'Arch Matness,' as it is being called this year, is wrestling's version of the big dance. 33 wrestlers will vie for All-American status and more importantly the title of National Champion from March 15-17 in St. Louis (Scottrade Center). Virginia Tech will send six wrestlers this year, a drop-off from the seven that they sent to Philadelphia last year. However that's a good number of bids despite the injuries to 157 pound senior Jesse Dong, and senior heavyweight David Marone. Both probably would have earned sports in the tournament pushing the number to eight national qualifiers. But, let's not dwell on what might have been, let's talk 2012 Arch Matness.
Redshirt sophomore, Erik Spjut, the Hokies lone wildcard bid to the tournament has a season record of 27-13. He has a tough road if he wants to win and pick up some much needed points for the Hokies in St. Louis. During his first match he will take on #6 seed Frank Perrelli (30-5) from Cornell. If Spjut were to pull the upset, he would likely take on ACC foe Matt Snyder from UVA who will take on Johnni Di Julius from Ohio State. If Spjut were to fall in round one he would take on the loser of the Snyder/Julius match.
Two months ago, sophomore Devin Carter was deemed the #1 wrestler in the country by InterMat.com. Then came a tough weekend at the National Duals. He lost to Joe Colon from the University of Northern Iowa. He also fell to Tony Ramos from the University of Iowa, whom Carter beat in the finals at the Midlands Championships a few weeks prior. Carter comes into the tournament as the #6 seed and will have a rough road to reaching the finals. In his first match he will take on Nathan McCormick (14-5) from Missouri. If he takes down McCormick he will likely wrestle #11 seed Steven Keith (30-8) from Harvard. If Carter wants to reach the finals, he will likely need to take down three seeded opponents. Carter will rematch two of his three losses on the season. He will likely need to run through #11 seed Steven Keith, #3 Tony Ramos, and #2 Logan Steiber. Carter was definitely placed in the tougher side of the bracket, but that's what happens when you struggle, if only for one weekend.
Zach Neibert comes into the big dance unseeded, but has a season record of 20-10 and is ranked 20th nationally by InterMat. Like Spjut, he will have a tough path to pick up team points. In the first round he will take on #10 Jake Sueflohn (24-9) from Nebraska. The Hokies could pull the upset here. If he doesn't, it won't get easier as he will likely take on fellow ACC wrestler #7 Nick Nelson (25-2) from UVA. It won't be easy, but Neibert has the ability to win some matches in the tournament.
Nick Brascetta (21-4) appears to have hit his stride at the right time. He came into the ACC Championships as the #3 seed, but took home the title. He is unseeded and takes on #9 seed David Habat (35-6) from Edinboro in the first round. If he pulls off the upset he will move on to face #8 seed Eric Grajales (18-6) from Michigan. If he pulls another upset he will see the tournament's number one seed at his weight class, Frank Molinaro (28-0) from Penn State. Nick Brascetta has a rough road, but he seems to be wrestling well and has the potential to advance deep in St. Louis.
Redshirt Junior, #6 Peter Yates (22-5) is the only other Hokie who comes into the weekend seeded. He will take on Oklahoma State's Dallas Bailey (14-14) in his first match, and if he moves on will likely take on #11 Brandon Hatchett (18-3) from Lehigh. Yates is lucky enough to be placed on the opposite side of the bracket from favorite and undefeated Penn State Nittany Lion David Taylor (27-0). If he wants to see Taylor in the finals he, like Carter, will have a seed-filled road. He will need to take down #11 Brandon Hatchett, #3 Andrew Sorenson, and #2 Shane Onufer. Yates has the skill, but will he take advantage of the good seed?
True sophomore, Chris Moon (19-13) comes in unseeded and has the toughest first round match of any Hokie. He will take on #2 seed Chris Perry (26-0) from Oklahoma State. While I would like to be optimistic, Moon will likely lose this match then take on the loser of the match between Mike Dessino (29-9) from Bloomsburg and Curran Jacobs (24-12) from Michigan State. Regardless of what happens, this will be a great learning experience for Moon as he will be with the program for at least two more years.
Predictions: While this is extremely difficult for wrestling, I'm going to predict based on the fact that I think our guys will wrestle to their potential.
125: Erik Spjut - 2-2
133: Devin Carter - 3th place
141: Zach Neibert - 2-2
149: Nick Brascetta - 8th place
165: Peter Yates - 7th place
174: Chris Moon - 1-2
If our guys show up next weekend they have the potential to make some noise. They all have to be wrestling at their best and we will need some luck to pull off the upsets. A lot of wrestling is just about who wants it more. We will see just how bad the Hokies want it next weekend.
The entire tournament will be streamed on ESPN3, and the TV schedule is posted below. All ESPNU broadcasts will feature Anthony Robles. From Arizona State, Robles wrestles with one leg, and was last year's National Champion at 125 pounds.
Thursday March 15th (Noon) - First Round [ESPN3]
Thursday March 15th (7:30 pm) - Second Round [ESPN3]
Friday March 16th (11:00 am) - Quarterfinals [ESPNU/ESPN3]
Friday March 16th (7:00 pm) - Semifinals [ESPNU/ESPN3]
Saturday March 17th (11:00 am) - Medal Round [ESPNU/ESPN3]
Saturday March 17th (7:30 pm) - Finals [ESPNU/ESPN3]
The full brackets are here.