The Register's Chad Leistikow and Andy Hamilton breakdown Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa wrestling leading into the NCAA Championships, which begin on Thursday.
Top seed: Missouri senior Alan Waters is stingy on his feet and clingy on top. When he gets his offense going on his feet, he's almost impossible to beat at the college level. He's 30-0 this season with eight victories against wrestlers seeded ninth or better.
Leading contenders: Cornell's Nahshon Garrett, last year's runner-up, is 28-3 and seeded second. Virginia Tech's Joey Dance reeled off five consecutive consolation wins last year when he finished fourth. Ohio State freshman Nathan Tomasello vaulted up to No. 4 after claiming the Big Ten title. Thomas Gilman tripped up Garrett in February, but the Iowa sophomore slipped to the No. 6 seed after dropping narrow decisions to Dance, Tomasello and No. 5 seed Sean Boyle of Chattanooga. Don't forget about two-time champ Jesse Delgado. The Illinois senior is unseeded after compiling a 9-3 record in an injury-abbreviated season.
The Hawkeye 125-pounder lost four matches this year, three in overtime, and has wins over the #2 and #4 seeds.
Iowa ties: Gilman and Northern Iowa all-American Dylan Peters didn't get any favors with the draw. Gilman might hit Penn State's Jordan Conaway in Thursday night's second round. The Hawkeye won both of their previous bouts by a point. Peters wrestles 37-match winner David Terao of American in the first round and will face either No. 8 seed Tyler Cox of Wyoming or Delgado in his second bout.
Top seed: Minnesota's Chris Dardanes is built like a dorm fridge — a dorm fridge that shoots double legs. A physical style has helped the two-time all-American compile a 23-0 record this season against a rugged Big Ten schedule.
Leading contenders: This might be the tournament's deepest bracket. Oklahoma all-American Cody Brewer is 17-1 and seeded 13th. Edinboro's A.J. Schopp started the season ranked No. 1. He's the No. 9 seed. Big Ten wrestlers claimed the top five seeds. Wisconsin's Ryan Taylor moved up from 125 early in the season and pushed Dardanes in an action-packed Big Ten title bout. Iowa's Cory Clark grabbed the No. 3 seed after winning two of three against Ohio State's Johnni DiJulius and Illinois' Zane Richards, the No. 4 and 5 seeds.
The Iowa 133-pounder is coming off a runner-up finish at the Big Tens and owns a 26-5 record.
Iowa ties: Clark has won all three career meetings against Iowa State's Earl Hall, the No. 6 seed. The bracket is set up for a Hawkeye-Cyclone clash in Friday morning's quarterfinals. Iowa City West state champion Jack Hathaway claimed the Pac-12 title for Oregon State. He's 28-10 as a freshman.
Top seed: Ohio State's Logan Stieber is aiming to become the fourth four-time champion in tournament history. He's skilled on his feet and capable of racking up points in a hurry on top, two reasons he's 24-0 this season with bonus points in 20 bouts.
Leading contenders: Edinboro's Mitchell Port, a 2013 runner-up, is 32-1. His lone loss was a 6-3 setback against Stieber. Virginia Tech's fourth-seeded Devin Carter lost to Stieber in last year's finals. Missouri's third-seeded Lavion Mayes is 33-2, but one of those losses came earlier this month in the MAC semifinals.
Iowa ties: Iowa senior Josh Dziewa went from the No. 6 seed at the Big Ten Championships to the No. 5 seed this week after a run to the conference finals. Iowa State coach Kevin Jackson predicted in November that Dante Rodriguez would qualify for the national tournament after yanking the redshirt off the true freshman. Rodriguez is 18-6 heading into his first-round bout against Lehigh's No. 13 seed Randy Cruz.
Top seed: Missouri's Drake Houdashelt is the No. 1 seed at 149 for the second straight season. He placed fifth last year after dropping a semifinal tiebreaker to Northwestern's Jason Tsirtsis. Houdashelt is 32-1 this season. His loss came against Oklahoma State's Josh Kindig in the Southern Scuffle finals.
Leading contenders: Second-seeded Tsirtsis is exceptionally skilled at doing just a little bit more than his opponent. He outscored his five tournament opponents 15-7 in last year's tournament. He won tiebreakers in the quarters and semis and beat Kindig in overtime in the finals. Iowa freshman Brandon Sorensen is the only wrestler to beat Tsirtsis this season. Edinboro's David Habat claimed the No. 3 seed after compiling a 32-2 record. His reward is a first-round bout against Kindig.
Iowa ties: Sorensen seized the starting job for the Hawkeyes in January when he knocked off both of last year's finalists. Iowa State sophomore Gabe Moreno is 26-6 and seeded ninth, but he sustained a shoulder injury during the Big 12 Championships.
Top seed: Illinois' Isaiah Martinez has become one of college wrestling's box-office hits this season. The high-scoring freshman is 29-0. He scored 47 points in three bouts at the Big Ten Championships and handled Minnesota's Dylan Ness 12-5 in the finals.
Leading contenders: Ness is a two-time finalist who typically wrestles his best in March. His big-move potential makes him a threat in every match, no matter the score. The Minnesota senior is 28-2 and seeded third. Cornell's Brian Realbuto, the No. 2 seed, handed Ness his first loss in February. Nebraska's fourth-seeded James Green and No. 7 Ian Miller of Kent State are two of the tournament's top takedown specialists.
