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PREVIEW: Mat Mayhem finale set for Sunday in Stillwater

WHAT: NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals Finals
WHERE: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater, Okla.
WHEN: Sunday, February 19
TIME: Semifinals 2 p.m. Central, Final & Consolation Final 6 p.m.
TWITTER HANDLES: @nwcawrestling @usawrestling @IlliniWrestling @CowboyWrestling @GopherWrestling @Hawks_Wrestling #NWCAduals #MatMayhem

A trio of Big Ten teams and a historic power from the Big 12 will highlight Sunday’s finals of the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals in Stillwater, Okla.

Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Oklahoma State emerged as champions from each of last weekend’s four regional competitions and now the squads will converge on historic Gallagher-Iba arena in a final four of Division I dual meet championship competition.

While the first year of the new format has been met with mixed reviews, the four teams taking to the mats haven’t. Oklahoma State is the lone unbeaten wrestling team in the country and the Cowboys will put their No. 1 ranking on the line as they open up on Sunday with upstart Illinois in the top bracket. The bottom bracket will be a rematch between two hard-nosed programs – Iowa and Minnesota.

Oklahoma State reached the final weekend by defeating Wyoming and Ohio State in a regional in Stillwater, while Minnesota topped Kent State and Missouri to advance. Iowa blitzed Virginia Tech in the Iowa State regional and then defeated former coach Jim Zalesky and Oregon State to advance. Illinois, the only team that wasn’t a top seed in last week’s regional, upended host Cornell. Since, the Fighting Illini have moved to No. 5 in the most recent NWCA/USA Today Division I Coaches Poll.

So how deep is the four-team field from an individual perspective? Deep. Of the 40 projected starters, 38 are nationally ranked in the most recent NCAA Division I Coaches Panel Rankings. All four wrestlers at eight of the 10 weights are ranked, and of the weight class breakdown, all projected starters at 133 and 174 are ranked in the nation’s top 10. If you’re a fan of statistics, that’s 95 percent of the field is ranked in the Top 33. Twenty-two of the 40 wrestlers are ranked in the top 10, meaning 55 percent of the field is among the top 10 wrestlers in the country in their respective weight classes.

Has there ever been a four-team field that’s ever had that high a percentage? We’ll leave that to wrestling’s historians, but there’s a pretty good chance this four-team field will set the bar for upcoming Mat Mayhem finals.

Here’s a breakdown of each weight class and how those weight class matchups can affect either the semifinal or the final outcome. There are some intriguing matches to watch, as nine of the 10 matches in each semifinal will feature a pair of ranked wrestlers and depending on who makes the final, all 10 bouts could pair ranked wrestlers against each other.

2011-12 Previous Dual Matchups
Iowa 19, Minnesota 17
Iowa 20, Illinois 13
Minnesota 25, Illinois 9
Oklahoma State 17, Iowa 16 (criteria)
Oklahoma State 23, Minnesota 14

125 pounds
#7 Jesse Delgado, Fr. Illinois (25-4) vs. #14 Jon Morrison, So. Oklahoma St. (17-5)
It’ll be the first meeting between Delgado and Morrison, but the California native and seventh-ranked Delgado will be favored. Delgado isn’t a lock, because despite his fine freshman campaign, he’s 5-2 in his last seven matches, including a loss to Northwestern’s Levi Mele and he blew a seven-point lead against Minnesota’s Zach Sanders just over a month ago. Morrison on the other hand, hasn’t been very dominant in his 13 Division I wins this season. He’s 6-2 in his last eight bouts, dropping matches to Missouri’s Alan Waters and Iowa State’s Ryak Finch. He picked up two close wins last week against ranked opponents, beating Ohio State’s Johnni DiJulius and Wyoming’s Michael Martinez.

#1 Matt McDonough, Jr. Iowa (25-1) vs. #2 Zach Sanders, Sr. Minnesota (22-1)
Matt McDonough continues to be kryptonite for Zach Sanders. The Wabasha, Minn., native has never beaten McDonough in five tries. McDonough should always remain the favorite when these two meet, if not just for the matchup style that prevents Sanders high-octane offense from getting any scoring opportunities. Sanders never runs out of gas, but his conditioning won’t matter if he can’t finish a shot. McDonough’s a winner, always has been, but despite some relatively close matches this year, he’s really only been in trouble once, and that was his early-season loss to Delgado.

