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Now that we have our sweet, sweet brackets for the NCAA Wrestling Championships, it's time to take a closer look at the weight classes. We're doing a deep dive into each division, rolling out previews one at a time, so you can pour over and digest everything before the first whistle in St. Louis on March 16.
First was 125; now we move on up to 133.
Nahshon Garrett owned this weight class last year, going a perfect 37-0 on his way to an NCAA crown after bumping up from 125, where he wrestled the previous year. This year, Ohio State's Nathan Tomasello looks to follow a similar trajectory.
Like Garrett, Tomasello bulked up, having spent the last two seasons at 125. Also like Garrett, Nato is undefeated and the No. 1 seed going into this tournament (one of 10 undefeated No. 1 seeds; we will see one of those in each weight class).
However, unlike most of the other weight classes, our top-seeded wrestler at 131 did not start the season at the top. That honor belonged to Iowa senior Cory Clark. He is one of several contenders looking to stop the junior Buckeye from becoming a two-time NCAA champion.
We'll take a look at those contenders next, followed by dark horses and a full set of predictions and analysis (2017 NCAA tournament seeds in parentheses).
Title Contenders(1) Nathan Tomasello, Ohio State
(2) Seth Gross, South Dakota State
(3) Kaid Brock, Oklahoma State
(4) Cory Clark, Iowa
(5) Stevan Micic, Michigan
Tomasello just finished winning his third straight Big Ten title. Meanwhile, Seth Gross and Kaid Brock both just wrestled in the finals of the Big 12 Championships, where Gross emerged the victor after a wild 9-7 slugfest.
A returning finalist, Clark has been dogged by a shoulder injury all year long, but when he's wrestled he's been competitive with the best of the division, losing to the No. 1-, No. 3-, and No. 7-seeded wrestlers by a combined five points.
Stevan Micic rounds out our list of contenders. The Wolverines sophomore is wrestling the best he has all year, getting revenge against Illinois senior Zane Richards at last weekend's Big Ten Championships by beating him twice in convincing fashion.
Dark Horses(11) Bryan Lantry, Buffalo
(12) Josh Alber, Northern Iowa
(US) Scott Delvecchio, Rutgers
Two of our dark horses come from the sneaky good Mid-American Conference, which is sending another five qualifiers to St. Louis in what is nationally a very deep weight class. Both Bryan Lantry and Josh Alber are sophomores with high ceilings and indefatigable motors. If either of them get on a roll, he is going to be trouble for higher-seeded guys in his way.
Scott Delvecchio is more of a true dark horse, spending most of the year outside the top 20. He's revving up at the right time, however. Though he only placed ninth at the Big Ten Championships, the two losses he suffered were to No. 1 Tomasello and No. 8 Richards by a total of just four points.
Upset SpecialBesides our dark horses, keep an eye out for John Erneste of Missouri. The 10th-seeded sophomore just won the previously mentioned MAC. He should see the streaky No. 7 seed, Eric Montoya of Nebraska, who could be in for a rude awakening in the round of 16 if he gets past the winner of the bracket's pigtail match.
- Kaid Brock, Oklahoma State
- Nathan Tomasello, Ohio State
- Seth Gross, South Dakota State
- Stevan Micic, Michigan
- Scott Parker, Lehigh
- Dom Forys, Pittsburgh
- Cory Clark, Iowa
- Josh Alber, Northern Iowa
I also think Brock will avenge his Big 12 finals loss in the semis against Gross and score more precious team points for the Cowboys. Who knows if the team score will even be a factor at this point in the tournament, but you can bet that Oklahoma State head coach John Smith will have his 133-pounder primed for the big stage regardless.
Check out Brock putting away two-time All-American Earl Hall in an entertaining Big 12 semifinals bout:
Additionally, I think Stevan Micic will get by Cory Clark in a heroic quarterfinal contest but then fall to Nato in the semis. Micic will get to third place-match where he'll see Gross, who advances to the consolation finals after falling to Brock in the semis. I think Gross comes out on top here and places third.
Lehigh sophomore Scotty Parker missed a good chunk of the season due to injury but looked ferocious while winning an EIWA championship last week. He'll beat Richards in a mild round-of-16 upset before getting bounced into the consis by Nato in the quarters, where he'll then run into, and get the better of, Clark.
I see Parker taking fifth over Dom Forys, who famously did not place in the Pennsylvania state championships his senior year of high school. But Dom more than makes up for it this year at NCAAs with a commendable sixth-place finish and All-American honors.
Dark horse Josh Alber makes it past his MAC nemesis, John Erneste, and finds his way to the 7/8 placement match, where the veteran Clark will be waiting for him. Clark ends his incredible Hawkeyes career on a positive note, taking seventh, while the young Panther finishes eighth and begins preparations for next season.
There Will Be BloodroundThe consolation bracket for 133 will be littered with worthy All-American contenders. Clark will end the podium aspirations of Nebraska's Montoya. Lantry will come up just short against a motivated Scott Parker. Erneste will taste Alber's cold vengeance, and Richards' final NCAA campaign will come to a disappointing end at the ends of the fearsome Forys.
Think you can make better picks? There's a very good chance you can! Here's the 133 bracket. Let me know what you think, and enjoy the championship, wrestling fans!