(Images courtesy Nolan Schmidt)
NCAA SEED: 13
#10 Branson Ashworth (Wyoming) dec. Andrew Fogarty 6-0
Andrew Fogarty dec. #10 Branson Ashworth 3-2
#9 Demetrius Romero (Utah Valley) dec. Andrew Fogarty 8-6 (OT)
The Weight Class
165 is my favorite bracket in the tournament, and cracking into the top eight is going to be very difficult for anyone. Mekhi Lewis was a junior world champion last summer and is seeded eighth in this tournament. He had a freestyle win over #1 Alex Marinelli last summer on his path to that world title. Obviously Lewis’s strengths lend themselves to Freestlye wrestling, but it also serves the point that 165 is the strongest field in the tournament. A core of strong Big 12 wrestlers led by conference champion Demetrius Romero of Utah Valley finds itself seeded 9, 10, 11, and 13 respectively, and that doesn’t include two-time All American Joseph Smith of Okie State seeded 33. All of those guys are capable of All American finishes, but each will need an upset or two along the way to get the job done.
Path to the Podium
As was the case last season, Andrew Fogarty put together a fantastic Big 12 tournament, beating #1 seed Branson Ashworth on the way to a second place finish. Last year, the strong Big 12 tournament didn’t translate to success at NCAAs as Fogarty went 0-2. Fogarty’s top game against Ashworth was awesome, and the Scott West, MN product was able to score early in the Big 12 finals against Romero. If those two things come together Fogarty’s draw is ripe for an All American finish.
Fogarty’s first round match up is a little scary because of the unknown. #20 Tyler Marinelli of Gardner Webb was the SoCon champion and sits 26-2 on the season. Marinelli’s lone losses are to the 14 and 19 seeded wrestlers in the tournament, but he lacks any signature wins to boost his resume. I expect that Fogarty will get that win and with it the a shot at #4 Evan Wick of Wisconsin on Thursday evening. Though Wick is certain to be the heavy favorite in this match, I actually really like the matchup for Fogarty because the two wrestlers do a lot of the same things right. To me, Fogarty seems to struggle most with big point scorers from the neutral position and has success when the match ends up on the mat. Wick does not score a lot from neutral and counts on his top wresting to win big matches. If Fogarty can avoid the killer Wick cradle and find an escape underneath, there is a good chance this match is tight in the third period. A win would obviously be ideal as it would push Fogarty through to the quarterfinals against Lock Haven’s Chance Marstellar. Win or lose, All American status for Fogarty is likely to go through the 7/10 tossup match between Ashworth and Isaiah White of Nebraska. A win over Wick would give Fogarty the loser of that bout in the blood round (in all likelihood). A loss would mean winning two matches before wrestling the winner in the blood round. Pay attention to Ashworth and White Thursday evening, as experts have penned it as one of the round of sixteen tossups to watch nationally. I actually like either matchup for Fogarty because like with Wick, neither is an offensive juggernaut.