2023 NCAA Watch Party: Conference Weekend

Big 12 Wrestling Championships Preview, Team Race, & Qualifying Projections

Big 12 Wrestling Championships Preview, Team Race, & Qualifying Projections

The 2023 Big 12 Wrestling Championships go down in Tulsa, Oklahoma on March 4-5. Here's what you need to know before action begins.

Feb 27, 2023 by David Bray
Big 12 Wrestling Championships Preview, Team Race, & Qualifying Projections

The Big 12 Wrestling Championships take place in Tulsa, Oklahoma March 4-5. Not only will team and individual conference champions be crowned, but 64 wrestlers will also automatically qualify for the NCAA Championships which will be held in Tulsa two weeks later.

Final Regular Season Big 12 Rankings

Mason Lindenmuth's final regular season Big 12 Conference Rankings are available here.

Team Scores By Ranking

Our conference rankings are calculated by plugging the individual rankings into a Big 12 Tournament scoring matrix, so the following is the number of points each team will score if their athletes finish where they're projected to place based on their conference ranking. This number does not include bonus points.

1. Missouri 138

2. Oklahoma State 105

3. Iowa State 101

4. Northern Iowa 87

5. South Dakota State 86

6. Oklahoma 68.5

7. North Dakota State 67.5

8. West Virginia 61

9. Air Force 56

10. Northern Colorado 42

11. Utah Valley 27.5

12. Wyoming 23

13. California Baptist 7.5

Projected Automatic NCAA Qualifiers By Team

If everyone finishes exactly where they're ranked, here's who will automatically qualify for NCAAs based on our conference rankings and the number of NCAA AQ allocations per weight class. Keep in mind that more wrestlers from the Big 12 will qualify for NCAAs after at-large selections are made the week after the conference tournaments are completed.

Air Force - 3 (Phippen, Wolf, Hendrickson)

California Baptist - 0

Iowa State - 7 (Redding, Johnson, Kraisser, Carr, Coleman, Bastida, Schuyler)

Missouri - 9 (Surtin, Brown, Hart, Mauller, Jacques, O'Toole, Mocco, Elam, Elam)

NDSU - 5 (Droegemueller, March, Franek, Caliendo, Pentz)

Northern Colorado - 2 (Poulin, Alirez)

Northern Iowa - 7 (Biscoglia, Happel, Realbuto, Holschlag, Yant, Keckeisen, Gordon)

Oklahoma - 6 (Prata, Schwartz, Moore, Nijenhuis, Picklo, Heindselman)

Oklahoma State - 9 (Fix, Young, Voinovich, Gfeller, Sheets, Plott, Wittlake, Surber, Doucet)

SDSU - 8 (Jordan, Carlson, Swenson, Cook, DeVos, King, Sloan, Nevills)

Utah Valley - 2 (Romero, Bockman)

West Virginia - 4 (Cardinale, Hillegas, Hall, Wolfgram)

Wyoming - 2 (Volk, Wright)

125 lbs - 6 AQs

West Virginia All-American Killian Cardinale is undefeated this season, but he's only had ten matches and hasn't had the opportunity to face any of the top five ranked wrestlers in the conference this season. He does have a victory over Noah Surtin from 2021 and one over Tanner Jordan from last season. He's certainly the favorite in this bracket, but without a complete season, it's unclear exactly where he stands.

The next five in the Big 12 rankings are Surtin, Volk, Poulin, Jordan, and Prata. If the rankings predict the placements here, those guys will all be making a return trip to Tulsa in a couple of weeks for NCAAs. They'll have their hands full though because Mauger, Griffin, and Witcraft have all put together impressive results in the past.

Witcraft started the season at 133 lbs, but he's been an NCAA qualifier in his career and could way outplace his conference ranking (which would really improve Oklahoma State's title chances). Mauger has pinned both Poulin and Jordan this year while Griffin burst onto the scene by beating Kysen Terukina who has since been injured. He also majored Jore Volk and pinned Kase Mauger. Expect a jumbled mess at 125 lbs in Tulsa.

Conference Rankings

1 - #8 Killian Cardinale, West Virginia (SR)

2 - #12 Noah Surtin, Missouri (SO)

3 - #20 Jore Volk, Wyoming (FR)

4 - #21 Stevo Poulin, Northern Colorado (FR)

5 - HM Tanner Jordan, South Dakota State (SO)

6 - HM Joey Prata, Oklahoma (SR)

7 - HM Kase Mauger, Utah Valley (SO)

8 - HM Eli Griffin, Cal Baptist (FR)

9 - Reece Witcraft, Oklahoma State (JR)

10 - Kyle Golhoffer, Northern Iowa (SO)

11 - Tucker Owens, Air Force (FR)

12 - Carlos Negrete Jr., North Dakota State (FR)

13 - Caleb Fuessley, Iowa State (SO)

133 lbs - 5 AQs

Daton Fix is 12-0 at the Big 12 Championship and looking for his 4th straight conference crown. If he wins this weekend as he's heavily favored to do, he'll have the opportunity for a fifth try next year.

