It's finally here: the greatest spectacle in American sports. The 2015 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships have arrived.
To wrestling fans, and there's more of us than you would think (the Scottrade center is sold out for three straight days), this is like Christmas, the Super Bowl and unlimited steak night at Ryan's all in one. In the interest of bringing together some of these fans for their experiences and observations, Bloody Elbow will provide a live thread for each of the tournament's six sessions, even the often neglected Session V.
You have two options for watching the broadcast of Session I, which starts at noon, eastern. First, you can turn to ESPNU, which, I believe, will show the central four mats on the arena floor. Second, ESPN3 will stream footage from all eight mats. I am uncertain as to whether or not ESPN 3 has a means for you to watch all eight in one window, but I firmly intend to find out.
Session I consists of pigtails, the first round of championship bracket competition and the first consolation round for those who lose in either their pigtail or championship match. I cannot stress enough that in this year, more than any other, every match matters. The team race, which will likely prominently feature Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Ohio State and Cornell is so close that the championship may turn on the points earned in a single bout, I will not detail the procedures for awarding team points in a 32-man bracket wrestling tournament, but, simply put, every loss lowers the number of possible points a team may receive. Penn State Wrestling Club's website runs a wonderful service every year where almost in real time they show the team scores along with each team's maximum possible points. You can find that here.
A link to the brackets is here, and each weight class in the first round features a must watch match, below I list a few.
Tyler Cox (Wyoming), 8 seed vs Jesse Delgado (Illinois), unseeded
Cox, a past All-American, faces two-time defending national champion Delgado, who debuted his season at the eleventh hour due to injury and then did not perform well enough to earn a seed.
Logan Stieber (Ohio State), 1 seed vs the winner of bout 3 (pigtail)
We should relish each of Stieber's remaining matches on his way to championship number four.
Hunter Stieber (Ohio State) vs Cody Ruggirello (Hofstra), 14 seed
But for persistent elbow injuries, Stieber would be one of the favorites at this weight (in my mind, he would be the favorite). Unfortunately, the Ohio State junior has only managed to wrestle seven matches this season. Even so, great weight still rests on his shoulders as his performance may mean the difference between the Buckeye's first team title and fifth place.
Mike Kelly (Iowa), unseeded vs Josh Demas (Ohio State), 6 seed
This match has direct team race implications. Demas should win, but he does keep matches a bit too close, and at least half the crowd will be Iowa fans vociferously bitching that the ref should give Kelly points for Demas's stalling.
Willie Miklus (Missouri), unseeded vs Lorenzo Thomas (Pennsylvania), 10 seed
Thomas has looked great all season, and now enjoys the reward of having one of the shittiest draws imaginable for a seeded wrestler. Miklus is ultra tough, and he has the skills to end any match in the blink of an eye. A Miklus win here would be huge for Missouri's team championship efforts.
Match 9 features Northern Iowa's Basil Minto. This match isn't of any particular importance, I just wanted to point out a name which I find really cool. I wonder if his parents did that on purpose, after all, in botanical terms, basil and mint are like first cousins.
Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State), 1 seed vs Billy Smith (Rutgers) unseeded.
I haven't the foggiest clue how this ended up as a round one match (just kidding, I do know). Gwiazdowski, the returning heavyweight champion and a treat to watch, draws Rutgers' Billy Smith who has graced the top ten of many nation rankings for most the season. Gwizz is still likely to win, but he's got to be on his game.
Finally, enjoy the show.