Automatic Qualifiers (AQ): 4
1. Dylan Peters- Northern Iowa
2. Jared Germaine- Eastern Michigan
3. Brandon Jeske- Old Dominion
4. Corey Keener- Central Michigan
5. Barlow McGhee- Missouri
6. Kevon Powell- Ohio
7. Max Soria- Buffalo
This should be one of the toughest weight classes in the MAC Tournament. You’ve got four automatic spots from the top four seeds. Meanwhile, McGhee has enjoyed a very successful season, plus Powell and Soria are NCAA Qualifiers from a year ago. So essentially seven guys that could very well make the tournament will vie for four spots.
All of the quarterfinals matches should be extremely competitive, mainly the 3-6 matchup, where #6 seed Powell will face off against #3 Jeske. Powell won their match in the dual, so it’s not a stretch to say that he could pull off the upset. Another match to watch for is the 2-7 bout. Soria is the ultimate gamer when it comes to the MAC Tourney, twice qualifying for the NCAA’s after mediocre regular season. He will need another impressive showing to pull off the win against Germaine, however, as the Swan Valley native has enjoyed a near-flawless season.
Anything outside of a Peters-Germaine final, though possible, would be disappointing. There are about ten people across the country who would pick Germaine to win this match. Luckily, I’m one of those people. Now hear me out. Germaine was a headlock away from a spotless record on the year, and has been battle tested in the MAC Tourney- he was a finalist two years ago. Additionally, the two have wrestled once in collegiate competition and Germaine won that match, 8-6 at last years Midlands. I truly think the fifth-year senior comes out on top in his last conference tourney.
The wrestlebacks is where it will get interesting. CMU’s Keener struggled with his weight all year long, and adding in a second weigh-in will not help that matter. I don’t think he gets an AQ slot, but his resume should be enough to gain a Wild Card. Jeske is a solid pick for the 3rd slot, but I’m leaning towards Powell or Soria to steal the 4th spot. Should be interesting.
MIG PICKS: 1) Germaine 2) Peters 3) Jeske 4) Powell
1. Joe Colon, Northern Iowa
2. Joe Roth, Central Michigan
3. Vinnie Pizzuto, Eastern Michigan
4. Mack McGuire, Kent State
5. Matt Manley, Missouri
6. Nick Smith, Northern Illinois
7. Michael Hayes, Old Dominion
133 looks like it will be a battle of the Joe’s- Colon and Roth- in the finals. It’s hard to see anyone else pulling an upset at any point in the tournament. Both guys have had outstanding seasons, namely Colon, who is ranked #1 in the nation.
The real battle here will be between wrestlers 3-6 for the other three slots. Pizzuto from EMU is the 3 seed and only suffered a loss to Roth during MAC duals (EMU and UNI did not wrestled due to weather). However, McGuire is the most battle-tested of the group, earning a trip to the NCAA’s in last years tournament. Manley has enjoyed a solid season as well and will have a war with McGuire in the quarters. Former Ida State Champ Nick Smith, now of NIU, is in the 6 slot and could very well play spoiler.
Pizzuto-Smith in the quarters is a big one, as the two have split over the past two seasons, and with Smith’s unorthodox style, who knows what could happen. McGuire-Manley should be interesting as well, but I like Mack to take the win in a tight decision. I think we’ll see Pizzuto and McGuire wrestle for 3rd. Pizzuto won the regular season matchup, but McGuire has the ability to pull it off, and he very well may.
Joe Roth will look to repeat his upset performance from two years ago where he knocked off All-American Nic Bedelyon of Kent en route to winning the MAC. He will need a similar performance to take down Colon, who has been lights out all year long. Possible? Yes. Probable? No.
