The Cyclones will play host to the Big XII Wrestling Championships this Saturday. In most years, this event would be the final step in qualifying towards NCAAs. And it still is important, but if you take a look at the NCAA Allocations announcement you'll notice two things out of the ordinary.
First, you'll notice there is no "Big XII" on that list. And second, you'll notice that the total allocation numbers don't add up to 29 like usual. Well, maybe you didn't notice the second one. But don't worry, I won't tell anybody.
This is because, due political infighting between the Big XII and NCAA, the Big XII lost its status as a qualifying event for NCAAs this year. Wrestlers from the Big XII who in normal years would have earned an allocation for the conference instead had the at large pool increased at their weight. For example, at 285 Ross Larson of Oklahoma and Austin Marsden of Oklahoma State met the standards for an allocation, so the at large pool was increased from the normal four to six. At some weights the numbers still don't add up - 125 being the most blatant. There are only four wrestling schools in the Big XII, and only two of the four wrestlers at that weight met the standard for an allocation, but the at large pool was increased by five. The case of Natty Lite that was shipped to NCAA headquarters for the allocations meeting might have had something to do with these strange results.
For our seven guys who are would have earned allocations in a normal year, that isn't a huge deal. They all are well positioned in the at large pool and the only one of them who might end up sweating a little bit is Rodriguez, due to his lack of a marque win. Even then he'll only be in trouble if he crashes and burns at Big XIIs and there are a whole lot of upsets elsewhere. Where this is going to hit the Cyclones is the other three wrestlers. Larson, Goettl, and Smith can't "steal" a spot like they would in a normal year. Instead all they can do is get an upset or two and hope that improves their resume enough to earn an at large bid.
Weight By Weight Preview
Wrestlers in bold are wrestlers who would have earned an allocation in a normal year. Wrestlers in italics are wrestlers who should be competitive for one of the four usual at large bids. Rankings are from Intermat // 2-25-15 Coaches Panel.
|1||9/10 Eddie Klimara||Oklahoma State||18-5|
|2||UR/22 Zeke Moisey||West Virginia||27-12|
|4||UR/33 Kyle Larson||Iowa State||19-12|
1. Eddie Klimara (OSU)
2. Zeke Moisey (WVU)
3. Kyle Larson (ISU)
4. Ryan Milhoff (OU)
I considered calling for a bigger upset here, after all, Larson led Klimara for much of their match earlier this season and ended up with only an 8-7 loss. However, I think a win over Klimara would be tough going, especially since there isn't a certain NCAA spot on the table with a win to give Larson that extra motivation. However, ISU always gets some extra wins in the post season and I think Larson will be able to reverse his 3-2 loss to Milhoff and come away with 3rd place. Then he'll be keeping his fingers crossed until at large bids are announced on March 12th.
What does Larson have to do to get an at large spot?
Third place and he's 50/50. If he beats Klimara but loses to Moisey and takes 2nd place and he's probably going to St. Louis. If he beats them both he's a lock as long as their isn't chaos elsewhere across the country.
|1||4/4 Earl Hall||Iowa State||24-5|
|2||5/3 Cody Brewer||Oklahoma||15-1|
|3||UR/29 Gary Wayne-Harding||Oklahoma State||27-9|
|4||Cory Stainbrook||West Virginia||14-17|
1. Earl Hall (ISU)
2. Cody Brewer (OU)
3. Gary Wayne-Harding (OSU)
4. Cory Stainbrook (WVU)
Hall pinned Brewer, giving him his only loss of the season, when they met last month. I don't expect Brewer to get caught again and a win over Hall wouldn't be a huge upset. That said, Hall has been on a tear since the start of the year and will likely be looking to make amends for his loss to Taylor to close out the regular season. I think Hall picks up a close win to take the conference title and gets his momentum back going into St. Louis. However, if he does end up taking 2nd I wouldn't consider that to be a huge deal. As I've mentioned in several previews, 133 is a wide open weight class and moving up or down a spot or two in seedings due to Big XIIs won't make much of a difference for Hall. All that matters is that he gets hot in St. Louis, as any of the top 10 guys at this weight could end up on the top of the podium on Saturday night.
What does Hall have to do to get an at large spot?
