Wrestling Preview: Big Ten Releases Tournament Brackets with Penn State Favored for the Conference Title

By Rob Dougherty on March 9, 2019 at 10:37 am
Penn State will look to recapture the Big Ten title.

Aaron Doster - USA Today Sports

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Penn State is an overwhelming favorites to take home a Big Ten Championship for the first time since 2016. Ohio State has won the last two years, and even though the shortened field should help teams like the Buckeyes, Iowa, and Michigan put up respectable scores, Cael Sanderson will likely be holding the Big Ten title on Sunday afternoon. The action begins on Saturday morning at 11:00 a.m from the University of Minnesota. 

Penn State will feature by far the most talent in the field, with seven wrestlers seeded first or second. Jason Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Mark Hall (174) and Bo Nickal (197) all earned top seeds at their respective weights, with Shakur Rasheed (184) and Anthony Cassar (285) seeded second. Penn State's other seeded wrestlers are No. 12 Devin Schnupp (125), No. 4 Roman Bravo-Young (133) and No. 6 Brady Berge (149). No one else in the Big Ten is bringing this kind of talent to Minneapolis. 

Official Brackets

Tournament Scoring at Big Ten Tournament 

Here are the placement points a team gets for the top eight finishes: 

  • 1st place - 16 points
  • 2nd place - 12 points
  • 3rd place - 10 points
  • 4th place - 9 points
  • 5th place - 7 points
  • 6th place - 6 points
  • 7th place - 4 points 
  • 8th place - 3 points

This is pretty straightforward, the higher a wrestler places, the more placement points they get. Now, let's get to the more complicated part of the scoring, with advancement points and bonus points. To make this easier, I have separated this into two categories, championship bracket and consolation bracket: 

Championship v. Consolation Bracket Scoring
Advancement Point - Win in Championship Bracket 1
Bye followed by Win in Championship Bracket 1
Advancement Point - Win in Consolation Bracket .5
Bye followed by Win in Consolation Bracket .5
Win by Fall, DQ, Forfeit or Default 2
Win by Tech Fall with Near Fall Points 1.5
Win by Tech Fall without Near Fall Points 1
Win by Major Decision 1

An important note, for the weights that are placing a ninth place wrestler, once they are eliminated from the wrestlebacks, their results will not count toward the team total. So, for instance if Devin Schnupp goes 1-2 in the main bracket, but gets a chance to wrestle for ninth, his results will not count toward the team race. 

Penn State Predictions

125 Pounds - No. 12 Devin Schnupp

Schnupp's first round matchup will be against No. 5 Travis Piotrowski (Illinois). They only have one previous meeting, and Piotrowski was able to pin Schnupp. Despite his improvement over the last two seasons, it's hard to see him coming away from this matchup with a win. If he falls into the wrestlebacks, he'd likely face No. 13 Shane Metzler (Rutgers). This would seem to be a close match that Schnupp is definitely capable of winning. A win here means he would likely face the loser of No. 3 Sean Russell (Minnesota) and No. 6 Drew Mattin (Michigan). Against either, Schnupp would be a huge underdog.

However, since there is a ninth automatic qualifying spot, wrestlers eliminated from the wrestlebacks will still have a shot to wrestle for that NCAA bid. It's hard to predict who Schnupp would go up against in a mini-bracket for the ninth spot, but he will likely be an underdog no matter who he comes up against. 

Prediction - 1-2, .5 team points contributed from win in consolation bracket

133 Pounds - No. 4 Roman Bravo-Young

This is probably the most difficult weight class in the country right now, and Bravo-Young has shown how gifted he is. He will start off his tournament against No. 13 Jevon Parrish (Nebraska), and will be a favorite to not only win, but do so with bonus points. I'll pick him to get a tech fall. His quarterfinal will be against No. 5 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State), who he only beat 2-1 in TB-2 earlier this season. A win there means a likely clash with No. 1 Stevan Micic (Michigan). 

A loss to Micic would not be the end of the world, but a very tough wrestleback against either Nick Suriano (Rutgers) or Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) would likely await. Suriano poses obvious problems given his strength, and how good he is fundamentally. Lizak has one of the most dangerous top games in the country ,and probably poses a difficult matchup for Bravo-Young as well. For that reason, I'm going to pick Bravo-Young to finish fifth. 

