NCAA wrestling brackets: Breaking down Iowa, ISU, UNI draws

Andy Hamilton
Iowa's Sammy Brooks celebrates after defeating Nebraska's TJ Dudley Sunday, March 6, 2016, in the 184 pound finals at the Big 10 Wrestling Championships in Iowa City.

His nationally-televised mullet analysis may have been the talk of the tournament for Iowa wrestling coming out of the Big Ten Championships, but Sam Brooks was more than just a comedy act last weekend.

Turns out nobody in college wrestling helped their NCAA seeding over the weekend more than Iowa’s fluffed and feathered 184-pounder.

Brooks entered the conference tournament ranked 13th by InterMat and coming off perhaps the worst match of his season.

But four straight victories and a Big Ten title (and an unforgettable post-match interview on the Big Ten Network) launched the junior to a No. 2 seed Wednesday when the brackets were released for next week’s NCAA Championships inside New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

It’s a scenario that seemed far-fetched two weeks ago after Brooks dropped a 7-3 decision to North Carolina State’s Pete Renda — the No. 13 seed — in Iowa’s final dual of the season.

“It’s not that I haven’t been doing the work physically, but it was time to check myself mentally,” said Brooks, who takes a 24-3 record into his first-round match against Chattanooga's John Lampe (21-5). “As difficult as that was, it’s something you have to move forward from. It’s easier to move forward with success than it is failure. But all the same, it’s something that happened. You can’t just quit after a match like that.”

Tough task ahead for Cyclones

Iowa State’s regular-season ups and downs put the Cyclones in position for some less-than-idyllic draws, but Kevin Jackson’s squad certainly didn’t catch many early-round breaks.

Junior 125-pounder Kyle Larson opens the tournament against Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello, the undefeated defending national champion.

Iowa State’s Lelund Weatherspoon drew Cornell’s No. 2 Brian Realbuto, a returning NCAA finalist, in the first round at 174.

Earl Hall, the highest-seeded Cyclone at No. 8, faces Air Force’s Josh Martinez at 133. They met two years ago in the second round at 125, when Hall topped the No. 4 seed 8-1 on his way to a podium finish.

Pigtail U

NCAA qualifiers at each weight have roughly a 6 percent chance of drawing a pigtail match. Two of Northern Iowa’s five tournament qualifiers bucked the odds.

Freshman 157-pounder Bryce Steiert drew a prelim bout against Ohio’s Spartak Chino, and teammate Cooper Moore also pulled a pigtail match against American’s Mitchell Wightmann at 165.

Bracket bits

Five Hawkeyes — Thomas Gilman (No. 4 at 125), Cory Clark (No. 2 at 133), Brandon Sorensen (No. 2 at 149), Brooks and Nathan Burak (No. 4 at 197) – claimed top-four seeds.

Cornell’s two No. 1 seeds won’t face first-round pushovers. Undefeated 133-pounder Nahshon Garrett opens the tournament against two-time All-American Mason Beckman of Lehigh. Defending 184-pound champ Gabe Dean could run into Old Dominion All-American Jack Dechow, who has a first-round pigtail.

The 157-pound bracket pits two of college wrestling’s top coaches — and their sons — on opposite sides. Oklahoma State coach John Smith’s son, Joe, faces Ohio State coach Tom Ryan’s son, Jake.