For our NCAA Tournament preview series, we are analyzing the paths for all nine of Penn State's NCAA qualifiers. On Monday, we reviewed Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee and Brady Berge's NCAA Tournament paths. Today, we are looking at Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph and Mark Hall's projected NCAA Tournament matchups. Through 149 pounds, I have predicted Penn State to have 24 team points. Last year, Nolf, Joseph and Hall combined for 64.5 team points, can they add any more to this year's team total?
No. 2 Vincenzo Joseph - 165 pounds
- First Round - No. 31 Evan Delong (Clarion)
- Second Round - No. 15 Connor Flynn (Missouri)
- Quarterfinals - No. 7 Isaiah White (Nebraska) or No. 10 Branson Ashworth (Wyoming)
- Semifinals - No. 3 Josh Shields (Arizona State) or No. 6 Logan Massa (Michigan)
- Finals - No. 1 Alex Marinelli (Iowa), No. 4 Evan Wick, or No. 5 Chance Marsteller (Lock Haven)
Here is a weight class with some absolute dogs, but among them all, Vincenzo Joseph has stood tall in his first two NCAA Tournaments. He is a two-time champion, but he seems more vulnerable to losing now, similar to how he looked as a freshman against Isaiah Martinez. This uncertainty is justified after his 8-3 loss to No. 1 Alex Marinelli in the Big Ten final earlier this month. Joseph is now 0-2 against Marinelli, and in both matches he's been thrown to his back.
He'll face Evan Delong in the first round. Joseph is 12-0 against common opponents between, and Delong is 0-9. Vincenzo wins no questions asked. He would then see either Connor Flynn or Gordon Wolf in the second round. I'm going to pick Flynn to get there considering he's 2-0 in his career against Wolf with both being bonus point wins, including a major decision earlier this season. Wolf is capable, but the championship bracket road will end for either of them at this stage.
The quarterfinals is where Joseph's quest to repeat could get very interesting. Isiah White is so strong and athletic that he poses a lot of matchup problems. They also had a close quarterfinal last year which Joseph won in sudden victory. Joseph faced Branson Ashworth in last season's NCAA Tournament and beat him 3-1. Ashworth and White are a very close matchup that could go either way. Regardless of the winner, expect a one or two takedown match on Friday morning. Also, don't forget that Joseph might give you a heart attack as he has in his last two Friday morning matches at NCAAs.
In the semifinals, Joseph's likely opponents are either Josh Shields or Logan Massa. Joseph beat Shields in Rec Hall earlier this season by major decision, and he's 5-0 in his career against Massa. Regardless of who comes out of this quarter, Joseph should be the favorite over either. In either case, I'd expect a close match. Shields essentially lost his match with Joseph due to the danger rule and gave up a six-point move in the first period. Massa has always wrestled Joseph tough, but he can never quite seem to get over the hump.
Then, comes Joseph's final opponent. I put down a list of three names, either Alex Marinelli, Evan Wick or Chance Marsteller. Marinelli has been given a very tough draw for a No. 1 overall seed. His first round match is likely going to be against Joe Smith (Oklahoma State), who is a very talented wrestler and well above his No. 33 seed. He also has Jonathan Vireut (Brown) who took him to sudden victory before, Mekhi Lewis (Missouri) and the winner of the Wick-Marsteller quarter just to get to the final.
However, assuming a Marinelli final, perhaps he's the kryptonite for Joseph. Marinelli has found ways to overpower Joseph's upper body, which even Isaiah Martinez could not do. It's not like Joseph has been unable to score on Marinelli, however. In the dual last season he was able to get a couple of takedowns before a six point move in the third gave Marinelli the win.
Despite the evidence and Joseph's 0-2 record, I'm going to pick him to beat Marinelli at the brightest stage in college wrestling. Joseph can score on him, it's just a matter of trying to limit the upper body stuff where Marinelli has had overwhelming success. The end of the first and second periods could be big for Joseph. If he can get a late takedown and ride out, it could be the gap he needs to force Marinelli to force more leg attacks.
Prediction - First place, 21.5 team points contributed with a win over Alex Marinelli in the finals
Team Total Points After 165 Pounds - 70
Joseph has a fairly decent road to navigate at 165 pounds, and I think he can beat Marinelli even if he hasn't done so yet. I can't say I'm confident in this pick, but Joseph was 0-3 against Martinez outside of the NCAA Tournament. Maybe this is a matchup issue, but I think Joseph can get it done, and will get it done as Penn State struts their stuff all weekend.