Preview: Analyzing Big Ten Pre-Seeds Part 1 - 125 Pounds Through 157 Pounds

By Rob Dougherty on March 5, 2019 at 7:57 am
Penn State Wrestler Jason Nolf
Aaron Doster - USA Today Sports

On Monday, the Big Ten released its pre-seeds for the Big Ten Tournament. The pre-seeds could change from now until the start of the tournament on March 9th, but there's no time like the present to analyze these pre-seeds to see who will automatically qualify for the NCAA Tournament through one of the NCAA allocation spots. Cael Sanderson is also looking to reclaim the Big Ten Tournament title, a championship that has evaded the Nittany Lions since 2016. The Nittany Lions will enter the Big Ten Tournament as an overwhelming favorite to do so. 

125 Pounds - Top 9 automatically qualify for NCAAs

  1. Sebastian Rivera, NU
  2. Spencer Lee, IOWA
  3. Sean Russell, MINN
  4. RayVon Foley, MSU
  5. Travis Piotrowski, ILL
  6. Drew Mattin, MICH
  7. Zeke Moisey, NEB
  8. Malik Heinselman, OSU
  9. Devin Schroder, PUR
  10. Elijah Oliver, IND
  11. Brandon Cray, MD
  12. Devin Schnupp, PSU
  13. Shane Metzler, RU
  14. Ethan Rotondo, WIS

125 pounds is looking like a potentially wide open weight class this March. Spencer Lee has not dominated this season as many expected he would have, and has lost two matches this season. He dropped a decision to No. 1 Sebastian Rivera, and was just pinned by Oklahoma State's Nick Piccininni last weekend. That said, all those selling their Lee stock should probably pump their brakes a bit. The kid has been a winner his whole life. Rivera has had a terrific season, he slots in deservedly at one. The Big Ten is seemingly broken into a few different tiers here at 125, with tier 1 being Lee and Rivera, tier 2 being Sean Russell, and RayVon Foley, and tier 3 being Travis Piotrowski to probably Devin Schroder. 

Devin Schnupp has quickly become a crowd favorite for his grit and determination, but he's going to have an uphill climb to clinch his first NCAA Tournament appearance. He is going to open up with No. 5 Travis Piotrowski in the first round, and Schnupp was pinned by him in their only meeting. A loss there wouldn't sink Schnupp, but he would start off in the wrestlebacks against the loser of Brandon Cray/Drew Mattin. Schnupp has not defeated either. However, there is one thing that is certain, Schnupp is going to fight until the very end. 

133 Pounds - Top 8 Automatically Qualify

  1. Stevan Micic, MICH
  2. Austin DeSanto, IOWA
  3. Nick Suriano, RU
  4. Roman Bravo-Young, PSU
  5. Luke Pletcher, OSU
  6. Ethan Lizak, MINN
  7. Ben Thornton, PUR
  8. Dylan Duncan, ILL
  9. Anthony Tutolo, MSU
  10. Colin Valdiviez, NU
  11. Jens Lantz, WIS
  12. Paul Konrath, IND
  13. Jevon Parrish, NEB
  14. Orion Anderson, MD

Welcome to by far the most difficult and deepest weight in the Big Ten, and probably the whole country as well. There are three NCAA finalists in this weight class alone. No. 1 Stevan Micic is a comfortable favorite entering this tournament, but this weight is so deep that it could lead to upsets anywhere. The seeding here looks to be pretty accurate as well, Bravo-Young gets the 4-seed for his win over Luke Pletcher. Pletcher ranks over Ethan Lizak for his win over Lizak. The top three ranked itself as Micic beat Suriano, and Desanto beat Suriano, so Suriano slotted third. Ben Thornton gets the 7-seed for his win over Bravo-Young, which is the best win for anyone outside the top six. 

Scintillating freshman Roman Bravo-Young has a relatively favorable outlook to the semifinals, all things considered. His first round match will be against Jevon Parrish, who he majored earlier this season 20-7. His quarterfinal would likely be against Luke Pletcher, who he beat 2-1 in overtime, and while still a toss-up, it's a winnable match for Bravo-Young. A semifinal with Micic looms. Sanderson stated that he wanted Bravo-Young to be healthy for the Michigan dual to get a feel for Micic, but Bravo-Young was unable to wrestle. Now, Bravo-Young will get a feel for him on the second biggest stage of the season. It would be quite interesting to see how he fares against the nation's No. 1 wrestler at 133 pounds. 

