Takeaways: Breaking down the NCAA Wrestling Championships brackets for Iowa, ISU and UNI
The brackets for the 2019 NCAA Wrestling Championships were released Wednesday evening, meaning the 24 wrestlers from Iowa’s three Division I programs learned their first-round matchups and their potential paths to a national title.
In all, Iowa had five wrestlers earn top-10 seeds, Iowa State had two and Northern Iowa had three. That’s significant because all 33 wrestlers at each weight are seeded this year. (It used to be just the top-16, and everybody else was just drawn in.)
Here, we offer a bracket breakdown for every Iowa, Iowa State and Northern Iowa wrestler who qualified for the big dance, set for March 21-23 at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. You can find the full brackets at the bottom.
No. 3 Spencer Lee (Iowa) vs. No. 30 Bryce West (Northern Illinois)*
Mostly expected, considering Lee’s losses to Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera, who earned the 1-seed, and Oklahoma State’s Nick Piccininni, who earned the 2-seed. Lee could see Piccininni in the semifinals and potentially NC State's Sean Fausz in the quarterfinals.
*Lee was originally slated to wrestle Oklahoma's Christian Moody in the first round. The bracket was adjusted on Monday after Arizona State's Ryan Millhof sustained an injury and pulled out of the competition.
No. 20 Alex Mackall (Iowa State) vs. No. 13 Drew Hildebrandt (Central Michigan)
Mackall’s third-place finish at the Big 12 tournament landed him in a wicked quad for the national tournament. Hildebrandt, the brother of world silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt, is 19-8 this season. The winner will likely face Oregon State’s Ronnie Bresser, the 4-seed, in the second round.
No. 22 Jay Schwarm (Northern Iowa) vs. No. 11 Travis Piotrowski (Illinois)
Schwarm is on the same side as Lee, and could potentially see him in the quarterfinals. Piotrowski beat Schwarm, 5-1, at the Midlands. Schwarm likely gets Russell in round two if he wins.
No. 7 Austin DeSanto (Iowa) vs. No. 26 Codi Russell (Appalachian State)
Was curious where DeSanto might get drawn in, considering the depth at this weight class and his fourth-place finish at the Big Ten tournament. He could see Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young in the second round and Michigan’s Stevan Micic, the 2-seed, in the quarterfinals. DeSanto lost to Micic in last year’s quarterfinals. If he advances, Rutgers’ Nick Suriano, the 3-seed, is the likely semifinal opponent.
No. 13 Austin Gomez (Iowa State) vs. No. 20 Brandon Paetzell (Lehigh)
An intriguing draw for Gomez. If he gets a win over Paetzell, he’ll likely face fourth-seeded Mickey Phillipi from Pittsburgh in the second round. He’s on the same side as Fix, but wouldn’t see him until the semifinals. He could see No. 5 Luke Pletcher of Ohio State in the quarters and, if he gets there, Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix, the 1-seed, in the semifinals.
No. 22 Max Murin vs. No. 11 Tristan Moran (Wisconsin)
We have an intriguing bracket at 141 pounds. If Murin can beat Moran, he may see Illinois’s Michael Carr in the second round. Murin beat Carr at the Big Ten tournament last week. If he wins there, he'll likely see a rematch with Penn State’s Nick Lee in the quarterfinals. Ohio State’s Joey McKenna, the 2-seed, is the likely semifinal match.
No. 17 Ian Parker (Iowa State) vs. No. 16 Chad Red (Nebraska)
Rough first-round draw for Parker against the Big Ten finalist. But the match is a winnable one, nonetheless. If he wins there, Parker likely faces off against Cornell’s Yianni Diakomihalis, the 1-seed and defending NCAA champion.
No. 4 Josh Alber (Northern Iowa) vs. No. 29 Corey Shie (Army)
A very favorable draw for Alber, who finished third at the Big 12 tournament last weekend. It sets up a quarterfinal matchup against Missouri’s Jaydin Eierman, whom Alber beat this season. Win there, and he could see Diakomihalis in the semifinals.