The remaining four AQ spots appear to be tabbed for Biscoglia, Phippen, Redding, and Brown who are also the only four wrestlers in the weight currently ranked in the top 33 in our NCAA rankings.

Conference Rankings

1 - #2 Daton Fix, Oklahoma State (JR)

2 - #18 Kyle Biscoglia, Northern Iowa (JR)

3 - #19 Cody Phippen, Air Force (SR)

4 - #22 Zach Redding, Iowa State (JR)

5 - HM Connor Brown, Missouri (SR)

6 - Jace Koelzer, Northern Colorado (JR)

7 - Wyatt Henson, Oklahoma (FR)

8 - Derrick Cardinal, South Dakota State (FR)

9 - Hunter Leake, Cal Baptist (SO)

10 - McGwire Midkiff, North Dakota State (SR)

11 - Garrett Ricks, Wyoming (SO)

12 - Davin Rhoads, West Virginia (FR)

13 - Kobe Nelms, Utah Valley (JR)

141 lbs - 7 AQs

Andrew Alirez is the clear #1 at this weight both in the Big 12 and in the NCAA. After that though, good luck predicting how 141 in the conference will end up.

Andrew Alirez's Southern Scuffle title over Allan Hart


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Until the final week of the season, Schwartz was unblemished in the conference, but then Carter Young avenged a loss to Schwartz from earlier in the year. 

Clay Carlson is a former All-American, but this season he's lost to Schwartz, Happel twice, and Ty Smith who's ranked 11th in the conference. Allan Hart entered this season with All-American expectations, but now he's the 6th seed after losing to Schwartz and Young on the same Oklahoma road trip.

Happel has two wins over Carlson to go with one against Titus and Swiderski, but like Hart, he lost to Schwartz and Young.

This weight doesn't get much easier outside the top 6 ranked wrestlers. Dylan Droegemueller started his season with a victory over breakout star Brock Hardy, Jordan Titus beat former #1 Cole Matthews, Casey Swiderski had a one-point match with Real Woods this year, and Ty Smith is a former NCAA qualifier. Chaos is in the forecast for 141 lbs.

Conference Rankings

1 - #1 Andrew Alirez, Northern Colorado (JR)

2 - #7 Mosha Schwartz, Oklahoma (JR)

3 - #8 Cael Happel, Northern Iowa (SO)

4 - #12 Clay Carlson, South Dakota State (SR)

5 - #13 Carter Young, Oklahoma State (SO)

6 - #16 Allan Hart, Missouri (SR)

7 - #24 Dylan Droegemueller, North Dakota State (JR)

8 - HM Jordan Titus, West Virginia (FR)

9 - HM Casey Swiderski, Iowa State (FR)

10 - Job Greenwood, Wyoming (SR)

11 - Ty Smith, Utah Valley (JR)

12 - Garrett Kuchan, Air Force (JR)

13 - Christian Nunez, Cal Baptist (JR)

149 lbs - 7 AQs

There are seven automatic qualifier spots for seven ranked wrestlers at 149 lbs. The top two ranked guys in the conference, Brock Mauller and Paniro Johnson just had a barn-burner in Columbia that ended with an overtime fall. That was Johnson's only loss against this field (although he did fall to OU freshman John Wiley), and Mauller is undefeated against this field this season.

Mauller and Johnson's dramatic OT showdown


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If you're looking for dark horses to steal an AQ spot from one of the 7 ranked guys, keep your eyes on Dylan Martinez who pinned All-American Jaden Abas this year, former Super 32 champ Alek Martin, and former NCAA qualifiers Chris Sandoval and Chase Zollman.