2011-12 Previous Matches
Delgado DEC McDonough 11-7 (SV)
McDonough MD Morrison 14-4
McDonough DEC Sanders 7-1
Sanders DEC Delgado 14-13

Matchups Possibilities
#7 Jesse Delgado vs. #14 Jon Morrison
#1 Matt McDonough vs. #2 Zach Sanders
#7 Jesse Delgado vs. #1 Matt McDonough
#7 Jesse Delgado vs. #2 Zach Sanders
#14 Jon Morrison vs. #1 Matt McDonough
#14 Jon Morrison vs. #2 Zach Sanders

133 pounds
#1 Jordan Oliver, Jr. Oklahoma St. (18-1) vs. #5 B.J. Futrell, Jr. Illinois (23-3)
A rematch from November’s NWCA All-Star Classic won by Oliver, Futrell gave the returning national champion a real battle, losing 8-7 in a match marred by scoreboard issues. It was Oliver’s first time down to weight and with Oliver’s recent win over Ohio State’s Logan Stieber, it’s thrown the rankings into a tizzy so to speak. This time around, Oliver will be at home, have his weight managed and despite the one-point outcome in November, he should remain the favorite.

#4 Tony Ramos, So. Iowa (24-2) vs. #7 Chris Dardanes, Fr. Minnesota (22-6)
Last time around, Ramos beat Dardanes 5-2 in a match that really wasn’t as close as the score indicated. Ramos has wins over Oliver, Futrell and Virginia Tech’s Devin Carter this season and has three bonus victories in his last five matches. Dardanes is a scrapper, a fighter and an extremely physical opponent. This one will be close again, but Ramos has the edge. Interestingly enough, three of the four wrestlers in this weight class are from Illinois.

2011-12 Previous Matches
Oliver DEC Futrell 8-7 (Unofficial)
Ramos DEC Oliver 4-3 (TB1)
Ramos MD Futrell 13-5
Ramos DEC Dardanes 5-2
Futrell DEC Dardanes 9-6

Matchups Possibilities
#1 Jordan Oliver vs. #5 B.J. Futrell
#4 Tony Ramos vs. #7 Chris Dardanes
#1 Jordan Oliver vs. #4 Tony Ramos
#1 Jordan Oliver vs. #7 Chris Dardanes
#5 B.J. Futrell vs. #4 Tony Ramos
#5 B.J. Futrell vs. #7 Chris Dardanes

141 pounds
#14 Josh Kindig, So. Oklahoma St. (12-7) vs. #28 Daryl Thomas, Jr. Illinois (13-10)
The two lowest-ranked wrestlers in the mix will square off early. Kindig was thrust back into the Cowboy lineup last weekend and lost a 7-6 bout to Ohio State’s Hunter Stieber, while Thomas lost both matches last week by major decision to Cornell’s Mike Nevinger and Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple. Kindig has bonus potential, but he’ll have to get back into match shape to do so.

#6 Montell Marion, Sr. Iowa (23-2) vs. #9 Nick Dardanes, Fr. Minnesota (15-5)
Last time around, Marion pulled out a 3-2 win over Dardanes. This time around should be pretty much a mirror image of the previous meeting in Iowa City between the two. Marion has a decisive advantage with his length and experience, while Dardanes, like his twin brother Chris, is a physical brawler with explosive leg attacks. The length of Marion will continue to pose a problem for Dardanes and create counter offense opportunities. If Minnesota wants to pick off the Hawkeyes, this is a match they need to have.

