Nebraska's top ranked Jason Powell appears to be the clear cut favorite as he has ripped through Big 12 competition undefeated. "He's the leader of our team; if he does well then the whole team does well," Nebraska coach Mark Manning stated. Oklahoma's Sam Hazewinkel has earned 28 wins this season and has fared well in conference play also, only dropping to Powell and will be looking to avenge a 3-1 loss to Powell suffered on Feb. 20 in Lincoln. Oklahoma State's Cody Stites has picked up three conference wins while Cyclone Grant Nakamura and Missouri's Austin DeVoe have managed one.
Two-time NCAA Champion Johnny Thompson from OSU and Iowa State's All-American Zach Roberson are expected to provide the thrills in this tight weight class. Thompson got the best of Roberson the last time the pair met in a 8-3 decision and dealt Roberson his second loss of the season. On Roberson from coach Bobby Douglas: "I think Zach has improved a great deal from last year." He's healthy, has a great attitude and is ready for the Big 12 Tournament and Nationals. The Big 12 Championships are going to be the most competitive as they've been in a long, long time," Cyclone coach Bobby Douglas said. It could perhaps make for the best Big 12 Tournament of all times." OU's Mimi Miller dealt Thompson his only loss in conference action. Nebraska's Matt Keller is 2-2 in the Big 12 as well having lost to Thompson and Roberson. Junior Paul Collum and freshman Brett Watkins have split time this year for Missouri and the pair have combined for one conference win.
The stage is set for a rematch between Iowa State's Nate Gallick and Oklahoma's Teyon Ware. Ware was knocked from the undefeated ranks and dethroned from a number one ranking by Gallick on Jan. 30. Missouri's J.P. Reese will look to mix things up a bit as he leads the conference in falls but has lost to Gallick and Nebraska's Matt Murray twice. Murray is 19-4 overall and 4-1 in the Big 12. On Thursday, Gallick dealt Murray his first conference loss of the year while Gallick finished undefeated with an unblemished record of 5-0. OSU's Ronnie Delk has three conference wins but has lost to all nationally ranked Big 12 opponents he has faced.
All five wrestlers competing are ranked in the top ten which makes the weight class the toughest to wrestle in. Zach Esposito and Jeremy Spates are ranked 2-3. Paulson was beaten by Shufelt in Iowa State's historic win on Thursday as Shufelt moved to 24-3 on the year. Oklahoma's Jeff Ecklof is 27-11 overall and has two conference victories. Oklahoma State's Esposito is an impressive 8-0 in the Bi 12 including two wins over Spates and three wins over Ecklof. Spates just recently picked up his 100th career victory against Northern Illinois and has beaten Paulson and Shufelt this season. Paulson comes in with a 23-5 overall record and has a 1-3 conference record. Shufelt has split his matches against Spates and holds a 20-4 record overall. Ecklof is coming off of an upset victory over Shufelt on Feb. 20.
With three wrestlers ranked in the top ten, 157 pounds is another heavily congested weight class. Johny Hendricks, Kenny Burleson and Travis Paulson have the best chance to come away with the title. Hendricks has defeated Burleson and Paulson this year and also beat nationally ranked Cornhusker B.J. Wright. Burleson, a senior, has a 6-1 showing in conference action and a 29-4 record overall this season. Due to an earlier injury suffered this season, Paulson has only wrestled two conference matches, fell to Hendricks and Burleson and picked up a forfeit victory. Wright has fared as well as Paulson, dropping to OSU's Hendricks and MU's Burleson. Rafael Maturino is 17-16 overall will be OU's representative as he has seen time at 157 pounds and 165 pounds.
Oklahoma State's Tyrone Lewis is ranked number one and coming off of a recent victory over the previously top ranked Troy Letters of Lehigh. Lewis is 27-1 overall and undefeated at 8-0 in the Big 12 like teammate Zach Esposito and compiled three wins over Missouri's Tyrone Woodley. ISU's Nick Passolano is 19-3 overall and his only conference loss is to Lewis. Woodley has managed one conference win which is misleading because of his 19-7 overall record. Nebraska's Jacob Klein is 15-6 and also lost to OSU's Lewis. OU's Maturino or freshman Charles Jones, who has two conference wins, will compete for the Sooners.
Oklahoma State boasts yet another powerhouse, this time in Chris Pendleton who is undefeated at 28-0 overall and ranked first in the country. Pendleton is the third OSU Cowboy to come into the tournament with an 8-0 record in the Big 12. Missouri's Ben Askren, a redshirt freshman, has lost to Pendleton three times by decisions but leads the Big 12 with 17 total falls. Askren is 27-4 and has the best shot at unseating Pendleton from the undefeated ranks. OU's E.K. Waldhaus is nationally ranked with a 25-7 season mark and should not be overlooked against Askren and Pendleton. Iowa State's Grant Turner and Nebraska's James Pummel round out the competition and will compete for their respective schools.
Like 149 pounds, the competition will be fierce as each wrestler is ranked in the top ten. Defending NCAA Champion Cowboy Jake Rosholt is undefeated in conference play going an impressive 6-0.Nebraska's Travis Pascoe is 24-3 overall with his only losses against Rosholt and Oklahoma's Justin Dyer. Dyer has climbed up the rankings to become seventh overall in the nation. Missouri's Matt Pell is 4-2 in the Big 12 only suffering losses to Rosholt and Pascoe. Iowa State's Kurt Backes is 21-10 overall and picked up his first conference win at the Cyclones' home dual, upsetting Pascoe.
B.J. Padden of Nebraska is ranked second in the country and the early favorite at 197 pounds. Iowa State's Trevor Smith is nationally ranked and has two wins in conference action. Missouri's Jeff Foust has two conference wins and earned 21 wins overall. OSU's Rusty Blackmon also has two Big 12 wins but has endured five conference losses. Oklahoma's Austin David or Joel Tapler will represent the Sooners and have combined for one Big 12 victory.
In the battle of heavyweights, Leonce Crump of Oklahoma is expected to emerge victorious. Crump is 7-0 in the Big 12 and 27-1 overall. Crump will go against Iowa State's Scott Coleman, Missouri's Mike Whitehead, OSU's Will Gruenwald and Nebraska's Nathan McClain. All five are ranked in the top twenty and Crump is the only heavyweight undefeated in the Big 12 Conference. Oklahoma coach Jack Spates says, "Leonce is perfectly healthy - and he's hungry. We feel quite confident as him repeating champion." Coleman defeated Whitehead and McClain to account for his conference wins and Whitehead, at 21-7, also picked up a win over Gruenwald. Gruenwald is 4-3 in the Big 12 and 21-10 overall for Oklahoma State.