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This week, TheMat.com will move to the USOC platform, with a new look, new functionality, but with the same favorite features....

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Quarterfinal preview A round with many wild possibilities



125 pounds - This weight is very unsettled, but is still dominated by a few talented high seeds. The first quarterfinal will feature No. 1 Stephen Abas of Fresno State against No. 9 Ruben DeLeon of Bakersfield, an all-California battle that Abas will be favored to dominate. A pair of unseeded wrestlers will bang heads for a position in the semifinals, Mario Stuart of Lehigh and Ahmad Sanders of Central Michigan. Both are great stories already, and should be watched closely. No. 3 Leroy Vega of Minnesota faces regular Big Ten rival No. 11 Ryan Escobar of Illinois. The Big Ten owns the other quarterbracket, with No. 2 Jody Strittmatter of Iowa facing No. 10 A.J. Grant of Michigan. If the top three seeds advance, with a non-seeded opponent to face Abas, this weight will be much closer to form than the early upsets indicated. 133 pounds - The top five seeds still are in the hunt, which promises to provide an exciting quarterfinal round. No. 1 Eric Juergens of Iowa faces No. 9 Kevin Black of Wisconsin, a rematch of the Big Ten finals dominated by Juergens. A key battle comes when No. 4 Pat McNamara of Michigan State tangles with No. 5 Roman Fleszar of Hofstra. A win by Fleszar gives great respect to the Hofstra program, but McNamara is very talented and experienced. No. 3 Todd Beckerman of Nebraska will battle No. 11 David Douglas of Arizona State, a match where Beckerman will be favored. No. 2 Johnny Thompson of Oklahoma State, a freshman acting like a senior, faces unpredictable Matt Azevedo of Iowa State. This weight could move forward with all top four seeds intact, but there is no guarantee. 141 pounds - Again, the top four seeds are still alive, and could move forward with solid performances. The first bracket will be key in the team race, as No. 1 Doug Schwab of Iowa battles No. 8 Charles Walker of Oklahoma State. Walker is scrappy and motivated, but would need a memorable performance to stop former NCAA champion Schwab. No. 4 Sean Gray of Virginia Tech faces surprise quarterfinalist, No. 12 Mike Maney of Lock Haven, in an EWL battle. Super sophomore No. 3 Eric Larkin of Arizona State is looking sharp, and faces No. 11 Grant Hoerr of Wisconsin. No. 2 Michael Lightner of Oklahoma continues his run for a first title against No. 7 Chad Erikson of Minnesota. An Erikson win would really help the Gophers, but Lightner has not lost a bout since last year's NCAA finals. This could be a fun set of battles. 149 pounds - With the top seed already gone, this weight is expected to be difficult to handicap (and to win!). Unseeded Mike Zadick of Iowa, who dispatched No. 1 Reggie Wright of Oklahoma in round two, will need his adrenaline turned high in his match with No. 8 Jared Frayer of Oklahoma. Dave Esposito of Lehigh, No. 4 coming in, faces No. 12 Cedric Haymon of Cal Poly. No. 3 Adam Tirapelle of Illinois, a NCAA runner-up last year, faces familiar rival No. 11 Mike Kulczycki of Michigan. An intense bout is expected when No. 2 Jared Lawrence of Minnesota faces No. 7 JaMarr Billman of Lock Haven. Billman lit up wrestling a few years back when he started his career at Penn State. A win over Lawrence would show that he has come back at full strength. This weight is already mixed up, and expect some more fireworks. 157 pounds - Don't expect too many more upsets at this class, as three of the top four seeds remain alive and are looking solid. No. 1 T.J. Williams of Iowa, a former champion, has been powerful and will tackle No. 8 Ed Hockenberry of Bloomsburg. No. 4 Eric Jorgenson of Oregon State faces upset-minded No. 12 Shane Roller of Oklahoma State. Roller's defeat of former NCAA champion Kirk White of Boise State could have him on a roll, and Jorgenson better be ready. Unseeded Scott Owen of Northern Iowa hopes to keep surprising everyone, as he faces No. 6 Luke Becker of Minnesota. No. 2 Bryan Snyder of Nebraska and No. 7 Cole Sanderson of Iowa State square off in a Big 12 rivalry. Williams and Snyder are on target for a finals showdown, but others want to mess up the plans. 