Breaking down Iowa's pre-seeds for the 2022 Big Ten Wrestling Championships

Cody Goodwin
Hawk Central

The math says this weekend’s Big Ten Wrestling Championships, set for Saturday and Sunday at Nebraska’s Pinnacle Bank Arena, will be an intense two-team race.

If we tally up the projected points based on the pre-seeds — points for individual finish and advancement based on how each wrestler should, according to their pre-seed, navigate their bracket — we find that only 1.5 points separates first and second place.

That early math says Iowa will win the Big Ten tournament, with a projected team score of 126.5 points, and that Penn State will take second, with 125. Third through fifth: Michigan (110.5), Nebraska (89) and Ohio State (82).

Here are the projected team points based on pre-seeds, which were released Monday by the Big Ten Conference:

  1. Iowa, 126.5
  2. Penn State, 125
  3. Michigan, 110.5
  4. Nebraska, 89
  5. Ohio State, 82
  6. Wisconsin, 60
  7. Northwestern, 53.5
  8. Michigan State, 49
  9. Minnesota, 42
  10. Rutgers, 41
  11. Purdue, 40
  12. Illinois, 27
  13. Indiana, 9.5
  14. Maryland, 5

Those point totals are without any potential bonus points, and will obviously fluctuate based on how the action actually unfolds this weekend. It's not out of the realm of possibility, for example, that Michigan can make it a three-team race.

But in the case of the Hawkeyes, it's also not out of the realm of possibility that they win a third consecutive Big Ten tournament title. They could also take second (or even third). That's partly why this weekend is so intriguing, and these results will directly impact the lens through which we view the 2022 NCAA Championships two weeks from now.

More:Wrestling Mailbag: It's March! The Big Ten and Big 12 Championships, plus more postseason wrestling

The following is a breakdown of this weekend's Big Ten Championships. We go weight-by-weight and look at each Iowa wrestler's potential path through the tournament based on the pre-seeds. Official brackets will be released Friday afternoon.

Pre-seeds for the 2022 Big Ten Wrestling Championships

Iowa's Drake Ayala wrestles at 125 pounds during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual against Purdue, Sunday, Jan. 9, 2022, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

125 pounds

  1. Nick Suriano (MI)
  2. Drew Hildebrandt (PSU)
  3. Eric Barnett (WI)
  4. Malik Heinselman (OSU)
  5. Devin Schroder (PUR)
  6. Drake Ayala (IA)
  7. Michael DeAugustino (NU)
  8. Patrick McKee (MN)
  9. Dylan Shawver (RUT)
  10. Justin Cardani (IL)
  11. Tristan Lujan (MSU)
  12. Jacob Moran (IN)
  13. Jeremiah Reno (NEB)
  14. Zach Spence (MD)
  • 10 NCAA bids

Potential First Round Matches

  • Suriano, Bye
  • McKee vs. Shawver
  • Schroder vs. Moran
  • Heinselman vs. Reno
  • Barnett vs. Spence
  • Ayala vs. Lujan
  • DeAugustino vs. Cardani
  • Hildebrandt, Bye

Analysis: Ayala has a favorable draw here, and will likely have to beat Lujan, Barnett and Hildebrandt. All of those are winnable matches. Hildebrandt could hit DeAugustino in the quarterfinals. The top side of this bracket is wild, too, with Suriano and McKee, plus Schroder and Heinselman, all potentially hitting in the quarterfinals.

A strong performance from Ayala could help Iowa's team race odds this weekend and two weeks from now in Detroit, and also boost his own individual stock ahead of the NCAA Championships. This will be a weight to watch considering the nationwide implications.

Iowa's Austin DeSanto, left, wrestles Penn State's Roman Bravo-Young at 133 pounds during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual, Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

133 pounds

  1. Roman Bravo-Young (PSU)
  2. Austin DeSanto (IA)
  3. Lucas Byrd (IL)
  4. RayVon Foley (MSU)
  5. Dylan Ragusin (MI)
  6. Brock Hudkins (IN)
  7. Chris Cannon (NU)
  8. Joe Olivieri (RUT)
  9. Matt Ramos (PUR)
  10. Dominick Serrano (NEB)
  11. Kyle Burwick (WI)
  12. Jake Gliva (MN)
  13. King Sandoval (MD)
  14. Dylan Koontz (OSU)
  • 10 NCAA bids

Potential First Round Matches

  • Bravo-Young, Bye
  • Olivieri vs. Ramos
  • Ragusin vs. Gliva
  • Foley vs. Sandoval
  • Byrd vs. Koontz
  • Hudkins vs. Burwick
  • Cannon vs. Serrano
  • DeSanto, Bye

Analysis: DeSanto's finals path looks treacherous but doable. He'll likely see Cannon in the quarterfinals and Byrd in the semifinals. Both are returning All-Americans. DeSanto is 2-0 all-time against Byrd, and hasn't seen Cannon, but Byrd is 3-0 all-time against Cannon.

