The 125-pound weight class at this year's Big Ten tournament is loaded with intrigue. Will the proven veteran defend his throne, or do a pair of hungry up-and-comers have what it takes to knock him off?
|3||6||Nathan Tomasello||Ohio State||RSFR||22-4||10-1||8-1||85%||7|
|5||9||Jordan Conaway||Penn State||JR||23-5||7-3||7-2||82%||8|
|NR||NR||Mitch Rogaliner||Michigan State||RSFR||11-11||4-6||1-6||50%||NR|
Jesse Delgado. Illinois. The 125-pound weight class is one that asks you to answer a fundamental question before selecting your favorite. Do you pick the guy who has had the best season? Or, do you pick the most talented wrestler? In this case, the wrestler who had the best season is Iowa’s Thomas Gilman. He’s 18-3 overall with two of his three losses coming against the #1 and #3 ranked 125-pounders. The most talented 125-pounder in the Big Ten, though, that’s clearly Jesse Delgado. Delgado is a two-time Big Ten champion and a two-time national champion. That being said, due to injury he has only wrestled five times since November and in those five matches he has scored a grand total of 19 points. He has also only faced one top-ranked opponent, No. 1 Alan Waters of Missouri, who beat him decisively 6-2.
If healthy, Delgado is the no-brainer pick here. But is what we’ve seen from him thus-far enough to catapult him over Gilman? Before the National Duals, I would have said no. During that tournament, though, Gilman showed some inconsistency. He beat Nashon Garrett 3-1, but lost to Waters 5-4. He also suffered a surprising loss to Sean Boyle of Chattanooga, a 3-1 contest in which Gilman failed to score an offensive point. Delgado has had two weeks to rest and hasn’t been beaten in a postseason tournament since 2012. He may not have the most exciting tournament from a fan’s perspective, but I’m still expecting Delgado to ride a series of 3 or 4-point decision victories to a Big Ten title.
If I’m picking Delgado to win the weight then obviously Gilman belongs in this category. His chance at winning the weight is equal if not better than anyone else. Beyond Gilman, there is only one wrestler that I see as a true "contender" for the Big Ten championship and that’s Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello. Ranked #7 in the country by Intermat, Tomasello is 25-4 on the season with all four losses being close matches against wrestlers ranked in the top 6 in the country. Tomasello has been on a roll of late, winning his last 10 matches and earning bonus points in eight. His last loss was all the way back on Jan. 4, a 2-1 decision to Gilman. If Delgado still isn’t 100 percent, Tomasello has the type of straightforward attacking style that could wear him down. That would set up a potential finals match with Gilman, a wrestler that Tomasello hasn’t beaten, but certainly could.
THE DARK HORSE
Based on seeding, Tim Lambert and Jordan Conaway are the most likely choices here with Conor Youtsey a little further away. That being said, Tomasello is the guy we’re projecting to third and he has dominating major decision victories over both Conaway and Youtsey. If I had to pick one of the three to pull an upset, it would probably be Lambert, but I wouldn’t bet the rent money on it.
Were it not hoarding wrestlers for a run in 2016 and beyond, it is very likely that Penn State would have the clear favorite at this weight class. Nico Megaludis, a 2x NCAA finalist and 3x All-America is taking a redshirt season this year.
This one’s easy. The Big Ten is a meat grinder and if it turns out that my prediction is wrong and Jesse Delgado isn’t 100 percent healthy and in shape, there is a whole bracket full of wrestlers who will be gunning to take out the defending champ.