Three-time national wrestling writer of the year Andy Hamilton breaks down the 10 weight classes for the NCAA Wrestling Championships. For full brackets in each class, visit DesMoinesRegister.com/NCAAwrestling
Title favorites: No. 1 seed Alan Waters of Missouri is undefeated and is making his third trip to the NCAAs but has never been an all-American. Second-seeded Jesse Delgado of Illinois attacks an opponent’s legs better than anyone in the bracket, and Penn State’s fourth-seeded Nico Megaludis might be the hardest wrestler to score against. Iowa’s Matt McDonough, the No. 3 seed, has been the most complete wrestler at 125 the past three seasons. Can the home crowd help the two-time NCAA champ regain his past form?
Darkhorse: North Dakota State senior Trent Sprenkle, the No. 9 seed, is 28-4 and lost 5-4 to last year’s third-place finisher, Zach Sanders of Minnesota.
Match I’d like to see: Megaludis vs. Virginia Tech’s fifth-seeded Jarrod Garnett in the quarterfinals. Megaludis, an NCAA runner-up last year, against the Midlands champion could be a drama-packed match to start what’s typically the wildest day of the tournament.
Title favorites: Ohio State’s Logan Stieber is the top seed and defending NCAA champ. The sophomore is 21-0 with 19 bonus-point victories. No. 2 Tony Ramos of Iowa took Stieber to overtime in the Big Ten finals. Stieber has won all four of his meetings against Ramos during the past two seasons, but the Iowa junior seems to close the gap between himself and the national champion every time they wrestle. Wisconsin’s third-seeded Tyler Graff, a two-time all-American, is one of the top technicians at the weight.
Darkhorse: Central Michigan’s Scotti Sentes enters as a No. 10 seed after a late-season slump but placed fourth two years ago at 133 and started this season ranked in the top three. He enters the tournament as the No. 10 seed after a late-season slump. Will the NCAA stage snap him out of it?
Match I’d like to see: Oklahoma’s eighth-seeded Cody Brewer vs. Northern Iowa’s No. 9 Levi Wolfensperger in the second round. Brewer won 13-9 in January when they wrestled in Cedar Falls.
Title favorites: Ohio State’s top-seeded Hunter Stieber and No.<TH>2 seed Kendric Maple of Oklahoma have been the top two wrestlers at the weight class throughout the season. Both returning all-Americans are undefeated. Maple, Oregon State’s third-seeded Michael Mangrum and Stieber, placed fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, last year at 141.
Darkhorse: Minnesota’s Nick Dardanes fell into a manageable spot in the bracket as the No. 8 seed. He could run into Stieber in the quarterfinals, and their past matches have been close.
Match I’d like to see: The Citadel’s sixth-seeded Ugi Khishignyam vs. Cornell’s No. 11 Mike Nevinger in the second round. These two tangled through some wild scrambles in the finals of the Southern Scuffle, where Nevinger emerged with a 3-2 victory.
Title favorites: Top seed Jordan Oliver has six losses in four seasons at Oklahoma State. The 2011 NCAA champ is 33-0 this season after moving up from 133. His biggest threats are on the bottom side of the bracket. Boise State’s Jason Chamberlain, the No. 2 seed, is 26-1 and hasn’t lost since November. Minnesota’s Dylan Ness, an NCAA runner-up last year, is 14-4 and seeded sixth after claiming the Big Ten title. He took Oliver to the wire in February before falling 6-4.
Darkhorse: Oregon State’s Scott Sakaguchi, the No. 7 seed, handed Chamberlain his only loss. They could run into each other again in the quarterfinals.
Match I’d like to see: Ness vs. Penn State’s No. 11 Andrew Alton in the second round. Put these two pinners against each other, and at least one is bound to see the Wells Fargo Arena lights at some point.
Title favorites: Northwestern’s Jason Welch, the No. 1 seed, is a two-time all-American who enters with a 30-1 record, but the top side of the bracket features a couple wrestlers who have given him problems. One is Nebraska’s fourth-seeded James Green, who led Welch in the third period in the Big Ten finals before the Northwestern senior scored a fall. No. 2 seed Derek St. John of Iowa spent the most of the year atop the rankings.
Darkhorse: Penn State’s Dylan Alton, the No. 8 seed, handled Welch 6-2 last year to finish third. He was sixth at the Big Ten meet but is capable of beating everyone in his path to the finals.
Match I’d like to see: Welch vs. St. John in the finals. It seems inevitable that incredible scrambles and third-period drama will follow when these two step on the line and shake hands.