Prediction - 3-2, 5th place, 10.5 team points contributed with a tech fall and two advancement points on championship side. 

141 Pounds - No. 2 Nick Lee

Nick Lee is coming off of a stellar season that has only seen him lose once to four-seed Tristan Moran (Wisconsin) in sudden victory. Lee has a first round bye and will face either No. 7 Max Murin (Iowa) or No. 10 Nate Limmex (Purdue). Lee would be favored over either and for bonus. No. 6 Mitch McKee could be a bracket buster here considering his history against McKenna, but a McKenna/Lee semifinal is projecting to be one of the biggest matches of the weekend. I'm going to give the tie to the higher seed, while acknowledging that McKenna has every shot in the world to win this match. 

I'm going to pick an upset on the other side and say that No. 1 Mike Carr (Illinois) does not make it out of the bracket. He's talented, but he's going to have to win a lot of tight matches and that can be very hard to do. So I'll take No. 4 Tristan Moran to beat Carr in the semifinal, and for Lee to get revenge on Moran and the Big Ten title. 

Prediction - 3-0, first place, 20 team points contributed, 16 for first, three advancement, one for a major decision over Murin/Limmex

149 Pounds - No. 6 Brady Berge

Brady Berge will be looking to lock up one of the six automatic qualification spots, and obviously enters Big Tens in a tough position to do so. He will wrestle round one against Parker Filius (Purdue). Filius lost to backup Jarod Verkleeren earlier this season. A win there and No. 3 Pat Lugo will likely be waiting. If Berge wins there, he's in the NCAA Tournament. A loss would send him to the wrestlebacks with a fairly straightforward path to qualification. However, a win against Lugo is possible with how tight that match would likely be, and Lugo's issues finishing shots this season could be amplified by Berge's re-attacks.

I'll pick a win over Lugo, followed by a loss to No. 2 Micah Jordan, and a fifth place finish. 

Prediction - 3-2, fifth place, 10 team points, seven for finishing fifth, two advancement points, one bonus point

157 Pounds - No. 1 Jason Nolf

The only other wrestler who seemingly has a chance to beat Bo Nickal for the Hodge Trophy is teammate Jason Nolf. He has a first round bye, and will then face the winner of No. 8 Eric Barone (Illinois) and No. 9 Griffin Pariott (Purdue). Nolf will be a favorite to win and by bonus. His semifinal will likely be against No. 4 Alec Pantaleo (Michigan), but No. 5 Kaleb Young (Iowa) is a tough opponent who could be there as well. Expect Nolf to win, but maybe not by bonus since Pantaleo has competed about as well as anyone against Nolf. 

The final should be interesting to see if No. 2 Tyler Berger (Nebraska) or No. 3 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) make it out. I'm going to pick Deakin, even if Berger is the higher seed, I think Deakin has more upside and is the better wrestler. Berger also seems super focused on the NCAA Tournament, where he has claimed he will get five scalps, including Nolf's. 

Prediction - 3-0, first place, 21 team points, 16 placement points, three advancement points, two bonus points. 

165 Pounds - No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph

Joseph went through the season without much drama, and looks to collect his first Big Ten title this weekend. Joseph will get a first round bye and face the winner of No. 8 Carson Brolsma (Minnesota) and No. 9 Joey Gunther (Illinois). A win there would see him likely face No. 4 Isaiah White (Nebraska) or Massa. White is probably the best bet considering his very defensive style and counter shots are a horrible matchup for Massa. However, a Massa win would not be shocking. Joseph and White always wrestle tight matches, and do not expect a potential semifinal to be any different. 

For the final, it seems like No. 2 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) is the most likely opponent. He's 2-0 against No. 3 Evan Wick (Wisconsin) this season, but both matches have been tight so a reverse result would not be that surprising.

Prediction - 3-0, first place, 19 team points, 16 placement points, and three advancement points. 

174 Pounds - No. 1 Mark Hall

Mark Hall is coming off of a stellar season and is the favorite to pick up his second Big Ten title. He will have a bye in the first round, and face the winner of No. 8 Drew Hughes (Michigan State) vs. No. 9 Drew Grello (Rutgers) in his first match. Hall could easily win with bonus against either. A semifinal against either No. 4 Mikey Labriola (Nebraska) or No. 5 Devin Skatzka (Minnesota) would not be a walkover, but Hall is simply too good for both at this point. 

