Who will be the “surprise” champs and All-Americans?

Updated: March 8, 2012

By Mike Finn

Six wrestlers in the 2012 NCAA Division I Championships have already won NCAA champions and four — Iowa’s Matt McDonough, 125; Oklahoma State’s Jordan Oliver, 133; Michigan’s Kellen Russell, 141; and Cornell’s Kyle Dake (157) — are seeded No. 1 at their weight classes.

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Comparing Number of Qualifiers per Conference

But does that mean there’s a good chance they will win?











Or does a Top-8 seed give a wrestler a big advantage at taking home an All-American honor.

Looking over the past decade, only half of the top seeds eventually won NCAA championships and at least one wrestler — who was not seeded among the top four in their weight class — has left the Nationals with a gold medal. (The last time all champions were seeded No. 4 or higher was 2001 when seven titlists were seeded No. 1)

Such was the case last year when Penn State’s Quentin Wright, who was seeded No. 9 at 184 pounds, captured the only individual championship for the Nittany Lions who also claimed the team crown.

This year, Wright is seeded No. 6 and hopes that pattern fits.

Also, history has shown us over the past ten years that an average of 19 wrestlers per season or 20 percent — who were not seeded among the top eight wrestlers — captured one of 80 All-American honors per championship.

And of those unexpected 190 All-Americans who won between 2002 and last March, 87 were earned by unseeded wrestlers.

With all of this is mind, what does that say about this year’s national tournament, which will be held March 15-17 in St. Louis, Mo.?

Let’s take a look at all ten weight classes who could be surprise winners and All-Americans.


125 pounds

Favorite: McDonough has only lost once this season at that was against Illinois’ Jesse Delgado, who is seeded No. 4. The Hawkeye eventually avenged that loss at the National Duals and most recently won the Big Tens when he beat Minnesota’s No. 2-seed Zack Sanders three times this winter.

Surprise Winner: Ryan Mango, Stanford — The Cardinal sophomore, who ended his season

Ryan Mango

with ten straight wins after losing three bouts at the Midlands (where he did not face McDonough) will be coming home to his native St. Louis. Seeded No. 8, Mango would have to win two matches before facing the Hawkeye in the quarterfinals.

Surprise All-Americans:

Steve Bonano, Hofstra — The junior is seeded No. 12 and is 28-6 after winning the CAA championship. He has won six straight since losing 3-2 to Cornell’s Frank Perrelli in early February;

Joe Roth, Central Michigan — The sophomore is unseeded despite the fact the Chippewa leads the nation’s 125 pounders in wins (34-7) and is coming off a MAC championship over Kent State’s No. 5-seed Nic Bedelyon, a former All-American.

Trent Sprenkle, North Dakota State — The unseeded Bison is 30-10 on the year and is coming off a West Regional title, where he avenged a loss to Wyoming’s Michael Martinez.


133 pounds

Favorite: Jordan Oliver, Oklahoma State — The defending champion has won 14 straight matches since losing in a tiebreaker to Iowa’s No. 3-seed Tony Ramos in Iowa City. All but one of those wins were by bonus points, five by fall, and the only one who lost by just a decision was Ohio State’s No. 2 Logan Stieber, the redshirt freshman who beat Ramos for a Big Ten championship.

Surprise Winner:Joe Colon, Northern Iowa — The Panther sophomore is seeded No. 5 after

Joe Colon

entering the NCAAs with a 25-2 record and a 17-match winning streak, which included a 13-3 major decision against Midlands champ Devin Carter of Virginia Tech during the National Duals.

Surprise All-Americans:

Bryan Ortenzio, Penn — The senior is seeded No. 12 after coming off an EIWA championship and enters the NCAAs with a 27-3 record.

Chris Dardanes, Minnesota — The lighter of the Gopher freshmen twins is seeded No. 10 and is 23-10 on the year, which included a 5-3 win over Stieber.


141 pounds

            Favorite: Kellen Russell, Michigan — The defending champion may be wrestling at his best during a four-year career in Ann Arbor after winning a fourth-straight Big Ten championship, where he defeated Iowa’s No. 3-seed Montell Marion. Since losing to Ohio State’s true freshman Hunter Stieber — seeded No. 5 — at the Las Vegas Invitational, Russell has won 21 straight. Russell has not faced Oklahoma’s No. 2-seed Kendric Maple, who won the Midlands in December.

