Note: The ranking listed below is the InterMat ranking heading into the tournament, not the tournament seed.
125: No. 16 RayVon Foley (Michigan State)
The random draw did not do Foley any favors. In the first round, he will face returning champion No. 1 Darian Cruz (Lehigh). Despite the draw, the true freshman has a shot to go from unseeded to All-American. In his first season for the Spartans, he went 28-9 and knocked off the likes of Drew Mattin (Michigan) and No. 15 Luke Welch (Purdue). Both Mattin and Welch defeated Foley in their first meeting this season, but Foley showed that he is improving and won the rematches.
EIWA finalist Chaz Tucker of Cornell enters the NCAAs unseeded (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
133: No. 18 Chaz Tucker (Cornell)
It would be pretty shocking if Tucker found his way to the podium, but stranger things have happened. He went 22-10 this season, but he certainly saved his best for last. At the EIWA tournament, he upset No. 7 Austin DeSanto (Drexel) to reach the finals. In the finale, he nearly pulled off another upset against No. 6 Scott Parker (Lehigh), but he ended up losing in overtime. The former Blair Academy wrestler is certainly on the map now. In his first match in Cleveland, he will face the ninth seed No. 14 Dennis Gustafson (Virginia Tech).
141: No. 15 Vince Turk (Iowa)
The 141-pound spot was a question mark for Iowa all season. The Hawkeyes even reportedly held wrestle-offs the week before the Big Ten tournament to decide on their entry. Evidently Turk won that match and went on to have a solid tournament. He entered the field unseeded and picked up wins over No. 16 Chad Red (Nebraska) and No. 20 Eli Stickley (Wisconsin) on the way to a fifth-place finish. His road towards All-American status gets started early in a pigtail match against Kyle Shoop (Lock Haven).
149: No. 16 Jared Prince (Navy)
Prince almost did not get the opportunity to represent the Midshipmen at the EIWA tournament. After a few turns of the rumor mill, he ended up getting the shot over senior Corey Wilding. Prince ended up finishing third with his only loss coming against eventual champion No. 9 Matt Kolodzik (Princeton). He missed a lot of time this season, but he almost ended up as an All-American last year at 141. Prince certainly has a shot to reach the podium as an unseeded wrestler.
157: No. 17 Kennedy Monday (North Carolina)
In his first season as a starter, Monday certainly took some lumps. His record currently stands at 18-15, but he has the tools to make a dark-horse run through his bracket. During the year, he defeated multiple ranked wrestlers including No. 19 John Van Brill (Rutgers), No. 14 Jake Short (Minnesota) and No. 13 Tyler Berger (Nebraska). If Monday is able to keep opponents off his legs, he should be able to score on pretty much everyone. In March, matches slow down, and the ability to land a nice blast double can become a huge asset.
165: No. 16 Connor Flynn (Missouri)
It might not have come against the toughest competition, but in this calendar year, Flynn has gone 9-1 and won a MAC title. His only loss during the stretch came against No. 10 Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State. The bad news for Flynn is that 165 pounds is an extremely deep weight class. On the other hand, sometimes momentum can help carry a wrestler on an unlikely run in the NCAA tournament.
174: No. 18 Johnny Sebastian (Northwestern)
In a testament to the depth of the Big Ten, Sebastian dropped a pair of decisions against No. 2 Mark Hall (Penn State) and No. 6 Bo Jordan (Ohio State) and ended up finishing fourth. During the season, the Northwestern wrestler did not have very many ranked wins, but he did show that he can win low and high-scoring matches. His ability to adapt to different types of matches will serve him well in the NCAA tournament.
184: No. 19 Brandon Krone (Minnesota)
Krone does not have a very flashy record this season. After the Big Ten tournament, his record stands at 11-8, but it does not really tell the whole story. Half of his losses came early in the season when he was bouncing back and forth between 174 and 197 pounds. Since settling in as the starter at 184, he has been much more steady. The odds are still stacked against Krone. However, he is a dominant rider. He is able to change matches from the top position, and he used this to score a pair of impressive victories over No. 20 Mitch Bowman (Iowa). It will take a surprising run for Krone to reach the podium, but his riding ability is a very nice tool to have in his toolbox.
197: No. 13 Jake Smith (West Virginia)
Smith missed out on the NCAA tournament last season after suffering an injury at the Big 12 tournament. He had an up-and-down season this year, but he had a nice showing at the conference tournament. Smith knocked off Sammy Colbray (Iowa State) and No. 8 Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State) before falling against No. 7 Nate Rotert (South Dakota State) in the finals. 197 has been a confusing weight all season long, and Smith has the experience and toughness to take advantage of an opening in the bracket.
285: No. 15 Cory Gillilland-Daniel (North Carolina)
Since the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, Gillilland-Daniel went 15-2 and took second in the ACC. He was quietly plowing through the competition before he knocked off No. 16 Michael Boykin (NC State) at the ACC tournament. The Tar Heel ended up losing to No. 3 Jacob Kasper (Duke) in the finals, but the Boykin win certainly turned some heads. In his first-round match, he will face No. 10 Jordan Wood (Lehigh). The two have never met before, but a win could signal a long run for Gillilland-Daniel.