2011-12 Previous Matches
Dardanes DEC Kindig 14-12 (SV)
Marion DEC Kindig 9-7
Marion DEC Dardanes 3-2

Matchups Possibilities
#14 Josh Kindig vs. #28 Daryl Thomas
#6 Montell Marion vs. #9 Nick Dardanes
#14 Josh Kindig vs. #6 Montell Marion
#14 Josh Kindig vs. #9 Nick Dardanes
#28 Daryl Thomas vs. #6 Montell Marion
#28 Daryl Thomas vs. #9 Nick Dardanes

149 pounds
#2 Jamal Parks, Sr. Oklahoma St. (24-0) vs. #17 Eric Terrazas, Sr. Illinois (20-7)
Jamal Parks has always been looked upon as a wrestler who doesn’t score enough, but half of his 24 victories this season have been bonus wins, including nine major decisions. Eric Terrazas split matches at the Cornell regional, beating Cornell’s Chris Villalonga, but falling 1-0 to Oklahoma’s Nick Lester. This match has the makings of a 3-2, 4-3 type of victory for Parks. Terazzas might be able to score, but one of Parks’ strengths is scoring when he needs to in close matches.

#10 Dylan Ness, Fr. Minnesota (16-6) vs. #30 Mike Kelly, Fr. (14-9)
Last time around, Ness picked up a major decision over Kelly, but with the way the two scrambled around the mat, which plays into one of Ness’ strengths, Ness will be looking to pick up bonus points again. With the dual in Iowa City decided by bonus points in the previous meeting, a bonus victory by Ness could be the much-needed point to separate the two teams and determine the final outcome. Kelly has to remain aggressive and stay away from Ness’ dynamic arsenal of trips and top work. Ness is clearly favored, but by how much?

2011-12 Previous Matches
Parks DEC Kelly 8-3
Ness MD Kelly 15-7
Ness FALL Terrazas 7:08 (SV)
Parks DEC Ness 6-5

Matchups Possibilities
#2 Jamal Parks vs. #17 Eric Terrazas
#10 Dylan Ness vs. #30 Mike Kelly
#2 Jamal Parks vs. #10 Dylan Ness
#2 Jamal Parks vs. #30 Mike Kelly
#17 Eric Terrazas vs. #10 Dylan Ness
#17 Eric Terrazas vs. #30 Mike Kelly

157 pounds
#12 Albert White, Sr. Oklahoma St. (22-5) vs. #33 Jackson Morse, So. (10-12)
This might be a very bad matchup for Oklahoma State. While Jackson Morse is under .500, he’s shown to be a tenacious wrestler who can score on anyone. White has reeled off 22 wins this season, but his best win was against Binghamton’s Justin Lister. White has losses to lower-ranked opponents this season and this could be the match that could put Illinois in a position to upset the Cowboys. The Fighting Illini need to steal more than one bout away from the favored Cowboys, but this is a matchup that could go either way. Morse has led many wrestlers ranked above him this year, but needs to be able to finish a match and not continually give up the lead.

Nick Moore, Fr. Iowa (13-7) vs. Alec Ortiz, So. Minnesota (10-11)
It’s almost a foregone conclusion we won’t see Iowa’s Derek St. John this weekend after his gritty attempts to wrestle last week. Iowa will likely reinsert Nick Moore back into the lineup. This will be the only match in the entire tournament that will feature unranked wrestlers. Moore picked up a notable win over Ortiz in the dual to the tune of an 11-2 major decision. If you’re J Robinson, you’re looking for Ortiz to keep the score much closer this time around. Ortiz has the ability to

2011-12 Previous Matchups
White DEC Moore 7-4
Moore MD Ortiz 11-2
Ortiz DEC Morse 8-4
Ortiz DEC Morse 5-4

Matchups Possibilities
#12 Albert White vs. #33 Jackson Morse
Nick Moore vs. Alec Ortiz
#12 Albert White vs. Nick Moore
#12 Albert White vs. Alec Ortiz
#33 Jackson Morse vs. Nick Moore
#33 Jackson Morse vs. Alec Ortiz

165 pounds
#10 Conrad Polz, Jr. Illinois (17-2) vs. #23 Dallas Bailey, So. Oklahoma St. (13-9)
More people might be talking about Illinois’ Conrad Polz if he wouldn’t have missed the entire month of December. Polz has dropped two matches this season and has won nine of 10 in 2012. Dallas Bailey had a sound freshman season, but has suffered a bit of a sophomore slump. On paper, Polz would be favored, but Bailey’s ability to put people on their back in a flash makes him a very dangerous opponent for anyone. Bailey’s lost two of his last three, but one of those was to All-American Shane Onufer of Wyoming.