It's important that DeSanto holds serve here and at least makes the finals — and score some bonus points if he can along the way.

More:Big Ten Conference releases pre-seeds ahead of Big Ten Wrestling Championships

Iowa's Jaydin Eierman, right, wrestles Minnesota's Jake Bergeland at 141 pounds during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

141 pounds

  1. Nick Lee (PSU)
  2. Jaydin Eierman (IA)
  3. Sebastian Rivera (RUT)
  4. Chad Red (NEB)
  5. Jakob Bergeland (MN)
  6. Stevan Micic (MI)
  7. Dylan D’Emilio (OSU)
  8. Joseph Zargo (WI)
  9. Dylan Duncan (IL)
  10. Frankie Tal Shahar (NU)
  11. Parker Filius (PUR)
  12. Matt Santos (MSU)
  13. Cayden Rooks (IN)
  14. Danny Bertoni (MD)
  • 7 NCAA bids

Potential First Round Matches

  • Lee, Bye
  • Zargo vs. Duncan
  • Bergeland vs. Santos
  • Red vs. Rooks
  • Rivera vs. Bertoni
  • Micic vs. Filius
  • D’Emilio vs. Tel Shahar
  • Eierman, Bye

Analysis: Arguably one of the most interesting weights in the entire tournament. There are six past All-Americans, including three national finalists and an NCAA champ.

Eierman could potentially see D'Emilio in the quarterfinals and then potentially either Rivera or Micic in the semifinals, which would be all kinds of intriguing, since Eierman hasn't wrestled either of them in his career. That could be good for Eierman, given his unique style of wrestling. Opponents tend to struggle the first time they wrestle him.

If all goes to plan, Eierman should meet Lee in the finals here. Any bonus points he's able to score along the way would be, well, a bonus.

Iowa's Max Murin, left, wrestles Minnesota's Michael Blockhus at 149 pounds during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

149 pounds

  1. Sammy Sasso (OSU)
  2. Austin Gomez (WI)
  3. Ridge Lovett (NEB)
  4. Max Murin (IA)
  5. Yahya Thomas (NU)
  6. Mike Van Brill (RUT)
  7. Beau Bartlett (PSU)
  8. Christian Kanzler (IL)
  9. Graham Rooks (IN)
  10. Michael Bockhus (MN)
  11. Kanen Storr (MI)
  12. Michael North (MD)
  13. Peyton Omania (MSU)
  14. Alex White (PUR)
  • 7 NCAA bids

Potential First Round Matches

  • Sasso, Bye
  • Kanzler vs. Rooks
  • Yahya vs. North
  • Murin vs. Omania
  • Lovett vs. White
  • Van Brill vs. Storr
  • Bartlett vs. Blockhus
  • Gomez, Bye

Analysis: Another intriguing weight, and in the case of Iowa, an important one. Murin's path is full of landmines, starting with Omania, a headlock connoisseur with international experience. Win there, Murin likely sees Thomas, a returning All-American who tends to flip a switch in March — though Murin did beat him in the regular season, 4-3.

If Murin can make the semifinals, he'll get another crack at Sasso, a returning NCAA finalist and Big Ten champ. If Murin falls to Thomas in the quarters, he'll have to win at least three in the consolations to secure an NCAA bid. That route could include Storr, Blockhus, then the loser of a potential Lovett-Gomez semifinal match.

It's much harder, in other words. A top-four finish is key for Murin this weekend.

A look at the Big 12:Big 12 Conference releases pre-seeds ahead of this weekend's Big 12 Wrestling Championships

Oklahoma State wrestler Wyatt Sheets, left, vs. Iowa wrestler Kaleb Young on Feb. 12 in Arlington, Texas.

157 pounds

  1. Ryan Deakin (NU)
  2. Kaleb Young (IA)
  3. Will Lewan (MI)
  4. Kendall Coleman (PUR)
  5. Peyton Robb (NEB)
  6. Chase Saldate (MSU)
  7. Garrett Model (WI)
  8. Robert Kanniard (RUT)
  9. Bryce Hepner (OSU)
  10. Brady Berge (PSU)
  11. Derek Gilcher (IN)
  12. Joe Roberts (IL)
  13. Lucas Cordio (MD)
  14. Sebas Swiggum (MN)
  • 7 NCAA bids

Potential First Round Matches

  • Deakin, Bye
  • Kanniard vs. Hepner
  • Robb vs. Roberts
  • Coleman vs. Cordio
  • Lewan vs. Swiggum
  • Saldate vs. Gilcher
  • Model vs. Berge
  • Young, Bye

Analysis: Young has a nice draw here and should end up back in the Big Ten finals again, although if Berge can take out Model in the first round, a Young-Berge match in the quarterfinals is intriguing. Lewan or a surging Saldate could await Young in the semifinals. It's a doable path, but the competition is stout. This is the Big Ten, after all.

