Steve Widzinski: Here we have 3 Michigan natives, all of whom have spent significant time in various rankings throughout the season: Tim Lambert (Nebraska/GR FHE), Conor Youtsey (UMich/Mason), and Jared Germaine (EMU/Swan Valley). Also in the mix is CMU’s Corey Keener, another 125lbr who has gotten his fair share of national attention this season.
Of the 4, who do you have going the farthest, and what are the odds one or more pulls through to AA?
JJ Johnson: I really think Lambert, Youtsey, and Germaine will all have great tournaments. They’ve all been solid this season and are poised to break out and make a run at the podium. I’ll address them each individually.
First, let’s start with Lambert: #12 seed, probably where he’s at relative to the results. His second round match will be a big one; he’ll likely see #5 Dylan Peters of Northern Iowa. To my knowledge, Timmy has never beaten Peters, losing twice last season during their redshirt years, and also at Fargo two summers ago. So for the sake of me not being a complete homer, let’s say Peters wins again. That drops him to the consis. In the round of 16, he might see Evan Silver of Stanford. Lambert defeated him soundly this season, look for him to repeat that performance should they meet again. If all goes according to plan, that puts him in the most exciting round of the tournament, maybe any tournament, the Round of 12/Blood Round. The corresponding loser of the #7/#10 quarter is who would drop down. Ryan Taylor of Wisconsin is the 7 seed, Josh Terao of American is the #10 seed. I personally think Terao will be who Lambert will have. The last time they met, Terao won a 3 period match to make the finals at Fargo, even though Lambert outscored him 7-2 (glad they changed those rules). So, long story short, I think Tim Lambert will make it to the podium, but it won’t be any easy road by any means.
Next, let’s look at Youtsey. He was perhaps deserving of a seed, but where he’s at isn’t half bad either. He’s got #15 Anthony Zanetta first. They met in February, and Youtsey won in OT, 5-3. Hopefully he can repeat that performance, and I think he will. Nahshon Garrett of Cornell will likely end his title bid in the following match, however. No shame there, I think Garrett will win the tournament. For him to make a run at placing, he’ll need some upsets from the top half of the bracket, because where he sits, it would make it very difficult for him to AA. I think he gets to the Round of 16, perhaps even the Round of 12, but I unfortunately can’t justify projecting him to make the Top 8. He’s probably the best of these 3 Michigan natives on paper, with wins over Lambert this year and Germaine last year, but his bracket placement is not favorable. He’ll be back and I have no doubt he’ll All-American at least once by the time his stint in Ann Arbor is done.
Finally, Jared Germaine. Not sure if I think it’s blatant disrespect by the seeding committee or if I’m just overly confident in my former teammate, but with a 20-2 record, one headlock pin in a match he was clearly superior and one loss to the #5 seed, 10-7; how did he not get seeded? Either way, there’s no doubt this dude can wrestle. He’s been a consistently strong performer for the Eagles in his career. And when I say consistent, consider this: in four years, he’s only lost to a non-NCAA qualifier three times. But, let’s talk about this tournament. He’s got the #7 seed off the bat, Taylor from Wisconsin. They’ve got a common opponent- Brandon Jeske of ODU. Taylor won 8-5, Germaine feet-to-backed him for a fall. You really don’t know how badly I want Jared to win this one, but again, I’m a homer most of the time. I’ll give the nod to Taylor, but I won’t be shocked otherwise. That leaves a heck of a wrestleback for Jared. He’d need to put four wins together in a monster of a bracket. The first one he should be okay, likely having Jeske or Keener; he’s beaten both. But then he’ll see either returning AA Tyler Cox of Wyoming or Cory Clark of Iowa. It’s a tall order, and even if he gets past this one, he’s got two tough ones ahead, culminating in a probable R12 matchup with Jarrod Patterson of Oklahoma, who Germaine has never beaten. It’s a little too much to see him running the gauntlet. For him to have any chance at ending his career on a positive note, he’s gonna have to make some noise in the championship bracket and pull some upsets. Best case scenario he makes the quarters and gives himself a chance to place.
