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NCAA Wrestling Championships Day 1 Preview & Open Thread

March Matness kicks off on Thursday

The Cyclones are headed down to St. Louis for the next three days for the 2015 NCAA D1 Wrestling Championships.  Seven Iowa State wrestlers have qualified, with four earning top ten seeds.  After several years of finishing just outside the top ten in the team race, the Cyclones have a great chance to push themselves back in to that top tier of teams.  Thursday will feature the first two rounds of action in the championship bracket and one round in the consolations.

If you're reading this before the first round kicks off at noon on Thursday, there's still time to submit a team for our Fantasy Wrestling pool, with both bragging rights and an XL "3zus Saves" on the line for the winner.

Where: St. Louis, MO
When: See schedule below
Video: ESPNU (select matches), ESPN3 (all matches)

As always, WRNL will be providing live results on twitter via @GrappleCy.

Tournament Schedule

Session 1 Championship 1st round Thursday, March 19th; 11AM-2:30 PM CDT
Session 2 Championship 2nd Round, Consolation 1st Round Thursday, March 19th; 6PM-9:30 PM CDT
Session 3 Quarterfinals, Consolation 2nd-3rd rounds Friday, March 20th; 10AM-1PM CDT
Session 4 Semifinals, Round of 12, Consolation 5th round Friday, March 20th; 7PM-10PM CDT
Session 5 Consolation Semifinals, 3rd, 5th, & 7th place matches Saturday, March 21st; 10AM-1PM CDT
Session 6 Finals Saturday, March 21st; 7PM-10PM CDT

Day 1 Matchups

Earl Hall

At 133, Earl Hall earned the 6 seed and drew unseeded, but ranked 15th by Intermat, Eric Montoya of Nebraska.  Montoya has a 3-1 win over #8 seeded Kevin Devoy of Drexel but other than that has lost to all the top tier wrestlers he faced this season.  His only other win over a seeded wrestler is a 3-0 win over #11 seeded Sabatello of Purdue at the Big Ten championships, which avenged a 2-5 loss from January. Barring a stumble, Hall should be able to get a solid win here, though bonus points are unlikely - Montoya has only given up bonus in three matches this season.  With a win, Hall will get the winner of the match between #11 seed Danny Sabatello of Purdue and unseeded Zach Synon of Missouri.  Hall has not wrestled Sabatello this season but owns a 6-4 win over Synon from the Southern Scuffle.

Wrestlestats matchup comparison between Hall and Montoya

Matchup comparison between Hall and Sabatello / Hall and Synon

Dante Rodriguez

At 141, Dante Rodriguez is unseeded and drew the #13 seed, Randy Cruz of Lehigh, in the first round.  Cruz is ranked 14th by Intermat.  They have not met this season.  Cruz will be favored, but not overwhelmingly so.  Dante will likely go for his normal upper body throws and he's got a great chance at pulling the upset.  With luck, maybe even scoring us 2 bonus points for a pin in the process.  With a win, Dante would likely get 4 seeded Devin Carter during Session II.  With a loss, he'd likely get unseeded and unranked Tyler Small of Kent State to stay alive into Friday.

Wrestlestate matchup comparison between Rodriguez and Cruz

Matchup comparison between Rodriguez and Carter / Rodriguez and Small

Gabe Moreno

At 149, Gabe Moreno earned the 9 seed and drew unseeded, 20th ranked, Colin Heffernan of Central Michigan in the first round.  Moreno and Heffernan have met twice this season, with Gabe winning their first bout 7-6 and Heffernan winning the second 12-7 at the Southern Scuffle.  The whole team was in a funk at the Scuffle so Gabe has a great chance in the rubber match as long as his shoulder is healthy.  If he's unable to get any strength out of his shoulder then Thursday might be a rough day for him.

With a win Moreno will likely get the 8 seed, Alexander Richardson of Old Dominion.  They have not met this season but that would be a tough match even if Gabe is healthy.  If his shoulder isn't up to the challenge and he takes a loss, he'll likely have Chris Perez of Princeton, who he also has not met this season but should be a winnable match even with one arm.

