ST. LOUIS, Mo. — March Matness is in full-tilt with the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships slated for this weekend (March 16-18) in St. Louis.
The staff at Michigan Grappler is diving into each weight class with full analysis and predictions leading into this weekend’s action.
Here’s a look at 125:
Last year’s runner-up Thomas Gilman of Iowa and Virginia Tech’s Joey Dance enter as the top seeds and favorites for a finals clash.
That being said, if recent history has taught us anything, that’s could change in the blink of an eye.
This weight class has been chocked-full of upsets in recent years with unseeded guys like David Terao and Zeke Moisey taking down names like Jesse Delgado and Nahshon Garrett on the way to All-American status.
Both Gilman and Dance have experienced first-hand the havoc these guys have caused. Gilman was pinned by Moisey in the semifinals two years ago and Dance, who was seeded No.2 last season was upset by 15-seeded Tarao in just the second round.
I don’t see this year playing out any differently. Someone at the top is bound to get knocked off, it’s just a matter of when and who?
Second Round Matchups:
#9 Josh Rodriguez (NDSU) vs #8 Nick Piccinni (OKST)
The two wrestled for the first time two weeks ago in the Big 12 title match with Piccinni taking the narrow 7-5 decision. I like the senior, Rodriguez, over the freshman, Piccinni, in this rematch.
#11 Josh Terao (AMER) vs #6 Lizak
Yes, there is another Terao in the field this and he’s looking follow in his older brother’s footsteps by making some noise on the big stage.
Lizak is without question one of the most talented 125-pounders in the Big Ten but exposed some weaknesses in high-pressure matches late in the season.
I think Terao capitalizes on a third-period mistake to complete the upset.
#7 Sean Russell (Edin) vs #10 Jack Mueller (UVA)
Both wrestlers have put together solid season but I like the freshman, Mueller, to duplicate his 6-2 win over Russell back in January.
**Dark horse Candidate: Conor Youtsey (Mich) vs #2 Joey Dance
Don’t ever count out Michigan’s Connor Youtsey. The fifth year senior and 2-time All-American has made a career out catching fire under the bright lights.
He showed he may have some magic left after an upsetting Lizak in the Big Ten Championships. He also beat Dance back in 2015.
Does he have another run left in him? We'll see
#1 Thomas Gilman (IOWA) vs #9 Josh Rodriguez (NDSU)
Gilman defeated Rodriguez, 4-1, in their only meeting back on 2015. I think Gilman builds an early lead and heads to the semis with a 7-2 decision.
#5 Tim Lambert (NEB) vs #4 Darian Cruz (LEH)
This one should be a barn burner with both wrestlers holding a win in two career meetings.
Lambert has put together a solid senior campaign and in search of his first trip to the podium.
Cruz, a junior, has just two losses on the year to PSU’s Nick Suriano and Ethan Lizak, both of which were defeated by Lambert this season.
Lambert wins via 6-4 sudden victory.
#3 Suriano (PSU) vs #11 Terao (AMER)
Can’t say I’d be shocked if Terao pulled the upset here, especially since Suriano did not wrestle the Big Ten Championships.
However, I think Suriano wrestles a smarter match against an aggressive Terao and advances to the semis with a 7-4 decision.
#2 Joey Dance (VT) vs # 10 Mueller (UVA)
Mueller didn’t have much to offer Dance back in their January ACC dual meet losing by 11-3 major decision.
I think Mueller closes the gap a bit but Dance cruises to the semis with a 10-5 decision.
#1 Thomas Gilman (IOWA) vs #5 Tim Lambert (NEB)
These two have been going at for four-straight years with Gilman holding the upper hand in all seven of their meetings.
Lambert has been on another level this season though and shrunk the gap between them considerably.
Gilman won, 6-3, in their regular season duel meeting took a 4-0 decision in the Big Ten title match.
I think eight is the lucky number for Lambert as finally edges his longtime nemesis and earns a trip to the finals on the strength of a late third-period takedown to win, 4-3.
#2 Joey Dance (VT) vs #3 Nick Suriano (PSU)
This one could go either way in my mind. Suriano possesses the talent and ability to knock off Dance I just can’t trust that he won’t collapse under the pressure after his Big Ten Tournament showing.
Ultimately, I think Dance overcomes last season’s disappointment and earns a trip to the finals with a 4-1 decision.
#5 Tim Lambert vs #2 Joey Dance (VT)
These two have squared off just once in their careers. Dance took a 7-4 decision back in February.
I see this one going down to the wire with the winner being whoever gets the first takedown.
Dance is an absolute magician on his feet which and I think he uses patented high-crotch outside leg finish grab a first period takedown.
Lambert gets out quick to knot the score, 2-2, in the second period.
Dance escapes early in the third and scores on off desperation shot from Lambert to secure the 125-pound crown, 5-2.
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Registration for the NUWAY Southwest Kickoff Classic aka 'The Freak Show' is now open.
The past two years the event has attracted elite competition from all corners of the United States in each age division. Nationally ranked wrestlers have flocked to Vegas each year to compete for the illustrious 'Freak Show' title.
DATES: October 31 - November 2, 2014
VENUE: Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino
WEBSITE: NUWAY VEGAS
HOTEL INFORMATION: Rio Hotel Promo Code: SRUSA4