You mentioned Keener also. Early in the season, I would have said no question. But you really never know how a guy’s going to do in his first collegiate season; it’s an unbelievable grind, especially with CMU’s schedule. Remember, he missed all of last season with an injury, which would have been his redshirt year. So realistically, he’s like a true freshman. Managing his weight seems to be a problem of late; his results in one-hour weigh-ins are not the greatest. He may be able to squeak out a win or two, but that’s probably it.
SW: Lambert AA’s as a freshman? ...I’ll take it!
Now onto the big picture…I think it’s safe to say there’s an overwhelming consensus that this weight will come down to #1 Joey Delgado (Illinois), #2 Nashon Garrett (Cornell) and #3 Nico Megaludis (PSU).
To put in perspective, Intermat currently has the country’s biggest pick’em contest with 1921 entries. Of those, only 33 have someone outside the “big 3” winning this weight.
So, my first question is just how slim are the chances we see someone seeded #4 or lower win a title, or make the finals for that matter, and if it were to happen who’s the most likely guy to do so?
Now, as for the 3 favorites, who do you like most and why?
JJ: I think that’s fair. I don’t think there’s a chance the field takes out all three of the top seeded guys. In my opinion, the next best guy in the weight is #6 Jarrod Patterson of Oklahoma. He’s the only other guy who has been on the podium (2011). But, that would mean he’d have to go through Megaludis and Garrett to make the finals, which is a pretty daunting task.
I’m going with Nahshon Garrett to win the tournament, but really I think all three guys are pretty comparable. They’re also incredibly evenly matched—Garrett beat Megaludis, Megaludis beat Delgado, Delgado beat Garrett. One year ago Garrett broke out at the NCAA’s when he knocked off 2x Champ Matt McDonough en route to a third place finish, and I think he will have a great performance again this year.
JJ’s PICKS: 1) Garrett 2) Delgado 3) Megaludis 4) Patterson 5) Martinez 6) Peters 7) Clark 8) Lambert
Steve’s PICKS: 1) Garrett 2) Delgado 3) Megaludis 4) Peters 5) Clark 6) Patterson 7) Taylor 8) Lambert
SW: The only Michigan native is 3X D3 State Champ Nick Smith (NIU/Ida), but joining him with in-state ties are a Wolverine, Chippewa and Eagle: Joe Roth (CMU), Vinnie Pizzuto (EMU), and Rossi Bruno (UMich).
Bruno’s result have been pretty up and down this season, but with wins over a pair of seeded wrestlers, he seems like a candidate to knock off #15-seed Mark Grey (Cornell) in round 1. Grey won 3-2 in December, what are your thoughts on Bruno’s chances to avenge the loss?
…. And how about the #12-seeded Roth, what would it take for him to AA?
JJ: Yes, Bruno has been inconsistent this year, and even last year, but he’s definitely capable of making some noise. Grey is coming off a complete head-scratching loss to Kevin Devoy of Drexel at EIWA’s (Germaine beat Devoy in a 125 lb match in November), so I’m not sure how he’ll show up at NCAA’s. One thing to consider is that his brother, Mike, was up and down his freshman year at Cornell, and he turned in an All-American performance when it counted. Flip a coin, but I’ll take Grey again.
That said, I think Bruno is definitely capable of making a run at the podium after that match. Last season, he advanced to the Round of 16 after a .500 regular season. I think he definitely makes the Round of 16 again, and it appears he’ll have Johnni DiJulius. They’ve split this season and Bruno won the last meeting. But DiJulius had a better B1G tourney, so he will definitely be game. Personally, I see Bruno winning two or three in the tourney, but falling just short of placing.
I’m really glad Nick Smith qualified in his last season as a Huskie. He’s had a number of big wins over the years, but his injuries have really been ill-timed and unfortunate. He’s 8-11 this year (Had a hell of a MAC Tourney), so don’t expect too much in terms of making a run, but he’s so hard to wrestle that he might get his hand raised a time or two.
