in a 2-1 no takedown match but to say he was really at risk of losing the match might be a stretch.

Projected Champion: Nick Suriano (Michigan)


  1. Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State)
  2. Austin Desanto (Iowa)

Honestly just a two horse race here at 133 unless Rayvon Foley and Dylan Ragusin have something to say about it. RBY and Desanto met just a few weeks ago in the huge Iowa vs Penn State dual and RBY was able to scratch out a 3-2 decision.

Looking back at the match it seemed that Desanto was not able to finish shots however he was able to get to multiple quick ones. RBY never seemed to feel threatened and finished the only shot he took, securing the win. RBY seems to be ahead of Desanto in a way that does not look like it is going to change anytime soon to be honest.

Projected Champion: Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State)


  1. Nick Lee (Penn State)
  2. Jaydin Eierman (Iowa)
  3. Sebastian Rivera (Rutgers)
  4. Chad Red Jr. (Nebraska)

No real reason the seeds should not fall this way in the top 4 with Lee having prior and the most recent wins over all the other three. The biggest question right now is what will happen in the Eierman vs Rivera semifinal bout. Rivera has been on a tear thus far with only one match not being a bonus point victory so he is definitely coming into this tournament with a lot of heat.

However with all of this being said Nick Lee has looked great this season and has beaten everyone except for Rivera this season (could not wrestle due to covid protocols). It will be a grind to get this win but he should have no problem doing so.

Projected Champion: Nick Lee (Penn State)


  1. Sammy Sasso (Ohio State)
  2. Austin Gomez (Wisconsin)
  3. Max Murin (Iowa)
  4. Ridge Lovett (Nebraska)
  5. Yahya Thomas
  6. Mike Van Brill (Rutgers)
  7. Beau Bartlett (Penn State)

Seeding is up in the air at this weight being that Murin did not wrestle against Lovett or Gomez. He has the last win over Lovett last year at the national tournament which will most likely secure him the three seed at big tens and he should end up wrestling that match vs Austin Gomez should get past which theoretically will be Van Brill of Rutgers.

Sasso is the favorite here but the margin is very thin and could be broken at any moment. As we know Sasso wins a lot but he does not win by very many points and in a bracket like this who knows if we see someone sneak past him. His only loss on the year is to 2x national champion Yianni Diakomihalis. The biggest dark horse here would have to be Beau Bartlett in the sense that he is very positionally sound and can capitalize on mistakes.

With all of this being said there is no logical reason to pick against Sasso unless Yianni is in the bracket.

Projected Champion: Sammy Sasso (Ohio State)


  1. Ryan Deakin (Northwestern)
  2. Kaleb Young (Iowa)
  3. Peyton Robb (Nebraska)
  4. Kendall Coleman (Purdue)
  5. Brady Berge (Penn State)

Deakin is by far the most dominant non national champ in the country right now and there is no logical reason to pick against him being he has beaten everyone in this conference and the country. He will be looking to dominate this bracket being he had a somewhat close bout with Robb last time they wrestled.

Last year in the big ten finals he shut out Kaleb Young 6-0 and the year before he defeated Kendall Coleman who he has pinned twice this season. If anyone is destined for an improbable run here it is Peyton Robb who as we have seen can turn it up when needed.

*Berge does not have much criteria at 157 and it is hard to tell where he will be seeded or how he will do

Projected Champion: Ryan Deakin (Northwestern)


  1. Carson Kharchla (Ohio State)
  2. Alex Marinelli (Iowa)
  3. Dean Hamiti (Wisconsin)
  4. Cameron Amine (Michigan)

This is an absolute bloodbath between the top 3. All of these guys have dropped a bout this season, Marinelli fell to Kharchla, Kharchla fell to Griffith, and Hamiti to Marinelli.

Marinelli and his pure strength and bully like wrestling style seemed to be too much for Hamiti. Of course he will probably switch some things up and I can see him getting that win back at big tens or maybe nationals.

Kharchla becomes an interesting take if Hamiti defeats Marinelli. If he doesn’t then I will take Kharchla but if he should then maybe Hamiti gets the better of him.

