NCAA Division I Preview Part 2 of 2
By Tom Molony
Special to Illinois Matmen
Here are the breakdowns for 165 through 285.
Seeds: 1. Jordan Burroughs, Nebraska, 2. Andrew Howe, Wisconsin, 3. Tyler Caldwell, Oklahoma, 4. Josh Asper, Maryland, 5. Colt Sponseller, Ohio State, 6. Dallas Bailey, Oklahoma State, 7. Shane Onufer, Wyoming, 8. Scott Winston, Rutgers, 9. Justin Kerber, Cornell, 10. Zach Toal, Missouri, 11. Aaron Janssen, Iowa, 12. Cody Yohn, Minnesota.
Outlook: For all intents and purposes, this is a two man race for first. Yes, I know, anything can happen at the national tournament, but letís be realistic here, folks.
Top seeded Jordan Burroughs is back and has been kicking @$$ and taking names all season long, in case you havenít heard. His Midlands finals match against two-time NCAA finalist and returning National Champion, Andrew Howe, showed everyone just what they can expect from here to Nationals. At 31-0, Burroughs has earned bonus points in all but three of his matches to date.
Second seed Howe is not to be overlooked in any of this, though. Heís a proven winner with a grand total of seven losses in his college career, five of which came as a freshman. Howe is a master of reflecting, adapting and moving forward. Should he meet Burroughs in the finals for the title, expect Howe to slow down the pace and not allow Burroughs in on his legs at will, as he had this past December.
The third seed, Tyler Caldwell (no relation to Darrion), could provide some challenge for Howe on the bottom side of the bracket. Two of Burroughs three decisions this season have come against Caldwell. A returning All-American (fifth) from his true freshman season last year, Caldwell is not odds on favorite to win the title this season, but he not one to be counted out before the tournament begins.
Fourth seed Josh Asper was moments away from All-American honors as a redshirt freshman in 2010, but it was not to be. With 31 wins on the season to date to his two losses, Asper did take third seed Caldwell into overtime at the 2010 Midlands, only to drop a 3-1 decision. While nothing is ever certain, Asper is near the top of the second tier of wrestlers at this weight and may very well reach the podium this weekend in Philadelphia.
Former All-Everything Scott Winston of Rutgers is out of his redshirt year and up a weight class from qualifying in 2009. He took a major decision loss early in the season to Asper, but has come on strong since then in limited action for the Scarlett Knights.
Noticeably absent from this yearís tournament is Central Michiganís Mike Miller, a two-time All-American and former National runner-up. Injury plagued for some time, his late-season run towards a third National qualification came up short at the Mid-Atlantic Conference tournament, where he placed third after losing 14-3 for true second place.
Dark Horse: Donnie Jones is the third of three brothers at West Virginia, had the better high school career, but just hasnít seemed to completely click in college. If he comes in wrestling at his best, he wonít make the finals, but he could be earning AA honors in 2011.
Tofurkyís predictions: 1. Burroughs, 2. Howe, 3. Caldwell, 4. Asper, 5. Onufer, 6. Yohn, 7. Janssen, 8. Sponseller.
Seeds: 1. Jon Reader, Iowa State, 2. Ed Ruth, Penn State, 3. Mack Lewnes, Cornell, 4. Colby Convington, Oregon State, 5. Chris Heinrich, Virginia, 6. Ben Bennett, Central Michigan, 7. Nick Amuchastegui, Stanford, 8. Mike Letts, Maryland, 9. Ethan Lofthouse, Iowa, 10. Nick Heflin, Ohio State, 11. Austin Meys, Lehigh, 12. Mike Benefiel, Oklahoma State.
Outlook: 34-0. Thatís Jon Readerís record to date.
This year, Reader is up one weight class from the previous three seasons where he earned three trips to Nationals and two All-American finishes, Reader looks like a man possessed on matching the heights of former Davison, Michigan teammates, Brent Metcalf (Iowa, 2008 and 2010) and Paul Donahoe (Nebraska, 2007).
