2014 Big XII Wrestling Championships Preview

Iowa State Athletics Communications (www.cyclones.com)

The Cyclones head down to Norman, Oklahoma on Saturday to compete in the 2014 Big XII Wrestling Championships. At four weights: 125, 165, 174, and 197 the team is looking to put the finishing touches on successful regular seasons and improve NCAA tournament seeds. At the other six weights the wrestlers are looking to atone for disappointing regular season results by stealing an invitation to the NCAA Championships in Oklahoma City via an upset or two. I expect that when the dust settles we'll have qualified about 6 wrestlers for NCAAs. 125, 165, 174, and 197 will get through as long as they wrestle to seed and at least two other wrestlers should be able to steal a spot, most likely at 149, 184, 157, or HWT. Last year the team overperformed at Big XIIs and NCAAs, and once again they've got a shot to end the season on a high note.

The number of allocations the conference has earned at each weight plays heavily on qualification chances. At 174 pounds the conference earned four allocations. So an NCAA spot is assured as long as Weatherman makes weight and takes the mat. But at 184 pounds the conference only earned one allocation, so Weatherspoon or Beard will have to win the conference to punch their ticket to NCAAs. Every other weight is somewhere in between. But generally if the Cyclone wrestler wins his first match he's going to Oklahoma City.

Saturday's schedule:

3 p.m. Semifinal matches
5 p.m. Third-Place Matches
7 p.m. Championship Matches

The first round and third place matches will be streamed by Campus Insiders (details at the tournament homepage) and the finals shown live on various Fox Sports channels (full listings here).

And finally, a weight by weight look at what's in store for the Cyclones in Norman.

Rankings are Coaches Panel/Intermat/The Open Mat/D1Collegewrestling.net

125: 3 Allocations

Projected Seed Wrestler School Record Ranking
1 Jarrod Patterson Oklahoma 21-5 (2-0) 7/7/7/7
2 Eddie Klimara Oklahoma State 17-7 (3-1) 14/13/17/15
3 Earl Hall Iowa State 18-10 (1-2) 23/NR/NR/23
4 Cory Stainbrook West Virginia 25-13 (1-2) NR/NR/NR/NR

The big question here is which Earl Hall are we going to see. The Earl Hall who makes a habit of taking down and pinning ranked wrestlers at will? Or the Earl Hall that went almost a month and a half without scoring a single offensive point? Hall's first match will be against Eddie Klimara, who beat him 9-1 at the Southern Scuffle but only 4-2 in overtime a few weeks later at our dual with Oklahoma State. An upset win wouldn't do Hall much good in terms of seeding at NCAAs – at best it would push him into the #15 or #16 spot, which isn't much better than not being seeded at all. But it would be a good sign that he is back in his groove and ready to do some damage at NCAAs.

If Hall does not get the upset win then he'll likely have Cory Stainbrook in the second round. That match will be for the last available NCAA spot. Hall only beat Stainbrook 11-8 in their only meeting and Stainbrook's lack of a chance at an at-large spot will mean he has a lot more to wrestle for. A loss wouldn't be the end of the world for Hall, he's got a very good resume to get an at-large, but it would be a bad sign for the team if they aren't able to count on Hall to earn points at NCAAs.

133: 2 Allocations

Projected Seed Wrestler School Record Ranking
1 Jon Morrison Oklahoma State 23-1 (4-0) 4/4/4/4
2 Cody Brewer Oklahoma 19-5 (2-2) 11/12/9/12
3 Nathan Pennesi West Virginia 17-9 (1-2) 25/NR/NR/NR
4 Shayden Terikuna Iowa State 6-12 (0-1) NR/NR/NR/NR

The Big XII just missed out on getting a third allocation at this weight. Nathan Pennesi of West Virginia was ranked high enough in the coaches poll, but was just short (32nd) in RPI and winning percentage against D-1 opponents (.640 when .700 was needed). This puts Terikuna in a bad spot, as his only shot at stealing a spot at NCAAs would be to beat the #4 ranked guy in the country in the 1-4 match. Shayden is a big throw kind of guy so anything is possible, but 133 will be an order of magnitude tougher for Iowa State to qualify than any other weight.

141: 3 Allocations

Projected Seed Wrestler School Record Ranking
1 Colin Johnston West Virginia 28-6 (3-0) 14/14/16/13
2 Anthony Collica Oklahoma State 26-7 (3-1) 17/17/20/17
3 Nick Lester Oklahoma 16-9 (1-3) 22/NR/NR/22
4 Gabe Moreno Iowa State 15-18 (0-3) NR/NR/NR/NR

Gabe Moreno had a decent start to the season, putting together a 15-8 record that included a win over last year's 4th place finisher at NCAAs. However, January and February have not been kind to Gabe and he is riding a 10 match losing streak. Gabe's first round opponent, Colin Johnston of West Virginia, is ranked in the mid teens and only beat Gabe 5-3 when they faced off in November. So he is not facing as much of an uphill battle as Terikuna is at 133 despite both being #4 seeds.