MIG PICKS: 1) Colon 2) Roth 3) McGuire 4) Pizzuto 5) Manley
1. Chris Mecate, Old Dominion
2. Zach Horan, Central Michigan
3. Joey Lazor, Northern Iowa
4. Lavion Mayes, Missouri
5. Tyler Small, Kent State
6. Noah Forrider, Ohio
7. Nick Flannery, Buffalo
This weight will be very interesting to watch, mainly from the semifinals on. However, the 4-5 match in the quarterfinals will be one to watch. Lavion Mayes is a guy who keeps it close with some great guys, but dropped some bouts where he was favored throughout the year. On the other hand, Small has been uncharacteristically off this year, as he was incredibly tough through his first two years of his career. He’s a guy who steps up under the bright lights, and I think he’ll take out Mayes in the quarters.
Now the semifinals are where the action will happen. Like I said, Small is a gamer, but he will have his hands full with Mecate of ODU. Mecate is a borderline top-5 kid in the country, and while Small is able to neutralize elite competition when he is on top, Mecate should be just fine escaping with a win here. Horan v. Lazor will be a complete style clash. Horan is very conservative and rarely gets out of position, which makes him a difficult opponent. On the other hand, Lazor is a free spirit who will take risks at any point in the match, regardless of situation. It could be 3-2 or 12-10, but I’ll take Horan.
And I’ll take Horan again in the finals. As a true freshman, Horan came into the MAC as a 4-seed and won the tournament. He then entered the NCAA’s unseeded and made a run to the Round of 12. When it’s March, he’s at his best. Mecate may have the better resume, but you’d be hard pressed to tell me to take anyone other than Horan.
The rest of the qualifiers will likely go to the 3-5 seeds, in any order. Hopefully Lazor wrestles Small at some point because those guys will put up some points!
MIG PICKS: 1) Horan 2) Mecate 3) Lazor 4) Small 5) Mayes
1. Tywan Claxton, Ohio
2. Drake Houdashelt, Missouri
3. Michael DePalma, Kent State
4. Alexander Richardson, Old Dominion
5. Robert Jillard, Northern Illinois
6. Tyler Patten, Northern Iowa
7. Scott Mattingly, Central Michigan
At any other tournament (including NCAA’s), Houdashelt would be the one seed. After all, he’s ranked #1 in most every poll across the country. However, his lone loss on the year came in MAC play to Claxton of OU, thus, making him the 2 seed here.
I think the semifinals are all but wrapped up. The top 4 seeds should advance with little trouble. While Claxton is the 1 seed, I really like Lenny Richardson from ODU. He’s got a great resume and is very dangerous, plus he qualified for the tournament last year. I think he pulls the upset off. Houdashelt should be able to handle DePalma, who has been perhaps the most inconsistent of the bunch this year.
Houdashelt, Richardson, and Claxton are near locks to make it through. DePalma is the one that scares me- given those inconsistent results. Because of how the brackets are constructed, it looks like he will have to beat Jillard to punch his ticket. If that’s the case, he should be fine. Jillard is dangerous, but puts himself in vulnerable situations, which I think DePalma will capitalize.
MIG PICKS: 1) Houdashelt 2) Richardson 3) Claxton 4) DePalma
1. Ian Miller, Kent State
2. Luke Smith, Central Michigan
3. Joey Lavallee, Missouri
4. Tristan Warner, Old Dominion
5. Spartacus Chino, Ohio
6. Brandon Zeerip, Eastern Michigan
7. Jarrett Jensen, Northern Iowa
Andrew Morse, Northern Illinois
Here you have it- the toughest weight in the MAC. How they didn’t get six spots here is beyond me, as the 1-6 seeds have all had outstanding seasons. Every single quarterfinal match will be great to watch. Zeerip and Lavallee will be a great one, as Lavallee needed a last second takedown to win their earlier meeting. Look for a similar match again, this time I like a seasoned Zeerip to come out on top over the true freshman. Warner started the year off strong and has been a little up and down. Similarly, Chino has the ability to knock off top competition. Warner won the first match, so I’ll take him again.
So for those keeping score, I predict Miller-Warner and Zeerip-Smith in the semis. Ian Miller is one of the most exciting wrestlers in the nation. He’s going to put up points from the first whistle until the last. I just don’t think Warner can neutralize his offense. I’ll take Miller, and the over/under on how many inside trips he hits is set at 2.5. I’ll take the over. Zeerip and Smith went into OT in their first meeting, where Zeerip fired off a double leg for the win. I think Coach Borrelli will have Smith ready to go and with Smith’s superior mat skills, Luke takes the W and moves into the finals.