Another final for Hall and a tough match against Amine almost seems inevitable. There are no obvious upset candidates on the bottom side, and Amine will be favored in every match until the final. Another Hall win in a tight decision seems like the most likely outcome since Amine has always had trouble finishing on Hall. 

Prediction - 3-0, first place, 20 team points, 16 placement points, three advancement points, and one bonus point. 

184 Pounds - No. 2 Shakur Rasheed

Shakur Rasheed comes off of a regular season filled with injury, and will compete as the two-seed in the Big Ten Tournament. He will face either No. 7 Jelani Embree (Michigan) or No. 10 Cameron Caffey (Michigan State). Embree will be the favorite, and even though he competed tough against Rasheed at the Bryce Jordan Center, Rasheed is the better wrestler. A semifinal with No. 3 Taylor Venz (Nebraska) is the probable matchup for, and this is a brutally tough match to call. Rasheed has missed a lot of tough matches at 184 pounds, so it's unclear how he stacks up with a potential All-American like Venz. I'll take Rasheed because of how good he is on top, but this is not an easy matchup at all. 

The final would be against No. 1 Myles Martin (Ohio State), and I'm not picking anyone at 184 to beat him until proven otherwise. Martin has looked awesome at 184 all year, and it's hard for me to see a path to victory. 

Prediction - 2-1, second place, 15 team points, 12 placement points, three advancement points. 

197 Pounds - No. 1 Bo Nickal

Bo Nickal is the frontrunner for the Hodge Trophy, and has a fairly easy path to a Sunday afternoon matchup against No. 2 Kollin Moore. Nickal will have a round one bye, which is a bit of a bummer because he would almost certainly have been a bonus point favorite against anyone. His quarterfinal will be against the winner of Jake Kleimola (Indiana) and No. 8 Brad Wilton (Michigan State). A semifinal against Eric Schultz (Nebraska) may stop a bonus point parade for Nickal considering how hard Schultz wrestled him earlier this season. However, he will be the favorite and likely see Moore in the final. Given how their first matchup went this season, it's easy to pick Nickal once again. 

Prediction - 3-0, first place, 22 team points, 16 placement points, three advancement points, three bonus points

285 Pounds - No. 2 Anthony Cassar

Anthony Cassar is coming into the Big Ten Tournament undefeated in conference competition and seems destined for an appearance in the final. He was given an opening round matchup against Jacon Aven (Purdue). Cassar majored him earlier this season, and it's easy to think he can do it again. A quarterfinal against No. 7 David Jensen (Nebraska) doesn't seem too daunting either, and another major or better could be on the cards. No. 3 Mason Parris (Michigan) or Youssif Hemida (Maryland) seem like the best candidates to be there in the semifinal, but Cassar would be favored against both.

Then the final against a heavy NCAA favorite in Gable Steveson (Minnesota) awaits. Steveson is destroying his competition, and looks like a potential four-time national champion. However, Cassar and Steveson have yet to mee, so maybe Cassar's agility can pose some unique issues for Steveson. That said, I'm going to pick Steveson given how good he has been all year. 

Prediction - 3-1, secnd place, 17 team points, 12 placement points, three advancement points, two bonus points

Total Points Predicted for Penn State - 155

This is an absurdly high prediction, but I feel reasonably good about it. In FloWrestling's Big Ten rankings, they have Penn State with 139.5 team points, so when you add on some bonus, a score in the 150s-160s feels like it's on the  table. 

Individual Championship Predictions 

  • 125 pounds - Spencer Lee (Iowa) def. Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern)
  • 133 pounds - Stevan Micic (Michigan) def. Nick Suriano (Rutgers)
  • 141 pounds - Nick Lee (Penn State) def. Tristan Moran (Wisconsin)
  • 149 pounds - Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) def. Micah Jordan (Ohio State)
  • 157 pounds - Jason Nolf (Penn State) def. Ryan Deakin (Northwestern)
  • 165 pounds - Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) def. Alex Marinelli (Iowa)
  • 174 pounds - Mark Hall (Penn State) def. Myles Amine (Michigan)
  • 184 pounds - Myles Martin (Ohio State) def. Shakur Rasheed (Penn State)
  • 197 pounds - Bo Nickal (Penn State) def. Kollin Moore (Ohio State)
  • 285 pounds - Gable Steveson (Minnesota) def. Anthony Cassar (Penn State)
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