With over $40,000 in payouts and $20,000 going to the winner, there's a lot on the line for our 195 lbs 8-man bracket competitors. I'm sure they will all head to Austin with game plans in mind of their own, but I thought I would breakdown how I see each wrestler coming out on top.
As our friend JD Rader reminded us with Gavin's hit list, the Pitt head coach was really good in his prime. While he may be a little older than the rest of the bracket, I doubt he forgot how to wrestle. If Gavin can put together three matches conditioning-wise, he presents a unique feel that could give guys problems that they have likely never felt before. In my opinion, the path to the title for Gavin is to slow the pace down, be stingy with his defense like he usually is, and sneak in a few of his deadly arm drags.
Check out some of Gavin's slickest highlights.
During his college career, Rasheed picked up 30 falls in his 75 varsity wins. That means 40 percent of the matches he won in a Penn State singlet were by fall. If he wants to leave Austin with $20,000, he needs to lock up his lethal cradle and end matches early.
There's never a dull moment when Shakur Rasheed is on the mat.
Dean is arguably the favorite of the bracket after winning Senior Nationals a few weeks ago in Iowa including beating Taylor Lujan and Nate Jackson along the way. For Dean to walk away with the biggest purse, he just needs to at least be the version of himself that wrestled at Senior Nationals. I think he will tell you he was not fully optimized there, but even that version of Dean is good enough to win the bracket in my opinion.
Watch Gabe Dean share his thoughts on the 8-man bracket.
As I just mentioned above, Lujan had a tough outing against Dean at Senior Nationals and now must face him again in the opening round of this bracket. If Lujan wants to get revenge and go on a cinderella run to the title, he needs to throw the kitchen sink at everyone he steps on the mat with. Lujan can score from anywhere, has the ability to go feet to back, and is an incredible scrambler. I believe it's advantageous for Lujan to create as many flurries as he can to give himself the opportunity to hit one of his big moves or get to the positions he's really good from.
Watch Lujan talk about what he learned in his first matchup with Dean.
In his last two meetings against Sammy Brooks, Jackson has been one point away from earning a tech fall, but ended up getting tech falled himself. If Jackson wants to pocket $20,000 he needs to avoid tying up with Brooks, work from space, and shore up his par terre defense.
Watch as JD breaks down the wild history between Jackson and Sammy Brooks.
Although most people are considering Dean the favorite in the bracket, just two weeks ago Jackson wrestled a match with Dean that was decided on criteria. Not only was it tied at the end, but he also didn't allow a takedown to Dean which very few people can say. If Jackson wants to get revenge, he needs to do a better job of getting angles. The former Indiana All-American did a good job of staying out of the areas where Dean is good, but the majority of his shots were straight on and he was not able to get to Dean's legs cleanly. Converting just one leg attack could lead to a big payday for Jackson.
Watch Dean and Jackson's final from Senior Nationals
Throughout his collegiate and Senior level career, Brooks is 5-1 against his first-round opponent, Nate Jackson, and 5-0 all-time against potential second-round opponent Myles Martin. While Brooks has had a couple of close calls against Jackson, Brooks has been extremely successful against Jackson and Martin when he is able to get to his ties in particular his underhook.
Watch Brooks beat Martin in the 2017 Big Ten finals.
If Brooks wants to continue his winning ways against Jackson and Martin, he needs to keep his pace high, don't let them work from space, and get to his underhook. Brooks also has two freestyle wins over Drew Foster in which he outscored him 33-15. Given his pace and style of wrestling, there may not be a wrestler better suited to put together three matches in a short period of time. Brooks' heavy hands could really wear on whoever he could possibly see in the finals Saturday night.
While Martin has had his struggles with Brooks, he's undefeated in his career against Nate Jackson and against his first-round opponent Drew Foster. Martin is 0-2 against Gabe Dean, but if Keith Gavin makes the finals he's felt Gavin's unique style plenty of times before when they trained together at the Ohio RTC. Martin is ranked in the top 10 in the world for a reason and within the past year owns a win over Alex Dieringer.
Watch Martin talk about his experiences training with Keith Gavin.
While Foster has a tough first-round matchup, he's coming off a really nice performance at Senior Nationals where he beat Hunter Bolen, Taylor Venz, Andrew Morgan, and David McFadden. The UNI NCAA champion also pushed Jackson in the semifinals before falling, 7-4. Foster was never a state champion in high school and made huge jumps when he got to UNI and was able to focus solely on wrestling. It appears that Foster is continuing to take jumps now as he is able to focus on freestyle.
Watch Foster talk about how he thinks the bracket will play out.
Foster is winless against Myles Martin, but Foster wrestled an 8-6 match with Martin at the 2017 NCAA Championships and wrestled a wild 19-11 match with Sammy Brooks at the 2019 Senior Nationals. There's absolutely a path for him to make the finals for Foster and once you're in that match with $20,000 on the line, anything can happen.
In case you don't know or remember what the bracket looks like...
Who comes out on top Saturday night and secures the bag? Make sure to save some candy to enjoy while watching some awesome wrestling.