No. 10 Pat Lugo (Iowa) vs. No. 23 Josh Maruca (Arizona State)
Not a bad draw for Lugo. If he beats Maruca, he’d see Oklahoma State’s Kaden Gfeller in the second round. Lugo won that match, 7-4, in the dual. Win there, and he’ll likely see Ohio State’s Micah Jordan, the 2-seed, in the quarterfinals.
No. 8 Jarrett Degen (Iowa State) vs. No. 25 Russell Rohlfing (Cal-State Bakersfield)
Intriguing draw here for Degen. He traded wins against Rohlfing at the Southern Scuffle — Rohlfing won by 7-5 decision, then Degen pinned him later in the tournament. NC State’s Justin Oliver could be his second round match. Win there, and Rutgers’ Anthony Ashnault, the 1-seed, likely awaits in the quarterfinals.
No. 15 Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa) vs. No. 18 Jared Prince (Navy)
A tough draw for Thomsen, who just a couple of years ago made the NCAA semifinals, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could do it again. He beat Prince, 12-6, earlier this season. Win again, and a second-round matchup against Jordan is likely up next.
No. 6 Kaleb Young (Iowa) vs. No. 27 Dan Reed (Columbia)
Not a bad draw for Young, who should reach the quarterfinals, where Northwestern’s Ryan Deakin, the 3-seed, awaits. Beat Reed, and Ohio State’s Ke-Shawn Hayes, whom Young beat 11-1 at the Big Ten tournament last weekend, is the likely second-round matchup. Win twice and then beat Deakin, and Nebraska’s Tyler Berger, the 2-seed, could be the semifinal matchup. Penn State’s Jason Nolf is the 1-seed.
No. 23 Chase Straw (Iowa State) vs. No. 10 Steve Bleise (Minnesota)
For winning the Big 12 title, Straw’s reward is a matchup against Bleise, who reached the Big Ten semifinals last weekend before falling to sixth place. The other side of this quad is Old Dominion’s Larry Early, the 7-seed, and Princeton’s Quincy Monday, the 26-seed. A first-round win would go a long way in helping Straw.
No. 1 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) vs. pigtail winner: Joseph Smith (Oklahoma State) vs. Tyler Morland (Northwestern)
If Marinelli is going to win the NCAA title, he is going to have to earn it. Here is his potential path to the finals:
- Smith, a past All-American
- Brown’s Jonathan Viruet, the 17-seed who took Marinelli to overtime at the Midlands
- Virginia Tech’s Mekhi Lewis, the 8-seed and a Junior freestyle world champ who beat Marinelli at the Junior world team trials
- Either No. 4 Evan Wick, of Wisconsin, or No. 5 Chance Marsteller, both returning All-Americans
No. 11 Bryce Steiert (Northern Iowa) vs. No. 22 Bryce Martin (Indiana)
An intriguing draw. He has All-American potential, but he, too, is going to have to earn it. Beat Martin, and a second-round matchup against Michigan’s Logan Massa, the 6-seed, awaits. Arizona State’s Josh Shields, the 3-seed, and Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph, the 2-seed, would be in the quarters and semifinals, respectively.
No. 21 Marcus Coleman (Iowa State) vs. No. 12 Matt Finesilver (Duke)
A tough first-round draw for Coleman. Finesilver beat Coleman, 10-2, at the Scuffle. If he pulls the upset, he likely sees Lehigh’s Jordan Kutler, the 5-seed, in the second round. Lose, and he’ll probably get Edinboro’s Jordan Oliver in the wrestlebacks. He has the capability to get to Friday.