Boris Novachkov

Surprise Winner: Boris Novachkov, Cal Poly — The Mustang senior finished second to Russell in last year’s NCAA final, but is seeded No. 6 this year after losing to Oregon State’s No. 4-seed Mike Mangrum in the Pac-12 championship. The native of Bulgaria also faced Russell in Las Vegas in December, when he lost in triple overtime in a rematch of the 2011 final.

Surprise All-Americans:

Tyler Small, Kent State — The true freshman is seeded No. 12 and is 30-9 after coming off a MAC championship.

Luke Vaith, Hofstra — The sophomore (23-8) is unseeded after winning the CAAs and enters the NCAAs with a seven-match winning streak. Among his recent wins was a 2-1 sudden victory over Penn’s Zack Kemmerer.


149 pounds

            Favorite: Frank Molinaro, Penn State — Since losing to Cornell’s Kyle Dake in last year’s NCAA final when the Lion was ridden for over four minutes, the undefeated Molinaro has won 28 straight matches this season, including an impressive 15-0 technical fall over Minnesota’s Dylan Ness in the Big Ten final. Molinaro has not faced No. 2 Jamal Parks (30-0) of Oklahoma State this season.

Surprise Winner: Ian Miller, Kent State — A year ago, this true freshman was winning an Ironman championship for Oak Harbor, Ohio. This season, the Flash is seeded No. 5 and enters the NCAAs with a 28-3 record and MAC championship. Among his wins was a pin against Pitt’s All-American Tyler Nauman.

Surprise All-Americans:

Cam Tessari, Ohio State — The true freshman and former (Monroeville, Ohio) high school teammate of the Stieber brothers enters the NCAAs as a No. 10 seed with a 22-9 record.

Ivan Lopouchanski, Purdue — The Boilermaker is seeded No. 12 after entering the NCAAs with a 16-6 record. He also is representing UNC-Greensboro, whom he wrestled for last year before the program dropped wrestling.


157 pounds

            Favorite: Kyle Dake, Cornell — The Big Red junior is undefeated in two previous NCAAs and hopes to win a third title at a third different weight class; beating Iowa’s Montell Marion for the 141-pound championship in 2010 and Penn State’s Frank Molinaro at 149 pounds last March. Now 30-0 this season, Dake has only faced one Top-4 seed: Harvard’s Walter Peppelman, most recently in the EIWA final. The biggest question here is that of Iowa’s Derek St. John, who was an All-American last year but missed much of this season with a knee injury, but rallied to win the Big Tens against Northwestern’s Jason Welch is seeded No. 2 in St. Louis.

Dylan Alton

Surprise Winner: Dylan Alton, Penn State — The redshirt freshman and twin brother of Andrew Alton, who won the Schalles Award for pinning as a true freshman at 141 pounds last March — is sandwiched in weight classes between No. 1 Molinaro and 165-pound top-ranked David Taylor. He is 24-5 on the year and lost just 3-0 to Dake at the Southern Scuffle.

Surprise All-Americans:

Steven Monk, North Dakota State — The sophomore is 32-7 and seeded No. 12 after avenging a loss to Northern Iowa’s David Bonin in the West Regional final.

Dan Kolodzik, Princeton — The senior is unseeded despite compiling a 31-9 record and won 15 straight before losing to Dake in the EIWAs.


165 pounds

            Favorite:David Taylor, Penn State — Since getting pinned by Arizona State’s Bubba Jenkins in last year’s NCAA final for the Nittany Lion sophomore’s only loss in two years, Taylor is 27-0 this season with 11 pins. He has not faced any of the other Top 4 seeds.

Josh Asper

Surprise Winner: Josh Asper, Maryland — The junior is coming off an upset loss to Virginia Tech’s Peter Yates at the ACCs  — his only loss in 25 bouts this season — and is seeded No. 7, and could use that “good time for a loss” feeling coming off the ACCs going into the NCAAs.

Surprise All-Americans:

Zach Toal, Missouri — The sophomore is 20-9 and unseeded but did just win a Big 12 championship over Iowa State’s No. 3-seed Andrew Sorenson and will be part of the “home” team in St. Louis.

Brandon Hatchett, Lehigh — Just when it looked like the Mountain Hawk senior might see his year gone at the Midlands, where he was injured, the unseeded Lehigh wrestler is 18-3 after winning the EIWAs.