141 Pounds - Top 9 Automatically Qualify

  1. Michael Carr, ILL
  2. Nick Lee, PSU
  3. Joey McKenna, OSU
  4. Tristan Moran, WIS
  5. Kanen Storr, MICH
  6. Mitch McKee, MINN
  7. Max Murin, IOWA
  8. Chad Red, NEB
  9. Pete Lipari, RU
  10. Nate Limmex, PUR
  11. Kyle Luigs, IND
  12. Austin Eicher, MSU
  13. Danny Bertoni, MD
  14. Alec McKenna, NU

Nick Lee earned the second seed at 141 pounds, and despite some controversy around this decision it appears to be the right one. Lee's loss to Tristan Moran could not overcome Mike Carr's victory over Moran, despite Carr not wrestling Lee or 3-seed Joey McKenna. Carr was undefeated in Big Ten matches, Lee was not, so the decision was made fairly easy. However, the top half of this bracket looks to be quite interesting, as Carr, Moran, Kanen Storr and Chad Red all could come out of here as potential finalists. Carr is 3-0 against Moran, Storr and Red this season, but he won each match by one point. Winners win and all, but it's very tough to navigate a tournament in tight matches like that, and any of Moran, Storr and Red would feel they could close the gap and win here.  

Lee will get a first round bye here, and face the winner of Max Murin/Nate Limmex. Lee will be a big favorite against either. Lee will then be expected to have a semifinal showdown with McKenna, in what promises to be one of the most anticipated matches of the tournament. Lee's win over McKenna essentially clinched the dual against Ohio State this season, and it will be interesting to see what kind of adjustments McKenna makes for their third matchup. There's pretty much no doubt here that the winner of this match will be the favorite in the final, no matter who the opponent is. 

149 Pounds - Top 6 Automatically Qualify

  1. Anthony Ashnault, RU
  2. Micah Jordan, OSU
  3. Pat Lugo, IOWA
  4. Thomas Thorn, MINN
  5. Cole Martin, WIS
  6. Brady Berge, PSU
  7. Shayne Oster, NU
  8. Malik Amine, MICH

149 pounds has been a very up and down weight class all season, but No. 1 Anthony Ashnault looks best positioned to give Rutgers its first ever individual NCAA champion. However, Ashnault is going to have to get through this field first. The seeding at 149 seems relatively fair, Brady Berge is seeded behind Cole Martin after losing to him. Ashnault beat Micah Jordan earlier this season and Pat Lugo beat Tommy Thorn and Martin. Even though Berge is seeded sixth, outside of any really big upsets in conference tournament play, he should receive an at-large bid considering he's ranked 13th in both the coaches' poll and the RPI. 

Berge will enter this tournament seeded sixth in a weight class that is only allocated six spots for the NCAA Tournament. He could be randomly drawn against a wrestler in the first round, but that won't be known until Friday. A potential quarterfinal matchup with Lugo looks like a difficult match for Berge, but a winnable one considering Lugo is not a prolific scorer. A win against Lugo though and No. 2 Micah Jordan is on the other side. Jordan poses a unique matchup problem against Berge with his constant attack. Berge's a very good counter attacking wrestler, but Jordan's biggest weakness is being underneath, and Berge's skill set does not have him as a complete hammer on top yet. 

157 Pounds - Top 9 Automatically Qualify

  1. Jason Nolf, PSU
  2. Tyler Berger, NEB
  3. Ryan Deakin, NU
  4. Alec Pantaleo, MICH
  5. Kaleb Young, IOWA
  6. Steve Bleise, MINN
  7. Ke-Shawn Hayes, OSU
  8. Eric Barone, ILL
  9. Griffin Parriott, PUR
  10. John Van Brill, RU
  11. Jake Danishek, IND
  12. Jake Tucker, MSU
  13. Garrett Model, WIS
  14. Adam Whitesell, MD

This weight class is one of the deepest classes in the Big Ten. Eight of the top 10 wrestlers in the country are in the Big Ten, No. 11 Jake Danishek is the 22nd ranked wrestler in the coaches' poll. There are a lot of heavy hitters here, but among all this talent, Jason Nolf stands out as the man to beat, and why wouldn't he? His only loss since his freshman year came in an injury default against John Van Brill last season. As for the bracket, Tyler Berger and Ryan Deakin will each fancy their chances to get a rematch with Nolf in the final. Berger beat Deakin 6-3 earlier this season. 

As for Nolf, he could very well bonus point his way through a tournament where he only faces top 10 wrestlers. That is simply astounding. Nolf will face the winner of Eric Barone/Griffin Parriott in the quarterfinal. The semifinal will likely be one of Alec Pantaleo or Kaleb Young. Pantaleo lost to Nolf 9-2 earlier this season, but in the 2017-18 season, Pantaleo probably pushed Nolf harder than anyone else. It will be interesting to see if he can recapture that performance. Nolf should be a finalist here, and a match with Berger is by far the more interesting considering what Berger tweeted shortly after his loss to Nolf earlier this season. 

You have to admire the confidence, but it's probably best to be neither seen or heard when Nolf is around. 

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