No. 8 Taylor Lujan (Northern Iowa) vs. No. 25 Hayden Hastings (Wyoming)
Lujan opens his NCAA tournament with a conference foe, but one he hasn’t faced before. A win likely means a second-round matchup against Minnesota’s Devin Skatzka. Win there, and it’s likely Penn State’s Mark Hall, the 1-seed, in the quarters. Hall beat Lujan in last year’s NCAA quarterfinal round.
Missouri’s Daniel Lewis is the 2-seed. Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia, the defending NCAA champ, is the 3-seed.
No. 12 Cash Wilcke (Iowa) vs. No. 21 Nick Gravina (Rutgers)
Wilcke was supposed to wrestle Gravina for fifth place at the Big Ten tournament, but Gravina medically forfeited. Now, they’ll wrestle in the opening round. If Wilcke wins, it’s likely Cornell’s Max Dean, the 5-seed, in the second round. The winner there probably gets Illinois’s Emery Parker, the 4-seed, in the quarterfinals. Parker has beaten Wilcke twice this season. Ohio State’s Myles Martin is the 1-seed.
No. 10 Sam Colbray (Iowa State) vs. No. 23 Jackson Hemauer (Fresno State)
Colbray gets a winnable first-round matchup, if only because Colbray beat Hemauer, 8-7, in a January dual. Win again, and NC State’s Nick Reenan, a Final X participant last summer, likely awaits in the second round. Penn State’s Shakur Rasheed, the 2-seed who pinned Colbray at the Scuffle, is the potential quarterfinal matchup.
No. 6 Drew Foster (Northern Iowa) vs. No. 27 Christian LaFragola (Brown)
An excellent draw for Foster here, who is looking to get back on the podium after missing out last season. Beat LaFragola, and he could see Binghamton’s Lou Deprez, the 11-seed, in round two (Foster pinned Deprez in December); Virginia Tech’s Zach Zavatsky, the 3-seed whom Foster has beaten twice this year, in the quarterfinals; and Rasheed in the semifinals.
No. 5 Jacob Warner (Iowa) vs. No. 28 Drew Phipps (Bucknell)
A tough draw here for Warner. Beat Phipps, and Army’s Rocco Caywood, the 12-seed who beat Warner at the Midlands, is the likely second-round matchup. Win there, and Princeton’s Pat Brucki, the 4-seed, awaits in the quarterfinals. Penn State’s Bo Nickal is the 1-seed.
No. 6 Willie Miklus (Iowa State) vs. No. 27 Joshua Roetman (Navy)
An intriguing draw for Miklus, who is seeking his fourth All-American finish. Roetman is beatable, but then Purdue’s Christian Brunner likely awaits in the second round and Oklahoma State’s Preston Weigel, the 3-seed who major’d Miklus in the Big 12 finals, in the quarterfinals. Ohio State’s Kollin Moore is the 2-seed.
No. 29 Sam Stoll (Iowa) vs. No. 4 Jordan Wood (Lehigh)
Stoll snuck in as a wildcard, so him earning the 29-seed here isn’t a surprise. But this is a pretty tough opening round matchup. Win, and get George Mason’s Matt Voss. Lose, and it’s likely Missouri’s Zach Elam, a Junior freestyle world silver medalist this past summer. A first-round win would go a long way in helping both Stoll and the Hawkeyes.
No. 26 Gannon Gremmel (Iowa State) vs. No. 7 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin)
Another tough first-round matchup, but Gremmel and Hillger have wrestled twice before. Hillger won by fall at last year’s Willie Myers Open, and Gremmel won 4-2 at last year’s UNI Open. The other side of this quad is Buffalo’s Jake Gunning, the 23-seed who beat Gremmel at the Midlands last year, and Maryland’s Youssif Hemida, the 10-seed who’s a returning All-American.
Oklahoma State’s Derek White is the 1-seed. Penn State’s Anthony Cassar is the 2-seed. Minnesota’s Gable Steveson is the 3-seed.
Check out the full 2019 NCAA Wrestling Championships brackets here.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.