The Cowboys head to the NCAA tournament Thursday. Here are the brackets, and here is a preview of what to expect for the Cowboys at the lower weights.
125 — No. 6 Nick Piccininni
Nick got a decent seed and an OK draw. He should win his first match. Then he’ll wrestle Sean Russell from Edinboro. Nick is 2-2 against him so far in his career, but beat him earlier this year. Russell is no pushover, and Nick will need to wrestle well to win that one. I think he will though, then he’ll likely have Spencer Lee from Iowa.
Lee is very good and beat Nick earlier this year in the dual, but Nick seemed to figure him out towards the end of the match after going down early. I think he could pull an upset here, but it’ll be tough. If he wins here he’ll have another tough one to make the final, and if he loses will need to win one match to be an All-American (top eight get All-American). I think he could surprise some people with an upset or two to finish a little higher, but I’m going to project a 5th place finish for him.
If Nick can avoid the early flurry of scoring from Lee that he gave up here he definitely has a chance in that one.
133 — No. 4 Kaid Brock
Brock’s seed didn’t do him any favors. He should win to get to the semifinal. His quarterfinal with John Erneste or Josh Terao could be interesting. Both are good, and some guys in my fantasy league were projecting a loss for Brock there. Personally I think he pulls it out. Then he’ll have a match with the best guy at his weight class in Seth Gross of South Dakota St.
Brock’s a wild guy, and with all the offense he has on his feet he could let if fly just enough to pull off the upset. I think Brock is the No. 2 guy at this weight even though he’s seeded four, so I think he’ll come back to finish 3rd if he loses to Gross. But if he pulls that semifinal upset he could be an NCAA champ.
141 — No. 6 Dean Heil
Most know the saga of Dean Heil. He’s a two-time NCAA champ, and throughout his career he’s beat guys in close matches. This year he’s dropped a few, and this will be the first time since his freshman year that he’s not favored to win here. Don’t count him out.
One guy he’ll have to go through to make the final is freshman Phenom Yianni Diakamohalis from Cornell. Then Jaydin Eierman from Mizzou in the semifinal. This is a very deep weight so anywhere Dean would’ve been dropped in is tough, but the guy’s won it twice and no one else at this weight ever has so I expect him to perform here.
It’ll be interesting to see how he reacts if he does lose though. He hasn’t dealt with that at the NCAA tournament since his freshman year, so who knows what will happen there if he loses.
149 — No. 8 Boo Lewallen
Boo comes in as the eight seed, but has a weird draw. I noted this when I did my initial bracket reaction, but it’s really crazy that they have him and three other Big 12 wrestlers bunched up together. He beat all of them the last few weeks of the season so theoretically he should win to the quarterfinal and match up with Penn State’s Zain Retherford, who’s the best college wrestler out there now. So Boo probably loses here.
If the bracket goes to chalk his blood round match to be an All-American would be against a kid that didn’t even get an automatic bid to the tournament in Justin Oliver of Central Michigan. That’s a very winnable match for Boo to All-American. Outside of the top two, everyone in this bracket is beatable, and Boo actually has a win over the 3-seed this season. He has wrestled well lately, so I wouldn’t rule out a pretty high finish for him. I think he’ll definitely be an All-American.
The only weight the Cowboys didn’t get a bid was 157.
Look out for the upper weights tomorrow.