The days are being counted down towards one of the most important and exciting tournaments of the year, as the Big Ten Championships will be held on March 4th in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Last season the Michigan Wolverines claimed the title, and this season they will host the tournament that spans over two days in the Crisler Center.
There are so many pivotal bouts set to go down, and seeding for the NCAA’s will be on the forefront of many wrestlers’ minds who will attempt to punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament which goes down just two weeks after.
Six of the ten weight classes in the Big Ten feature the number one ranked wrestler in the country, and eight of those weight classes contain multiple wrestlers who are ranked in the top five in the country.
Here is a preview of each weight class and a prediction to who will be standing on the top of the podium on Sunday night:
Usually with Spencer Lee in the bracket, I would have him dominating his way to the finals for a third Big Ten title. However, Purdue’s Matt Ramos gave Lee a scare in Iowa’s 37-6 dual win over Purdue on January 8th.
Ramos jumped on Lee early, scoring the first takedown of the match and letting Lee know he was there to scrap. Less than a minute later, Ramos launched Lee to his back with a beautiful lat-drop, and took an 8-2 lead in the first period.
However, Lee stayed composed which he doesn’t have to show often. Lee worked to his feet, got a takedown for himself, then proceeded to crank Ramos to his back for a pin, all while still losing 8-4. This just shows how special Spencer Lee is, being able to miraculously flip the switch of the match and return to his dominance.
There are a few other names who could very well have a shot of making the finals at a super deep 125-pound bracket. Nebraska’s Liam Cronin has been excellent all season long with an 18-3 record, despite being pinned by Lee during Iowa’s 34-6 dual victory over Nebraska on January 20th. Minnesota’s Pat McKee, and Ohio State’s Malik Heinselman both have a serious shot of cracking the finals as well.
My Prediction – Spencer Lee (1st), Matt Ramos (2nd), Liam Cronin (3rd)
The bracket at 133-pounds will contain seven wrestlers who are ranked in the top-15 in the country, but Penn State’s #1 Roman Bravo-Young will remain the man to beat.
Bravo-Young will seek his third Big Ten title, but he will have to go through some tough wrestlers to do so. One of those wrestlers is Michigan’s #11 Dylan Ragusin, who has debatably been RBY’s toughest match this season, as he lost by just one takedown in a thrilling 4-2 score.
However, RBY has beaten Ragusin for the fourth consecutive time, but Ragusin continues to inch closer to taking out RBY.
Of course, you can’t forget about Ohio State’s true freshman and #7 ranked Jesse Mendez, and Illinois #10 ranked Lucas Byrd. It seems as Mendez and Byrd will have a good shot of running into each other once again this season, as Byrd won the first meeting at the NWCA All Star Classic by a score of 3-2.
My Prediction – Roman Bravo-Young (1st), Jesse Mendez (2nd), Dylan Ragusin (3rd)
141-pounds will be regarded as one of the deeper weight classes at the Big Ten’s, as four of the top-10 ranked wrestlers will be present in the bracket. Iowa’s Real Woods will be the favorite to win, as he is undefeated throughout the season (13-0).
However, Woods has had very close matches with both Penn State’s Beau Bartlett and Nebraska’s Brock Hardy.
Just a few weeks ago at the Penn State and Iowa dual meet, Woods was able to silence the packed out Bryce Jordan Center with a 4-1 decision over Bartlett. Although it was a close match, Woods shut down Bartlett on the feet and was able to ride him out when he needed to. Bartlett was in on a few deep shots, but Woods’ defense flashed as he was able to defend off every shot. I can’t see much of a difference if they are to meet again in the Big Ten finals, but regardless it should be an entertaining match.
Brock Hardy wrestled Woods the closest all season, it was a 6-4 decision for Woods in the dual between Iowa and Nebraska. Hardy is in his redshirt freshman season, and has looked really good this year with a 24-4 record. Despite that, Hardy just dropped his most recent match as Arizona State’s Emilio Ysaguirre cruised to a 10-4 win. It will be interesting to see how Hardy responds to his most recent loss, but should set up a really enticing bout between Hardy and Bartlett if they both reach the semi-finals.
My Prediction – Real Woods (1st), Beau Bartlett (2nd), Brock Hardy (3rd)
149-pounds will be a barn burner next weekend, as it features three of the top five wrestlers in the country.
Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso will sit atop at the #1 seed, but will have his hands full looking to claim his second Big Ten title. Last season, Wisconsin’s Austin Gomez defeated Sasso in a close 8-5 decision, and has beaten Sasso twice since. Once at the NCAA Tournament last season, and again in a miraculous third period comeback where Gomez scored three takedowns in 25 seconds to beat Sasso at the NWCA All Star Classic.
