On Saturday March 2 the DI Wrestling Postseason officially kicks off with the Pac 12 Championships. Twenty-One automatic bids to the NCAA Championships will be on the line in Tempe, Arizona. Here is what to look for and who D1CW projects to represent the conference in Des Moines, Iowa.
One Automatic Bid-This weight could be a tough one to seed. On paper the favorite is 2x NCAA Qualifier Tyler Iwamura of CSU-Bakersfield. He did suffer a late season in-conference loss to true Freshman Joey Palmer of Oregon State. Palmer got better as the year progressed but also lost to Boise State's Rami Haddadin. Last but not least Stanford Freshman Evan Silver turned in a solid first season defeating all conference opponents but Iwamura. Just a hunch, but we think Silver will keep Iwamura from his elusive 1st Pac 12 Championship.
Final-Evan Silver (Stanford) over Tyler Iwamura (CSU-Bakersfield)
Champ and Qualifier: Evan Silver (Stanford)
Two Automatic Bids-I was somewhat surprised that this weight class did not get three automatic qualifiers. Barring a rash of upsets in other conferences this weight class should get at least one wild card. The favorite is defending champion Brian Owen. He was injured in a late season bout with CSU-Bakersfield, so Owen could be vulnerable. His likely semi-final opponent would be Oregon State Freshman Drew Van Anrooy. The other half of the bracket also includes two talented Freshman in Ian Nickel and Devon Lotito of CSU-Bakersfield and Cal Poly, respectively. Nickel and Lotito have met three times already this season with Nickel getting two wins.
Final-Brian Owen (Boise State) over Ian Nickell (CSU-Bakersfield)
Champ and Qualifier: Brian Owen (Boise State)
Qualifier: Ian Nickell (CSU-Bakersfield)
One Automatic Bid-This appears to be the only weight class without much drama at all. #4 ranked Mike Mangrum is a heavy favorite. He ran the table in-conference and sports a robust 33-4 record overall. The only surprise is that he is seeking only his 2nd Pac-12 Title. Mangrum's finals opponent could be either CSU-Bakersfield Freshman Timmy Box or Boise State's Travis Himmelman. Box has had a good Freshman season even though he lacks a signature national victory. We think he takes out Himmelman for the third time this season.
Final-Mike Mangrum (Oregon State) over Timmy Box (CSU-Bakersfield)
Champ and Qualifier: Mike Mangrum (Oregon State)
Two Automatic Bids-This is the only weight class featuring two returning All-American's. #2 Jason Chamberlain was a NCAA 3rd placer finisher in 2011, while #8 Scott Sakaguchi was 7th last season. The only blemish on Chamberlain's record came early in the season via 3-2 decision to Sakaguchi. That loss was later avenged by Jason in a 3-1 sudden victory decision. It would be a huge upset for anyone other than these two All-American's to make the finals.
Final-Jason Chamberlain (Boise State) over Scott Sakaguchi (Oregon State)
Champ and Qualifier: Jason Chamberlain (Boise State)
Qualifier: Scott Sakaguchi (Oregon State)
Two Automatic Bids-157 is another weight class with two favorites from Oregon State and Boise State. This time it is RJ Pena and George Ivanov. The two are entirely too familiar with each other. Over the past two seasons the pair have met eight times, with each wrestler getting four wins. Pena holds a 2-1 advantage this season.
Final-RJ Pena (Oregon State) over George Ivanov (Boise State)
Champ and Qualifier: RJ Pena (Oregon State)
Qualifier: George Ivanov (Boise State)
One Automatic Bid-This is the only weight class in which none of its entrants are ranked in D1CW's top 25. It appears like it is a three-horse race for the lone automatic qualifying spot at 165. Oregon State Freshman Seth Thomas will likely get the top seed. He was not the full time starter for the Beavers until late in the regular season, but still managed to pin one of the other contenders Bret Baumbach of Stanford. Baumbach and BSU's Holden Packard would be on the other side of the bracket. Packard registered a sudden victory win over Baumbach during their regular season dual.
Final-Seth Thomas (Oregon State) over Holden Packard (Boise State)
Champ and Qualifier: Seth Thomas (Oregon State)
Three Automatic Bids-174 will be the first weight class with more than two automatic bids up for grabs. Youth is key at this weight. Top Seed and #13 ranked Blake Stauffer only had two regular season losses. He scored bonus point victories in all of his Pac 12 matches. Fellow Freshman sensation #19 ranked Bryce Hammond did not meet up with Stauffer during the dual season but he was impressive racking up 28 wins. True Sophomore Scott Bacon of Boise State had a breakthrough season winning 17 matches against 10 losses. He should compete with Oregon State's Cody Weishoff a wrestler who he did not see this season, but majored last year.
Final-Blake Stauffer (Arizona State) over Bryce Hammond (CSU-Bakersfield)
Champ and Qualifier: Blake Stauffer (Arizona State)
Qualifier: Bryce Hammond (CSU-Bakersfield)
Qualifier: Scott Bacon (Boise State)
Three Automatic Bids: This weight also will have three automatic qualifiers, unlike 174 the favorites are all veterans who have qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2012. The 2012 Pac 12 Champ Jake Swartz returns, has only three losses and sports a #12 overall ranking. He will be challanged by NCAA Qualifier's Kevin Radford of ASU and Ty Vinson of OSU. Two Sean's, Dougherty of Cal Poly and Pollack of CSU-Bakersfield have had their moments this season and are capable of spoiling one of the top three's return plans to NCAA's.
Final-Jake Swartz (Boise State) over Kevin Radford (Arizona State)
Champ and Qualifier: Jake Swartz (Boise State)
Qualifier: Kevin Radford (Arizona State)
Qualifier: Ty Vinson (Oregon State)
Two Automatic Bids: 197 is one of the weight classes I have been looking forward to. 2011 Pac 10 Champ Jake Meredith returns after redshirting the 2011-12 season. Though he has battled injuries, Meredith has established himself as a strong contender for All-American honors. Early in the season he had a convincing victory over up and coming Taylor Meeks. After losing to Meredith, Meeks finished the season on a 20-3 run.
Final-Taylor Meeks (Oregon State) over Jake Meredith (Arizona State)
Champ and Qualifier: Taylor Meeks (Oregon State)
Qualifier: Jake Meredith (Arizona State)
Four Automatic Bids: Heavyweight has been the Pac 12's deepest weight for years now and 2012-13 is no exception. Midlands Champ Chad Hanke comes in as the top seed. He has only lost three times this season and none have come to conference opponents. Boise State's JT Felix had a breakout season, finishing the year 13th in D1CW's rankings. Felix will need to get through 2011 All-American Levi Cooper just to get into the finals.
Final-Chad Hanke (Oregon State) over JT Felix (Boise State)
Champ and Qualifier: Chad Hanke (Oregon State)
Qualifier: JT Felix (Boise State)
Qualifier: Levi Cooper (Arizona State)
Qualifier: Dan Scherer (Stanford)