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Wrestling: TV Schedule and Team Race Contenders

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ESPN broadcasting all three days; Which teams are trophy contenders

Nebraska Wrestling Head Coach Mark Manning, seen here with Chad Red Jr. before a match against Minnesota in 2020, is looking for another team trophy at the NCAA Championships.
Jon Johnston / CORN NATION

So the 2021 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships are upon us and the Huskers are in position to contend for a team trophy as well as some individual titles. It won’t be easy, as the top-ranked Hawkeyes are strong favorites to win, but there are a number of teams competing with the Huskers for those other three spots (Top 4 teams take home team trophies).

Action starts with the Round of 32 this morning (Thursday) at 10 a.m. on ESPNU with more first-round action at 1 p.m. on ESPNU. Second round action can be seen tonight at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on ESPN2. On Friday, the quarterfinal round will air on ESPNU at 10 a.m. with the semifinals airing on ESPNU at 2 p.m. then continuing on ESPN at 7 p.m. On Saturday, the medal round will air on ESPN2 at 10 a.m. with the championship finals at 6 p.m. on ESPN that evening.

Additional coverage and individual mat cams are available on ESPN3 (TV Subscriber required).

With all of that said and after having already previewed Nebraska’s seeding, let’s look at Nebraska’s competition for the team trophy hardware.

For anyone who’s not familiar, there are there ways to score teams points at the NCAA tournament. First is placement points, where you score points based on your finish (First place gets 16 points, 2nd gets 12, 3rd gets ten, 4th gets nine, 5th gets seven, 6th gets six, 7th gets 4, 8th gets 3).

That’s why it’s so important for a wrestler to All-American, so they can boost their team score. Then there’s advancement points, where you score one point for advancing to the next round of the championship bracket and 0.5 points for advancing in the consolation bracket.

Lastly, wrestlers can score “bonus points” for dominating their opponent. Any win by pinfall, forfeit, default or disqualification is worth two team points. Winning by technical fall (defeating your opponent by 15 points) can get tricky, as a wrestler gets 1.5 team points for a tech fall win that includes nearfall points (putting your opponent close to his back for at least two seconds) but only gets one point for a tech fall with no nearfall points. A major decision (win by 8 or more) is worth one team point. So as you can see, the advantage of having a dominant wrestler who bonuses his way through the bracket is highly beneficial.

In reality, there are probably only 9 teams that have a shot at a team trophy this year. And based on their seeds, you can acquire a sort of pecking order going in. Listed below is what each of the Top-9 teams are projected to score at the NCAA tournament based on their seeds with just placement points and advancement points.

Now, this isn’t taking into consideration bonus points or upsets. If the entire bracket went chalk, this is what would come out. So it shows you who’s the favorite, but things are bound to get wild with upsets and bracket busters. There are so many teams in contention for a team trophy, things will get interesting.

NCAA Projected Team Race By Seed

1, Iowa, 126.5 points

2. Penn State, 72

3. NC State, 63.5

4. Virginia Tech, 61. 5

T5. Missouri, 60

T5. Arizona St., 60

7. Nebraska, 54.5

8. Michigan, 53.5

9. Oklahoma St. 50

HEAVY Championship Favorite

Iowa Hawkeyes

The Iowa Hawkeyes are projected to run away with the team title. And after doing just that at Big Tens, I’d bet on it here too. In fact, here’s a not-so-fun fact: Iowa is projected to beat Penn State, the second-best team in the country, by 54.5 points. That’s the exact amount of points that Nebraska as a team is projected to score based on its seeds this year.

Iowa has four No. 1-seeds in Spencer Lee (125 pounds), Jaydin Eierman (141), Alex Marinelli (165) and Michael Kemerer (174). If those three guys win titles as they’re projected to, that’s 80 team points right there without even factoring in bonus points.

Plus, Lee and Eierman are bonus-point machines. This team race could be called pretty early.

Trophy Favorite

Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State finished second at the Big Ten Championships behind Iowa and ahead of the Huskers and it looks like they’ll do the same at NCAAs. Despite being a couple levels below Iowa, Penn State seems to have positioned itself a level above everybody else.

The Nittany Lions are projected to score 72 points based on their seeds and they have a handful of top contenders in their lineup. Penn State boasts four legit title contenders in top-seeded Aaron Brooks at 184, 2-seeds Roman Bravo-Young (133) and Nick Lee (141), and 3-seed Carter Starocci at 174. Starocci, a true freshman, beat Nebraska’s Mikey Labriola to advance to the Big Ten final two weeks ago.

