125 Pounds: Matt McDonough, #2 Seed
Matt McDonough went undefeated this season as a redshirt freshman, compiling a 29-0 record, leading to a #2 ranking on the season, and a #2 seed at the Big Ten Tournament. He's seeded behind Angel Escobedo of Indiana, who seems like he's been there for...freaking...ever. If both wrestlers reach the finals, it should be one of the best matches of the tournament. The toughest competition on McDonough's side of the bracket will likely come from Zach Sanders, who McDonough has beaten twice this season. 4-2 at the National Duals in January, and 13-2 in the dual meet in Iowa City. Sanders is definitely a streaky wrestler, and the 13-2 loss should provide motivation for Sanders. Assuming an Escobedo/McDonough final, both wrestlers have plenty of offense and aren't afraid to go for the pin. This match is so tough to call. A RS Freshman vs Senior, first time on a conference championship stage for McDonough, it would seem hard to pick him. I'd put it at 50/50 though, and because I am writing for HawkeyeInsider, I'll go with McDonough in a close decision, somewhere along the lines of 10-7 or 11-8.
133 Pounds: Daniel Dennis, #2 Seed
Daniel Dennis finished 5th and 7th at Big Tens and NCAAs last year, both very, very disappointing numbers. Dennis missed some time during this season with an injury, and when he came back into the lineup, he still didn't look to be full strength, particularly his offense. Dennis isn't going to get blown out of any matches in this tournament, but he may have some close calls. There are two real strong contenders at 133 this year, Franklin Gomez and Jayson Ness. In collegiate competition, Dennis is a combined 4-1 against those two, with the sole loss coming in the dual meet this year against Minnesota to Jayson Ness. Dennis, Ness, and Gomez are all seniors looking to close out their Big Ten careers with the hardware. I think Dennis continues his streak against Gomez, but unless he can be more explosive and unpredictable offensively, he's going to have a tough time getting past Jayson Ness' length. I think Dennis ends up in second here, which while not where he wants to be, is a healthy step forward, and he's still got two weeks to find his offense again before NCAAs.
141 Pounds: Montell Marion, #3 Seed
Montell Marion won the raffle at 141, likely because of his willingness to attack. If he can keep his head in the match, he's shown the ability to wrestle with anyone. Unfortunately, early in the season Marion had a few mental lapses, putting himself in precarious situations, most notably against Mike Thorn of Minnesota, giving up a pin less than a minute into the competition. The return matchup, however, Marion asserted himself offensively and scored a major decision victory in Carver-Hawkeye. I think Marion makes it past Thorn once more, earning a rematch with Reece Humphrey. Marion found himself down 4-1 at the end of the first period of their initial matchup, and couldn't quite make it back, losing 9-5. Humphrey was called for stalling twice in the third period of that match. I think Marion outlasts Humphrey in this one, winning the title at 141.
149 Pounds: Brent Metcalf, #1 Seed
For the third year in a row, Brent Metcal heads into the Big Ten championships as the #1 seed. For the third year in a row, he'll leave with the title. The only wrestler with a chance at stopping him would be Lance Palmer of Ohio State. Palmer's known for grabbing and holding onto his opponent, hoping to keep the score close in the end. Metcalf has never scored more than 6 points on Palmer. That'll change this weekend. Metcalf is going to be ready to dominate in this match-up, with a major decision victory. I'm calling it at 14-6.
157 Pounds: Jake Kerr, #4 Seed
This is a very interesting weight class in the Big Tens this year. Dustin Schlatter, who would have been, no doubt, the #1 seed at 157, will not compete this weekend, he will forfeit all of his matches. At the Coaches' meeting on Friday, the coaches ultimately decided to not award him any seeding, and instead moved him out of the seeding. This bumped Kerr from the #5 seed to the #4, with his first round matchup against Nemec of Ohio State. Nemec lost to Iowa's Aaron Janssen in the dual meet this year, so he's definitely "beatable". Unless Kerr pulls an amazing upset of #1-seeded Colton Salazar, his path to the NCAAs would lie the wrestlebacks. Kerr has had close matches with almost all of the competitors in the field, with a 6-4 SV loss to Salazar and a 4-2 win over Cyler Sanderson of Penn State. I think Kerr will wrestle to his seed, finishing #4.
165 Pounds: Ryan Morningstar, #2 Seed
I'm almost more excited for Ryan Morningstar's potential semifinal match against Colt Sponsellor of Ohio State than I am about the finals. Ryan Morningstar's SV win against Sponsellor in last year's NCAA Championships is what allowed the Hawks to eek out a win, and seemed to be a catalyst for a more offensive Ryan Morningstar. This year's matchup was even less exciting, a 1-0 win for Morningstar in the dual meet. I think Ryan can beat Sponsellor again, and this time, he'll find the offense against Howe, who has beaten Morningstar four times. Twice in the second tiebreak, once in the first tiebreak, and once by a score of 2-1. One takedown wins that match. Ryan finds it here to grab his first Big Ten Title.
