PHILADELPHIA – By Bill Miller and Pete Candito, After bouncing between 2 and 4 in the standings, the Cornell Big Red emerged the team leader after the quarterfinal round. Only a half a point separates them from their Eastern Rival, Penn State. The top three team leaders are Cornell with 61, Penn State with 60.5, and Iowa with 51.5 points.
The EIWA conference is having an impressive showing with American trailing closely behind Iowa with 51.5 points holding the 4th spot and Lehigh holding on to 7th with 36 points. Including Cornell, it makes 3 EIWA conference teams competing for a top 10 finish.
The semifinals promises to be an exciting competition for team standing. Penn State and Cornell, the team favorites, enter the semifinal round with 4 competitors fighting to capture a title birth. Penn State has Andrew Long competing at 133, Frank Molinaro at 149, freshman phenom, David Taylor at 157, and Quentin Wright at 184. For Cornell, they have Kyle Dake competing at 149, Mac Lewnes at 174, Steve Bosak at 184, and first seed Cam Simaz at 197. At 149 and 184, they each have competitors on opposite sides of the brackets which could make for an interesting finals if the team competition is so close that must be decided in the finals.
At 133 Andrew Long has been on a tear defeating Scotti Sentes by fall after falling behind early. He faces the 2nd seed Andrew Hochstrasser of Boise. We favor Long here as the Penn State squad has been wrestling with a reckless abandon making them formidable opponents.
At 149 both PSU and Cornell have competitors. For Cornell, Dake the returning champion at 141 in 2010 has put on his show face and has been wrestling the best we’ve seen all season. On the bottom half of the bracket is Frank Molinaro. Molinaro secured a late 3rd period takedown to break the 2-2 tie for the win. Expect these two to meet in the finals.
At 157, David Taylor continues his freshman campaign’s unbeaten streak. Showing cat like scrambling instincts with his ability to wind up on top from the most precarious of positions, his quarterfinal win was his most challenging of the tournament. He faces Steve Fittery in the semifinals. No doubt this will be Taylor’s toughest challenge yet. Based on the way Fittery has been dominating in this tournament, he is the favorite. Nevertheless, this will be a great match, and it’s anyone’s game.
At 174 pounds, Cornell has 2-times All-American Mac Lewnes as he continues his quest for the elusive title. Without the pressure of an unblemished record coming into the tournament, Lewnes has been wrestling with a spirit we haven’t seen from him in this event. His semifinal opponent knocked off the 2 seed from PSU, Ed Ruth, who defeated Lewnes earlier in the season at the Southern Scuffle. This is Lewnes’ year for the title. Lewnes will win this round with bonus points.
At 184, both PSU and Cornell have competitors on opposite sides of the bracket. Quentin Wright is on the top of his game with a convincing win over the number one seed Christopher Honyecutt of Edinboro, 7-3. On the bottom of the bracket is Steve Bosak. He’s felled each of his opponents leading up the semifinals. He’ll face the number 2 seed Robert Hamlin of Lehigh. With a rematch of the EIWA finals where Hamlin squeaked out a 6-5 decision, this is Bosak’s opportunity to make amends and secure his teams’ chances of victory. Expect tomorrow’s finals at this weight to feature Bosak and Wright.
And last but not least Cornell has the number one seed at 197 pounds Cam Simaz facing off against the number 4 seed, Dustin Kilgore (Kent State). Simaz emerged from the quarterfinals with a pin over Matt Powless (IND) to push the Big Red ahead in the team standings. Without the pin, the PSU would be ahead 60.5 to 59. Simaz will make sure that the Big Red remain in the race with a win.
With so many top athletes putting it all on the line for a title, this round will not only be exciting, it’s essentially unpredictable. While we give the slight edge to Cornell, it wouldn’t surprise us if PSU exceeded expectations. Cancel your plans. Give the wife some money and send her out shopping. This is not the round to miss. It’s anyone’s game to win it.
A weight-by-weight analysis follows.
Anthony Robles faces Ben Kjar of Utah Valley State. Kjar is a surprise semifinalist with 3 narrow victories to get there. Robles is a 2X AA and his strength will neutralize what Kjar can do on offense. One of the marquis semis is Brandon Precin of Northwestern vs. Matt McDonough of Iowa. McDonough is a defending national champ but these two know each other well and have beaten each other. When in doubt go with the defending national champ. Finals should be #1 Robles vs. #2 McDonough.
