Wrestling: Big Ten Tournament Preview

By Rob Dougherty on March 6, 2020 at 11:15 am
Penn State will be looking to defend their Big Ten title.
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

No. 2 Penn State (12-2, 8-1 B1G) will be looking to defend their Big Ten title, but they will have an uphill climb to face No. 1 Iowa. The tournament runs Saturday, March 7th and Sunday, March 8th. Here is the roster Penn State released for the Big Ten Tournament:

Penn State B1Gs Roster
Weight Wrestler
125 pounds Brandon Meredith (12-13)
133 pounds No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young (17-1)
141 pounds No. 1 Nick Lee (18-0)
149 pounds No. 20 Jarod Verkleeren (15-6)
157 pounds Bo Pipher (9-11)
165 pounds No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (13-0)
174 pounds No. 2 Mark Hall (17-1)
184 pounds No. 5 Aaron Brooks (12-1)
197 pounds No. 24 Shakur Rasheed (5-4)
285 pounds No. 16 Seth Nevills (13-3)

The NCAA also released their bid allocations for each conference. Basically, for a wrestler to earn an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, they will have to finish within an allocation spot for their conference. There are four at-large spots available at every weight, but competition for those places can be very tough. Here are the bid allocations for the Big Ten: 

  • 125 pounds - 8 bids
  • 133 pounds - 7 bids
  • 141 pounds - 8 bids
  • 149 pounds - 10 bids
  • 157 pounds - 6 bids
  • 165 pounds - 8 bids
  • 174 pounds - 9 bids
  • 184 pounds - 10 bids
  • 197 pounds - 6 bids
  • 285 pounds - 7 bids

If the Big Ten Pre-Seeds are any indication, then No. 1 Iowa will be heavy favorites heading into the tournament. They have no wrestlers seeded below No. 3 and they will have some serious firepower at the top of their lineup with No. 1 Spencer Lee and No. 3 Austin Desanto. Here are the Big Ten Pre-Seeds:

125 pounds - No. 14 Brandon Meredith

  • 1st round opponent - No. 3 Patrick McKee (Minnesota)

It was not much of a surprise for Meredith to be seeded No. 14 due to his struggles in Big Ten competition. Meredith has performed arguably as well as anyone else has at 125 pounds for Penn State the last few years. However, it's going to be tough sledding for Meredith to earn an NCAA bid when he has to finish in the Top 8.

He's going to open up his tournament against No. 3 Pat McKee of Minnesota, who frankly should beat him comfortably. He then would get a potential rematch against No. 11 Malik Heinselman (Ohio State). Meredith can win that match, but I think it's more likely he goes 0-2. 

133 pounds - No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young

Roman Bravo-Young gets a deserved two-seed, but he really could have been anywhere from No. 2 to No. 4. The injury default win gets him over No. 3 Desanto, which is fine, and that's a great semifinal matchup anyway. Bravo-Young has earned a bye as a result of being the two-seed. 

No. 7 Sammy Alvarez (Rutgers) is a dangerous quarterfinal opponent, as he pushed Bravo-Young to sudden victory this season. No. 3 Austin Desanto (Iowa) is the likely semifinal opponent and he would face either No. 1 Seth Gross (Wisconsin) or No. 5 Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern) in the final. This bracket is really tough and Bravo-Young has a shot to win it. 

141 pounds - No. 1 Nick Lee

Nick Lee is the No. 1 seed after beating Luke Pletcher a few weeks ago at the BJC. There's really not much to talk about here, he's going to be the considerable favorite and he really should not see much of a challenge until maybe a potential semifinal with either No. 4 Chad Red (Nebraska) or No. 5 Tristan Moran (Wisconsin). Though he also beat those two by a combined 22-2, so maybe not. A final rematch with No. 2 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) seems inevitable and is much anticipated.

149 pounds - No. 8 Jarod Verkleeren

Jarod Verkleeren probably could have been seeded as high as No. 6, but the pin loss to No. 7 Purinton keeps him at No. 8. He'll have No. 9 Yahya Thomas (Northwestern) in the first round. A rematch with No. 1 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) would be next, but a loss would send him to the blood round, where he would face the loser of No. 7 Collin Purinton (Nebraska) and No. 10 Griffin Parriott (Purdue). Despite Verkleeren having a slow start to the season, he is wrestling his best and can perform above his seed here. 

157 pounds - No. 13 Bo Pipher

Bo Pipher had a tough season at 157 pounds, and it's going to be a tough ask for him to win matches here. This weight class is pretty open though, and it would not be a surprise if Pipher can find a way to win a match at Big Tens. The problem is he just simply has not been dynamic enough at this weight to expect a big over-performance from him.

165 pounds - No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph

Vincenzo Joseph gets a deserved 1-seed for his Big Ten results, and he's firmly in the race for the Hodge Trophy. A strong Big Ten Tournament can easily lead him to being a favorite for the Hodge. It seems likely that we are heading for another inevitable upper body hoss fight with No. 2 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) barring an upset. Joseph would not be challenged until a potential semifinal with No. 4 Isaiah White (Nebraska), but Joseph also beat him comfortably earlier this season.

174 pounds - No. 2 Mark Hall

Mark Hall earned the No. 2 seed after only losing to No. 1 Michael Kemerer (Iowa) this season. The path for a rematch with Kemerer seems on the cards, but No. 3 Dylan Lydy is not someone to ignore, he's legit. Hall will get a bye to the quarterfinals, which is handy. I do not expect much difficulty for Hall until he gets to the semifinals at best. Then, a potential final with Kemerer could be a big match for Hall as he looks to cement himself as the No. 1 overall seed for NCAAs.

184 pounds - No. 1 Aaron Brooks

No. 1 seed for Aaron Brooks is fair, though the race between him and No. 2 Cameron Caffey (Michigan State) must have been close. Brooks will face the winner of No. 8 Webster and No. 9 Johnny Sebastian (Wisconsin) in the quarterfinals. A potentially dangerous semifinal against No. 4 Taylor Venz (Nebraska), the only Big Ten wrestler to beat Brooks this year, awaits though. 

For Brooks, this tournament is going to be a huge opportunity for him to cement himself as a top three seed for NCAAs. With Zahid Valencia being out of the NCAA Tournament due to suspension, this weight is wide open and Brooks has a shot to stand atop the podium. 

197 pounds - No. 6 Shakur Rasheed

Rasheed is right on the cut line here for NCAAs as the No. 6 overall seed, as the Big Ten only gets automatic bids for the Top 6 finishers. A potential quarterfinal against No. 3 Jacob Warner (Iowa) who already beat Rasheed pretty comfortably this season. However, a win in the quarterfinals would guarantee Rasheed a spot at NCAAs. If Rasheed loses that, he will need to win two matches in the wrestlebacks to secure an NCAA bid. 

285 pounds - No. 7 Seth Nevills

Seth Nevills at No. 7 is just like Shakur Rasheed, he's on the cut line as the Big Ten only has seven bids for their heavyweights this time around. Nevills should be fine in the first round, but he's got No. 2 Gable Steveson (Minnesota) in the quarterfinals. Nevills is going to have to win two matches in the wrestlebacks to guarantee his place at NCAAs.