Weighing Iowa's competition
By Andy Hamilton ? Iowa City Press-CItizen ? March 19, 2009
Breaking down the bracket: Two NCAA champs and another former finalist are the headliners at 125. Paul Donahoe is 31-0 during his first season at Edinboro after getting kicked off the team at Nebraska, where he was the 2007 NCAA champion. Cornell's Troy Nickerson reached the finals in 2006 as a true freshman and placed third as a sophomore. He missed all of last season with a shoulder injury but enters the tournament 20-0. Last year's champ, Indiana's Angel Escobedo, claimed his second straight Big Ten title by beating Northwestern's No. 4 seed Brandon Precin and Iowa's Charlie Falck in the conference tournament.
The file on Falck: Falck has beaten all of the highly seeded opponents on his path to the finals and has won his past two meetings with Donahoe. The Iowa senior is one of the best wrestlers at the weight on his feet, but he has been vulnerable against strong top-position wrestlers. He could run into a series of challenges beginning in the second round against Arizona State's Anthony Robles or Ohio State's Nikko Triggas.
Breaking down the bracket: This is one of the tournament's deepest weights. Michigan State's Franklin Gomez earned the No. 1 seed by claiming his second straight Big Ten title, beating Ohio State's Reece Humphrey, the No. 2 seed, in the conference finals. The Big Ten produced five of the tournament's top six seeds, including No. 3 Jimmy Kennedy of Illinois, No. 4 Daniel Dennis of Iowa and No. 6 Jayson Ness of Minnesota. The bracket includes five returning 133-pound All-Americans and the influx of Humphrey, Dennis, Ness and Boise State's Andrew Hochstrasser to the title picture.
The file on Dennis: The junior opens his first NCAA meet with Oklahoma State's Chris Notte. All things considered, it's a good draw for Dennis. He has a win against Gomez and three of the four wrestlers who beat him this season are on the opposite side of the bracket.
Breaking down the bracket: This appears to be one of the most wide open weights in the tournament. Michigan's Kellen Russell, the No. 1 seed, seems to find ways to win close matches, but he came up short of the medal stand last year as a freshman. Wisconsin's second-seeded Zach Tanelli has been stronger this season after moving up from 133. Ohio State's J Jaggers had a miserable start to the season, but the defending NCAA champion wrestled well enough down the stretch to earn the No. 3 seed. Iowa's Alex Tsirtsis, Missouri's Marcus Hoehn, Iowa State's Nick Gallick and Harvard's Corey Jantzen have demonstrated an ability to beat top opponents, but their title hopes rest on assembling a string of big victories.
The file on Tsirtsis: This is the last go-round with the Hawkeyes for the former blue-chip recruit. Tsirtsis has all of the requisite skills to finish his career on top, but the bracket is treacherous. Although he has beaten many of the potential opponents in his path to the finals, most of those matches have been tight.
Breaking down the bracket: Iowa's Brent Metcalf distanced himself from the field throughout the season. The defending NCAA champion picked up bonus points for the Hawkeyes in all but three victories this season, including a pin against No. 2 seed Bubba Jenkins of Penn State in the semifinals and a technical fall against No. 3 Darrion Caldwell of North Carolina State in the NWCA All-Star meet. Ohio State All-American Lance Palmer pushed Metcalf to the limit in last year's NCAA quarterfinals when the Iowa junior couldn't convert on several scoring opportunities. The wrestler to watch might be No. 9 seed Kyle Terry of Oklahoma. Terry is 28-1 and hasn't lost since early-November.
The file on Metcalf: The reigning Hodge Trophy winner has been even more dominant as a junior, adding another dimension to his arsenal with his enhanced top-position skills. His closest match all season was a four-point victory.
Breaking down the bracket: Perhaps the best weight in the tournament, 157 is headlined by NCAA champs Gregor Gillespie of Edinboro and Jordan Leen of Cornell, NCAA runner-up Mike Poeta of Illinois and Nebraska's top-seeded Jordan Burroughs. Burroughs is one of the most explosive wrestlers in the country on his feet and has adjusted nicely to the weight after moving up from 149 where he was an All-American last season. Harvard's J.P. O'Connor, Iowa State's Cyler Sanderson and Bloomsburg's Matt Moley also reached the medal stand last year while Missouri's Michael Chandler came up one victory short of All-America status. This is the only weight in which Iowa did not qualify for the tournament.