Iowa's Alex Marinelli, right, wrestles Wisconsin's Dean Hamiti at 165 pounds during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

165 pounds

  1. Carson Kharchla (OSU)
  2. Alex Marinelli (IA)
  3. Dean Hamiti (WI)
  4. Cameron Amine (MI)
  5. Caleb Fish (MSU)
  6. Dan Braunagel (IL)
  7. Hayden Lohrey (PUR)
  8. Clayton Wilson (NEB)
  9. Cael Carlson (MN)
  10. Creighton Edsell (PSU)
  11. David Ferrante (NU)
  12. Andrew Clark (RUT)
  13. Kasper McIntosh (IN)
  14. Gaven Bell (MD)
  • 7 NCAA bids

Potential First Round Matches

  • Kharchla, Bye
  • Wilson vs. Carlson
  • Fish vs. Clark
  • Amine vs. McIntosh
  • Hamiti vs. Bell
  • Braunagel vs. Ferrante
  • Lohrey vs. Edsell
  • Marinelli, Bye

Analysis: Marinelli's path to a fourth Big Ten tournament title truly heats up in the semifinals, where he'll likely see Hamiti again. Marinelli won that regular-season matchup, 8-5. Win there, he'll likely see Kharchla again in the finals. Kharchla gave Marinelli his only regular-season loss, 3-2, back in January.

More:Construction on Iowa's new wrestling facility expected to begin this June

Iowa's Michael Kemerer is introduced before his match at 174 pounds during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual against Minnesota, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

174 pounds

  1. Carter Starocci (PSU)
  2. Logan Massa (MI)
  3. Mikey Labriola (NEB)
  4. Michael Kemerer (IA)
  5. Ethan Smith (OSU)
  6. Bailee O’Reilly (MN)
  7. Gerit Nijenhuis (PUR)
  8. Troy Fisher (NU)
  9. Dominic Solic (MD)
  10. DJ Shannon (IL)
  11. Andrew McNally (WI)
  12. Nick South (IN)
  13. Connor O’Neill (RUT)
  14. Nate Jimenez (MSU)
  • 8 NCAA bids

Potential First Round Matches

  • Starocci, Bye
  • Fisher vs. Solic
  • Smith vs. South
  • Kemerer vs. O’Neill
  • Labriola vs. Jimenez
  • O’Reilly vs. McNally
  • Nijenhuis vs. Shannon
  • Massa, Bye

Analysis: How deep is the Big Ten? We could potentially see an NCAA finals rematch in the semifinals of the conference tournament. We could see that at multiple weights.

The potential Kemerer-Starocci match — Kemerer has to beat Smith first — might be the highlight of Saturday evening's semifinal session. If Kemerer wins there, Massa or Labriola could be waiting in the finals. If Kemerer loses there, he might still see either Massa or Labriola in the third-place match.

This is a pretty top-heavy weight, especially nationally, so the results here could very well dictate how the top eight seeds at the NCAA Championships look.

Iowa's Abe Assad has his hand raised after scoring a decision at 184 pounds during a NCAA Big Ten Conference wrestling dual against Wisconsin, Saturday, Feb. 5, 2022, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, Iowa.

184 pounds

  1. Aaron Brooks (PSU)
  2. Myles Amine (MI)
  3. Kaleb Romero (OSU)
  4. Taylor Venz (NEB)
  5. Abe Assad (IA)
  6. Layne Malczewski (MSU)
  7. John Poznanski (RUT)
  8. Kyle Cochran (MD)
  9. DJ Washington (IN)
  10. Isaiah Salazar (MN)
  11. Christopher Weiler (WI)
  12. Zach Braunagel (IL)
  13. Max Lyon (PUR)
  14. Jack Jessen (NU)
  • 12 NCAA bids

Potential First Round Matches

  • Brooks, Bye
  • Cochran vs. Washington
  • Assad vs. Braunagel
  • Venz vs. Lyon
  • Romero vs. Jessen
  • Malczewski vs. Weiler
  • Poznanski vs. Salazar
  • Amine, Bye

Analysis: Assad will have to beat Venz and Brooks to make the finals, but that potential quarterfinal match against Venz — he needs to beat Braunagel first — will be huge for Assad's potential NCAA placement. If he can finish in the top four over Venz, Cochran, Washington and Poznanski, that'll help his NCAA seeding.

