March 'Matness'

Catch up on some of the biggest matches awaiting the Missouri wrestling team's 10 qualified wrestlers this weekend.

While a good percentage of America sat down Monday morning and filled out its NCAA March Madness basketball brackets, The Maneater sports staff sat down and analyzed the NCAA wrestling brackets. The Missouri Tigers go into this tournament as the No. 1 team in the nation and are gunning for their first team title ever. All 10 starters qualified for the tournament, so we took the time to assess their toughest tests in this “March Madness 2.0.”

125 pounds, Alan Waters: The first-seeded Waters' toughest matchup will likely not be until the finals, where he will probably take on Cornell’s Nahshon Garrett in the finals. The only time the two would have wrestled against each other this season was when the two schools went up against each other on Jan. 26. Garrett, unfortunately, failed to weigh in at 125 pounds, so he had to wrestle at 133 pounds, where he lost to upstart Zach Synon. Garrett will look to redeem himself against Tiger Style wrestling.

133 pounds, Zach Synon: The unranked Synon will have trouble from the start. He starts the competition by wrestling against Purdue’s No. 11 Danny Sabatello (26-8). Synon has experience wrestling against top talent this year, but we will have to see how he stacks up in high pressure situations.

Missouri coach Brian Smith said he is confident in Synon’s ability.

“(Sabatello’s) a kid that’s seeded that (Synon) can go in and beat,” he said. “And that’s our mindset. How’s he going to beat him? He’s going to do the same thing he’s done all year, there’s no secret to it. He’s just got to go out and do that and execute it.”

Top-seeded and undefeated Minnesota wrestler Christopher Dardanes will most likely be the safe bet to take the championship at this weight class.

141 pounds, Lavion Mayes: Third-seeded Mayes could have some trouble if he goes up against Old Dominion’s No. 11 Chris Mecate in the quarterfinals. Mayes seems to have trouble wrestling Mecate historically, and it was Mecate who took down Mayes in the Mid-American Conference Championships.

Logan Stieber, the three-time reigning national champion out of Ohio State, will look to wrap up his career with a fourth consecutive title.

149 pounds, Drake Houdashelt: Houdashelt's biggest competition on his side of the bracket is Iowa’s Brandon Sorenson, who Houdashelt beat in the National Duals. If the top-seeded Houdashelt makes it to the finals, which might be a lock, he would wrestle against Northwestern’s Jason Tsirtsis. Despite being a two-seed in the tournament, according to InterMat, Tsirtsis is ranked No. 1 in the nation, and he beat Houdashelt at last year's semifinals. Houdasheldt has had some troubles at Nationals every year despite consistently winning conference championships. He will look to rewrite the script this year.

157 pounds, Joey Lavallee: Lavallee will take on Virginia Tech’s unseeded Nick Brascetta in the first round. Brascetta has only wrestled 12 matches this year, going 10-2, so Lavallee’s experience could play to his advantage. He’ll have two of the most unpredictable matches in the tournament however, as his second round will be up against No. 8 John Boyle, who has wrestled 44 matches this year, losing only eight to Lavallee’s 11.

165 pounds, Mikey England: England will have to prove himself before the first round even begins. He will be participating in a wrestle-in against Columbia’s Tyrel White, who is 24-14. After that, if he wins, he’ll take on Old Dominion’s Tristan Warner, who only has three losses this year. Mizzou could miss out on important points toward a team title if England isn’t completely on top of his game.

174 pounds, Johnny Eblen: Eblen should have a relatively easy Thursday, but his Friday will heat up quick. Eblen’s toughest match could be against Virginia’s No. 5 Blaise Butler in the quarterfinals. Butler only has one more loss than Eblen.

184 pounds, Willie Miklus: Miklus’ NCAAs will start off with a bang when he goes up against No. 10 Lorenzo Thomas out of Pennsylvania in the first round. Despite Lorenzo being seeded, Miklus could easily be seen as the best unseeded wrestler for the Tigers in this tournament. If Miklus wrestles to his full ability, he should be able to get through a portion of his bracket despite his underdog status and earn some key points for the Tigers.

197 pounds, J’den Cox: Reigning national champion Cox is definitely the Goliath of his weight class, as he looks to double-up. But Penn State’s No. 2 Morgan McIntosh could be a test in the finals. The two took each other on in the Southern Scuffle quarterfinals this year, where Cox won by a 2-0 decision.

Minnesota’s No. 5 Scott Schiller could also prove to be a challenge in his half of the bracket. Before the regular season began, Cox lost to Schiller in an NWCA All-Star match.

“It wasn’t really humbling, but it did give me something to strive for, and that’s to beat him,” Cox said. “And I believe I can. He believes he can beat me, and he has every right to, but I strongly believe that I can come out and do better.”

HWT, Devin Mellon: Mellon will have to wait until the wrestle-in matches are over to see who he wrestles in the first round. Assuming that shouldn’t be a challenge, Michigan’s No. 6 Adam Coon in the second round could cause him trouble.

“Confidence is the biggest thing, and that’s one of the biggest things for him because Devin’s not the biggest heavyweight,” Cox said. “But he goes out there against every opponent and he believes with all his being that he can beat them. And we know he can.”

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