Trophy Contenders

NC State Wolfpack

NC State has a solid crop of contenders this week, led by the Hidlay brothers. Trent Hidlay (184) and Hayden Hidlay (157) are both 2-seeds at NCAAs, while Tariq Wilson is a 4-seed at 141 pounds. The 6-seed Jakob Camacho is a stud true freshman at 125 pounds who is one to watch out for and Daniel Bullard is the 8-seed at 174.

NC State has nine qualifiers and has a seriously solid lineup with some good depth. They’ll be in the hunt.

Virginia Tech Hokies

The Hokies have a really tough squad going to NCAAs with eight qualifiers, led by 2-seed Sam Latona at 125 pounds. Virginia Tech also has some firepower with 3-seed Korbin Myers (133), 4-seed Mekhi Lewis (165), 5-seed Hunter Bolen (184) and 6-seed Bryce Andonian at 149.

Lewis won the NCAA title in 2019 as a freshman and has battled injury this season, but he’s one of the best in the country when healthy. These Hokies are a tough bunch and will certainly be contending for a team trophy.

Missouri Tigers

The Tigers sent all ten starters to NCAAs and they boast some top-end talent as well as some serious depth.

Missouri is led by 3-seed Brock Mauller at 149, but also has three 6-seeds in Matt Schmitt at 133, Allan Hart at 141 and Keegan O’Toole at 165. Jarrett Jacquez (157) and Rocky Elam (197) each are seeded No. 7.

With no serious title threat but six wrestlers seeded to finish on the podium, Missouri could certainly sneak their way in for a team trophy.

Arizona State Sun Devils

With only eight qualifiers, the Sun Devils offer a strong contrast to Missouri. Where Missouri lacks top-end point scorers and benefits from depth, Arizona State is short on depth but boasts four big-time wrestlers who should contend for titles. Led by 2-seed Anthony Valencia (165), Arizona State also has three-seeds Brandon Courtney (125) and Kordell Norfleet (197) in addition to 4-seed Cohlton Schultz at heavyweight.

The Pac-12 champion Sun Devils will rely on their top guys performing well, but they have some big time point-scorers.

Nebraska Cornhuskers

The Huskers have nine wrestlers going to NCAAs and is led by 2-seed Eric Schultz at 197 pounds. The Huskers also boast 4-seed Mikey Labriola at 174 and 5-seed Ridge Lovett at 149 pounds. Chad Red Jr. is No. 8 at 141 pounds and Taylor Venz is No. 8 at 184.

The Huskers have a few outside shots at finals appearances, but it’s their depth that they’ll rely on if they want to take home some hardware.

Michigan Wolverines

The Michigan Wolverines will be relying on a few top guys while holding out hope they have some others exceed expectations. Michigan is led by 1-seed Myles Amine at 197 pounds while 2-seed Mason Parris (285) and 5-seed Logan Massa (174) have big scoring potential.

Also for Michigan will be a pair of 11-seed true freshmen in Dylan Ragusin (125) and Cam Amine (165) who have been solid all year and should certainly push for All-American honors.

Oklahoma State Cowboys

The Cowboys of Oklahoma State are annual contenders and this year is no different. After finishing as co-champions with Oklahoma at the Big 12 Championships, Oklahoma State is in the hunt for a team trophy this weekend.

Led by 1-seed Daton Fix at 133 pounds, the prohibitive favorite at the weight, Oklahoma State also has a pair of 4-seeds in Boo Lewellan (149) and AJ Ferrari (197). The 11-seed Dakota Geer at 184 pounds is a guy to keep an eye on there too.

Final Team Prediction

I won’t predict team points because that’s just too much, but I’ll predict the finish of these nine teams and the four trophy teams. Obviously, no tournament ever goes chalk all the way, and I do think that Nebraska received a few seeds that were lower than expected (Chad Red Jr. an 8-seed for instance). I have some issues with the seeding, but it is what it is and these guys head out to settle things on the mat this morning.

  1. Iowa Hawkeyes
  2. Penn State Nittany Lions
  3. Nebraska Cornhuskers
  4. NC State Wolfpack
  5. Missouri Tigers
  6. Virginia Tech Hokies
  7. Michigan Wolverines
  8. Oklahoma State Cowboys
  9. Arizona State Sun Devils