Breaking down the bracket: Cornell's Mack Lewnes compiled a 35-0 record this season to earn the No. 1 seed. After Lewnes, everybody else has beaten up on each other, most of which have been tight, low-scoring bouts. Wisconsin true freshman Andrew Howe bounced back from some early-season defeats and earned the No. 2 seed by winning the Big Ten in a tiebreaker decision against Iowa's No. 3 seed Ryan Morningstar. Northern Iowa's Moza Fay, Missouri's Nick Marable, Nebraska's Stephen Dwyer and Iowa State's Jon Reader are all returning All-Americans.
The file on Morningstar: The move up from 157 to 165 has helped put Morningstar in contention to earn All-America honors for the first time in his career. He's been hard to score against and he's capable of winning the title if he can get his offense going on his feet.
Breaking down the bracket: Michigan's Steve Luke (27-0), the NCAA runner-up last year, and American's Michael Cannon (30-0) enter the tournament as the top two seeds. Luke has always been difficult to score against, but it appears as if he's added more offense to his arsenal this season. Nebraska's Brandon Browne, who claimed the Big 12 title just two weeks after the death of his mother, earned the No. 3 seed. Iowa's Jay Borschel and Missouri's Raymond Jordan, who dropped down from 184, Central Michigan's Mike Miller and Cornell's Steve Anceravage are among the seven All-Americans at the weight.
The file on Borschel: The NCAA Championships brought out some of Borschel's best performances of the season last year when he placed third, and the Hawkeyes are hoping for more of the same this week. He has beaten fifth-seeded Jordan and has a past win against Luke, who could be in his path to the finals.
Breaking down the bracket: Northwestern's Jake Herbert has established himself as the favorite, entering the tournament with a 29-0 record. The 2007 NCAA champ has been more dominant in his first season back from an Olympic redshirt. Iowa's Phil Keddy (29-3) hasn't lost to anyone other than Herbert this season. Keddy earned the No. 2 seed after beating defending NCAA champ Mike Pucillo of Ohio State in the Big Ten semifinals. They could be in line for a potential semifinal rematch Friday night. Boise State's Kirk Smith, the No. 4 seed, is the only other returning All-American in the bracket.
The file on Keddy: The Iowa junior has been steady throughout the past two seasons. The only wrestlers who have beaten him since the start of his sophomore year are All-Americans. He'll need to continue that consistency to get to the semifinals and will need to wrestle nearly flawless matches to beat both of the national champs.
Breaking down the bracket: Nebraska's Craig Brester claimed the No. 1 seed by knocking off Iowa State's Jake Varner in the Big 12 finals. As it turned out, Brester may have wound up on the tougher side of the bracket. He could have to go through Michigan's fourth-seeded Tyrell Todd, the Big Ten champ, to get to the finals. Varner reached the NCAA finals in each of his first two seasons with the Cyclones but couldn't get to the top of the podium. He'll be hard to beat on the bottom side of the bracket, which also includes third-seeded Brent Chriswell of Boise State and No. 6 seed Max Askren of Missouri. Iowa's Chad Beatty is the only unseeded Hawkeye in the tournament.
The file on Beatty: The Iowa junior opens the tournament with No. 8 seed Clayton Foster of Oklahoma State in what looks like one of the most intriguing first-round matches in the tournament. Beatty wrestled at 197 out of necessity last year after starting the season at 174, but he has grown into a legitimate All-America candidate and had top-seeded Brester on the ropes earlier in the year.
Breaking down the bracket: Iowa State's David Zabriskie clinched the No. 1 seed with his victory against Missouri's Mark Ellis in the Big 12 finals. Those two have been tangling all season with Oklahoma State's Jared Rosholt, the No. 4 seed. Kent State's Jermail Porter is 28-1 and seeded third. Duke's Konrad Dudziak, the fifth seed, takes a 27-2 record into his first NCAA meet appearance. Iowa's Dan Erekson has steadily improved during his first season as a heavyweight and was dominant on his way to the Big Ten title.
The file on Erekson: Erekson qualified for the NCAA meet in 2006 as a true freshman at 197 pounds. He had trouble holding up late in matches at the start of the season, but his conditioning and confidence are peaking. His leg attacks and top-position skills make him dangerous as the No. 7 seed.