Missouri 174-pounder Todd Porter has won 31 matches this season — 13 against NCAA qualifiers, including a major decision win against top-seeded Chris Perry of Oklahoma State.
His reward at this week’s NCAA Championships that begin Thursday? A first-round bout against the No. 2 seed, Big Ten Conference champion Matt Brown of Penn State.
This is life at 174 pounds, where the terrain is slippery at the top and there are perhaps more contestants with a legitimate chance to reach pinnacle than any other bracket at Wells Fargo Arena.
“There’s a lot of coaches right now who are thinking we could win the nationals at this weight,” Ohio State coach Tom Ryan said. “I don’t think there’s any other weight class where there’s six or seven kids that you could go, ‘Wow, this guy could win it.’”
One of those title contenders is Minnesota’s Logan Storley, who has seven victories against top-10 opponents and was ranked No. 1 at 174 two weeks ago. He’ll wrestle as a No. 6 seed in the NCAAs after tumbling twice in the Big Ten tournament.
What makes the weight even more compelling: Most of the guys Ryan is referring to wrestle for squads that could be at the top of the team leader board. That includes Iowa, which is looking for a big tournament from No. 3 seed Mike Evans.
“There are a lot of (coaches) who have a lot to like there from their perspectives individually,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “We like what we’ve got (in Evans), but from the outside looking in, anybody could win it.”
Evans, a sophomore with a 19-4 record, owns victories against four of the top eight seeds. But he’s quick to point out regular-season results are worth little more than ticket stubs when it comes to the national tournament.
He glared at the awards stand last year at the conclusion of the NCAA Championships and saw half of the podium spots occupied by wrestlers he defeated at one point during the season.
“I walked out of that arena without what I wanted,” Evans said. “All that work I did last year, I didn’t get to reap the rewards of it. It’s a rotten feeling.”
Perry finished 31-1 last year and placed third at 174 after suffering his only loss in the NCAA semifinals.
“In the past couple years we haven’t had the finalists that we needed,” said Perry, who is 30-2 this season. “For my team to win, I feel I’ve got to get there. There’s no pressure, it’s just about stepping up and proving my point and getting there and playing my role.”
Storley dropped past Perry, Brown, Evans, Nebraska’s Robert Kokesh and Maryland’s Josh Asper in the seedings after placing seventh at the Big Tens in Champaign, Ill.
“I can’t really complain about my seed,” Storley said. “The other guys wrestled good at the Big Ten tournament and I didn’t. … It doesn’t matter what my seed I am because out of the top eight seeds, everyone can beat everyone up there.”