Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands discusses the upcoming Big Ten Championships. Cody Goodwin, Des Moines Register


Division I wrestling coaches like to say that everything leading up to March is practice.

Because March is where titles are won and names are remembered. Where dark horses come into the light and title contenders stake their claim. Where wrestlers qualify for the NCAA Championships through their respective conference tournaments.

This weekend, Iowa will head to East Lansing, Michigan for the 2018 Big Ten Championships, set for Saturday and Sunday. Some Hawkeye wrestlers will be jockeying for league titles while others will battle for that automatic bid to wrestling's big dance in Cleveland.

“This is the next step in these guys’ career,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said this week, “regardless if it’s the first time or the last time or the second time or the third time.”

A solid outing at the Breslin Center will help set Iowa up for the national tournament in two weeks. There’s a chance all 10 Hawkeye wrestlers can get through, which would only bolster the team’s odds at winning a trophy in Cleveland.

Here we offer a weight-by-weight look at the Big Ten Wrestling Tournament. We’ve listed each Iowa wrestler, their pre-seed, what placement is needed for an automatic NCAA tournament berth and, for some, a quick summary of what’s needed from each wrestler this weekend in order to qualify for Cleveland.

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125 pounds

Iowa wrestler: Spencer Lee
Pre-Seed: 2
Weight Allocations: 10

Summary: One of the weights to watch this weekend. Rutgers’ Nick Suriano, Lee and Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello are one-two-three in Big Ten pre-seeds and one-three-four in the national rankings. Add in others like Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera and Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak, as well as a slew of other dangerous competitors, and 125 pounds will be all sorts of fun this weekend.

133 pounds

Iowa wrestler: Paul Glynn
Pre-Seed: Unseeded
Weight Allocations: 7

Summary: Glynn will likely need to beat one or two guys who beat him earlier this year to earn an auto-bid, as he was left out of the NCAA’s most-recent RPI rankings. The sophomore enters the league tournament with a 4-6 mark against the rest of the field that’s expected to compete this weekend. A favorable draw into the bracket would help things here.

141 pounds

Iowa wrestler: Vince Turk
Pre-Seed: Unseeded
Weight Allocations: 8

Summary: Turk is also swimming upstream this weekend. Being unseeded means he will likely draw one of the pre-seeded wrestlers in the first round. But he’s shown an ability to attack more in his last few matches, and that might spark confidence. Eighth place is all he needs to advance to the NCAA tournament, which means two wins in East Lansing. That’s do-able. Will he? We’ll see.

149 pounds

Iowa wrestler: Brandon Sorensen
Pre-Seed: 2
Weight Allocations: 9

Summary: Sorensen will likely be the two-seed this weekend, which means he’ll be opposite Penn State’s Zain Retherford and could meet Northwestern’s Ryan Deakin in the semifinals — recall that a grabbing-the-headgear call helped Sorensen beat Deakin in the dual. Sorensen is actually 8-5 against the rest of the 149-pound field, and all five losses have come to Retherford.

157 pounds

Iowa wrestler: Michael Kemerer
Pre-Seed: T1
Weight Allocations: 8

Summary: We’ll find out on Friday if Kemerer or Penn State’s Jason Nolf will be the top seed in this bracket. Kemerer is 0-2 all-time against Nolf, but 14-0 against the rest of the field that’s slated to compete this weekend. If Kemerer ends up the two, that could mean a potential semifinal against Michigan’s Alec Pantaleo, which would be entertaining.

165 pounds

Iowa wrestler: Alex Marinelli
Pre-Seed: 2
Weight Allocations: 10

Summary: Another weight to watch this weekend. The top eight pre-seeds — Illinois’s Isaiah Martinez, Marinelli, Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph, Rutgers’ Richie Lewis, Wisconsin’s Evan Wick, Minnesota’s Nick Wanzek, Michigan’s Logan Massa and Nebraska’s Isaiah White — are all ranked in the top 12 nationally. Based on the pre-seeds, Marinelli may have to navigate Massa, then Wanzek or Joseph just to reach the final. Giddy up.

174 pounds

Iowa wrestler: Joey Gunther
Pre-Seed: 7
Weight Allocations: 7

Summary: Gunther wasn’t in the most-recent NCAA RPI rankings, so he’ll need to wrestle to his seed if he wants an automatic bid to the big dance, which means at least three wins. Encouraging news: Gunther is 6-1 against other wrestlers in the 174-pound bracket. The not-so-encouraging news: Only one of those wins is against a wrestler that earned a pre-seed. Could be an interesting weekend here.

184 pounds

Iowa wrestler: Mitch Bowman
Pre-Seed: 8
Weight Allocations: 8

Summary: Two wins this weekend, and Bowman will earn an auto-bid to the big dance. He has wins over two other wrestlers in the field this weekend, but also has six losses, including one to each of the top five pre-seeds. Bowman has struggled lately, entering the tournament with four losses in his last six matches. The eighth pre-seed means he’ll likely see Penn State’s top-ranked Bo Nickal in the quarterfinals should both win in the first round.

197 pounds

Iowa wrestler: Cash Wilcke
Pre-Seed: 3
Weight Allocations: 6

Summary: This weight will be fun, too, because anything could happen. In the case of Wilcke, he drew the three over Michigan’s Kevin Beazley, who beat Wilcke but drew the four, likely because he also has Big Ten losses to Wisconsin’s Hunter Ritter and Nebraska’s Eric Schultz. The three-seed for Wilcke likely means meeting Penn State’s Shakur Rasheed in the semifinals, but reaching the semifinals also secures an NCAA bid.

285 pounds

Iowa wrestler: Sam Stoll
Pre-Seed: 4
Weight Allocations: 7

Summary: This one is pretty cut-and-dry. Stoll drew the four because of his losses to Penn State’s Nick Nevills and Michigan’s Adam Coon. Drawing the four means being on the opposite side of Ohio State’s Kyle Snyder, who drew the two, but is also means potentially seeing Maryland’s Youssif Hemida, the fifth pre-seed, in the quarterfinals and Coon in the semifinals.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

2018 Big Ten Wrestling Championships

WHERE: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Michigan”
WHEN: March 3-4
WATCH: Finals, set for Sunday, 3 p.m., will be live on Big Ten Network