Make weight and step on the mat.
|1||17/17 Dean Heil||Oklahoma State||20-8|
|2||UR/20 Dante Rodriguez||Iowa State||17-5|
|3||18/16 Mike Morales||West Virginia||28-10|
1. Dean Heil (OSU)
2. Mike Morales (WVU)
3. Dante Rodriguez (ISU)
4. Trae Blackwell (OU)
This once is kind of tough to predict, as Dante is a high risk-high reward guy who is such a danger to pin anybody that I'm never willing to count him totally out of any match, so really it is just about as likely he wins the tournament as anything else. That said, when Dante and Morales met in Morgantown, Morales gassed in the third period and Dante was able to score a bunch of points as clock ticked down to come away with a 13-10 victory. I'd like to say that'll happen again. But Morales is going to have a lot to prove at Big XIIs and I think he'll come in much more prepared and in shape than he did last month. If Dante is able to get a second victory over Morales that would set up a chance to avenge his worst performance of the season, a 17-3 loss to Heil in the Cyclone's dual against Oklahoma State.
What does Rodriguez have to do to get an at large spot?
He's probably in even with 4th place. With 3rd he gets in as long as there isn't absolute chaos elsewhere. 1st or 2nd and he's a lock.
|1||6/5 Josh Kindig||Oklahoma State||13-2|
|2||12/10 Gabe Moreno||Iowa State||25-5|
|4||Who Knows||West Virginia||A little - A lot|
1. Josh Kindig (OSU)
2. Gabe Moreno (ISU)
3. Shayne Tucker (OU)
4. ?????? (WVU)
Kindig and Gabe Moreno never met during the regular season, but I think Kindig will get the nod for the #1 seed due to his higher ranking and being a returning NCAA finalist. The #1 seed here is probably worth an extra point or two, as West Virginia has used about 4 different wrestlers at 149 this season and none of them have been remotely effective, while the Oklahoma wrestler that the #2 seed will meet in the first round will at least have some fight in him. In the finals I have to give it to Kindig via decision. Gabe has shown himself to be solid this season and I'm starting to feel comfortable that he could reach the R12 or even luck into a low AA spot, but I think Kindig will be to much for him and come away with a 4-5 point win.
What does Gabe Moreno have to do to get an at large spot?
Make weight and step on the mat.
|1||17/16 Anthony Collica
|2||19/20 Justin DeAngelis||Oklahoma||19-5
|3||Luke Goettl||Iowa State||17-9|
|4||Brutus Scheffel||West Virginia||7-13|
1. Justin DeAngelis (OU)
2. Anthony Collica (OSU)
3. Luke Goettl (ISU)
4. Brutus Scheffel (WVU)
This is a weight where we are going to really feel the impact of the Big XII's lack of qualifier status. In a normal year, I'd feel pretty good about Goettl's chances to knock off DeAngelis in the first round and sneak his way to St. Louis. But this isn't a normal year, and that probably isn't in the cards. I think DeAngelis is going to have more to wrestle for than Goettl and will get the first round win, but Luke will close out his Cyclone career with a W over Scheffel. It is certainly possible for Goettl to win this weight - neither Collica nor DeAngelis are unbeatable, elite guys. And two good wins like that would push Luke into having a decent chance at an large spot. But... in the last few weeks of the season he had several opportunities to secure wins over guys ranked lower than those two and failed to do so. So I don't have a lot of confidence that will change on Saturday.
What does Goettl have to do to get an at large spot?
|1||1/1 Alex Dieringer||Oklahoma State||26-0|
|2||2/2 Micheal Moreno||Iowa State||21-2|
|3||UR/29 Clark Glass||Oklahoma||17-12|
|4||Ross Renzi||West Virginia||12-12|
1. Alex Dieringer (OSU)
2. Micheal Moreno (ISU)
3. Clark Glass (OU)
4. Ross Renzi (WVU)
This bracket is probably the most likely of the whole tournament to go to chalk. There's a clear stratification between Dieringer (who might be the best wrestler in college this season), Moreno, Glass, and Renzi. For Moreno, I don't even care whether or not he wins. Just hope he stays healthy and keeps it respectable. He's in a good spot for a 2 or 3 seed in St. Louis and if he only beats Dieringer once, I'd much rather it happened at NCAAs.
What does Mike Moreno have to do to get an at large spot?
Make weight and step on the mat.
|1||11/11 Kyle Crutchmer||Oklahoma State||16-6|
|2||16/19 Matt Reed||Oklahoma||24-10|
|3||12/12 Tanner Weatherman||Iowa State||22-7|
|4||Parker VonEgidy||West Virginia||7-10|
1. Kyle Crutchmer (OSU)
2. Tanner Weatherman (ISU)
3. Matt Reed (OU)
4. Parker VonEgidy (WVU)
I think that Weatherman will be in the finals for sure. His loss to Reed last month was part of a slump and I don't see that being repeated. But I'm not so sure about Crutchmer. Weatherman has lost to him twice and it is possible that he might just be better or a bad matchup. There isn't a lot on the line seeding-wise here, Tanner will be somewhere around 11-14th either way. However, if Weatherman is going to take that next step to go from the Round of Twelve to All American a win over Crutchmer on Saturday would be a nice place to start.