165 pounds - Defending NCAA champion Donny Pritzlaff of Wisconsin, No. 1 coming in, will face Big Ten rival No. 9 Kevin Stanley of Indiana in the top quarterfinal bracket. Pritzlaff makes few mistakes and should be confident going in. The next pairing is a key match for two rising teams, as No. 4 Robbie Waller of Oklahoma squares off with No. 5 Matt Lackey of Illinois. This match will help the winner's team to reach up and try to catch the top three teams. Unseeded Ben Shirk of Iowa, one of the Hawkeye day one surprises, faces No. 6 Brad Pike of Minnesota in a key battle in the team race. Don't expect an upset here. Joe Heskett of Iowa State, No. 2 coming in, was a bit sluggish early, but will be favored over No. 7 Chris Martin of Virginia Tech. 174 pounds - The top five seeds remain, but there should be some crazed matches in the quarterfinals. No. 1 Josh Koscheck of Edinboro faces No. 8 Nathan Coy of Oregon State. Koscheck, a runner-up last year, has looked prepared. Another big-time battle between explosive freshman No. 4 Tyrone Lewis of Oklahoma State and No. 5 Gabe McMahan of Iowa should have the house rocking. An Iowa win could put some nails in the Cowboy coffin. No. 3 Maurice Worthy of Army, unbeaten this year, will have a tough go with No. 11 Michael Barger of Oklahoma, a dangerous wrestler known to pop an upset. No. 2 Otto Olson of Michigan, a 1999 NCAA runner-up, needs to be prepared for a motivated No. 10 Jacob Volkman of Minnesota. 184 pounds - Cael Sanderson of Iowa State will be wrestling again. After him, this weight is very interesting, with two unseeded quarterfinalists and some interesting pairings. Sanderson, who has never lost a college match, has an in-state rivalry renewed against Iowa's No. 8 Jessman Smith. The home crowd can scream all it wants, but Sanderson is still Sanderson. Unseeded Scott Justus of Virginia Tech has wins over No. 5 and No. 12 seeds, and will take aim at No. 4 Victor Sveda of Indiana. Sveda is very solid and experienced, and can stop Justus' run. Another unseeded surprise, Josh Lembrecht of Oklahoma, has his in-state rival No. 3 Daniel Cormier of Oklahoma State again. Cormer has two pins and a major in this series, and will be expected to repeat the dominance. The final pairing is No. 2 Nate Patrick of Illinois against No. 7 Andy Hrovat, another Big Ten showdown. All eyes go to Sanderson's mat, but don't forget to watch the others. 197 pounds - This weight is a mess, but the top two seeds are going strong. No. 1 Mark Munoz of Oklahoma State faces No. 9 Nick Preston of Ohio State. Munoz is wrestling well, but can't overlook the strong Preston. Unseeded Babak Nejadmaghaddam of Cal-Fullerton is hoping to make his name better known against No. 5 Owen Elzen of Minnesota. Elzen was upset in the Big Ten meet, so anything is possible. Unseeded Rick Romero of Rutgers faces No. 11 Mike Fickell of Penn in an EIWA showdown. No. 2 Brad Vering of Nebraska, the defending NCAA champion, will have a good test from No. 7 Pat Quirk of Illinois. Heavyweight - Seven of the top eight seeds are still alive, showing that this weight may be the most predictable in the house. No. 1 Garrett Lowney of Minnesota, the freshman Olympic star, will face No. 9 Leonce Crump of Oklahoma. Lowney continues to show maturity and skill beyond his years. No. 4 John Lockkart of Illinois and No. 5 Matt Brink of Michigan renew a Big Ten rivalry. No. 3 Antonio Garay of Boston College, who looked a bit rusty in round two, hopes to open up his throws against No. 6 Paul Hynek of Northern Iowa, a tough customer. No. 2 freshman star Tommy Rowlands of Ohio State has No. 7 Billy Blunt of Fresno State in his bracket. This year, the matches at heavyweight should be exciting, as these guys can score and move rather than push and shove.
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