EMU’s Pizzuto has been one of the most improved wrestlers in the Class of 2012. He placed 3rd and 4th in OH’s DIII State Tournament. It’s been really exciting to follow his progression, and he’ll continue to make gains over his career. Will he get a win at this years tourney? It’s a stretch. He’s got returning AA Cody Brewer of Oklahoma, then he’ll have either 4x PA Champ Jimmy Gulibon of Penn State or #4 Jon Morrison of Oklahoma State. He’ll have a chance to All-American in his career, but it probably won’t be this year.
Now, Joe Roth. He’s been absolutely on fire the second half of this season, save an uncharacteristic loss to Yenter of MSU. The Illinois native sits at the 12 seed, and should be able to win in Round 1, setting up a showdown with Tyler Graff of Wisconsin. Graff will be looking to win the elusive NCAA Title to add to his already impressive collection of three All-American plaques. Roth will make it interesting, but I gotta take the Badger. I’d bet money that Joe makes it to the Blood Round, and from there anything can happen. It’s likely he’ll have either Cashe Quiroga of Purdue, who took 6th as a true freshman, or Nick Soto of Tenn-Chattanooga, who squeaked out a 6-5 win over Roth at the Scuffle. Soto beat Quiroga in their only meeting this year. If Roth wrestles Soto to place, I think he gets it. If it’s Quiroga, I’m not sure. I’m speaking in terms of styles of course. I really hope he gets it done, he’s enjoyed a great career as a Chippewa and I know he’s planning on stepping onto that podium to end his run.
SW: Interesting. CMU hasn’t gotten much talk as a top team this year, but if they are firing on all cylinders and Roth can pull a marginal upset in the bloodround I believe it could be enough to push the #32-ranked Chips near the top-15.
As for the overall outlook, this seems to be one of the most open weight classes in the country. Prior to the season #3 Tony Ramos (Iowa) was nearly everyone’s pick to win it, but losses to #1 Joe Colon (Northern Iowa) and #2 AJ Schopp (Edinboro) have drastically shifted the landscape. And that’s not to mention #4 Jon Morrison (Oklahoma State) and #5 Tyler Graff (Wisconsin), both of whom are returning AA’s.
So how do you make sense of this weight? Do you believe Colon, or anyone else for that matter, should be considered a significant favorite?
How about sleepers? #11 Ryan Mango (Stanford) is a 2X AA and the first name that comes to mind...of the guys seeded #6 and lower, who is the best bet to make a big run, and how reasonable is it to believe that one could do so?
JJ: I think you’re looking at five guys with legitimate title shots in this weight. The #1-5 seeds are all seniors and all are capable of winning the tournament. I wouldn’t necessarily say anyone is considered a favorite either.
I’m taking Tony Ramos to win the tournament, avenging a loss to Schopp in the semifinals. The top half is much more interesting. Colon’s only loss is to Ohio State’s Johnni DiJulius who he could have in the quarters. I think he’ll win the rematch, but I think he falls in the semis. I’ve got Graff making a run as the 5 seed and getting a rematch with Ramos in the finals.
As for sleepers, I do have Mango knocking off #6 Beckman in the quarters. Mango’s got some bizarre losses but he shines on the biggest stages so I’m excited to watch him. Two other guys to watch for are Cashe Quiroga and David Thorn, the 7/8 seeds, respectively. Not necessarily sleepers either though. Like Mango, they’re both past All-Americans.
JJ’s PICKS: 1) Ramos 2) Graff 3) Colon 4) Morrison 5) Schopp 6) Mango 7) Thorn 8) Roth
Steve’s PICKS: 1) Ramos 2) Colon 3) Morrison 4) Graff 5) Schopp 6) Beckman 7) Thorn 8) Quiroga
SW: No Michigan natives on this chart, but we have a pair of in-state AA candidates in #7 Zach Horan (CMU) and #13 Stephen Dutton (UMich).