Northwestern’s Yahya Thomas will also be in the hunt for a Big Ten title, but will have to go through Gomez to reach the finals. Thomas and Gomez have met twice since the start of last season, Gomez won the first meeting, but then lost to medically forfeiting earlier this season.
Iowa’s Max Murin and Penn State’s Shayne Van Ness complete the loaded 149-pound bracket, and could definitely shake things up if one of them were to pull off an upset.
My Prediction – Austin Gomez (1st), Sammy Sasso (2nd), Yahya Thomas (3rd)
Nebraska’s Peyton Robb will be in search of his first Big Ten title, after placing fifth just a season ago. Robb has emerged as the man to beat at 157-pounds throughout the country with a 23-0 record, and has looked really good all season long.
Outside of Robb, the 157-pound bracket at the Big Ten’s will be hard to predict with the top 7-11 wrestlers in the country being present.
It includes: Purdue’s Kendall Coleman, Penn State’s Levi Haines, Michigan’s Will Lewan, Iowa’s Cobe Siebrecht, and Michigan State’s Chase Saldate
Out of those wrestlers, nobody might be hotter at the moment than Penn State’s true freshman Levi Haines, who only lost once this season (20-1). Haines has beaten multiple ranked wrestlers this season, and coming in hot to a conference tournament is just what Penn State fans want to see.
My Prediction: Peyton Robb (1st), Levi Haines (2nd), Kendall Coleman (3rd)
The 165-pound bracket will be very entertaining, as many of the top seeds in the weight class have wrestled each other very closely over the past year.
Despite losing a 5-3 bout to Michigan’s Cameron Amine, Wisconsin’s Dean Hamiti will sit atop of the bracket with the #1 seed. This possibly sets up a match against Iowa’s Patrick Kennedy (third seed) in the semi-finals, with Penn State’s Alex Facundo being ranked the #4 seed.
The 165-pound bracket is loaded, and will set up some great matchups in the quarterfinals, especially a rematch between Facundo and Ohio State’s Carson Kharchla (4-1 victory for Facundo).
My Prediction: Cameron Amine (1st), Dean Hamiti (2nd), Patrick Kennedy (3rd)
174-pounds is set to feature a great match in the Big Ten Finals, where Penn State’s Carter Starocci could possibly match up against Nebraska’s Michael Labriola.
Both Starroci and Labriola are unbeaten this season, and are both ranked #1 and #2 in the country at 174-pounds.
Outside of the top two seeds, Ohio State’s Ethan Smith, Minnesota’s Bailee O’Reilly, and Illinois’ Edmund Ruth are guys who could make a big name for themselves this weekend.
My Prediction: Carter Starocci (1st), Michael Labriola (2nd), Edmund Ruth (3rd)
Although it may not seem like a tough bracket, there are five of the top 10 wrestlers in the country competing at the Big Ten’s at 184-pounds.
Penn State’s Aaron Brooks, Ohio State’s Kaleb Romero, Michigan’s Matt Finesilver, Iowa’s Abe Assad, and Minnesota’s Isaiah Salazar are all ranked in the top 10, and it will be a battle to see who can crack the finals.
Brooks is the clear favorite at the weight class, but Romero is right there as he only dropped a 3-2 decision to Brooks just a few weeks ago.
My Prediction: Aaron Brooks (1st), Kaleb Romero (2nd), Isaiah Salazar (3rd)
Looking outside of the Penn State’s #1 seed Max Dean, 197-pounds is very open and could go a number of different ways.
Returning NCAA Finalist Jacob Warner (Iowa) is the fifth seed coming into the Big Tens, and will have to go through Dean and Michigan State’s Cam Caffey to even reach the finals. Nebraska’s Silas Allred will host the #2 seed, due to pinning Illinois’ #3 seed Zach Braunagle just a few weeks ago.
My Prediction: Max Dean (1st), Silas Allred (2nd), Jacob Warner (3rd)
Heavyweight has been one of the craziest and most interesting weight classes all season long, and more questions will be answered as the top four heavyweights in the country will go at it this weekend.
Michigan’s Mason Parris will be the #1 seed, as he has beaten Penn State’s Greg Kerkvliet, Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi, and Northwestern’s Lucas Davidson this year.
Parris prevented a big comeback from Cassioppi in the Michigan/Iowa dual just a couple weeks ago, and took out Kerkvliet just over a month ago.
The semi-finals at heavyweight will be electric, and will once again shake up the rankings going into the national tournament.
My Prediction: Mason Parris (1st), Greg Kerkvliet (2nd), Tony Cassioppi (3rd)