There are 3 spots available at this weight, but realistically Gabe has to win his first match to go to Oklahoma City. A loss against Johnston would likely put him up against Nick Lester of Oklahoma. Gabe matches up horribly against Lester and in two matches this season has lost by a combined 23-0. The big question mark for Gabe here is whether having an extra hour following weigh ins to recover from his cut will be enough for him to wrestle at the level he's shown us flashes of this season.

149: 3 Allocations

Projected Seed Wrestler School Record Ranking
1 Kendric Maple Oklahoma 24-5 (2-1) 5/4/5/4
2 Josh Kindig Oklahoma State 19-7 (3-1) 9/9/10/8
3 Luke Goettl Iowa State 14-13 (1-2) 33/NR/NR/NR
4 Mike Morales West Virginia 18-6 (1-2) 18/20/20/18

Even though Goettl should get the #3 seed at 149, it was Morales who earned the 3rd allocation for the conference. But Goettl owns a 6-3 win over Morales in November. Because of that head to head win, this weight is probably our best shot at stealing a spot at NCAAs. To say Goettl has been frustrating to watch this year is an understatement, with multiple matches where he goes up early and then just fades away late, and other matches where he has random lapses where he doesn't even sprawl when hit with a shot, or gives up easy backpoints. However, he is a two time NCAA qualifier and has shown already this season that he can beat Morales.

While an upset win over Kindig in his first match isn't impossible, Goettl only lost to Kindig 8-5 in their only meeting this season. It is the 3rd place match against Morales that I'd expect him and the coaches to be focusing on during their Big XII preparations. 149 is also the only weight where we did not earn an allocation but would have a chance at an at-large bid if Goettl is unable to steal a spot. Goettl's coaches poll ranking, RPI, and quality wins put him in a position to get an at large if, and only if, there are no upsets at 149 in the various qualifying tournaments this weekend.

157: 2 Allocations

Projected Seed Wrestler School Record Ranking
1 Alex Dieringer Oklahoma State 25-1 (4-0) 2/1/1/1
2 Justin DeAngelis Oklahoma 21-5 (1-1) 19/17/19/21
3 John Nicholson Iowa State 11-13 (1-2) NR/NR/NR/NR
4 Brutus Scheffel West Virginia 13-8 (0-2) NR/NR/NR/NR

Another weight where the first match is the only one that matters, Nicholson has had a disappointing season but could redeem himself with a strong Big XIIs. And DeAngelis has been injured lately, which could make Nicholson's job easier depending on how bad the injury is when they take the mat this weekend. Nicholson lost to a healthy DeAngelis 8-5 in January, so it is not a huge gap to overcome.

165: 2 Allocations

Projected Seed Wrestler School Record Ranking
1 Tyler Caldwell Oklahoma State 22-3 (4-0) 4/5/5/2
2 Mike Moreno Iowa State 25-6 (2-1) 8/9/12/11
3 Clark Glass Oklahoma 13-11 (1-3) 32/NR/NR/NR
4 Ross Renzi West Virginia 20-15 (0-3) NR/NR/NR/NR

This is a big one for us. Right now Moreno is looking at an 8 or 9 seed at NCAAs. Which would put him up against Taylor of Penn State in the quarterfinals. Moreno really, really, really needs to more up to the 6 or 7 spot. And a win over Caldwell would be a great way to do that. Moreno split matches with Caldwell last season and is 0-1 against him this year after a 5-1 loss in January. A win here would provide a big boost to our point scoring chances at NCAAs so it is safe to say that the likely Caldwell-Moreno matchup is the biggest match of the tournament for ISU. If Moreno does not get a win over Caldwell then he'll have to hope that upsets elsewhere provide him the boost he needs.

174: 4 Allocations

Projected Seed Wrestler School Record Ranking
1 Andrew Howe Oklahoma 22-0 (2-0) 1/1/1/1
2 Chris Perry Oklahoma State 23-1 (3-1) 2/2/2/2
3 Tanner Weatherman Iowa State 21-13 (1-2) 11/11/20/12
4 Bubba Scheffel West Virginia 29-7 (1-2) 24/NR/NR/NR

The "Did you make weight?" bracket. This is the only bracket in any qualifier across the entire country where every single wrestler has already wrapped up an invitation to Oklahoma City. For Weatherman this is all about seeding and nothing else. He only lost to Perry 6-4 in their only meeting of the season and Perry will likely be focused entirely on beating Howe during his pre-Big XII workouts. So the chance for Weatherman to pull an upset is there. That would be a huge win because Tanner has yet to get a win over an AA caliber wrestler this season, so that would go a long way towards giving confidence of his ability to score points for Iowa State at NCAAs.

