Brackets: 2019 D1 NCAA Wrestling Championships
The NCAA released the brackets for this year’s National Championships on Tuesday, and for the first time ever, seeded all 33 wrestlers in each weight class. Pitt’s five qualifiers are seeded as follows: Micky Phillippi No. 4 at 133, Taleb Rahmani No. 12 at 157, Nino Bonaccorsi No. 13 at 184, Kellan Stout No. 23 at 197, and Demetrius Thomas No. 8 at 285.
Micky will face Gary Joint of Fresno State in the first round, who is 17-13 on the year. Micky’s path to the finals after this is anything but easy. It is well agreed 133 is the toughest and deepest weight this year, and whoever racks up those five consecutive wins will have to earn it. After Joint, Micky will have Austin Gomez, Luke Pletcher, and Daton Fix if the seeds hold. Gomez is a scrappy and funky wrestler from Iowa State and is known to hit the big move. Pletcher is the returning 4th place finisher, and Fix is the No. 1 seed. Micky has wins over Pletcher and Fix this year, but both matches were a coin toss. All things considered, this is a good draw.
Taleb has Justin Thomas from Oklahoma for his first match. Taleb beat him 3-2 in the dual back in January, and will look to repeat that result. If Taleb manages to do that, he gets to look forward to yet another match with Hayden Hidlay, and yet another match with Hayden Hidlay in the second round of NCAAs. Last year Hidlay was the No. 1 seed, and beat Taleb 4-2. Peering down the consolation bracket, Taleb might have a pretty manageable path to All American, but I can’t see that far in the future, and neither can you.
As always, there is abounding criticism regarding the seeding process, criteria, and the seeds themselves. One trend is wrestlers who have dominant wins over other wrestlers getting seeded multiple spots lower. Conference results were either not taken into account, or taken very lightly. The final data were not made public which allows conspiracy theories of potential bias to grow. Some brackets are extremely lopsided, and some top seeds have harder draws than those well below them. Two years ago the seeds were so bad, then head coach of Virginia Tech Kevin Dresser tweeted he used to seed middle school tournaments better. Last season was a big step in the right direction, but this year, right back to the 7th grade.
Nino Bonaccorsi is a victim of this, at least on the surface. He beat Nick Reenan 8-0 in the dual match and 10-3 at the ACC tournament. Nino got the 13 seed; Reenan the 7. How does that make sense? Nonetheless, it is what it is, and Nino still has to beat some really good guys to get on the podium. A first match with Will Sumner of Utah Valley will prove difficult, but winnable. This sets up a showdown with No. 4 seed Emery Parker of Illinois. After that, it is anyone’s guess, but Nino will not be a welcome sight, especially in the later rounds.
After getting in the tournament with an at-large bid, Kellan Stout received the 23rd seed, and will have Tom Sleigh from Va Tech in round one. Sleigh beat Kellan 3-1 in the dual. If Kellan comes away victorious, he will likely face Jay Aiello (Virginia) who also beat Kellan 3-1 in the dual. This is an ideal situation for Kellan: two wrestlers he is familiar with and was only one score away from beating. If he can steal these two wins, he will be in the quarter finals, one win away from being an All American.
In his first year of Division 1 competition, Meech notched a 26-4 record and won the ACC title. This earned him the 8th seed and will pit him against Haydn Maley of Stanford in the opening round. Maley is 23-10 on the year, and is soon to be 23-11. In the second round, Meech will face either Matt Stencel of Central Michigan or Jeramy Sweany of Cornell. If those names look familiar next to Meech, it’s because he pinned both of them at the Cliff Keen Invitational in December. Should these results hold, Meech will square off with the No. 1 seed, Derek White (Oklahoma State). White beat Meech 9-8 in the dual, and took him down three times with the same move. One adjustment, and the NAIA transfer could find himself in the semifinals.
It’s clichéd, but bears repeating: seeds mean nothing. There are so many upsets every year in this tournament it is amazing people even try to fill out the brackets. But that’s what makes it fun. If you want to be a National Champion, you have to beat five tremendous wrestlers. If you want to be an All American you have to beat at least three. On paper Micky, Kellan, and Meech got good draws. Taleb’s is fair, and Nino’s questionable.
Number of qualifiers from the top states:
That’s right. PA had more than New Jersey and Ohio combined. 20 of PA’s 53 are from the WPIAL, which makes it 5th as a state. Truly amazing talent we have become spoiled with here in western Pennsylvania.
As fans of the sport let’s hope there are no injuries and everyone brings their best. It all starts March 21st at noon in downtown Pittsburgh.