Previewing the 2012 NWCA Cliff Keen National Duals Final 8

Updated: February 21, 2013

The following is a closer look at the first-round match-ups of the final eight teams which will be competing for the 2013 NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals that will be held at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minn., Feb. 22-23.

Action begins this Friday night at 6 p.m. with four teams competing on two mats. After the completion of those bouts, there will be two more match-ups, starting about 8 p.m.

Winners of those matches will advance to the semifinals on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m., setting up the championship tilt at 7 p.m.
This is the 25th NWCA National Duals, which sprang from the Virginia Duals in 1989, and is competing under a new format. Oklahoma State, Cornell, Missouri and Virginia Tech advanced to the finals weekend after winning regional tournaments last Sunday. They are joining Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State and Illinois, which earned automatic spots in the finals, based on 2012-13 preseason team strengths.

Minnesota, which is hosting the finals for the first time in the history of the Duals, won the tournament for a sixth time last year when the Gophers defeated Oklahoma State, 18-13, in Stillwater, Okla.

The following are the Friday night first-round match-ups. The number before the school names are the national seedings for those teams. The numbers after the school names are the school’s rankings by WIN and the schools’ win-loss record before the start of the tournament.

The seedings were determined by the Feb. 19 NWCA national team rankings.

6 p.m. Match-ups

Mat 1 — 1. Oklahoma State (1st/15-0) vs. 8. Illinois (10th/7-5)
The top-ranked Cowboys are the only undefeated Division I school in the country this season, advanced to Minneapolis after beating Kent State and Northern Iowa at the Mideast Regional in Kent, Ohio. Illinois earned an automatic spot among the final eight teams.
This will be the first meeting between these schools since the Cowboys defeated the Illini, 19-15, in the semifinals of last year’s National Duals in Stillwater.

There could be two rematches from last year’s Duals meet, especially at 174 pounds where OSU’s Chris Perry, ranked No. 2, will meet Illinois’ No. 8 Jordan Blanton. Both juniors, the two met twice in 2011-12 with the Cowboy winning both bouts: 6-3 in the Duals and 4-1 in the third-place match of the 2012 NCAA national tournament in St. Louis. This match-up could also see Perry’s older brother Mark — a former two-time NCAA champ from Iowa and now an assistant coach at Illinois — in the corner for Blanton. Of course, the uncle of the Perry siblings in OSU head coach John Smith.

The other rematch could come at 197 pounds where OSU’s Blake Rosholt, now rated No. 11, is expected to face No. 13 Mario Gonzales, who lost to the Cowboy in sudden victory in last year’s National Duals.

There are four other weights where ranked foes could meet: 133 — OSU’s No. 7 Jon Morrison vs. UI’s No. 10 Daryl Thomas; 149 — OSU’s No. 1 Jordan Oliver vs. UI’s No. 19 Caleb Ervin; 165 — OSU’s No. 3 Tyler Caldwell vs. UI’s No. 7 Conrad Polz; and 184 — OSU’s No. 10 Chris Chionuma vs. UI’s No. 16 Tony Dallago.

Mat 2 — 4. Ohio State (5th/11-3) vs. 5. Missouri (6th/13-2)

This will be the 14th all-time meeting between these two schools, which last met in the 2009 National Duals, when the Buckeyes prevailed 23-19.

In this year’s meeting, each school features eight wrestlers ranked by WIN, including six weights with head-to-head meetings:
125 — OSU’s No. 14 Nikko Triggas vs. UM’s No. 4 Alan Waters;
133 — OSU’s No. 1 Logan Stieber vs. UM’s No. 5 Nathan McCormick;
149 — OSU’s No. 12 Cam Tessari vs. UM’s No. 15. Drake Houdashelt;
174 — OSU’s No. 6 Nick Heflin vs. UM’s No. 11 Todd Porter;
197 — OSU’s No. 18 Kenny Courts vs. UM’s No. 16 Brent Haynes;
HWT — OSU’S No. 14 Peter Capone vs. UM’s No. 1 Dom Bradley

8 p.m. Match-ups

Mat 1 — 3. Minnesota (4th/12-2) vs. 6.Virginia Tech (7th/16-2)

These two schools have met only three times — all three Gopher victories, including the last time in 2005 when Minnesota won 41-7 on Nov. 26, at the Northeast Duals in Albany, N.Y., which was the year before Hokie coach Kevin Dresser took over the program.
Unfortunately for Minnesota fans, they will continue to be without their veteran coach J Robinson, who has not been coaching the Gophers since the Jan. 1-2 Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, Tenn., where Robinson picked up an infection in his knee, which sent him to an emergency room in Chattanooga. Robinson’s knee was eventually removed and was to be replaced at a later date.