#1 seed Jordan Oliver has looked strong so far and he will face Tyler Graff of Wisconsin. Look for Oliver’s offense to win out here. Andrew Long of Penn State pinned in the quarters to get here after falling behind early in the bout. Boise State’s Andrew Hochstresser has also looked good. I am going to go with the Penn State momentum and take Long to meet Oliver in the finals.
Kellen Russell of Michigan wrestles people close and Montel Marion is riding high with a big late 3rd period comeback, so I am picking #5 seed Marion to upset Russell and get to the finals. #3 seed Borislav Novachkov of Cal Poly looked good in shutting down Andrew Alton 2-0. But look for returning AA Michael Thorn of Minnesota to win a close one and advance to the finals.
The anticipated Kyle Dake – Darrien Caldwell match-up went by the boards when Caldwell defaulted in an earlier round, so instead Cornell’s Dake will look to defeat American’s Gambayar Sanjaa in the semifinals. His finals opponent should be Frank Molinaro of Penn State who will face Boise State’s Jason Chamberlain. Chamberlain defeated returning AA Kevin LeValley of Bucknell in OT, but Molinaro is a returning AA in his own right. Look for a close win by Molinaro and a Dake vs. Molinaro final.
Jason Welch of Northwestern upset #1 seed Adam Hall of Boise State 3-2 to advance to the semis. Bubba Jenkins is the #4 seed from Arizona State, and he also won close over Paul Young of Indiana.
This should be a good match with Jenkins winning close. A premier semifinal matchup between David Taylor of Penn State and Steve Fittery of American…what a match this can be! A month ago I’d have picked Taylor, but after seeing Fittery dominate in this tourney I am not so sure. Both of these wrestlers never stop so it can be an epic offensive battle or a match with lots of activity but only moderate scoring. It’s a toss-up, so I will go with Fittery based upon most recent performance. Fittery or Taylor should dominate in the finals.
The best wrestler in this tournament may be Jordan Burroughs of Nebraska and so far he has looked the part. #5 seed Colt Sponseller of Ohio State will not be able to stop the Burroughs attack. #2 seed Andrew Howe will look to advance for a rematch with Burroughs who defeated him earlier this season. Howe should advance in a close one over #3 seed Tyler Caldwell for a finals rematch with Burroughs.
This is a solid weight up and down. #1 seed Jonathan Reader of Iowa State is the slight favorite although he will have to get by returning AA Chris Henrich of Virginia in what should be a good match. Mack Lewnes of Cornell has been solid and he will face another returning AA in Nick Amuchaslegui of Stanford. He looked very good in defeating Ed Ruth of Penn State in the quarters. Amuchaslegui was beating Ruth and had him on his back twice before an injury default. This is a tough one to pick but I am going with Reader and Lewnes as a final.
Quentin Wright is on fire and has been since the Big Ten tourney. And he must feel at home after beating Big Ten opponent Kevin Steinhaus of Minnesota yesterday and now will face Grant Gambrall of Iowa. Wright defeated #1 seed Chris Honeycutt of Edinboro in the quarters and that is not small task. Wright looks like a solid finalist. Steve Bosak of Cornell has not had a close match yet in this tourney, but that will not be the case when he faces #2 seed Robert Hamlin of Lehigh. These two EIWA foes will go at it again in the semis tonight. A Bosak win will go a long way in keeping Cornell in this tight team race with Penn State. I’ll take Bosak to reverse the decision he lost in the EIWA finals.
Cam Simaz is the first seed and clear favorite in this weight. He will see a tough #4 seed in Dustin Kilgore of Kent State. Simaz should advance though. Trevor Brandvold of Wisconsin advanced and will meet Clayton Foster of Oklahoma State. Both of these guys were 6th last year at different weights. Brandvold is back at 197 so I will go with him for a Simaz vs. Brandvold final.
Interesting weight with Lehigh’s #1 seed Zach Rey facing #5 seed Dominique Bradley of Missouri. Another EIWA heavy in Ryan Flores of American is in the semis against #2 seed Jarod Trice of Central Michigan. Trice is the #2 seed but I will pick #3 seed Flores to advance in a close one and create an all EIWA final of Rey vs. Flores.