#7 Mike Evans, Fr. Iowa (22-4) vs. #14 Cody Yohn, Jr. Minnesota (13-7)
Freshman Mike Evans was highly touted coming out of high school and he’s not been a disappointment at all to the Hawkeye faithful. Despite wrestling an atypical Iowa style with an arsenal of what could be described as “junk” moves designed to score points in a hurry, Evans has been a bright spot as a freshman. He’s seen a few defeats, but it was his fall over Cody Yohn that proved to be the difference in a Hawkeye win over the Gophers in January. Yohn’s been inconsistent most of his collegiate career – sound wins and head-scratching losses dot his resume. Can Evans repeat his clutch fall? Conventional wisdom says no, but for Minnesota to be in a position to upend Iowa, Yohn needs to be in the match start to finish and not get into situations where he’s taking bad shots to try to close the gap.

2011-12 Previous Matchups
Polz DEC Yohn 4-2
Evans DEC Bailey 5-1
Yohn MD Bailey 12-1
Evans FALL Yohn 6:28

Matchup Possibilities
#10 Conrad Polz vs. #23 Dallas Bailey
#7 Mike Evans vs. #14 Cody Yohn
#10 Conrad Polz vs. #7 Mike Evans
#10 Conrad Polz vs. #14 Cody Yohn
#23 Dallas Bailey vs. #7 Mike Evans
#23 Dallas Bailey vs. #14 Cody Yohn

174 pounds
#3 Chris Perry, So. Oklahoma St. (20-0) vs. #9 Jordan Blanton, Jr. Illinois (21-3)
Since moving down to 174 pounds, Chris Perry has been as consistent as he was at 184 pounds. And by consistent, we mean flawless. Perry’s move to 174 pounds made him a title contender, but he’d have been one at 184 as well. Perry will get first crack at Jordan Blanton, a past All-American coming off a season lost to injury. Across the mat will be big brother Mark, coaching for the Fighting Illini. Perhaps the individual matchup is more of an afterthought considering the Perry vs. Perry angle. It’s a safe bet both wrestlers will be amped up for this match.

#5 Logan Storley, Fr. Minnesota (21-3) vs. #8 Ethen Lofthouse, So. Iowa (19-6)
As a true freshman, Logan Storley has lived up to the hype. While no one was predicting him to be the next Cael Sanderson, Storley’s a sound 21-3 this year and has a previous win over Ethen Lofthouse. For Iowa to put this dual away, they’ll need Lofthouse to reverse the 5-3 outcome in Iowa City last month. Neither wrestler is extremely prolific from the neutral position, but both thrive in short offense and counter offense situations. It’ll be close, but don’t expect a whole lot of scrambles. Both are very calculating with their offensive attempts.

2011-12 Previous Matchups
Perry DEC Lofthouse 3-2
Lofthouse DEC Blanton 8-6
Storley DEC Lofthouse 5-3

Matchup Possibilities
#3 Chris Perry vs. #9 Jordan Blanton
#5 Logan Storley vs. #8 Ethen Lofthouse
#3 Chris Perry vs. #5 Logan Storley
#3 Chris Perry vs. #8 Ethen Lofthouse
#9 Jordan Blanton vs. #5 Logan Storley
#9 Jordan Blanton vs. #8 Ethen Lofthouse

184 pounds
#23 Chris McNeil, Sr. Oklahoma St. (14-7) vs. #25 Tony Dallago, So. Illinois (18-8)
This weight isn’t loaded with star power and as far as the top bracket semifinal is concerned, Illinois’ Tony Dallago should be a slight favorite over Oklahoma State’s Chris McNeil. The Cowboy senior is only 5-4 since trading spots in the lineup with Chris Perry. Dallago hasn’t exactly been on fire and both wrestlers have losses to Iowa’s Vinnie Wagner this season. It’s a match Illinois needs to win. A McNeil win should ice the dual.