In this meeting, there could be six match-ups between the Gophers, whose only losses this season were to Oklahoma State and Iowa, and the Hokies, who advanced to the Final 8 by beating Oregon State in the National Dual Regionals in Corvallis, Ore.

The most notable of these “ranked” match-ups should come at 149 pounds where Minneota’s No. 6 Dylan Ness should face Tech’s No. 9 Nick Brascetta in a battle of sophomores. Ness, who finished second nationally last winter, got off to a slow start this season because of injuries, while Brascetta claimed a Midlands crown in late December.

The following are other meetings between ranked foes, beginning with the Gophers:
125 — No. 12 David Thorn vs. No. 5 Jarrod Garnett
133 — No. 9 Chris Dardanes vs. No. 18 Eric Spjut
141 — No. 9 Nick Dardanes vs. No. 10 Zach Neibert
165 — No. 15 Cody Yohn vs. No. 4 Peter Yates
197 — No. 9 Scott Schiller vs. No. 17 Derrick Borlie

Meanwhile, Minnesota features a top-ranked wrestler in 174-pound Logan Storley, while the Gophers’ heavyweight Anthony Nelson won an NCAA title last March.

Another Hokie to keep an eye on is fifth-year senior Jesse Dong, who is ranked No. 7 at 157.

Mat 2 — 2. Iowa (2nd/19-1) vs. 8. Cornell (9th/14-3)

This is just the fourth all-time meeting between the Hawkeyes and the Big Red, who advance to this weekend’s action by beating Nebraska in last Sunday’s Regional final in Ithaca, N.Y.
The last time Iowa and Cornell faced each other was in the finals of the 2009 National Duals, where the Hawkeyes prevailed, 23-13. The Hawkeyes and Big Red also met in the 2007-08 National Duals with Iowa also winning 32-2. The schools first met in the 1964-65 season with the Big Red winning 24-6.

Considering Iowa has twice as many ranked wrestlers as Cornell, the Hawkeyes should prevail. But of all the match-ups where coach Rob Koll features a ranked wrestler, so too does Iowa coach Tom Brands.

That includes 125 pounds, where Iowa’s two-time NCAA champion Matt McDonough (which fell to No. 2 in WIN’s poll after losing to Illinois’ Jesse Delgado two weeks ago) will take on Cornell freshman Nahshon Garrett, who has moved up to No. 6 in the rankings.
Meanwhile at 141 pounds, Iowa’s No. 7 Mark Ballweg will face No. 13 Mike Nevinger, who earned All-American honors for Cornell in last year’s NCAAs.

At 165 pounds, Iowa’s No. 13-ranked sophomore Nick Moore will try to upset Cornell’s three-time NCAA champ and top-ranked Kyle Dake. (On a side note, two of three of Dake’s NCAA finals opponents were Hawkeyes: Montell Marion in the 141-pound final in 2010 and Derek St. John in last year’s 157-pound final. St. John is ranked No. 1 at 157 this winter.)

Finally, Cornell could also be favored at 184 pounds where 2012 national champion Steve Bosak, now ranked No. 4, will face Iowa’s No. 13 Ethen Lofthouse, who is up a weight from last year.

Possible Top-Ranked Match-ups?

There are only three possible opportunities where WIN’s top-ranked wrestlers and the No. 2-rated wrestlers could face each other in Minneapolis.

133 pounds — Ohio State’s No. 1 Logan Stieber vs. Iowa’s Tony Ramos: The only way this happens is if their teams meet in either the finals or third-place dual. Stieber won last year’s meeting in the Big Ten finals, en route to winning a national title. The Buckeye was injured and could not wrestle in their teams’ Jan. 4 dual in Iowa City.

174 pounds — Minnesota’s No. 1 Logan Storley vs. Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry: This possible match-up would also have to happen either in the championship or third-place tilt. Perry defeated Storley earlier this year, but fell to second place when he lost to Missouri’s Todd Porter in January.

Hwt — Missouri’s No. 1 Dom Bradley vs. Minnesota’s No. 2 Anthony Nelson: These two teams are also in opposite brackets, which means only the finals or third-place dual would create a rematch between these two All-Americans. The Tiger took over the top spot when he defeated the Gopher — who won last year’s NCAA title — in the finals of the 2013 Southern Scuffle on Jan. 2.