I’ve been a big Horan fan and liked his chances to AA back in the fall, but he’s got a brutal round 1 draw in Mike Nevinger (Cornell).
Dutton’s struggled to stay healthy during his career in Ann Arbor, but seems to finally have it together, and at the right time too.
So, of these 2 who has the better overall draw, and where do you see each ending up?
JJ: I think both draws are about as tough as you’ll find for two seeded wrestlers to get. If I had to pick a “better draw,” I’d probably go with Horan. Even though he’s got Nevinger, a 2x All-American, first round, I think he’ll be fine. Nevinger got hurt at National Duals in February and he’s clearly still hampered by it, as he defaulted out of his Consolation Semi match at EIWA’s. I like Horan’s chances. Also keep in mind that two years ago the Chippewa entered the NCAA Tournament with a 15-11 record and came within two points of placing. He’s a flat-out gamer. I have him making the quarters before falling to Logan Stieber. His match to place will be a tough one, however, as it looks like he may have “Ugi” Khishignyam of The Citadel. The Mongolian-born Senior, who won an appeal to even be able to wrestle at all halfway through this season, took 4th at last years tourney. I’m not sure how that match turns out, but give me Horan.
On the topic of Dutton, he’s got Josh Dziewa of Iowa first round, who spent time in the Top 10 for much of the season. Dutton is 2-0 against him this year, including a 7-0 shutout at the B1Gs. I think he’ll be okay there, but his next round could be less favorable. He’s got Devin Carter of VA Tech, the 4 seed, who is undefeated. Up until two weeks ago, it was reported that Carter was out for the season with a torn hamstring he suffered back in December. However, he appears to be back in form after dominating the ACCs en route to a title. It’s always a crapshoot when a guy enters the tournament with an injury, but if he’s healthy, he should defeat Dutton. That would drop Dutton down to wrestle Ugi, which is equally as brutal. Like Horan, he’s capable of winning, I’m just not sure if he will. What would be ideal for the MI fans is if Dutton and Horan squared off in that Blood Round match, guaranteeing one AA from the Mitten.
SW: Much like Roth at 133, both Horan and Dutton seem like they could be the guy to make or break their team’s respective finish. Like you I got to lean toward Horan as the more likely candidate to do so, but Dutton has shown a ton of upside in a limited sample size this season.
Moving on, #2 Logan Stieber is gunning for his 3rd NCAA title in as many seasons, and without doubt is the favorite to do so. He’s seeded below #1 Mitchell Port (Edinboro) due a to loss against #3 Zain Retherford (PSU) early in the season. However, Stieber reversed that result with a convincing win over Retherford in the Big 10 finals.
Retherford has one of the most brutal draws a #3 seed has ever had, but let’s assume the true frosh sets up a rubber match with Stieber in the semis. Do you think he has what it takes to beat Stieber for a second time, or was the first match just a bump in the road for Stieber?
As for Port, just how good is he? The returning NCAA runner-up is spotless on the season, but his schedule has not been overly impressive. He’ll have to get through the also undefeated #4 Devin Carter (Virginia Tech), but should he see Stieber in the finals does Port have a legitimate chance at a title?
Retherford is an absolute hammer, especially on top. However, I don’t think he’ll be able to replicate his previous win over Stieber. For me, Stieber is still the second best wrestler in the country, behind the Magic Man. So I think the Buckeye will be successful in his quest for a third title.
Port is the real deal. You’re right that his schedule hasn’t been like what you’d see out of the B1G, but still, he’s scored bonus in 18 of his 26 wins. That’s pretty dominant. I’m assuming that we’re seeing a healthy Devin Carter, and if that’s the case, I’ve gotta lean towards Carter making the finals. Like I said though, it’s more likely than not that that semi will be for second place.
JJ’s PICKS: 1) Stieber 2) Carter 3) Retherford 4) Port 5) Dardanes 6) Lazor 7) Horan 8) Collica
Steve’s PICKS: 1) Stieber 2) Port 3) Retherford 4) Carter 5) Dardanes 6) Mecate 7) Horan 8) Lazor
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