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2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships Day 1 Preview & Game Thread

Clear the mats!

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

A long and grueling season for the Cyclones will reach its end over the next three days as the wrestlers take the mats for the last time this season in Madison Square Garden in New York.

When Are The Sessions & How Do I Watch Them?

Session Date Time Channel
1 Thursday, March 17th 12 p.m. EDT ESPNU (some mats), ESPN3 (all mats)
2 Thursday, March 17th 7 p.m. EDT ESPNU (some mats), ESPN3 (all mats)
3 (quarterfinals)
Friday, March 18th 11 a.m. EDT ESPNU (some mats), ESPN3 (all mats)
4 (semifinals)
Friday, March 18th 8 p.m EDT ESPN (Semifinals), ESPN3 (all mats)
Saturday, March 19th 11 a.m. EDT ESPNU (some mats), ESPN3 (all mats)
6 (finals)
Saturday, March 19th 11 a.m. EDT ESPN

Cyclone Lineup

Weight Wrestler Record
125 Kyle Larson 23-15
133 #8 Earl Hall 29-7
165 #9 Tanner Weatherman 28-8
174 Lelund Weatherspoon 24-10
184 Dane Pestano 24-13
197 Patrick Downey 6-2

Weight-By Weight Breakdown


Kyle Larson drew Nathan Tommaselo of Ohio State, the #1 seed at 125, to start the tournament. That is very unlikely to go well.  However, he’ll have a real chance to pick up a win or two on the backside. He’ll drop in to the consolation pigtail match against the loser of Tolbert from Utah Valley and Jeske from Old Dominion. Jeske is a 3 time NCAA qualifier but is unranked by Intermat (33rd in the last coaches panel) and took 4th place at the MAC championships.  Tolbert has been ranked for most of the season but was wrestling with one leg mummy wrapped at the Big XII tournament. They met there in the consolations and Larson was on pace to beat him by a major decision when Tolbert injury defaulted out.  I expect Tolbert to still be hobbled on Thursday and lose to Jeske.  A healthy Tolbert would beat Larson nine times out of ten, but with him having a bum knee I think Larson has a pretty good shot at a win, possibly even with bonus points.

If Larson does pick up that win in the consolation pigtails he’ll get the loser of the match between 16 seeded Elijah Oliver of Indiana and Sean McCabe from Rutgers. They wrestled at the Big Ten tournament the other weekend with Oliver coming away with an 8-6 win.  Assuming he wins again that sets up a Larson vs. McCabe match. They’ve wrestled once this season, a 6-4 win for McCabe at Midlands. It’ll be a tough, but winnable match for Larson.  If he is able to avenge that Midlands loss and stay alive the road gets much tougher from there on out, as he’d likely be up against 19th ranked, 15th seed David Terao of American in the second round of consolations. Larson generally struggles to win against ranked opponents and I don’t see that changing on Thursday. But if he can manage to get that far and go 2-2 that’s still a pretty good day for Larson.

Best case: 2-2 and survives to Friday

Worst case: 0-2 and hits the buffet


Earl Hall is the #8 seed in the 133 bracket and will open against unranked Josh Martinez of Air Force, who took 5th at Big XIIs. Hall is 2-0 all time against Martinez but they have not met since 2014. As long as Hall avoids the upset he’ll likely see the #9 seed, 9th ranked Mark McGuire of Kent State in the second round. Hall beat McGuire in a tight 4-3 match at the Virginia Duals in January. A win there sets hall up nicely for an AA run on Friday. A loss would send him to a tough quarter of the consolation bracket.

Best case: 2-0 and in to Friday’s quarterfinals

Worst case: 1-1 and sent to the consolations


Tanner Weatherman is the #9 seed in the 165 bracket and drew unranked Dakota Juarez of Eastern Michigan in the first round. He should be able to pick up a win there with possible bonus points. Then in the evening round he’ll face Welch from Purdue. Welch is a pinner and he caught Weatherman in the finals at Midlands for a fall. Much like Hall at 133, a win would set him up nicely for an AA run while a loss would drop Weatherman in to some difficult consolation matches to make the top 8.

Best case: 2-0 and in to Friday’s quarterfinals

Worst case: 1-1 and sent to the consolations


Lelund Weatherspoon is unseeded and could not have received a more unlucky draw. He’ll open the tournament against the #2 seed, Brian Realbuto of Cornell. While Weatherspoon has shown the ability to beat just about anybody over the course of his career, he’ll be a heavy underdog against Realbuto. And a loss there would likely send him to a consolation match against Sean Mappes of Chattanooga, who beat Lelund 4-3 at the Virginia Duals. So just to do better than 0-2 he’ll have to avenge a loss. If he is able to get the turnaround win over Mappes he’ll likely have the #16 seed, Micah Barnes of Nebraska, to stay alive in to Friday. They have not met but based on results so far this season that match would be a tossup

Best case: 2-1 and still alive in the consolations

Worst case: 0-2 and wishing he hadn’t missed out on a seed


Dane Pestano is unseeded and in a similar situation to Larson. Despite being one of the lower ranked wrestlers in the bracket his draw gives him a shot at picking up a win or two before he has to pack his bags. He’ll open the tournament on Thursday against the #12 seed, Hayden Zillmer of NDSU, who has beaten him twice this season. However, a loss there drops him in to a match against Andrew Romanchik of Ohio, who was ranked lower than Pestano in the last coaches panel and actually missed the cut for NCAAs. He was added as an alternate after Ayala of Princeton was unable to compete. That’s a match Dane is not only capable of winning, but one he should be favored in. The fun likely stops there though. As his next opponent would likely be the #11 seed, Lorenzo Thomas of Penn. That’s not a match Pestano is likely to win.

Best case: 1-2 and scoring bonus points in the win

Worst case: 0-2 and done for the weekend.


Patrick Downey is unseeded and probably got the best draw he could have hoped for. He’ll open against the #11 seed, Phil Wellington from Ohio. Downey certainly has the ability to get a win there, but until we see him on the mat we don’t know how limited he’ll be by injury as he was at Big XIIs.  A win there would set him up against the #6 seed, Jared Haught of Virginia Tech. That’s not a match he’s likely to win even if healthy but we really don’t know what Downey’s ceiling is for this season so who knows. A loss would drop Downey in to a pigtail match against the loser of Bolich of Lehigh and Scott of Northern Illinois. Either one of those guys is beatable by a healthy Downey and that would give him a matchup against Sam Wheeler of Cleveland State in the first round of consolations before a showdown with (presumably) the #12 seed, Micheal Boykin of NC State. Downey showed at Big XIIs he’s capable of wins over wrestlers of that caliber but, as noted above, we don’t know if he’ll be healthy or what his ceiling is if he is. This weight class is a big question mark despite the fairly favorable draw.

Best case: 2-0 and in to the quarterfinals

Worst case: 0-2 and home to heal up for next year.

Overall thoughts

This tournament could be the cap on a disappointing year or a shot at redemption for a team that showed glimpses of domination throughout the season. Given how the possible day 2 matchups shape up on the backside if our seeded guys guys stumble, day 1 results will mean the difference between multiple All Americans or finishing outside the top 20.  I think at the end of the day we'll have 2 guys in the quarterfinals and another 2-3 still alive on the backside.