125: Matt McDonough (Iowa) over Nico Megaludis (Penn State)
It's "all in" for the senior McDonough , already twice a national champion and three times a national finalist before his senior year NCAA tournament. Hard to believe that he's in such a bind, but I think he has a magical weekend -- though it could just as easily end up in a sixth or seventh place finish for McDonough. Alan Waters (Missouri) is the No. 1 seed here, but has failed to wrestle to seed in either of his two prior NCAA tournaments; something that could happen here in the form of a loss before the semis.
133: Logan Stieber (Ohio State) over Tony Ramos (Iowa)
Outside of Dake/Taylor, this has to rate right up there with the most likely of finals matchups. Other than Ramos, nobody has found a way to neutralize Stieber's attacks from neutral and/or his turns from the top position. While outside of Stieber, next to nobody has managed the relentless pace of match that Ramos puts together on his feet. Look for these two foils to meet on Saturday night, with yet again Stieber winning a one score bout.
141: Kendric Maple (Oklahoma) over Hunter Stieber (Ohio State)
Being the highest returning place finisher in this weight class, and working with an undefeated season, I'm quite frankly perplexed how Maple did not get the number one seed in this weight class. However, it's of limited relevance, as he's the two seed to fellow undefeated Stieber as the one seed. Maple is looking at a finals path, which centers around Michael Mangrum (Oregon State) as his toughest opposition; while Stieber could run into past nemeses Chris Dardanes (Minnesota) and Evan Henderson (North Carolina) along the way.
149: Jordan Oliver (Oklahoma State) over Dylan Ness (Minnesota)
Oliver is an eyelash and/or the judgment of a referee away from going for a third consecutive national title, with two of them possibly being of the undefeated variety. Nonetheless, should he win all five of his front side matches this weekend, this sensational senior would end his career with a record of 127-6 and two undefeated championship seasons. It is quite frankly lunacy to pick against him. However, there is one wrestler in this bracket that could find a way to get it done, and that is Mr. March himself Dylan Ness, who was national runner-up last year from the seven seed. This year, he'll have to work from the six seed.
157: Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State) over Jason Welch (Northwestern)
Along with 125 and 174, this is one of the three weights which are truly wide open in nature; and befitting the weight class, I'm going to take the sixth seeded Dieringer to surprise top seeded Welch in the championship bout.
165: David Taylor (Penn State) over Kyle Dake (Cornell)
Within traditional wrestling media circles, and especially from less traditional outlets for covering wrestling, this championship bout will have more words written or spoken about it than all the others put together. Simply put, it is a match for the ages. Dake goes for his fourth championship in four seasons across four weight classes, and would be the first four-time champion to do so without a redshirt season. Countering Dake is a prodigal talent in Taylor, who seeks his third finals bout in as many years -- losing in 2011 and dominating to a victory last year. Among Taylor's 26 victories this year, only six have not been pins or technical falls (five majors and one decision). While this is a straight homer pick for the Buckeye State native, I think the key to this match will be scoring a takedown in the first period, which I see Taylor being able to do this go around.
174: Chris Perry (Oklahoma State) over Logan Storley (Minnesota)
Two reasons for picking Perry to win this weight class: (1) he's the most talented wrestler in this weight class (2) he has the most manageable path to winning a championship. Simply put, the next four best wrestlers in this weight class are all on the opposite half of Perry -- Storley, Michael Evans (Iowa), Jordan Blanton (Illinois), and Matt Brown (Penn State). Once any of those four gets to the finals, it's a 50/50 proposition between them and Perry, but determining which one is a next to impossible task. For that, I just went to the overall resumes, and Storley has the best of them. For him to be the sixth seed is a simply absurd and rash overreaction to the Big Ten tournament, failing to consider the overall season as a whole.
184: Ed Ruth (Penn State) over Ben Bennett (Central Michigan)
Simply put, Ruth is a man child, and has as good a case as anyone for the InterMat Wrestler of the Year Award as well as the Hodge Trophy come season's end. He is 28-0, and only five matches have even been decision victories. He'll be in the semifinal round without a challenge, where I think either Kevin Steinhaus (Minnesota) or defending champion Steve Bosak (Cornell) can put up a fight -- namely maintain contact with Ruth, but not be in position to win. I think the other half of the draw appears very favorable for fellow undefeated Bennett, a three-time All-American in his own right, when considering questions about the health of Robert Hamlin (Lehigh).
197: Dustin Kilgore (Kent State) over Quentin Wright (Penn State)
Picking against Wright in March is something done at great peril; however, Kilgore's performances over the last three years provides that impetus. Winning the national title in this weight in 2011, Kilgore then had a superlative Olympic redshirt year at 96 kilos (211.5 pounds) last year, and has been even better in the 2012-13 season -- one in which he's a listed 38-0 with just four matches being decided by decision. Looking at draws, it would be a shock if Kilgore was not in the final, while Wright is looking at a challenging semi against Matthew Wilps (Pittsburgh).
285: Tony Nelson (Minnesota) over Dom Bradley (Missouri)
There's something super special about this weight class this year, a notion confirmed by the presence of two-time All-American Jarrod Trice (Central Michigan) as a No. 10 seed and a pair of past All-Americans (Jeremy Johnson and Levi Cooper) as unseeded wrestlers. However, there is a sense that this ends up being a three-person weight class with Bradley in the top half of the draw and Nelson facing Alan Gelogaev (Oklahoma State) in a possible bottom half-bracket semifinal. It becomes hard to pick against the defending national champ Nelson, who has truly grown into the weight class -- maintaining the athleticism of a high school 215-pounder, while growing to have the necessary tools in all three positions to thrive as a 285-pound wrestler.
1. Penn State
2. Oklahoma State
5. Ohio State