Iowa ties: Iowa's Michael Kelly claimed an at-large ticket into the bracket after placing ninth at the Big Ten Championships. The senior is 23-10. One of those losses came against his first-round opponent, Ohio State's No. 6 seed Josh Demas.
Top seed: Oklahoma State's Alex Dieringer ripped through last year's 157-pound bracket, registering a pin and scoring 60 points in his other four victories, including a 13-4 major decision against Ness in the finals. He's 29-0 this season and his closest bout was an 8-2 win against Virginia's Nick Sulzer, the No. 4 seed.
Leading contenders: Iowa State's Michael Moreno is 22-3 and the two wrestlers that have given him the most problems in the past — Dieringer and Sulzer — are on the opposite side of the bracket. Moreno earned the No. 2 seed after pinning Wisconsin's Isaac Jordan, the Big Ten champion. Jordan downed his cousin, Bo Jordan of Ohio State, in the Big Ten finals.
Iowa ties: Second-seeded Moreno leads a bracket packed with Iowans. Northern Iowa's Cooper Moore is seeded 13th after repeating as the MAC champion. Iowa's Nick Moore qualified with an at-large ticket but drew a wrestler he's beaten four times in five tries, Northwestern's Pierce Harger. Centerville native Mike England (Missouri) and ADM of Adel graduate Dakota Friesth (Wyoming) also enter the tournament unseeded.
Top seed: Turns out that regularly butting heads with three-time World and Olympic champion Jordan Burroughs hasn't been a bad thing for Robert Kokesh. Training tips from the Nebraska assistant have helped Kokesh compile a 34-0 record as a senior.
Leading contenders: The Big Ten created a 174-pound brouhaha the past three years with Kokesh clashing against Penn State's Matt Brown, Iowa's Mike Evans and Minnesota's Logan Storley. Brown, Evans and Storley are all lumped together on the bottom side of the bracket as the Nos. 2, 3 and 6 seeds.
Iowa ties: Evans, a two-time all-American, is 27-2. Both of his losses were 2-0 setbacks against Brown. Iowa State's Tanner Weatherman reached the Round of 12 the past two seasons. He's trying to break through and reach the medal podium this year as a No. 13 seed.
Top seed: What happened to Gabe Dean in Vegas stayed in Vegas. The Cornell sophomore dropped two decisions in early December at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and hasn't lost since. The all-American is 39-2.
Leading contenders: Pitt's Max Thomusseit's only stumble came in the finals of the Southern Scuffle when Dean decked him. The No. 2 seed is 24-1. Arizona State's Blake Stauffer and Old Dominion's Jack Dechow — the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds — have only lost once each.
The NCAA newcomer talks about what he does to pass the time and his sleeping habits before big meets.
Iowa ties: Iowa sophomore Sam Brooks compiled a 27-5 record in his first season as a full-time starter, but he could have to go through Big Ten champ Domenic Abounader of Michigan and Dean to reach the semifinals. Iowa State's Lelund Weatherspoon opens the tournament against Oklahoma State's Nolan Boyd in a Big 12 title rematch. Boyd won 2-1 in their meeting earlier this month. Southeast Polk grad Willie Miklus of Missouri faces No. 10 seed Lorenzo Thomas of Penn in another compelling first-round bout.
Top seed: J'Den Cox is 33-0, he's the defending champion and hasn't lost since midway through his freshman season. Still, Stieber's chase for a fourth title, Dieringer's dominance and Martinez's marvelous rookie season have upstaged the remarkable resume the Missouri sophomore is compiling.
Leading contenders: Penn State's Morgan McIntosh lost two bouts during the regular season — one to Cox and another to Ohio State freshman Kyle Snyder. McIntosh evened the score against Snyder by winning their rematch in the Big Ten finals. Iowa State's Kyven Gadson, the No. 3 seed, handed Cox his last defeat in last year's Southern Scuffle. Snyder, who bypassed his high school senior season last year and moved to the Olympic Training Center, is 26-3 as a true freshman. Minnesota's Scott Schiller placed third last year and fifth in 2013.
Iowa ties: Gadson is a two-time all-American. He was joined on the medal stand last year by Iowa's Nathan Burak. If the bracket plays out the way it's seeded, they would run into each other again in Friday morning's quarterfinals. Gadson might have to deal with Northern Iowa's Basil Minto first.
Top seed: Nick Gwiazdowski dethroned two-time champion Tony Nelson of Minnesota in last year's finals. Now the North Carolina State junior is the guy to beat at heavyweight. Gwiazdowski is 30-0 this season after finishing 42-2 last year.
Leading contenders: Big Ten rivals Mike McMullan of Northwestern, Bobby Telford of Iowa and Michigan's Adam Coon could clash again in the bottom side of the bracket. McMullan won two of three this season against Telford. Oklahoma State All-American Austin Marsden and Wisconsin's Connor Medbery are Gwiazdowski's biggest threats on the top side.
Iowa ties: Telford has been more aggressive as a senior. He's 27-3 and seeded third entering his final tournament with the Hawkeyes. Northern Iowa's Blaize Cabell reeled off 15 straight victories before suffering his first loss in three months in the MAC finals. Ankeny native Ross Larson earned the No. 15 seed for Oklahoma after compiling a 25-7 record.