174 Pounds: Jay Borschel, #1 Seed
Jay Borschel has always been a little different. One need look no further than a recently uncovered YouTube video of Jay singing "Dracula's Lament" from the movie "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (sorry Jay, had to do it...) to figure that one out. He's not going to showboat, he's not going to jump around, he's not going to yell and scream and intimidate, he's going to go out and do his work. Jay has, however, seemed to find to "eye of the tiger" this season, compiling a record of 28-0. Jay Borschel has given up more than 3 points only twice this season, once to Duke Burk of Iowa State, and one to Dwyer of Nebraska. Dominant doesn't even begin to describe it. For Borschel, anything less than a title is a huge disappointment. Fortunately, that's what he'll gather this weekend. The final will be interesting. Purdue's Luke Manuel is the #2 seed, and they have not met in collegiate competition, as Purdue forfeited 174 pounds during the dual meet this season. Manuel's two losses this season have come to former Hawkeye Colby Covington, and Dwyer of Nebraska, two athletes Borschel has shown himself more than capable of handling.
184 Pounds: Phil Keddy, #3 Seed
184 is one of the more underrated classes in the Big Ten this year, in my opinion. With Jake Herbert finally gone, the attention has turned away from this weight class, but looking at the top 4 seeds, any one of them is capable of taking home the hardware. For Keddy, his win over Pucillo in the dual meet two weeks ago ended up being huge. Keddy is the #3 seed, one ahead of Pucillo. This means they're in opposite sides of the bracket, leaving the winner of a Dergo/Pucillo semifinal to meet the winner of a likely Keddy/Erwin matchup. Erwin was the only wrestler to beat Keddy during the Big Ten season, with a 6-4 win. Keddy has looked much better since that match, including wins over the eventual #4 and #5 seeds. I think Keddy makes it to the finals of this thing, against John Dergo, whom Keddy has never wrestled. That match will be a complete toss-up, in my mind. Dergo and Keddy are both quick wrestlers, capable of scoring a lot of points and moving around the mat. I don't think Keddy's quite the got wind to win such a high-paced match at the end of a tournament. But hopefully with two more weeks of healthy conditioning (something he hasn't had all season) he can fight back to get a title at NCAAs.
197 Pounds: Chad Beatty, #1 Seed
Well well well, look who's back! Both 197 and 285 feature wrestlers that have been injured for most of the season, wrestlers who have bumped up a weight class or two to help the Hawks, and wrestlers with big expectations in sparse weight classes in the Big Ten. Before injuring his foot at the Midlands Championships, Beatty was on a roll, with his only losses coming to Jake Varner of Iowa State. He hasn't been seen since. There are two EXTREMELY interesting matchups possible here for Beatty. The first would be a matchup with Patrick Bond of Illinois. They have met four times. Beatty has won twice, and Bond has won twice (once by medial forfeit at last year's Big Ten championships). Assuming Beatty makes it past, I'm crossing my fingers for a matchup with Michigan's Anthony Biondo. One of my favorite moments in recent memory came two years ago in a home dual against Michigan. Iowa needed a victory to keep their undefeated season alive, and they were looking to a still-undersized former 174-pounder, Chad Beatty, wrestling at 197 in order to help the team. After elevating a single leg shot, Beatty scored a takedown with less than a second left to win the match, and eventually, the dual. Fans of Big Ten wrestling would love to see a rematch. I doubt Beatty would leave it to the last second.
285 Pounds: Dan Erekson, #2 Seed
Normally the center of the heavyweight world, the Big Ten is relatively light at heavyweight this year, with only two wrestlers in the top 10. One of those two is Dan Erekson, who has wrestled only 8 collegiate matches this season, but scored bonus points in half of them, including 3 pins. Erekson's style is no longer a secret. He's a heavyweight who wrestles like a 197-pounder. He'll take low shots, he'll move around the mat, and if he's on top of you, he's looking to run you over onto your back for a pin, of which he's had 26 during his Hawkeye career. I think Erekson has a relatively easy way through the finals, the biggest challenge coming from Cameron Wade of Penn State, who he defeated 6-1 in his second match back from injury. If Everhart does make it through to the finals, it'll be one of the more exciting heavyweight finals matches in quite a while. Both are undersized by traditional standards, and match up very well physically. I say it's a toss up, but if Erekson can keep his lungs through the tournament, he'll come away with his second straight title at 285.