On the other side of that, if Tanner falls to the 3rd place match he'll be up against a guy who he only beat 7-6 in November. A loss there could drop Tanner out of being seeded and be a big blow to Iowa State's scoring hopes. Even though Weatherman is sure of going to Oklahoma City he still has a lot riding on his performance at Big XIIs this weekend.

184: 1 Allocation

Projected Seed Wrestler School Record Ranking
1 Nolan Boyd Oklahoma State 28-10 (2-0) 22/NR/NR/24
2 Danny Chaid Oklahoma 10-7 (2-0) NR/NR/NR/NR
3 Lelund Weatherspoon Iowa State 22-9 (1-1) 33/NR/NR/NR
4 Mac Mancuso West Virginia 20-12 (0-3) NR/NR/NR/NR

The weakest weight class in the conference, only the Big XII champion will be going to Oklahoma City at 184. However, it is also a weight class that is ripe for the picking by Weatherspoon or Beard. Beard had a big lead over Chaid during our dual with Oklahoma until he faded late in a 6-5 loss, and Weatherspoon went to overtime against Boyd while still weighing in at 174. Along with 149 and HWT, the bracket at 184 gives us a great opportunity to steal an NCAA spot.

197: 2 Allocations

Projected Seed Wrestler School Record Ranking
1 Kyven Gadson Iowa State 23-2 (3-0) 1/1/1/1
2 Travis Rutt Oklahoma 19-4 (3-1) 5/7/7/7
3 Blake Rosholt Oklahoma State 11-7 (0-1) 21/16/NR/NR
4 Leo Trindade West Virginia 16-14 (1-2) NR/NR/NR/NR

This bracket is tougher than it looks. Blake Rosholt is a returning All American who knocked Kyven into the consolation bracket in Des Moines last year. But he has been injured for much of this year and failed to earn himself an allocation. So if he takes the mat at all (Kyle Crutchmer would be their guy if Rosholt doesn't go) he will be fighting for his season this weekend. Because of this, seeding is going to matter a lot. Trindade beat the Oklahoma State backup and Rosholt lost in his only Big XII match. Their only common Big XII opponent is Travis Rutt, who beat them both 12-3. So depending on how much the seeding committee weighs Trindade's Big XII win vs Rosholt's history and ranking either of them could get the #4 seed. I'm going to guess that Rosholt will get the 3 seed, giving Gadson Trindade in the first round. But if that switches the tournament will suddenly become much more interesting. Gadson and Rosholt do not like each other.

Regardless of who Gadson ends up facing he's wrestling for the #1 seed at NCAAs. If Gadson wins his second Big XII championship he'll go into Oklahoma City on top and avoid Cox of Missouri and McIntosh of Penn State until the finals. If he loses he's likely looking at the #3-5 seed and a much tougher path to Saturday night.

HWT: 2 Allocations

Projected Seed Wrestler School Record Ranking
1 Austin Marsden Oklahoma State 18-6 (3-1) 18/15/17/18
2 A.J. Vizcarrondo West Virginia 18-17 (1-1) NR/NR/NR/NR
3 Ross Larson Oklahoma 25-8 (1-2) 21/NR/NR/23
4 Quean Smith Iowa State 8-14 (1-2) NR/NR/NR/NR

This is a tough weight to project the seeds. Larson beat Mardsen in December 3-2 and the Oklahoma coaching staff sat him for Bedlam 2 in February in order to protect that win. Which means that both Smith and Larson are 1-2 in the Big XII with Smith owning the head to head win but Larson having a better record and ranking. However, either way, this is a very evenly matched weight class from top to bottom. The only match between these four wrestlers that didn't go down to the wire was Quean's 13-2 win over Larson in January when Larson decided that Quean looked like the type of guy who would be easy to front headlock (spoiler: he isn't).

In his first match, Quean will either be facing Mardsen, who beat him 2-0, or Vizcarrondo, who he has not faced. Pretty much every match of Quean's against wrestlers like those two are 50/50 propositions. With a win he's going to Oklahoma City. With a loss he's looking forward to next year.

Overall the Big XII tournament is step one at a shot at redemption for the season. The opportunity is there for the team to qualify as many as 8 to 9 wrestlers to the NCAA championships and put multiple guys in position to reach All American status. The opportunity is also there for the team to stumble and only qualify 3 to 4 wrestlers to Oklahoma City. At a team level the conference is very stratified this season and even with multiple upsets the likely team finish is pretty set going in:

  1. Oklahoma State
  2. Oklahoma
  3. Iowa State
  4. West Virginia

But within those constraints there is lots of room for Cyclone wrestlers to earn some upset wins. Can the team turn things around and win those close matches that they lost this season? Or will most of our guys be watching NCAAs on ESPN instead of matside? We'll find out on Saturday.

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