To compliment Reader at the two seed is funky redshirt freshman Ed Ruth from Penn State. He has built up a very nice season for himself, going 32-1 to date. However, Ruth is a very hot and cold type of wrestler. He seems to not always take his opponents seriously or give them enough credit for their abilities and unnecessarily engages in close matches that might not otherwise be any real contest for such a supremely athletic kid.
The third seed is 2010 National runner-up, Mack Lewnes of Cornell. He was dominated by Ruth at the Southern Scuffle in December and then dropped a 7-6 decision to Reader at a dual in late January. Yet, the two-time All-American knows how to handle pressure and has been to the finals before, so his ability to rise to the occasion in situations heís been in before could make all the difference this season.
Oregon State Senior Colby Covington is the fourth seed and carries a 20-1 record with him into Nationals. His lone loss came at the hands of 165 pounder Tyler Caldwell, who was wrestling up a weight earlier in the season. After that, Covington has been perfect, including two wins over Stanfordís returning Junior All-American, Nick Amuchastegui.
Eighth seed Mike Letts is the only guy to put a number on Ed Ruth this season, when he beat him 9-4 in early December. A two-time NCAA qualifier, Letts is back following an injury-shortened 2010 campaign.
The 12 seed goes to Montini Catholic product, Mike Benefiel of Oklahoma State. Benefiel fell short of AA honors in 2010 and hasnít been consistent during 2011, including not being able to solve the Jon Reader riddle to the tune of two major decision losses. Illinoisí fanbase, including his former head coach, are hoping that he can pull it together to make top eight this year.
Dark Horse: Ben Jordan of Wisconsin. If nothing else, he has the pedigree to propel him to All-American status.
Tofurkyís predictions: 1. Ruth, 2. Reader, 3. Amuchastegui, 4. Covington, 5. Lewnes, 6. Meys, 7. Bennett, 8. Heinrich
Seeds: 1. Chris Honeycutt, Edinborough, 2. Robert Hamlin, Lehigh, 3. Steve Bosak, Cornell, 4. Travis Rutt, Wisconsin, 5. Joe LeBlanc, Wyoming, 6. Ryan Loder, Northern Iowa, 7. Chris Perry Oklahoma State, 8. Kevin Steinhaus, Minnesota, 9. Quentin Wright, Penn State, 10. Josh Ihnen, Nebraska, 11. Kirk Smith, Boise State, 12. Grant Gambrall, Iowa.
Outlook: Plagued by injuries all season long, preseason number top ranked and returning National runner-up Kirk Smith of Boise State has had a hard go of it. With that, 184 became wide open and the title is really up for grabs at this point.
Fifth seed Joe LeBlanc from Wyoming is a two-time All-American, having placed both fifth and fourth in the last two seasons. His two losses this season have close affairs with Hamlin and Loder.
Fresh off of a redshirt season, Penn Stateís Quentin Wrightóand All-American in 2009óhas proven that he is more than capable of wrestling way above his seed, most recently at the Big 10s. The only issue here is that he and LeBlanc are on the same side of the bracket and could meet in the semifinals.
This weight truly is a unique one with most everyone having losses to each other and very few returning AAs. Itís going to be a wild ride at 184 this year, that is for certain.
Dark Horse: Really, it could be anyone, but Iím going to go with Tony Dallago from Illinois. In spite of his 16-15 record, Dallago can hang with the best at 184 and on a good day, even beat some of them.
Tofurkyís predictions: 1. Wright, 2. Perry, 3. Rutt, 4. LeBlanc, 5. Bosak, 6. Smith, 7. Hamlin, 8. Loder.
Seeds: 1. Cam Simaz, Cornell, 2. Clayton Foster, Oklahoma State, 3. Trevor Brandvold, Wisconsin, 4. Dustin Kilgore, 5. Luke Lofthouse, Iowa, 6. Micah Murak, UPenn, 7. Zac Thomusseit, Pittsburgh, 8. Matt Powless, Indiana, 9. Sonny Yohn, Minnesota, 10. Logan Brown, Purdue, 11. Jerome Ward, Iowa State, 12. Zack Giesen, Stanford.