In the wrestlebacks, there will be plenty of interesting matchups- too many to speculate on who will wrestle whom. I’ll just say my power rankings for those guys alive are: Warner, Zeerip, Lavallee, Morse, Chino. So with five spots, any one of these guys could steal one.
MIG PICKS: 1) Miller 2) Smith 3) Warner 4) Zeerip 5) Lavallee
1. Cooper Moore, Northern Iowa
2. Zach Toal, Missouri
3. Harrison Hightower, Ohio
4. Nick Becker, Central Michigan
5. Tyler Buckwalter, Kent State
6. Devin Geoghegan, Old Dominion
7. Shaun’Qae McMurtry, Northern Illinos
Although there will be valuable points earned in this weight for the team standings, it’s very hard to see anyone outside of the top 3 seeds making it out of this weight. Moore, Toal, and Hightower are pretty well above the rest of the field and it would take a fairly large upset to unseat any of them.
Toal v. Hightower will be the best match of the early rounds, in all likelihood. Hightower is a hammer on top in a crab ride, but Toal just wrestles too hard of a pace and is too polished on his feet. I think Toal will be able to roll to a victory and a berth in the finals. Cooper Moore should be able to score bonus points on his route to the finals. Impressive for anyone- even more impressive for a freshman.
It’s tough to pick against Moore in the finals with the type of year he’s had, but I just have a feeling about Toal. I don’t know how he’s going to do it, but I think he’ll be your MAC Champ at 165 lbs in his senior season as a Mizzou Tiger.
MIG PICKS: 1) Toal 2) Moore 3) Hightower
1. Billy Curling, Old Dominion
2. Mike Ottinger, Central Michigan
3. Cody Walters, Ohio
4. Cody Caldwell, Northern Iowa
5. Caleb Marsh, Kent State
6. Jacob Davis, Eastern Michigan
7. Mikey England, Missouri
Matt Mougin, Northern Illinois
Most of the time, the #1 seed will be able to roll in their opening match. However, Curling will have Matt Mougin of NIU in Round 1- Mougin was a match from becoming an All-American last season. In addition, 2nd-seeded Ottinger has England first round. They went into TB in their first meeting. That should give you some inclination of just how deep this weight class is.
Seeds 1-3 should be able to get past their opening matches. However, I like Caleb Marsh of Kent over Caldwell of UNI. Caldwell won their match in the dual, and it wasn’t even particularly close. But, Marsh has knocked off Curling, and at last season’s conference meet, Caldwell went 0-2.
In the semis, the match to watch will be Ottinger v. Walters. There’s a good chance that fewer than four points will be scored between the two of them, but it will be fun to watch as both guys are great at fending off attacks and grinding out wins. I’ll take Ottinger, as he won the regular season matchup, and Walters has not been as dominant as he was last season. On the top half, Curling will have his hands full with Marsh, but should be able to come away with a victory.
Much like Horan at 141, Ottinger is a monster at the MAC Tournament. I think that he will be able to reverse the regular season result and come away with his third MAC Title and keep the pursuit of four alive. Rounding out the rest of the bracket, Walters is a safe bet at 3, I like Marsh at 4, and give me England wrestling a great tournament at 5.
MIG PICKS: 1) Ottinger 2) Curling 3) Walters 4) Marsh 5) England
1. Ryan Loder, Northern Iowa
2. Jack Dechow, Old Dominion
3. Phillip Joseph, Eastern Michigan
4. Cody Johnston, Missouri
5. Tony Lock, Buffalo
6. Craig Kelliher, Central Michigan
7. Caleb Busson, Northern Illinois
A month ago, this looked like it was perhaps the toughest weight in the conference. Then, two of the top 15 kids in the country were pulled from the tournament. KSU’s Sam Wheeler was denied a shot due to disciplinary reason, while Mizzou’s John Eblen suffered an injury earlier this week. So while some might look at it as an easier bracket, the bigger picture is that two of the five original automatic spots have been lost and added back to the wild card pool.