What does Weatherman have to do to get an at large spot?
Make weight and step on the mat.
|1||18/17 Lelund Weatherspoon||Iowa State||16-4|
|2||20/16 Nolan Boyd||Oklahoma State||23-7|
|3||UR/28 Bubba Scheffel||West Virginia
|4||Brook Clemmons||West Virginia||3-14|
1. Lelund Weatherspoon (ISU)
2. Nolan Boyd (OSU)
3. Bubba Scheffel (WVU)
4. Brook Clemmons (OU)
For a while it looked like Boyd was going to challenge for AA status this year, knocking off top ten guys and really controlling matches. But since then he has cooled off and I think Lelund is able to take advantage of that to pick up his second Big XII champion title. If he does end up taking second that won't be the end of the world, he's looking at a 15 or 16 seed in St. Louis and going unseeded would actually be a better situation for him than being a low seed, as he's likely to spend more time on the championship bracket if he isn't matched up against a top two guy in the second round.
What does Weatherspoon have to do to get an at large spot?
As long as their isn't chaos elsewhere, he's in as long as he makes weight and steps on the mat. But with 3rd place or better Weatherspoon should be a lock.
|1||2/2 Kyven Gadson||Iowa State||23-1|
|2||UR/28 Jake Smith||West Virginia||24-8|
|4||Luke Bean||Oklahoma State||8-13|
1. Kyven Gadson (ISU)
2. Jake Smith (WVU)
3. Andrew Dixon (OU)
4. Luke Bean (OSU)
Shouldn't be a whole lot of drama at this weight. Gadson is a huge step up from Smith, who is a pretty big step up from Dixon, who is a step up from Bean. All Gadson has to do here is avoid getting caught and he should be walking in to a #1 or #2 seed in St. Louis.
What does Gadson have to do to get an at large spot?
Make weight and step on the mat.
|1||5/5 Austin Marsden||Oklahoma State||23-2|
|2||13/10 Ross Larson||Oklahoma||22-6|
|3||AJ Vizcarrondo||West Virginia||14-15|
|4||Quean Smith||Iowa State||14-11|
1. Austin Marsden (OSU)
2. Ross Larson (OU)
3. AJ Vizcarrondo (WVU)
4. Quean Smith (ISU)
Based on his being held out from the last meet, I'm not entirely sure we'll see Smith take the mat here, it is possible that Scanlon will get the call. But like 157, this is a weight where the lack of ability to "steal" a spot takes a lot of excitement out of it. Smith is out of the coaches panel so like Goettl I think he'd have to win this weight to have a chance at an at large. Sometimes the chance of pinning yourself is worth the risk, and Big XIIs will be one of those times. Go big or go home Quean. You've got nothing to lose.
What does Smith have to do to get an at large spot?
If he wins his first match and keeps it close in the finals, Smith is probably 50/50 for an at large spot. If he takes first he's all but a lock.
Team Finish Prediction
- Oklahoma State (91 points)
- Iowa State (68 points)
- Oklahoma (43 points)
- West Virginia (25 points)
Oklahoma State should win this one pretty comfortably. The only way Iowa State makes this one close, or pulls out a win, is if the Cyclones win at least nine of their ten opening round matches. Due to the way we match up in these brackets, Iowa State has a much better chance of finishing higher thank the Cowboys in St. Louis than they do in Ames.
While the tournament will lack the urgency of past seasons due the lack of ability to earn an automatic spot to NCAAs based on placement, there should still be some good matches. In the first round, the highlights for the Cyclones should be at 125, 141, 157, and 174. At 125 and 157, Larson and Goettl will both be underdogs but have winnable matches that have big implications for their at large chances. At 141, Rodriguez will get the chance to demonstrate whether or not he can be consistent against mid tier competition. And at 174, Weatherman will get the chance to confirm that his mid season results were an aberration. In the finals, the highlights should be at 133, 149, 174, and 184. At 133, Hall should get to show whether or not he can take out a finalist caliber guy without needing a lucky pin (or he can prove that the pin wasn't so lucky by getting another one). At 149, Gabe Moreno will get to show whether he is a legitimate threat to AA. At 174 Weatherman will get to show whether those loses to Crutchmer were part of his slump, or if he's going to struggle to get past the round of twelve for a third year. And at 184, Weatherspoon will get to show whether he can get a second win over a dark horse AA threat and position himself for a run of his own. There's lots of opportunity in Ames on Saturday.
We'll have a gamethread up on Saturday for the tournament and live results via @GrappleCy as well as the normal ISU channels. Then check back for news on At Large bids on March 12th and NCAA tournament previews and results March 19th-21th as well as info on an NCAA Wrestling Fantasy Pool we'll be running.