So it's that time of year again. That time when some make history, and others become it. Let's take a brief look into each of the finals match ups.
125, Dariun Cruz vs Ethan Lizak - I honestly thought that Gilman was as big a lock to make the finals as anyone else. Cruz has some weird losses on the year, and I've just never really believed in Lizak. Shoot, I had Lizak going down in the quarter finals. With that being said, these unexpected finals matches are always fun. These guys were ranked 3rd and 5th respectively in intermat's rankings, so they certainly aren't bums. They met earlier in the year, with Lizak winning 8-0. Cruz's best bet is to keep the match in neutral, but that's easier said than done. Lizak is good enough on his feet to take it to the mat on his own. Prediction, Lizak over Cruz, 7-2.
133, Cory Clark vs Seth Gross - Cory Clark was my preseason pick to win it all. Sadly, I bailed on that choice within the last two weeks. His shoulder looked bad, coupled with some close losses on the year, and I just couldn't keep the faith (which is an underrated Bon Jovi song). In addition to that, I watched plenty of Kaid Brock and very little Seth Gross. As dumb as it sounds, I overlooked the 2 seed and 2x finalist. With that being said, these are the finals and this is one of my most anticipated matches! I am a big Clark fan, and have become a big Gross fan, so either way it will be awesome! Both guys are great on top and on their feet, so I'm excited to see the outcome. I expect this to be very high scoring. Both of these guys are good on top, crafty on their feet, and can scramble with the best of them. Clark has an iron will, and Gross has a grip that can't be broken. I hope Clark wins, so that's what I'm going with. Prediction, Clark over Gross 11-10
141, Dean Heil vs George DiCamillo - Dean Heil is undefeated and has a national title. However, he seems to enjoy winning matches by the same number of points as he has National Titles. It's maddening to watch in a sport that preaches about effort and intensity, to watch someone who can seem to win at will, and with as little effort as possible. It doesn't help that there were some "questionable" calls that went in his favor all year long. With that being said, he is still undefeated and will be wrestling for his 2nd National title Saturday night. DiCamillo was a BIG TIME recruit out of Ohio who hasn't quite reached where we thought he would. This is his redemption story. If he can go out, avenge a loss from his Sophomore year of High School (both of these cats are Ohio natives), and walk away with a National title by beating last years finalist and champ, then he will close out a great season and career by reaching the top. Do I think it's going to happen? At this point, no. Is this a reverse jinx? Maybe. Prediction, Heil over DiCamillo, 3-2.
149, Zain Retherford vs Lavion Mayes - I have always been a Mayes fan since I first saw him with the Southern Scuffle 2 years ago. CMU had Zach Horan who got pinned in the semi's by Boise State's Geo Martinez (now wrestling for Oklahoma State). Mayes kicked the crap out of Martinez in the finals, which really opened my eyes to his explosiveness and aggressive style. He's fun to watch, but Retherford is painful to watch in the best way possible. You truly feel bad for his opponents and openly cringe and turn your head as if you just watched a horrible car accident. Zain will win. Prediction, Zain over Mayes, 21-5.
157, Jason Nolf vs Joey Levallee - Here's the rough part. It should be said that Missouri is having a great tournament. They have three finalists! Three! I remember in 2003 watching their first ever finalist lost to Jake Rosholt in the finals. Now they have an Olympic Bronze Medalist, and three finalists? Wild. Anyway, Nolf is going to murder him. Levallee is a strong 3 seed, with only one loss on the year, but it's over. Doesn't it feel like Nolf has been around forever? He is only a Sophomore and already terrifying 157 pound wrestlers all around the world. Prediction, Nolf over Levallee, 14 - 6.
165, Isaiah Martinez vs Vincenzo Joseph - I'm fairly certain that Joseph will have to shoot during this match. He's certainly not going to get the calls against a 2x defending National Champ who only has one loss. In their last match, Martinez seemed to separate himself from Joseph a bit. He is still too explosive and too good technically for anyone to stop him. iMar is one of a few guys this season that we will be telling our kids about watching when we are old and they don't care. Prediction, iMar over Joseph, 7-4.
174, Mark Hall vs Bo Jordan - I originally predicted that Jordan would win this year, and I'm sticking with it. Has Hall put on an impressive display of wrestling over the last couple months? Sure. However, his Achilles heel seems to be getting out on bottom, which just so happens to be where Jordan is excellent. His top game is about as strong as anyone I have seen in a long time, and I get the impression he will get a turn or two on top. In the NCAA finals, that will typically do it. Anyway, it was close in the Big Ten Finals, and I'm sure both will make adjustments, but I'm still leaning towards the veteran. Partially because I think this is his last shot at a National title, and it would be a shame if someone that good never won one. Prediction, Jordan over Hall, 6-2.
184, Gabe Dean vs Bo Nickal - This is what we have all been waiting for! It helps the anticipation with Nickal returning to form, talking shit, and backing every bit of it up. Dean has been doing what he normally does. Brutalizing the competition, and making it look easy. You can watch his opponents get to the point when they just want to be anywhere else but on that mat. Either way, the fireworks will fly and all of the fun will be had right here. Dean is essentially wrestling for the Hodge Trophy to go along with his 3rd title, and Nickal is wrestling to establish himself as a giant killer and get what he lost last year. Prediction, Dean over Nickal, 10-8.
197, Cox vs Pfarr - We all wanted Moore Cox, but this is a solid match up as well. All jokes aside, and as mad as I was about the whole J Rob thing, it's good to see two Gophers in the finals with Pfarr and Lizak. This match was close early in the year, but ultimately Cox looked like he was trying to get the win without showing his opponent too much. I anticipate Cox opening it up a bit more, and as good as Pfarr is at scrambling, I am willing to put my money towards Cox being the better of the two. If Dean loses, this match is what will get Cox the Hodge if he wins. Prediction, Cox over Pfarr, 6-4.
285, Snyder vs Medbery - Kyle Snyder with broken ribs is still the best wrestler on the planet. So there is that fact, which is hard to beat. I do worry a bit that we are drugging up the best young talent that USA Wrestling has to help the NCAA get big ratings out of a heavyweight, but ultimately I know it's his choice to compete and feels like he's fine. He will beat Medbery this year with a cold/flu once, and another time with a serious core body injury. Just let me know when I can buy Kyle Snyder shoes. The sooner the better. Prediction, Snyder over Medbery, 16-7.