Wrestlestats matchup comparison between Moreno and Heffernan

Matchup comparison between Moreno and Richardson / Moreno and Perez

Micheal Moreno

At 165, Micheal Moreno earned the 2 seed and drew unseeded and unranked Austin Wilson of Nebraska in the first round.  Wilson doesn't have any wins over top wrestlers this year, but he has kept a lot of matches close.  He's only given up two major decisions all year.  Still, hopefully Moreno can get some bonus points to help us out in the team race and cruise into a much tougher second round matchup with 15 seeded, but 12th ranked, Ethan Ramos of North Carolina.  Ramos is a dangerous wrestler who owns a win over fourth seeded Nick Sulzer this year.  But Moreno is going to be locked in and should come away with a win to send himself into Friday morning's quarterfinals.

Wrestlestats matchup comparison between Moreno and Wilson

Matchup comparison between Moreno and Ramos

Tanner Weatherman

At 174, Tanner Weatherman earned the 13 seed and drew unseeded and unranked Dominic Kastl of Cal Poly in the first round.  Kastl has faced a very easy schedule this season, with no matches against wrestlers currently ranked by Intermat, so it is tough to get a good feel for his capabilities.  But Weatherman should be able to come away with a win and possibly earn ISU some bonus points.  That should set up a rematch with 4 seed, 6th ranked, John Eblen of Missouri.  Elben beat Weatherman 7-3 at the Southern Scuffle and will definitely be favored in this matchup.  A win is hardly out of the question and would give Weatherman a spot in Friday morning's quarterfinals while a loss would likely set up a Friday morning matchup in the consolations against Crutchmer of Oklahoma State.

Wrestlestats matchup comparison between Weatherman and Kastl

Matchup comparison between Weatherman and Eblen

Lelund Weatherspoon

At 184 Lelund Weatherspoon is unseeded and drew the #12 seed, 20th ranked Nolan Boyd of Oklahoma State.  Lelund beat Boyd 5-1 in the dual with Oklahoma State but lost 2-1 on riding time in the Big XII finals.  This one should be another nailbiter but a loss wouldn't be the most terrible thing in the world - going through the brackets, a first round loss drops Weatherspoon into a somewhat favorable position for a run to the All American rounds without needing to beat any top eight wrestlers, while getting a first round win would likely require him to beat at least two top guys to make it to the podium.  If he does get the win against Boyd, he'll likely have 5 seeded Taylor Meeks of Oregon State in the second round, while a loss would give him unseeded and unranked Taylor Sleigh of Bucknell.

Wrestlestats matchup comparison between Weatherspoon and Boyd

Matchup comparison between Weatherspoon and Meeks / Weatherspoon and Sleigh

Kyven Gadson

At 197 Kyven Gadson earned the 3 seed and drew the winner of the pigtail match between Nathan Rotert of SDSU and Basil Minto of UNI.  Gadson beat Minto 17-5 at the UNI dual but has not faced Rotert.  Whoever makes it out of the pigtail, Gadson should be ready to not only win, but score some bonus points.  With a win Gadson will likely get the 14 seed, 12th ranked Phil Wellington of Ohio.  That should be a tougher match but short of something crazy happening there's no reason Gadson shouldn't be able to get another win and push himself into Friday morning's quarterfinals.

Wrestlestats matchup comparison between Gadson and Minto / Gadson and Rotert

Matchup comparison between Gadson and Wellington

Overall Day 1 Thoughts

If the Cyclones are going to end up in the top ten it'll start with strong performances on Day 1.  They'll need to punch at least 3, and hopefully 4, guys in to the quarterfinals and keep everyone else alive in the consolation bracket.  The big question mark will be Gabe Moreno - if he's healthy he should be able to challenge for reaching the All American rounds.  If his shoulder isn't able to go then he might fall out of the tournament after 2 or 3 matches, and that would be a big hit to ISU's team score.  And the big wild card is Dante Rodriguez - if he gets hot he can score a lot of points even if he doesn't make a deep run.  Those extra two team points from a pin really add up.

Outside of Iowa State interests, the team title appears to be a three way race between Iowa, Ohio State, and Missouri.

What's next

We'll be posting results here and on twitter throughout the day on Thursday.  Then either late Thursday or early Friday morning we'll have a Recap & Day 2 Preview/Open Thread followed by a Day 3 Preview/Open Thread on Saturday.  Updates on Fantasy Wrestling pool standings will be included in each day's preview.