With the remaining athletes, you still have a very competitive weight class. Phil Joseph and Craig Kelliher will square off in the quarters for the third time this season. Joseph has won both meetings, however Kelliher has picked up wins over Joseph in the past. I like EMU over CMU in this one. The other top 3 seeds should be able to advance to the semis, with Johnston-Lock being the most hotly contested.
A Dechow-Joseph matchup didn’t happen in the regular season, as Dechow sat out during a dual that saw EMU upset the Monarchs. I think that will favor Joseph, as he is very difficult to wrestle the first time around. His unconventional style makes him tough to figure out. On the top half, Loder, a returning All-American, should be able to advance to the finals. His season has been on and off, and he’s battled some injuries, but as a senior he should be able to tough it out and make the finals.
So that will set up a Loder v. Joseph final. While it would be great for the Lapeer native, Joseph, to end his MAC career with a title- and it’s not out of the question- I just think that Loder is a little more polished, especially on the mat, and escapes with a win. Joseph’s saving grace may be his conditioning, and with Loder sitting for part of the season, that may affect his ability to keep up with the high pace which Joseph wrestles.
MIG PICKS: 1) Loder 2) Joseph 3) Dechow
1. Phil Wellington, Ohio
2. J’Den Cox, Missouri
3. Shawn Scott, Northern Illinois
4. Cole Baxter, Kent State
5. Nick Whitenburg, Eastern Michigan
6. Kevin Beazley, Old Dominion
7. Jackson Lewis, Central Michigan
Wow. Only two spots for this bunch. Any of the 3-6 wrestlers are deserving of a spot at the national tournament based on their seasons. But, the committee apparently didn’t agree. And with the seasons that Wellington and Cox have had, you’d be hard pressed to tell me that either of them don’t qualify.
Two Michigan natives will square off in the quarters, as Scott will wrestle Beazley. Scott won their match during the regular season, but Beazley is a tough matchup and has had some huge wins during the course of the year. I’m going with Beazley in a slight upset. Similarly, Baxter and Whitenburg will square off on the top half. Baxter won the first match, and I’m taking Whitenburg this time. The difference between 3-6 is so small that either of these guys are capable of making the semis on any given day.
Wellington-Whitenburg will be a rematch of the 3rd place match at the MAC Tourney last season, a match Whitenburg won and punched his tickets to NCAA’s in. However, Wellington majored Whitenburg this year. While the margin will likely be slimmer this time, I think the Bobcat takes the win. J’Den Cox has been on an absolute tear as a true freshman and I think that he’ll knock off Beazley. Never count out that Beaz Headlock, though.
Though Wellington has knocked off Cox this year, I just don’t see him doing it again. I like the true freshman to win the tournament and take home the MAC title, his first of many to come.
MIG PICKS: 1) Cox 2) Wellington
1. Jeremy Johnson, Ohio
2. Devin Mellon, Missouri
3. Jared Torrence, Northern Illinois
4. Blaize Cabell, Northern Iowa
5. Khodor Hoballah, Eastern Michigan
6. Matt Tourdot, Old Dominion
7. Mimmo Lytle, Kent State
Former All-American Jeremy Johnson should be able to roll through this bracket en route to a conference championship. I don’t see anyone truly capable of stopping him. That said, the other two spots are completely up for grabs among the other eight wrestlers.
I think Mellon is the next best guy, but he’s had some interesting results. Cabell is probably the second best, but he’ll have to get by Hoballah. Hoballah, a 160-lber as a high school senior, has transitioned into a solid D1 heavyweight and has enjoyed a great season. Torrence is another guy who has been knocking at the door to get to the national tournament for a couple season now, and is more than capable of doing it. So I think these four guys will battle for two spots.
If I had to pick two, I’m taking Mellon and Cabell. Not even really any justification behind it, just a hunch. And like I said, any of these guys are worthy of wrestling in Oklahoma City. Should be a fun weight to watch.
MIG PICKS: 1) Johnson 2) Mellon 3) Cabell
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