The Casual Fan’s Guide to the 2015 NCAA Wrestling Tournament

College wrestling is on the rise.  Thanks to YouTube, Flo Wrestling, Facebook, and Twitter, it’s now easier than ever for the casual wrestling fan to follow the sport.

Casual fans who live outside of the wrestling hot beds in the Northeast and Midwest are finally starting to connect with the sport beyond the youth and high school levels and provide the life blood wrestling needs to grow at both the college and Olympic levels.

If you are a self-appointed casual fan like me, then below is everything you need to quickly come up to speed on this week’s excitement to crown 10 college wrestling national champions.

Before I dive into the brackets, you may be wondering what I mean by a casual fan? By causal wrestling fan I’m talking about the guy who wrestled in high school, then never kept up with the sport after graduation because the major sports networks give it so littler air time.

…Or the crazy wrestling mom who is there screaming “Twoooo” every Saturday at their son’s tournament and knows every wrestler’s name and birthday in their son’s bracket.

…Or the crazy dad coach who recently bought a new pair of wrestling shoes so they can get on the mat and help out at practice.

This is for you…I hope you tune in this weekend to ESPN (broadcast schedule and more info here) and enjoy these explosive match-ups as much as I will.

Before you watch this weekend, however, first browse through the brackets below and start getting to know the names and schools to pay close attention to:

Next, use this primer below to get a preview of the most exciting wrestlers and summary of each weight class.

Light Weights (125, 133, 141, 149)

125 – This is the most loaded weight IMHO. I say this because the 2x back-to-back national champ is unseeded this year. My pick to win it is the #2 seed Nahshon Garrett.

#1 Seed:  Alan Waters, Missouri – Waters is undefeated this year and is a solid senior wrestler who is poised to win it all this year. He can get back points from riding legs from the top position and he can score from neutral with an attack style.

Here’s a video that’s a few years old, but does a good job displaying the skills that makes Waters special:

#2 Seed:  Nahshon Garrett, Cornell – Nahshon is a fun wrestler to watch who’s always in high scoring matches.  He has a very fast attack style and likes to attack the legs with low singles.

He was last year’s National runner up, losing a close one to 2x champ Delgado in the finals:

#3 Seed:  Joey Dance, Virginia Tech – Dance is a returning All-American with a wrestling style that pleases the crowd. He has a few sneaky take downs that are quick, most notably his go-to throw-by move. He will surely be a fan favorite this weekend.

Unseeded: Jesse Delgado, Illinois – Delgado is the returning 2 time champ.  Since he has been out hurt  most of the year and didn’t wrestle much he was left unseeded.  A few weeks ago he lost in the big 10 tournament and didn’t finish due to injury as well.  Delgado is not much of an attacker, instead he’s at his best when he uses defensive scrambling (Funk wrestling).

133 – 2x All-American and #1 seed Chris Dardanes from Minnesota is the heavy  favorite at this weight.  It should be fun to watch him go to work this weekend.

141 – This is the weight class to watch if you like seeing history unfold.  #1 Seed  Logan Stieber from Ohio State is attempting to become the 4th person in history to win 4 NCAA titles. Nobody thinks anyone can stop him.

Here is the classic match from Stieber’s freshman year NCAA final win. He upset 3x All-American and returning NCAA champ Jordan Oliver, who was the heavy favorite due to his attack style and popularity in the wrestling community.  This was a controversial win at the time:

…and another classic of Stieber beating Kendrick Maple, a 3x All-American, and NCCA champ:

149 – At 149 you have to love the 2x All-American and #1 seed from Missouri, Drake Houdashel, since he is part of the hottest team in the country right now with three #1 seeds heading into this year’s tournament.

 Middle Weights ( 157, 165, 174)

157 –  This is another stacked weight class. This is also my pick for the most fun overall weight class to watch.

#1 Seed: Isaiah Martinez, Illinois. Martinez is a red shirt freshman and teammate of returning 2x NCAA champ at 125 Jesse Delgado.   Martinez does not have the same style as Delgado, however.  Instead, he is a fast, attack style wrestler who can attack both with upper body throws and leg attacks from the neutral position. He is also this year’s Big 10 Champion at 157 and front runner to dominate the field and run away with the title at this year’s NCAA tournment.

To get a feel for what you can expect from Martinez, take a look at this video from the Big 10 Finals vs. this year’s 3 Seed and 3x All-American Dylan Ness.  This may be the funnest match to watch so far this season:

#4 Seed: James Green, Nebraska – Green is a 3x All-American who was 3rd in last year’s tournament.  Green may have the best chance to upset Martinez if they meet as expected in the Semi-finals on Friday night March 20th.  Green is an attack style wrestler with a similar style to his Olympic champion assistant coach Jordan Burroughs.  If this match happens on March 20th as expected, it should top the excitement of Martinez/Ness a couple weeks ago.

Profile Page:
Green vs this years #7 seed:
Green vs Unranked opponent:

I’m picking Green over Martinez in the semis, and then for him to get the monkey off  his back by beating Ness (Green has lost a couple in a row to Ness including a couple weeks back in the Big 10 tournament) in the 157 finals. This is more of an emotional pick for me since I graduated from Willingboro High in New Jersey where Green is from.

165: I like 2x All-American and returning NCAA chamption Alex Dieringer to win this weight. Dieringer has the 1 seed with a 29-0 record this season.  Take a look at the video of Dieringer winning the title last year beating Dylan Ness with both take down points and back points:

174:  Robert Kokesh is another #1 seed who is undefeated coming into the tournament this year and my pick to win it all.  Take a look at this match of him showing some of his best stuff  against a tough opponent in the 2014 All-Star Classic:

Heavy Weights ( 184, 197, 285)

184: #1 Seed Gabe Dean is my pick to win this weight.  He is a fan favorite, mostly since he upset  the popular Ed Ruth early last season at the 2013 Southern Scuffle.  Ed Ruth still won the title last year to become a 2x NCAA champ, but is out of Dean’s way after graduating. Here’s the match that put Dean on the map:

197:  J`Den Cox won it all as a true freshman last year and is trying to go back to back. He is the third of the #1 seeds from Missouri. Just about everybody is picking Cox to win it all this year and so am I.

Here is a solid video of Cox Vs the #6 seed:

…and another of Cox vs the #14 seed at MAC Championships two weeks ago (this guy beat him last year):

…finally you should watch his only loss of the year which didn’t count towards his 2014/15 record because it was the All-Star tournament:

285: Returning champion and #1 seed Nick Gwiazdowski  is another one of my pick’s coming into the tournament this year undefeated.  Last year Gwiazdowski set NC State’s record for most wins in a season with 42. He capped it off with a big win over two-time defending champion Tony Nelson of Minnesota 4-2 in the NCAA finals:

To sum it up, my pick for team champion is Missouri.  I think team scoring with end up as follows:

  1. Missouri
  2. Ohio State
  3. Minnesota
  4. Iowa
  5. Cornell

One Response to The Casual Fan’s Guide to the 2015 NCAA Wrestling Tournament

  1. Christopher Mance Sr. March 17, 2015 at 3:16 pm #

    Great article

Leave a Reply