NCAA Wrestling Tournament preview of Oklahoma Wrestlers

125 Pounds - Jarrod Patterson (18-2) is the #6 seed at NCAAs. His first match is against Nick Hermann (Virginia) 17-10. I expect Patterson to win and advance to face #11 seed Robert Deutsch (30-4) from Rider. Obviously anybody with a record of 30-4 is pretty formidable, but a glance at Deutsch's record indicates he has has never beaten a guy of Patterson's caliber. Anything can happen at NCAAs, but I'm picking Patterson to advance to the quarterfinals where he will face #3 seed Nico Megaludis (26-3) from Penn State. Patterson has faced Megaludis before and came out on the bad end of a 7-3 decision. Megaludis is a bit better than Patterson so I predict he'll beat Patterson by 3 or 4 points. Patterson does has potential to beat Megaludis, so I'll give him a 15% chance of pulling off an upset.

133 Pounds - Cody Brewer (20-7) is the 13th seed at 133. First off I think that is a pretty low seed for Brewer. I think based on his results this year and the fact he finished 7th last year that he earned a top 8 seed. Alas that was not to be. It's a terrible seed for Brewer because of whom he faces in the round of 16. In the first round Brewer faces Vincent Pizzuto (20-9) from Eastern Michigan. Both guys have losses to Joe Roth from Central Michigan, but Brewer has faced much tougher competition this year. I expect Brewer to win and then face Jon Morrison (25-1) from OSU in the next round. This is a terrible matchup for Brewer. He has never beaten Morrison and had been slowly closing the gap, but when they met in the Big 12 final Morrison dominated completely. Unless Morrison has a meltdown and Brewer wrestles well over his head I can't see him beating Morrison. Assuming everybody wrestles to seed Brewer will win his next match in consolations then face Joe Roth, who already has a win over him this season. If Brewer can upset him he'll probably face Cashe Quiroga in the R12. Not a good prospect for Cody making AA this year unless he brings his "A" game. If Brewer wrestles his best I wouldn't be surprised to see him beat Roth and Quiroga and earn his 2nd All American status.

141 Pounds - Nick Lester (17-11) is unseeded and drew Gabe Moreno (16-19) from ISU in his first match (a pigtail match). Moreno shocked everybody by upsetting #1 seed Colin Johnston from WVU in the Big 12 tourney before losing a narrow decision to Collica from OSU in the finals. Lester has a pair of major decisions over Moreno this year and should easily advance to the round of 32. Once there Lester will face #1 seed Mitchell Port (26-0) from Edinboro. Port should dominate Lester in this match (on paper), but with Lester you never know what to expect. Lester has oodles of talent, but he's lazy and undisciplined. Maybe since this is his last "dance" he'll bring his best. I give him a slight chance of upsetting Port (10%). In any case if Lester drops down to consolations he'll probably be favored in his first match and then face Collica in the 2nd round of consolation. Lester has potential to win that one too. Strangely, looking ahead at consolations (theoretically at least) none of the guys Lester faces up to the "All American" round have him dominated on paper. If Lester gets hot at the tournament don't be surprised if the least consistent wrestler on OU's team, Lester, pulls out an All American (top 8) finish at the NCAAs.

149 Pounds - Kendrick Maple (22-4) is 4th seed at this weight. Maple has a brutal first round match in Tywan Claxton (26-7) from Ohio U. Claxton is a sleeper and is perfectly capable of beating Maple. I give Maple a 90% chance of winning, but if he wrestles tentatively and Claxton brings it don't be surprised if there is an upset. In my opinion this is probably the worst draw in the entire tournament for a top 4 seed. That being said I expect Maple to move on and face #13 seed Brody Grothus (23-11) from Iowa in the round of 16. Grothus has shown a lot of improvement this season. Maple hasn't wrestled Grothus, but Grothus has split 2 decisions with Josh Kindig, who has wrestled Maple very tough this year (with 1 win for each). On paper there isn't much that separates Maple/Grothus. Iowa usually wrestles insanely well at NCAAs, so don't be surprised if Grothus pulls the upset. I'm giving Maple 60% chance of advancing. If Maple wrestles aggressively this match wouldn't even be in doubt, but Maple hasn't been wrestling aggressively this year. Assuming Maple wins he'd then likely face #5 seed Jason Tsirtsis (or "T-shirt") who has a 27-3 record and is the Big 10 champion from Northwestern. Enough said, Big 10 champion= bonafide NCAA championship contender. Tsirtsis has split a pair of matches with Grothus and will be all Maple can handle, assuming Maple can handle him. I give Maple a 50/50 chance of winning this match, but Tsirtsis is the hot hand here so again don't be surprised if Maple can't pull it off. If Maple gets through the gauntlet of those 3 very tough opponents he faces #1 seed Drake Houdashelt from Missouri (34-1) who won a close overtime match against Maple earlier this year. Expect another close match. If Maple wrestles tentatively he will lose again. If he wrestles aggressively he'll likely win. Motivation will be very important for Maple in this tournament with the tough opponents he is facing from the very start. If Maple wins against all those guys he'll likely face #2 seed Nick Dardanes (32-3) from Minnesota in the finals. Again anything can happen between wrestlers at this high a level, but I think Maple is a notch above Dardanes if he brings his "A" match. Maple by 1 point.

