McDonough, Dake deserved higher seeds

The brackets were released on Wednesday for the 2011 NCAA Division I Championships.

Iowa's Matt McDonough is the defending NCAA champion at 125, has two wins over Northwestern's Brandon Precin, and has picked up bonus points in 19 of his 23 victories (Photo/Tony Rotundo,
To me, the two biggest surprises were Iowa's Matt McDonough not earning the No. 1 seed at 125 pounds and Kyle Dake of Cornell getting the fourth seed, as opposed to the third seed, at 149 pounds.

Don't get me wrong ... I believe Arizona State's Anthony Robles, who earned the No. 1 seed at 125 pounds, is a tremendous wrestler who is having an incredible season. He's 31-0 with 22 technical falls, five major decision, two pins, and two decisions. He's also a two-time All-American and 13 of his wins this season have come against 2011 NCAA qualifiers.

But let's look at the facts. McDonough is not only the defending NCAA champion, but has two wins over Northwestern's Brandon Precin, a two-time All-American and U.S. Open placewinner, with the most recent victory coming in the finals of the Big Ten Championships. McDonough is 23-1 and his only loss is to Precin, while Precin's only losses are to McDonough.

McDonough has wins over four wrestlers who earned seeds, while Robles has wins over three wrestlers who earned seeds. In addition, McDonough has wins over two wrestlers seeded in the top five, while Robles has not beaten any of the top five seeds. (Robles' technical fall victory over No. 5 Zach Sanders of Minnesota at the NWCA All-Star Classic is not counted by the NCAA or used for seeing purposes.)

Arizona State's Anthony Robles has been crushing opponents (Photo/Tony Rotundo,
Some will say Robles deserves to be seeded ahead of McDonough and Precin simply because he's undefeated and McDonough and Precin have losses. But then what about James Nicholson of Old Dominion? He's also 31-0 this season, but earned the fourth seed. Should he be seeded ahead of McDonough and Precin? Or has Robles earned the No. 1 seed because of the way he has dominated opponents? One could argue that McDonough has been equally as dominant as Robles this season. He has picked up bonus points in 19 of this 23 victories, plus he has 11 more pins than Robles in seven less matches.

With McDonough getting the No. 2 seed, it means a likely semifinal match against his Big Ten rival Precin, while Robles will face Nicholson in the semifinals if the seeds hold up. No disrespect toward the undefeated Nicholson, but Precin is the tougher semifinal match. Precin is the only wrestler to defeat McDonough this season. I think a stronger case could be made for Precin getting the No. 2 seed over Robles (Precin did win the last head-to-head meeting) than Robles getting the No. 1 seed over McDonough.

While McDonough not getting the top seed at 125 pounds was surprising, Dake getting the fourth seed at 149 pounds, as opposed to the third seed, was equally as surprising to me. Like McDonough, Dake has won an NCAA title in his only attempt. I understand that current year data is most important when looking at seeding, so let's examine how the top wrestlers at 149 pounds have performed this season.

North Carolina State's Darrion Caldwell, an NCAA champion, is the No. 1 seed. That's a no-brainer. Caldwell is undefeated, hasn't lost a college wrestling match since 2008, and has been on the U.S. National Team. But where it gets sticky is No. 2 through No. 4. Penn State's Frank Molinaro, a two-time All-American, earned the No. 2 seed. He's 28-2 this season and recently won a Big Ten title. He has been a beast, especially during the second half of the season. He has reeled off 15 straight victories. His losses this season are to Mario Mason of Rutgers, who is seeded seventh, and Dake. LeValley is 30-1 and his only loss is in sudden victory to Mason, 3-1, two months ago.

Cornell's Kyle Dake edged Penn State's Frank Molinaro, 1-0, in the finals of the Southern Scuffle (Photo/Cliff Fretwell)
When comparing LeValley's season to Molinaro's season, both have been impressive, but I have a hard time seeing how Molinaro's overall body of work this season puts him over LeValley. Of LeValley's 30 wins this season, five have come against seeded wrestlers, with two of those coming against wrestlers seeded in the top five. LeValley also has a win over Dake. Molinaro, on the other hand, has two wins against seeded wrestlers, including splitting matches with one of those two (Mason).

When comparing Dake's season to Molinaro's season, both have two losses. However, Dake is not only the defending NCAA champion, but has the head-to-head win over Molinaro and the same amount of victories against seeded wrestlers. In addition, Dake registered an 11-1 major decision victory over Mason, a wrestler who has a win over Molinaro.

With Molinaro getting the second seed, as opposed to the fourth seed, he does not have to deal with having Caldwell on his side of the bracket. Instead, it puts two NCAA champions, Caldwell and Dake, on the same side of the bracket. I'm not stating that I don't think Molinaro, who has been on tear, can't or won't beat LeValley or Dake. Molinaro certainly has the tools to reach the finals. However, it's my belief that both LeValley and Dake deserved to be seeded higher.

Other thoughts on seeding ...

The seeding at 157 pounds turned out like I thought it would. The weight class includes three undefeated wrestlers in Adam Hall of Boise State, Steve Fittery of American, and David Taylor of Penn State, plus an NCAA runner-up and Junior World champion in Bubba Jenkins of Arizona State. I believe all four are very close. I don't think I'm in the minority when I state that I'm excited to see how things shake out at 157 pounds. Fittery is ranked ahead of Hall in the InterMat rankings only because of Hall's loss to Jenkins at the NWCA All-Star Classic. That match is not counted by the NCAA or used for seeding purposes, but is used by the InterMat rankings committee. Therefore, Hall is not only undefeated, but he is also the highest returning NCAA finisher and beat Fittery in their last meeting at the NCAA Championships, so it makes sense that he's seeded ahead of Fittery. I expect all four wrestlers to make the semifinals, which is going to make for some incredible matches in this weight class on Friday night.

I expected Cornell's Mike Grey to be seeded a bit higher than eighth, but also understand why the seeding committee placed him there. He has not competed much this season and lacks quality wins. He's 11-0 with his most notable victory coming over Penn's Rollie Peterkin, the 10th seed, 10-5. The two wrestlers seeded ahead of Grey, Tony Ramos of Iowa and B.J. Futrell of Illinois, have more quality wins this season.


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