Title favorites: Cornell’s Kyle Dake is aiming to become the third four-time champion in tournament history and the first to win titles at four different weights. The No. 1 seed is 32-0 this season with a pair of 3-2 victories against Penn State’s second-seeded David Taylor. Dake has registered three pins and outscored his other seven opponents by a 40-2 margin at the NCAA meet during the past two seasons. Taylor scored four pins and a technical fall last year on his way to the title at 165.
Darkhorse: Oklahoma State’s Tyler Caldwell was an NCAA runner-up two years ago for Oklahoma. He kept it close with Dake in December before dropping a 4-1 decision.
Match I’d like to see: Dake vs. Taylor in the finals. Too obvious? It could be decades before two wrestlers of this caliber meet again with so much riding on the outcome.
Title favorites: Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry is the No. 1 seed at the tournament’s most volatile weight. A collection of Big Ten stars – Penn State’s No. 2 Matt Brown, Iowa’s No. 3 Mike Evans, Nebraska’s No. 4 Robert Kokesh, Illinois’ No. 7 Jordan Blanton and Ohio State’s No. 8 Nick Heflin – are battle tested from knocking heads all season. Unseeded Todd Porter of Missouri is the total wild card, having beaten Perry by major decision.
Darkhorse: Illinois’ Blanton placed fourth last year. He has 10 losses, but he’s beaten or gone down to the wire with almost everybody seeded ahead of him.
Match I’d like to see: Oklahoma State’s Perry vs. Ohio State’s Heflin in the quarterfinals. Perry pulled out an 8-7 victory against Heflin in last year’s consolation semifinals. The Cowboys need their No. 1 seed to reach the finals to have a shot at the team title.
Title favorites: Penn State junior Ed Ruth hasn’t lost since the 2011 NCAA quarterfinals. The No. 1 seed is 28-0 and a legit Hodge Trophy contender after winning the title last year at 174. Ruth beat Cornell’s Steve Bosak, the No. 4 seed, 7-3 in January in a clash of returning NCAA champs. Central Michigan’s Ben Bennett, a three-time all-American, is 27-0 and seeded second. Minnesota’s Kevin Steinhaus, the No. 5 seed, gave Ruth all he could handle in the Big Ten finals, losing 5-3. Lehigh’s third-seeded Robert Hamlin, a runner-up in 2011, needed an at-large ticket after suffering a leg injury in the EIWA tournament.
Darkhorse: Northern Iowa junior Ryan Loder, the No. 6 seed, has 95 wins in three seasons but is still trying to become an all-American. The draw sets up well for him.
Match I’d like to see: Ruth vs. Bennett in the finals. Ruth is all offense. Bennett is capable of shutting down opponents.
Title favorites: Kent State’s top-seeded Dustin Kilgore and Penn State’s No. 2 Quentin Wright won NCAA titles in 2011. Kilgore took an Olympic redshirt last year and Wright jumped up a weight this season after making two finals appearances at 184. Wyoming’s Alfonso Hernandez (30-1) hasn’t lost since Nov. 30, when he dropped a 5-4 decision against Kilgore.
Darkhorse: Iowa State’s Kyven Gadson will be a sentimental favorite this week when the sixth-seeded sophomore competes for the first time since his father, Willie, passed away after a bout with cancer. Gadson is 23-2 this season and hasn’t lost since Dec. 30.
Match I’d like to see: Wright vs. Gadson in the semifinals. Wright is one of the most entertaining wrestlers in the tournament. Gadson will have emotion and an arena full of supporters on his side after his father’s recent death.
Title favorites: Missouri’s Dom Bradley claimed the No. 1 seed after going 35-1. His resume includes a victory vs. Minnesota’s Tony Nelson, the No. 2 seed and defending NCAA champion. Nelson is 28-1 with a pair of victories against Oklahoma State’s third-seeded Alan Gelogaev, including a pin in their most-recent meeting. Gelogaev, who suffered season-ending injuries the past two years, is making his first tournament appearance since 2010, when he took seventh at 197.
Darkhorse: Oregon State’s Chad Hanke, the No. 4 seed, is 32-3 and hasn’t lost since mid-December. He dropped a 3-2 match to Bradley and lost in a tiebreaker vs. Nelson.
Match I’d like to see: Hanke vs. Northwestern’s Mike McMullan in the quarterfinals. These two aren’t big brutes who stand around and pummel. Hanke started his career at 197. McMullan placed third last year as a freshman.