While I understand that other universities are allowing their men's intercollegiate basketball teams to participate in some sort of organized tournament fashion to end their season, and knowing that the Iowa State women's basketball team will have an endeavor of their own, let's focus on the one sport Iowa State has a legitimate, yes, legitimate shot to win a national title in.
And, yes, it's wrestling. Were you expecting something different?
Iowa State comes in as the fourth ranked team in the country (according to Intermat).
Intermat Rankings (NCAA Qualifiers)
- Iowa (9)
- Minnesota (9)
- Michigan (6)
- Iowa State (10)
- Nebraska (8)
However, of the top five teams, Iowa State was the only team to qualify all 10 wrestlers, giving them a vital chance to get some points in the team championship race. Iowa, of course, is the heavy favorite. Minnesota, the #2 team in the polls, is also going to be a top contender. The Big 12 Champion Cyclones, however, have been hot as of late, knocking off the then #2 Nebraska Cornhuskers by a 22-12 margin at the end of February. But, duals are a completely different monster than tournaments...
All of Iowa State's wrestlers with the possible exception of 149-pounder Mitch Mueller will wrestle once on Thursday morning as well as Thursday night. Mueller has a pigtail match to enter into first round action.
Let's look at the Cyclone matchups:
Tyler Clark [19-9] vs. Ross Fitomer (Virginia) [37-11]/Luke Smith (Central Michigan) [24-7]
vs. #2 Jayson Ness (Minnesota) [35-1] OR Marcos Orozco (UC Davis) [22-11]
1-0 vs. Smith (W-D, 6-2)
Clark, of the pulled-redshirt-in-midseason Clarks, will face the winner of Fitomer and Smith in the opening round on Thursday morning. Smith lost to Clark earlier this year during Midlands action. If Clark advances, he will likely face Jayson Ness of Minnesota, so, pull for Orozco. The sooner Ness gets out, if he does, it helps ISU's team championship chances.
#5 Nicholas Fanthorpe [28-4] vs. Steve Bell (Maryland) [26-7]
vs. #12 Andrae Hernandez (Indiana) [20-11] OR Cory Fish (Boise St.) [20-6]
1-0 vs. Hernandez (W-D, 8-2)
Fanthorpe, one of ISU's four Big 12 Champions, should win both matches tomorrow, so he should be a wrestler looking for bonus points. He has the third most pins for State this year (4), but any bonus points whatsoever would be a big help.
#9 Nick Gallick [23-11] vs. Chris Drouin (Arizona State) [17-12]
vs. #8 Dan Leclere (Iowa) [26-10] OR Zach Bailey (Oklahoma) [27-11]
1-0 vs. Drouin (W-D, 3-0)
0-1 vs. Leclere (L-D, 5-3 SV)
1-0 vs. Bailey (W-D, 10-3)
Gallick is one of Iowa State's hottest wrestlers as of late, coming in on a six-match winning streak, including a 3-0 win over first round opponent Chris Drouin. While ISU and Gallick may both be better served to see Bailey in a possible second round matchup, it'd be awful sweet to take out Leclere. In their earlier meeting, Leclere won an incredibly match with a takedown during sudden victory overtime.
Mitch Mueller [21-11] vs. Kyle Fried (Binghamton) [22-2]
vs. Anthony Constantino (Columbia) [17-9]
vs. #2 Dustin Schlatter (Minnesota) [17-3] OR Adam Hall (Boise St.) [17-4]
0-1 vs. Fried (L-D, 6-4 SV)
0-1 vs. Schlatter (L-D, 8-1)
Mueller, as much as any Cyclone wrestler, has a chance to make an unexpected impact for the Cyclones. The first round matchup against Fried is a must, as a payback win for a sudden victory loss would push him into a matchup with Constantino. If he loses, I am uncertain about his wrestleback status. While it is not reasonable to expect three wins out of Mitch tomorrow, two wins would be a great start.
