Big Ten Network and ESPN wrestling analyst Jim Gibbons knows wrestling. One of the best broadcasters in the business, Gibbons knows what it takes to win an NCAA championship both as an athlete and a coach. Who does Gibbons see as the favorite coming into this year's NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in St. Louis? Who does he think will have a breakout performance and exceed expectations as Mr. Upside? Gibbons will be previewing each of the 10 weight classes leading up to the NCAAs. Follow Jim on Twitter at @JGibLacesUp and let him know what you think if his previews and picks.
I want to thank everyone for taking the time to read these weight class previews. I'm told each weight class preview is getting 15-20k unique page views. That's amazing. One of the best things the NCAA did was releasing brackets early and getting everybody talking. To give some of you a point of reference, the brackets used to come out on the Wednesday night before the start of the tournament. The coaches would take their copy and share it with their team. This gave the athletes little preparation time, while most of the spectators got their brackets at the first session. We have come a long way, but we still have a ways go to serve our underserved audience.
This tournament has something for everyone and for many of us this tournament has become an annual pilgrimage. This will be my 41st year in attendance. I know several people that have that beat by double digits. Again, with the brackets out it gives all of us a chance to be better fans and give some thought to what might happen. Prognostication is a part every major sport and that's the direction we are headed. So take these picks in the spirit it was intended to help serve our audience.
I'll be covering the medal round for ESPNU Saturday morning with Shawn Kenney, Billy Baldwin and Quint Kessenich. This exciting team race could be decided in this round. I'm back with Dan Gable and Shawn Kenney, along with several other prominent guests on ESPN3 during the finals for the "Off The Mat." The amount of coverage we are getting is phenomenal. To provide some perspective, in 2007, I took a call from John Vassallo, one of the executive producers at ESPN. He asked if I would be interested in covering the quarters on their new Internet channel, ESPN 360, which is now ESPN3. I was excited when I got to The Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan, and took part in a few of the meetings. When Friday morning's quarters rolled around I was escorted out to a truck outside with no heat. There was a card table, a folding chair and four 8-inch black and white monitors to call the action. I was doing this solo. I could see my breath and thinking I have up a suite ticket for this. We had 12,000 people somehow find us that day and we were off to the races. The next year Shawn Kenney joined us. We got inside the building and the coverage has expanded to where now every match is broadcast in some form. I can tell you the people that work this event from ESPN respect it and love it. Seeing NCAA wrestling commercials during the basketball games this weekend is evidence.
If you can't make it, find a way to watch. Your participation is tracked and it's making a huge difference in the coverage of our sport. So, get this out in your networks and help us continue to make strides. Enjoy the best event our sport has to offer.
-- Jim Gibbons
Weight Class Previews
125 | 133 | 141 | 149 | 157 | 165 | 174 | 184 | 197 | 285
Mr. Upside Picks