Outlook: On paper, top seed Cam Simaz appears to be the man to beat in this bracket. The two-time All-American has been ranked number one almost all season long, except when he dropped a close 10-9 decision to fourth seed Dustin Kilgore of Kent State before Thanksgiving. Since then, Simaz has been a pinning machine, scoring 10 falls and two technical falls in 23 matches.
Not to be outdone is 2010 All-American Clayton Foster from Oklahoma State. Foster carries an undefeated 22-0 record into Nationals this weekend, earning him the number two seed.
Three-time qualifier and 2010 All-American Travor Brandvold of Wisconsin also brings an undefeated record with him to Philadelphia in the form of 14-0 after taking off a large part of December and January to heal some injuries. This three seed is a workhorse, period. Brandvold isnít flashy, but he scores and has a defense like few other at his weight. Donít expect high scoring affairs from him, just the kind of solid basic wrestling that wins matches.
Kent Stateís Dustin Kilgore takes the four seed and is a returning All-American (seventh in 2010). With a 33-2 record, one of his losses came mid-season to six seed Micah Burak from UPenn, 6-4.
11 seed Jerome Ward is a name Illinois fans will remember. He was a two-time state champ from Chicago St. Ritaís powerhouse programs in the mid-2000s. A two-time qualifier, Ward bumped up from 184 this season and had surgery in December, which sidelined him for a month or so. Since returning from surgery, he is a mortal 6-5 and 16-7 overall going into the National tournament.
Dark Horse: Anthony Biondo of Michigan. Not a star, but has been around the block a few times and won some matches at Nationals. The right combination of a good draw and non-stop wrestling and he could be earning an All-American plaque in his senior season.
Tofurkyís prediction: 1. Simaz, 2. Brandvold, 3. Kilgore, 4. Foster, 5. Yohn, 6. Thomusseit, 7. Powless, 8. Murak.
Seeds: 1. Zach Rey, Lehigh, 2. Jarrod Trice, Central Michigan, 3. Ryan Flores, American, 4. Dominick Russo, Rutgers, 5. Dom Bradley, Missouri, 6. Ryan Tomei, Pittsburgh, 7. Blake Rasing, Iowa, 8. Anthony Nelson, Minnesota, 9. Cameron Wade, Penn State, 10. Nathan Fernandez, Oklahoma, 11. Tucker Lane, Nebraska, 12. Eric Bugenhagen, Wisconsin.
Outlook: I admit, I donít watch the heavy guys on most occasions. However, at first glance, heavyweight appears to be as up in the air as 184 pounds. Itís anyoneís game this weekend at this weight.
Itís hard to ignore Floresí win against Rey two weeks back as something significant at that weight. The transfer from Columbia U has rolled together a great season thus far and appears to be peaking when it matters most: Nationals week.
Also, Rey has the unique opportunity to be working with former four-time finalist and two-time champion, Steve Mocco, at Lehigh U. It would be nearly impossible to decrease in skill with a guy like Mocco around.
Missouriís Dom Bradley is always a real threat to walk off with the title and this could be his year. Being a FILA Junior World Team member and spending two years wrestling with and behind former National Champion and two-time All-American, Mark Ellis, never hurts your chances of success.
Central Michiganís Trice is a former All-American (eighth in 2009) and has been on a tear all season long. The question now is can he keep up the pace all the way through the bracket to make the finals or if he will be challenged by some of the unproven talent at this weight.
Dark Horse: Woodridge and Downerís Groveís finest, Ben Apland.
Tofurkyís predictions: 1. Bradley, 2. Flores, 3. Rey, 4. Wade, 5, Tomei, 6. Trice, 7. Rasing, 8. Russo.