Conference Rankings

1 - #6 Brock Mauller, Missouri (JR)

2 - #9 Paniro Johnson, Iowa State (FR)

3 - #13 Colin Realbuto, Northern Iowa (JR)

4 - #17 Kellyn March, North Dakota State (JR)

5 - #24 Victor Voinovich, Oklahoma State (FR)

6 - HM Mitch Moore, Oklahoma (SR)

7 - HM Sam Hillegas, West Virginia (JR)

8 - Dylan Martinez, Air Force (SR)

9 - Alek Martin, South Dakota State (FR)

10 - Chris Sandoval, Northern Colorado (SR)

11 - Isaiah Delgado, Utah Valley (SR)

12 - Chaz Hallmark, Cal Baptist (SO)

13 - Chase Zollman, Wyoming (JR)

157 lbs - 7 AQs

NDSU's Jared Franek lost his first match of the year to #1 Peyton Robb, but he's won every match since that point. He hasn't wrestled Kaden Gfeller, the #2 man in the conference, but he did beat Jarrett Jacques in sudden-victory in December. He also had a sudden victory win this year against Wyoming's Jacob Wright. While he's had a couple of close ones this year, Franek has consistently won and will look to head into NCAAs with a high seed.

Gfeller and Jacques had a tight contest in Stillwater, and they're on pace to hit in the semis. In addition to those two, Swensen, Holschlag, Wright, and Kraisser are in position to qualify for NCAAs with Butler, Hornfeck, and Zerban certainly capable of sneaking in.

Conference Rankings

1 - #2 Jared Franek, North Dakota State (SR)

2 - #13 Kaden Gfeller, Oklahoma State (SR)

3 - #14 Jarrett Jacques, Missouri (SR)

4 - #18 Cael Swensen, South Dakota State (FR)

5 - #22 Derek Holschlag, Northern Iowa (SR)

6 - #19 Jacob Wright, Wyoming (SR)

7 - HM Jason Kraisser, Iowa State (JR)

8 - Jacob Butler, Oklahoma (SR)

9 - Alex Hornfeck, West Virginia (JR)

10 - Vince Zerban, Northern Colorado (FR)

11 - Jack Ganos, Air Force (SO)

12 - Tyson Humphreys, Utah Valley (SO)

13 - Nolan Miller-Johnston, Cal Baptist (JR)

165 lbs - 8 AQs

This will be the most highly anticipated weight of the tournament. Wrestling will fans expect to see a rematch between NCAA champs David Carr and Keegan O'Toole, a match Carr won 7-2 during the Iowa State vs Missouri dual.

David Carr vs Keegan O'Toole at the ISU vs Mizzou dual


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The weight has depth beyond the top two as well. Michael Caliendo has put together an incredible freshman season for NDSU and even took out NCAA champ Shane Griffith this year. Throw in All-Americans Peyton Hall and Wyatt Sheets plus tough guys like Gerritt Nijenhuis, Austin Yant, and Cole Moody plus Tanner Cook, perhaps the most dangerous man in college wrestling, and this weight is a whole lot of fun.

Conference Rankings

1 - #1 David Carr, Iowa State (SR)

2 - #2 Keegan O'Toole, Missouri (SO)

3 - #8 Michael Caliendo, North Dakota State (FR)

4 - #12 Peyton Hall, West Virginia (JR)

5 - #14 Gerrit Nijenhuis, Oklahoma (SO)

6 - #19 Wyatt Sheets, Oklahoma State (SR)

7 - #16 Tanner Cook, South Dakota State (JR)

8 - #23 Austin Yant, Northern Iowa (SR)

9 - HM Cole Moody, Wyoming (JR)

10 - Baylor Fernandes, Northern Colorado (SO)

11 - Daniel Snediker, Utah Valley (SO)

12 - Frank Almaguer, Cal Baptist (SO)

13 - Seamus Casey, Air Force (FR)

174 lbs - 6 AQ

Good wrestlers will be left waiting for at-large bids after this bracket is concluded as the weight only has 6 automatic qualifying spots for 10 ranked wrestlers. Mocco, Plott, Wolf, Romero, Picklo, and DeVos are all ranked in the top 20 in the country, and they're supposed to earn the AQ spots.

Runyon, Broderson, Hastings, Berreyesa, and Sax have also had success this year and throughout their careers, and they will be battling to steal spots from the frontrunners. With this many tough and evenly matched guys, don't be surprised to see major shakeups at 174 lbs.

Conference Rankings

1 - #6 Peyton Mocco, Missouri (JR)

2 - #12 Dustin Plott, Oklahoma State (JR)

3 - #13 Sam Wolf, Air Force (JR)

4 - #14 Demetrius Romero, Utah Valley (SR)

5 - #20 Tate Picklo, Oklahoma (FR)

6 - #15 Cade DeVos, South Dakota State (SO)

7 - #21 Lance Runyon, Northern Iowa (SO)

8 - Julien Broderson, Iowa State (SR)

9 - HM Hayden Hastings, Wyoming (SR)

10 - HM Andrew Berreyesa, Northern Colorado (SR)

11 - HM Gaven Sax, North Dakota State (SO)

12 - Scott Joll, West Virginia (JR)

13 - Louis Rojas, Cal Baptist (SO)

184 lbs - 4 AQs

Like 174 lbs, there are more quality wrestlers than AQ spots at this weight. Only #2 Keckeisen, #4 Marcus Coleman, #11 Travis Wittlake, and #19 Cade King are projected to earn AQ spots. The first three of those have been All-Americans in the past.