This weight is just weird as we have seen in years past, nothing ever really goes the way you think it will but I feel that Hamiti has solidified himself enough and has been on a crazy hot streak to the point where he might do it.

Projected Champion: Dean Hamiti (Wisconsin)


  1. Carter Starocci (Penn State)
  2. Logan Massa (Michigan)
  3. Mikey Labriola (Nebraska)
  4. Michael Kemerer (Iowa)

Things got very interesting in this weight class after Mikey Labriola knocked off Michael Kemerer. You would think oh that’s fine just beat him in the big ten semis and get the rematch with Starocci. If only it was that simple, with Labriola’s loss to Massa it would leave Kemerer down at the 4 seed which sets up a national finals rematch in the semis.

It will be a bloodbath but if Labriola can replicate his success he should have no problem sneaking past Massa in the bottom half of the bracket.

In the top half I just don’t see any way either of these guys get knocked off early. Kemerer seems to be breaking down physically which could mean his injury is getting to him or he might just be getting burnt out. Starocci won a bloodbath in Carver and in neutral ground it seems to be a lot in Starocci’s favor and especially being that this is going on in an earlier round than usual.

Assuming that we see a Starocci vs Labriola rematch it becomes very interesting. If Labriola can replicate what he did against Kemerer then he has a chance but if he can’t then Starocci will win this. No real reason why this match should not be a one takedown bout either way.

Projected Champion: Carter Starocci (Penn State)


  1. Aaron Brooks (Penn State)
  2. Myles Amine (Michigan)
  3. Kaleb Romero (Ohio State)

Again it is really just a two horse race just like 133. No reason any of these guys should get knocked off early unless Romero does something crazy. Taylor Venz may be in the picture here but his seeding will be rough with the losses that he has taken this season.

Assuming this Brooks vs Amine match goes down it is a pure toss up again. Razor thin margins last time and Brooks fighting off a leg for about 30 seconds was the difference. There really is not any reason to bet on this upset to be honest with both of these guys performing exactly like I expected and none of them really doing anything crazy.

Projected Champion: Aaron Brooks (Penn State)


  1. Max Dean (Penn State)
  2. Eric Schultz (Nebraska)
  3. Cameron Caffey (Michigan State)
  4. Jacob Warner (Iowa)
  5. Jaron Smith (Maryland)
  6. Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State)
  7. Greg Bulsak (Rutgers)
  8. Braxton Amos (Wisconsin)
  9. Patrick Brucki (Michigan)
  10. Thomas Penola (Purdue)

In no particular order those are the guys that have a chance at winning this weight class. I will probably write another one on this weight class as a whole being that this would be too lengthy. If I had to pick someone to win this weight class right now it would either be Max Dean, Eric Schultz, or Pat Brucki. Now that being said the brackets will determine everything here and multiple guys will go down early causing the entire bracket to fold.

Right now everyone is fighting to win this because they need a good seed at nationals. With AJ Ferrari out for the season a lot of people could put themselves on top here.

If the brackets are set up and play out the way I think they will we should be seeing a Max Dean vs Eric Schultz finals. If Dean can get to his top offense or atleast put together a ride out he will win and if he can’t and lets this match keep going on it will be up to Schultz to capitalize.

Projected Champion: Max Dean (Penn State)


  1. Gable Steveson (Minnesota)
  2. Tony Cassioppi (Iowa)
  3. Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State)
  4. Mason Parris (Michigan)

This will most likely be your top 4 at heavyweight unless Lance, Hillger, or Davison can upset one of these guys. We all know what the outcome will most likely be here with Gable Steveson in the bracket and there really is not much to say.

A big thing is will Gable finish this tournament with a 100% bonus rate or will someone hold him to a decision. If anyone can its Kerk based on their last meeting his length proved to be able to hold Gable off of some attacks that he gets to on everyone else in the country and is the closest to matching the speed and athleticism of Steveson. That being said, there should not be a scenario in which Gable loses.

Projected Champion: Gable Steveson (Minnesota)

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Akil Murugan
Akil Murugan
Senior Editor for Heavyweight Nation


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