Currently, Venz, Cochran, Washington and Poznanski (plus Brooks, Amine and Romero) are all ranked ahead of Assad in the latest NCAA coaches rankings. So finishing ahead of them will likely boost his stock in the NCAA's seeding formula. He may have to beat more than just Venz to do it, too, which would also help his standing.

This is an intriguing weight, both in the Big Ten and nationally. A strong performance from Assad will help both his All-American chances and the Hawkeyes' attempt to repeat as NCAA champions.

More:Drake Ayala returns to Iowa wrestling’s starting lineup in 20-15 win over Nebraska

Oklahoma State wrestler Gavin Stika, left, vs. Iowa wrestler Jacob Warner on Feb. 12 in Arlington, Texas.

197 pounds

  1. Eric Schultz (NEB)
  2. Max Dean (PSU)
  3. Cameron Caffey (MSU)
  4. Jacob Warner (IA)
  5. Patrick Brucki (MI)
  6. Thomas Penola (PUR)
  7. Greg Bulsak (RUT)
  8. Braxton Amos (WI)
  9. Gavin Hoffman (OSU)
  10. Andrew Davison (NU)
  11. Jaron Smith (MD)
  12. Michial Foy (MN)
  13. Nick Willham (IN)
  14. Matt Wroblewski (IL)
  • 11 NCAA bids

Potential First Round Matches

  • Schultz, Bye
  • Amos vs. Hoffman
  • Brucki vs. Foy
  • Warner vs. Willham
  • Caffey vs. Wroblewski
  • Penola vs. Smith
  • Bulsak vs. Davison
  • Dean, Bye

Analysis: Warner drew the four, although there is a case for him to be pre-seeded third. Caffey lost to Wroblewski in the regular-season, but Caffey also beat Dean, who beat everybody else but didn't wrestle Schultz, who went undefeated against all Big Ten opponents and has only lost to Wyoming's Stephen Buchanan this season.

In any case, assuming these pre-seeds hold, Warner could see Brucki in the quarters, which will be an intriguing matchup with regard to the team race. Win there, and Warner gets another crack at Schultz. Schultz has beaten Warner three times in a row, but Warner has finished ahead of Schultz at the 2019 and 2021 national tournaments.

Warner can make the finals here. He could also lose to Brucki and have to navigate the wrestlebacks in order to finish in the top four. If he sneaks into the finals, he could be looking at a top four seed for the NCAA Championships.

Oklahoma State wrestler Luke Surber, bottom, vs. Iowa wrestler Tony Cassioppi on Feb. 12 in Arlington, Texas.

285 pounds

  1. Gable Steveson (MN)
  2. Tony Cassioppi (IA)
  3. Greg Kerkvliet (PSU)
  4. Mason Parris (MI)
  5. Lucas Davison (NU)
  6. Christian Lance (NEB)
  7. Trent Hilger (WI)
  8. Tate Orndorff (OSU)
  9. Luke Luffman (IL)
  10. Jacob Bullock (IN)
  11. Michael Woulfe (PUR)
  12. Boone McDermott (RUT)
  13. Brad Wilton (MSU)
  14. Zach Schrader (MD)
  • 9 NCAA bids

Potential First Round Matches

  • Steveson, Bye
  • Orndorff vs. Luffman
  • Davison vs. McDermott
  • Parris vs. Wilton
  • Kerkvliet vs. Schrader
  • Lance vs. Woulfe
  • Hilger vs. Bullock
  • Cassioppi, Bye

Analysis: The importance of Cassioppi beating Kerkvliet in January is shown here, as he was pre-seeded second and is on the opposite side of Steveson. If Cassioppi can beat Kerkvliet again and make the finals, that would not only help Iowa's team title chances this weekend, but also significantly help the Hawkeyes in Detroit, too.

If Cassioppi makes the finals this weekend, he gives himself an opportunity to perhaps be the No. 3 overall seed at 285 pounds for the NCAA Championships. That would put him on the opposite side of the bracket as Steveson again — Steveson will be the 1-seed if he wins out — which gives Cassioppi a path to the NCAA finals, too.

Arizona State's Cohlton Schultz (Pac-12) and Air Force's Wyatt Hendrickson (Big 12) are both lurking with undefeated records and could throw a wrench into how the 285-pound NCAA bracket ultimately gets seeded, but Cassioppi can only help himself with a finals appearance this weekend. From there, we'll see what happens.

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