Parker Keckeisen vs Marcus Coleman from February 12


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The group on the outside looking in includes #23 Colton Hawks, #24 Deanthony Parker, HM Anthony Carman, and NCAA qualifier Keegan Moore. There's a good chance one or more of those guys will earn at large bids, but they'll battle for secure spots in Tulsa at Big 12s.

Conference Rankings

1 - #2 Parker Keckeisen, Northern Iowa (SO)

2 - #4 Marcus Coleman, Iowa State (SR)

3 - #11 Travis Wittlake, Oklahoma State (SR)

4 - #19 Cade King, South Dakota State (SR)

5 - #23 Colton Hawks, Missouri (SO)

6 - #24 Deanthony Parker, North Dakota State (SO)

7 - HM Anthony Carman, West Virginia (SO)

8 - Keegan Moore, Oklahoma (SR)

9 - Noah Blake, Air Force (JR)

10 - Peter Acciardi, Cal Baptist (JR)

11 - Quayin Short, Wyoming (FR)

12 - Branson Britten, Northern Colorado (FR)

13 - Hunter Morse, Utah Valley (SO)

197 lbs - 6 AQs

This might be the most volatile bracket at Big 12s. If the seeds look like our Big 12 rankings, we could see a semifinal rematch between #4 Rocky Elam and #21 Luke Surber. The Cowboy Surber beat Elam when Elam was #1 during a dual in Stillwater. For that to happen, however, Surber would need to survive a match with #13 Owen Pentz, a guy who pinned red-hot Ethan Laird this year and most famously pinned Nebraska's Eric Schultz in one of the biggest early upsets at the 2021 NCAA Championships.

The top two seeds Elam & Bastida met on February 15


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On the other side of the bracket, Yonger Bastida could square off with Tanner Sloan. These two haven't wrestled in their careers, and their contrasting styles create a very compelling matchup. Can Sloan handle the athleticism of Bastida? Can Bastida handle the top work of Sloan? That matchup is a whole lot of fun.

A total of 6 197-pounders will be headed to NCAAs. That's exactly how many ranked wrestlers the conference currently has.

Conference Rankings

1 - #4 Rocky Elam, Missouri (SO)

2 - #8 Yonger Bastida, Iowa State (JR)

3 - #9 Tanner Sloan, South Dakota State (SR)

4 - #21 Luke Surber, Oklahoma State (JR)

5 - #13 Owen Pentz, North Dakota State (JR)

6 - #23 Evan Bockman, Utah Valley (JR)

7 - Calvin Sund, Air Force (JR)

8 - Austin Cooley, West Virginia (JR)

9 - Noah Glaser, Northern Iowa (JR)

10 - Xavier Vasquez, Northern Colorado (JR)

11 - Caden Gerlach, Cal Baptist (SO)

12 - Seth Seago, Oklahoma (JR)

13 - Tyce Raddon, Wyoming (SO)

285 lbs - 8 AQs

This is one of the deeper weights in the conference. All 8 wrestlers tabbed to earn AQ spot are also ranked in the top 18 in the country. Utah Valley's Chase Trussell is currently an Honorable Mention selection in the rankings as well. Hendrickson, Schuyler, and Elam from this group are ranked to finish on the podium at NCAAs.

Two interesting freshman sit outside the top 8 in the conference rankings in California native Juan Mora and Kansas City product Xavier Doolin. Both guys have a big challenge in front of them but certainly contain upset potential.

Conference Rankings

1 - #6 Wyatt Hendrickson, Air Force (JR)

2 - #7 Sam Schuyler, Iowa State (SR)

3 - #8 Zach Elam, Missouri (JR)

4 - #12 AJ Nevills, South Dakota State (SR)

5 - #14 Michael Wolfgram, West Virginia (JR)

6 - #15 Tyrell Gordon, Northern Iowa (JR)

7 - #17 Konner Doucet, Oklahoma State (SO)

8 - #18 Josh Heindselman, Oklahoma (JR)

9 - HM Chase Trussell, Utah Valley (JR)

10 - Juan Mora, North Dakota State (FR)

11 - Xavier Doolin, Northern Colorado (FR)

12 - Christopher Island, Cal Baptist (SO)

13 - Terren Swartz, Wyoming (SO)