#7 Cyler Sanderson [28-4] vs. Matt Moley (Bloomsburg) [29-8]
vs. #10 Michael Chandler (Missouri) [15-3] OR David Nakasone (Lehigh) [23-12]
1-1 vs. Chandler (W-D, 6-5; L-D, 11-5)
Cyler has silently improved to a 28-4 record, and he is another one of the wrestlers that the Cyclones will need to depend on to rack up points in the team standings. He should win in the first round, setting up a possible rematch with Michael Chandler of Mizzou. Chandler won in regular season action, but Sanderson got him back to win the Big 12 Championship.
#6 Jonathan Reader [26-7] vs. Andrew Rendos (Bucknell) [27-9]
vs. #11 Kurt Gross (Kent St.) [28-5] OR Matt Coughlin (Indiana) [25-9]
Reader is the lone Cyclone wrestler guaranteed to face two unfamiliar wrestlers on Thursday, but it really shouldn't matter, as he should be looking to roll up bonus points in both matchups. The freshman's strong campaign could be memorable with a deep run at Nationals. He has been struggling as of late, so it's important he rights the ship early.
Aron Scott [12-11] vs. Randy Oates (George Mason) [25-9]
vs. #3 Brandon Browne (Nebraska) [24-1] OR Christopher Henrich (Virginia) [25-8]
0-1 vs. Browne (L-D, 7-3)
The weakest weight for the Clones, 174 provides a chance to earn some cheap points, especially if Scott can ring up a first round win. Scott has been wrestling better as of late, with a decent third place finish at the Big 12 Championships. Maybe we can hope for an upset of Browne here.
#1 Jake Varner [25-0] vs. Lior Zamir (Penn) [18-4]
vs. Zach Giesen (Stanford) [23-8] OR Christopher Daggett (Liberty) [12-15]
1-0 vs. Zamir (W-D, 5-0)
Varner's wins should not be a matter of "if", but, rather, "how much". This is a great opportunity for the Clones to rack up bonus points. A couple of pins would sure help out.
David Bertolino [22-11] vs. Patrick Bradshaw (Edinboro) [24-8]
vs. #3 Mike Tamillow (Northwestern) [30-3] OR Jason Trulson (Arizona State) [20-4]
0-1 vs. Tamillow (L-D, 10-4)
Bertolino is another guy that the Clones could use an upset from. He's as capable as anyone, as he showed with a narrow loss to Max Askren of Mizzou, but it's not the most optimistic draw for Dave.
#7 David Zabriskie [25-5] vs. Mitchell Monteiro (Bakersfield) [3-1]
vs. #10 Zach Sheaffer (Pittsburgh) [29-7] OR Nick Smith (Boise St.) [16-7]
1-0 vs. Sheaffer (W-D, 3-2)
Big Z is another guy that ISU desperately needs wins from tomorrow, not so much to upset the balance, but to simply maintain what is expected. He should be a guy that also has an opportunity to put up bonus points.
125 - Clark: W over Smith, L to Ness
133 - Fanthorpe: W over Bell, W over Hernandez
141 - Gallick: W over Drouin, W over Leclere
149 - Mueller: W over Fried, W over Constantino, L to Schlatter
157 - Sanderson: W over Moley, W over Chandler
165 - Reader: W over Rendos, L to Gross
174 - Scott: W over Oates, L to Browne
184 - Varner: W over Zamir, W over Giesen
197 - Bertolino: L to Bradshaw, W over Trulson
285 - Zabriskie: W over Montiero, W over Shaeffer
These predictions are based on nothing at all, really, with just one upset (Gallick over Leclere), some tossup first round matchups, and some sporadic losses. I expect ISU to be in third or so, depending, of course, on the other teams. ISU fans would be best served to pull against Iowa, Minnesota and the like to make the path a little easier for the Cyclones. ISU has performed well under Sanderson in postseason tournaments. It'd be nice to see it continue.