174 pounds

            Favorite:Ed Ruth, Penn State — The top-seeded Lion is a perfect 26-0 with eight pins this season after finishing third in last March’s national tournament, where his only loss came by injury default to national runner-up Nick Amuchastegui of Stanford, who is seeded No. 3 with a 20-0 record. Neither have met this season and neither has wrestled Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry, who is seeded No. 6 with a 26-0 record after dropping down from 184 pounds where he defeated top-ranked Joe LeBlanc of Wyoming.

Ethan Lofthouse

Surprise Winner: Ethen Lofthouse, Iowa — This would be a major surprise since the Hawkeye was majored by Ruth during the regular season and is seeded No. 5. But Lofthouse did take Perry to overtime before losing.

Surprise All-Americans:

Jimmy Sheptock, Maryland — The sophomore is unseeded with a 24-4 record but was one of a two wrestlers who did not give up team bonus points to Ruth, who only beat the Terp 7-4. Sheptock also won nine straight heading to the NCAAs.

Nick Purdue, Ohio — The senior is unseeded with a 19-8 record, but did just win the MAC championship.


184 pounds

            Favorite:Joe LeBlanc, Wyoming — Except for his only loss of the season to Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry, who dropped down to 174, this senior has been perfect on the season (30-1) and has two wins over No. 8 Ryan Loder of Northern Iowa. He also beat Central Michigan’s No. 3 seed Ben Bennett during the NWCA All-Star Classic in November. He did not wrestle Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin, last year’s NCAA runner-up, who is seeded No. 2 and did defeat last year’s national champ Quentin Wright of Penn State. Wright is seeded No 6 and 26-3 after losing to Nebraska’s Josh Ihnen at the Big Tens.

Kevin Steinhaus

Surprise Winner: Kevin Steinhaus, Minnesota — The Gopher, seeded No. 5, enters the NCAAs with a 15-match winning streak and defeated Quentin Wright early in the season.

Surprise All-Americans:

Grant Gambrall, Iowa — This should not be a surprise considering the Hawkeye finished third in last year’s NCAAs. But the junior has fought through concussion issues, which was one reason he competed at 197 pounds until the National Duals. He is 10-10 on this season.

Luke Rebertus, Navy — The senior Midshipmen is unseeded by did win 29 matches this season and lost just 2-1 to Lehigh’s Robert Hamlin at the EIWAs.


197 pounds

            Favorite:Cam Simaz, Cornell — The three-time All-American actually has not lost a match this season — the senior’s only setback came via injury default to Virginia’s Ryan Malo in November — and has pinned 12 foes. The Big Red wrestler has not faced No. 2 seed Chris Honeycutt of Edinboro, who suffered his first loss of the season to Pitt’s Matt Wilps (seeded No. 3) in the recent EWL finals.

Brent Haynes

Surprise Winner: Brent Haynes, Missouri — The No. 6-seeded Tiger did lose in the Big 12 finals to Oklahoma State’s No. 5 Cayle Byers, but did win eight straight prior to the conference tournament and also will be part of the “home” team at the NCAAs.

Surprise All-Americans:

Morgan McIntosh, Penn State — The true freshman from California is not seeded but he is 17-8 and could get caught up in the team’s gold rush at the NCAAs.

Micah Burak, Penn — The native of Colorado and seeded No. 11 lost three straight EIWA finals to Simaz and finished in the Round of 12 last season.



            Favorite:Ryan Flores, American University — The only reason the Eagle, who finished second nationally last year, is seeded No. 1 because he defeated last year’s NCAA champ Zach Rey in this year’s EIWA final.

Cam Wade

Surprise Winner: Cameron Wade, Penn State — Just like every Penn State wrestler, who could be part of a winning team, this senior, seeded No. 6,  could wrap up his career on an impressive streak, especially after he got upset by Iowa’s Bobby Telford at the Big Tens.

Surprise All-Americans:

Austin Marsden, Oklahoma State — Forced into the role of a starter after the season-ending injury to teammate and nationally-ranked Alan Gelogaev, this unseeded freshman did come up with big wins to send the Cowboys into the National Duals final.

Tucker Lane, Nebraska — This senior joined the 100-win season for the Huskers and is seeded No. 11.