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Championship season is upon us and before you know it, the nation's toughest conference will be doing battle inside the RAC with NCAA Championship berths and seeding on the line.
March 7-8 | 10 AM & 11 AM Eastern
A couple of quick notes before we get into it: the first number you'll see is the projected Big Ten Championships seed. The number in parentheses is where the wrestler is ranked in our perfect individual rankings. You'll find at the bottom of the article, I've gone the extra mile and predicted every automatic qualifier.
Projected 157 Seeds
Automatic Qualifiers - 6
- (#1) Ryan Deakin, Northwestern
- (#6) Kaleb Young, Iowa
- (#7) Kendall Coleman, Purdue
- (#8) Will Lewan, Michigan
- (#20) Jake Tucker, Michigan State
- Peyton Robb, Nebraska
- Ryan Thomas, Minnesota
- Eric Barone, Illinois
- Jahi Jones, Maryland
- Mike Van Brill, Rutgers
- Fernie Silva, Indiana
- Garrett Model, Wisconsin
- Quinn Kinner/Elijah Cleary, Ohio State
- Bo Pipher/Luke Gardner, Penn State
While 157 might not be "Ryan Deakin, next topic" at the NCAA Championships, it might be at the Big Ten Championships. Deakin has been untouchable this season and against Big Ten competition is 9-0 with seven bonus-point wins. Yes, Hawkeye fans, I can hear you screaming through the screen at me that Kaleb Young has two wins over Ryan Deakin, but I think it's pretty clear that the version we've seen recently of Young is not the same version that beat Deakin twice last year at the NCAA Championships. In his last two matches, Young was taken to tiebreakers by Ryan Thomas and lost handily to Wyatt Sheets.
Another wrestler who has given Young problems this year is Kendall Coleman. Young won an incredible match in sudden victory in the Midlands semifinals and another thriller in the dual. The Purdue freshman has seven losses on the season, but they've come to #1 Deakin, #2 Hayden Hidlay, #3 David Carr, #4 Quincy Monday, two to #6 Young, and an injury default to Peyton Robb. There's no denying Coleman is battle-tested and should be exciting to watch in his first postseason.
Watch the amazing Midlands semifinal between Young and Coleman.
Will Lewan has been solid all season long, but can he take the next step and move into the top tier and beat guys like Coleman, Young, or Deakin? He went to overtime with Coleman the opening weekend of the season, held Deakin to one of his two in-conference regular decisions, and lost to Young by four.
Peyton Robb is the wildcard in this weight for me. The freshman has a lot of different ways to score and is very good upper body and can go big at any time. Like Lewan, though, he doesn't have wins over the top-tier guys at the weight or the five top-seeded wrestlers.
- Ryan Deakin, Northwestern
- Kendall Coleman, Purdue
- Kaleb Young, Iowa
- Will Lewan, Michigan
- Peyton Robb, Nebraska
- Jake Tucker, Michigan State
As I mentioned in the open, I think this is Deakin's weight and if the bracket plays out like I'm predicting it will, he will see Coleman in the finals who he beat 14-0 in early January. Given the struggles that Young has had the past few weeks, I'll take Coleman to get revenge in the semifinals.
Watch Deakin take it to Coleman.
Despite the recent struggles, I don't see Young falling lower than third. The returning All-American is 3-0 against Lewan, Robb, and Tucker and outscored them by a combined 19-9 tally.
The final three automatic qualifying spots I could see go in many different directions. Lewan edged Robb by one point and beat Tucker in sudden victory, and Tucker has his own sudden victory win over Robb. I went with Lewan, though, as he always seems to come out on top of close matches. On the year, Lewan has six one-point or sudden victory wins compared to just one loss.
Robb and Tucker for fifth place could either way as well. Their meeting in the dual was a wild back-and-forth affair that ended with a nasty Tucker takedown in sudden victory. My gut tells me that Robb gets his revenge this time around.
Watch Tucker edge Robb in sudden victory.
There's a high likelihood that these predictions will go horribly wrong and make me look foolish, but no matter what happens it will be a blast to watch. Let me know how you see it all going down @Kbratke.