157 pounds - Justin DeAngelis (16-5) faces Brian Murphy (18-7) from Michigan in a pigtail match at 157. Not much separates these two on paper, but after looking at their records/competition I have to give Murphy a slight edge. If DeAngelis wins he'll probably face #13 seed Dylan Alton (18-5) from PSU in the round of 32. Alton is a very talented wrestler and I can't see DeAngelis beating him unless Alton wrestles poorly. If that happens expect DeAngelis to face #4 seed Ian Miller (27-4) from Kent State. Miller is so good that Dieringer from OSU needed to go into overtime to beat him. Can't see DeAngelis beating him. Best case scenario I see DeAngelis winning 2 matches at NCAAs, and he'd need some big upsets to make All American or even the round of 12.

174 pounds - #2 seed Andrew Howe (24-1), fresh off an upset "loss" in the Big 12 tournament finals to Chris Perry (#1 seed and 25-1), faces Mikey England (19-14) from Missouri in his first match. God help England, Howe is pissed after being jacked out of 6 points at the Big 12 tournament finals and will be looking to make a statement at this NCAA tournament. Howe will destroy England first, then #15 seed Billy Curler (17-8) from Old Dominion. Expect major decisions or more, neither of these guys is remotely in the same class as Howe. #7 seed Tyler Wilps from Pittsburgh (28-5) will probably meet Howe in the quarterfinals . Wilps is a very dangerous opponent. Howe should have no problem winning if he does what he's been doing all year. I expect Howe to win a workmanlike 8-4 type decision here. In the semifinals Howe will probably wrestle Big 10 Champion Robert Kokesh (32-1) from Nebraska. Kokesh is a very tough quality opponent like all Big 10 champions, but Howe was a 3 time Big 10 champion in his own right before transferring to OU. Frankly Kokesh wouldn't have been Big 10 champ if Howe had stayed at Wisconsin. Howe had a narrow 3-2 win over Kokesh earlier this year and I expect him to beat Kokesh again. In the finals Howe will probably face top seeded Chris Perry (25-1) from OSU. Perry has a vastly easier road to the finals with his only real quality opponent being Evans from Iowa (#4 seed). Howe will wrestle aggressively from the start if these two meet in the finals, and I expect Howe to win by 3-4 points. Perry is an excellent wrestler and a great strategist, but Howe is a better wrestler with something to prove after his controversial loss in the Big 12 finals.

197 pounds - Travis Rutt (21-5) is the #7 seed. Rutt has been wrestling too defensively in my opinion. He's much better when he's aggressive. Nevertheless he is quite good enough to dispose of Brandon Palik (20-7) from Drexel. In the 2nd round Rutt will face #10 seed Jace Bennett (29-9) from Cornell. Rutt won a pedestrian 5-2 victory in their previous match and I expect him to prevail here, although ALL Cornell wrestlers are very good and can't be overlooked. Rutt will face J'Den Cox (33-2) in the quarterfinals. Ugh, this is a bad match for Rutt. Cox absolutely dominated Rutt 6-1 earlier this year, but the match wasn't anywhere near that close. That 5 point win more closely resembled a major decision...Rutt couldn't do anything with Cox. Cox by easy decision and I wouldn't be surprised if he majors Rutt. Cox will be the national champion this year at 197, I'm calling it now. The only thing that can stop him is "freshman jitters", which sometimes strikes young guys their first time at the tournament. I remember when Max Askren was 28-2 and #1 seed and lost both his matches as a freshman. Cox is better than Askren was and I don't see it happening.

Heavyweight - Ross Larson (21-10) received an undeserved "at large" invitation to the NCAA tournament and draws the dubious honor of getting #4 seed Adam Coon (30-3) from Michigan in his first match. I don't think Larson could win this match if he cloned himself and both of them wrestled Coon. Coon finished only 9th in the Big 10 tournament by the way and is #4 seed at the NCAAs. Yes, the Big 10 is that good. Expect Larson to lose, badly, in this match and drop to consolations where, best case scenario, he wins one match and loses in the 2nd round of consolations. Frankly I don't see him winning any matches at all after the Quean Smith debacle.

Overall prognosis for the Sooners - Patterson has a great chance of All American, as does Maple, Howe, and Rutt. Strangely I think Lester has a better chance than Brewer does of becoming All American, and I expect Larson and DeAngelis not to do that much although I think DeAngelis may win a match or two. I think OU has a real shot at finishing in the top 10, but top 5 is probably out of reach unless the team wrestles out of their mind. If OU wrestles above their seeds and puts a couple in the finals, I could see the Sooners bringing home a spot in the top 5.

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