#7 Kevin Steinhaus, So. Minnesota (21-4) vs. #20 (at 197) Grant Gambrall, Jr. Iowa (7-7)
It’s expected we’ll see Iowa All-American Grant Gambrall down at 184 pounds for the first time this season. Gambrall missed a lot of time over the summer dealing with concussion issues and has been less than stellar at 197 pounds, with a sub-.500 record against Division I competition. It might not matter. Kevin Steinhaus has won nine in a row since an upset loss at the Southern Scuffle to Navy’s Luke Rebertus. During that stretch, he’s notched seven bonus victories, including five major decisions. The move down might end up saving Iowa a team point, though. Steinhaus majored Vinnie Wagner in the dual last month.

2011-12 Previous Matchups
Steinhaus MD Dallago 12-4

Matchup Possibilities
#23 Chris McNeil vs. #25 Tony Dallago
#7 Kevin Steinhaus vs. #20 Grant Gambrall
#23 Chris McNeil vs. #7 Kevin Steinhaus
#23 Chris McNeil vs. #20 Grant Gambrall
#25 Tony Dallago vs. #7 Kevin Steinhaus
#25 Tony Dallago vs. #20 Grant Gambrall

197 pounds
#8 Blake Rosholt, So. Oklahoma St. (17-2) vs. #13 Mario Gonzalez, So. Illinois (18-6)
While Blake Rosholt is the eighth-ranked wrestler in the country at 197 pounds, there’s a possibility we could see Cayle Byers don the orange for Oklahoma State as well. Either way, both are expected to be slight favorites over Mario Gonzalez. It was Gonzalez’s bump to heavyweight last week that enabled Illinois to knock off top-seeded Cornell at the Ithaca Regional. Rosholt, an NCAA qualifier last year at heavyweight, has provided a spark to an already solid Cowboy lineup. He is coming off a loss to Missouri’s Brent Haynes two weeks ago. Byers got the nod this past weekend.

#5 Sonny Yohn, Sr. Minnesota (18-4) vs. Tomas Lira, So. Iowa (11-10)
If there was a time for Sonny Yohn to put up some big points, this would be it. Yohn has scored bonus victories six times this year and this could be an opportunity for a seventh. Yohn beat Grant Gambrall in the dual against Iowa earlier this year, while Lira is coming off four straight losses, including two last weekend. Could Vinnie Wagner be thrust into action here? The possibility does remain, but with a dual so dependent on bonus points, one from Yohn is badly needed.

2011-12 Previous Matchups
Gonzalez DEC Yohn 5-4
Gonzalez DEC Lira 11-9

Matchup Possibilities
#8 Blake Rosholt vs. #13 Mario Gonzalez
#5 Sonny Yohn vs. Tomas Lira
#8 Blake Rosholt vs. #5 Sonny Yohn
#8 Blake Rosholt vs. Tomas Lira
#13 Mario Gonzalez vs. #5 Sonny Yohn
#13 Mario Gonzalez vs. Tomas Lira

285 pounds
#2 Alan Gelogaev, Jr. Oklahoma State (23-0) vs. Pat Walker, Jr. Illinois (12-13)
In 23 official matches this season, Oklahoma State’s Russian import, Alan “Z” Gelogaev has been nothing short of spectacular. With eight falls, five major decisions and three technical falls this season, Gelogaev has been a bonus point factory. Taking on Pat Walker on Sunday, this trend should continue. Walker comes in at 12-13, while Gelogaev’s lone loss doesn’t count on his record due to Oregon State’s Chad Hanke taking an Olympic redshirt. You might want to make sure you get a good seat (either at your desk on the webcast or in Gallagher-Iba) to watch Z in action.

#4 Tony Nelson, So. Minnesota (22-2) vs. #13 Bobby Telford, Fr. Iowa (21-5)
The last time around, Tony Nelson got the Blake Raising monkey off his back. Iowa elected to send our Raising in the previous dual due to the previous success the Iowa native had against Nelson. This time, Telford could be getting the nod, if nothing more to get a hands-on look before the Big Ten tournament. Telford was second at the Midlands. Either way, Nelson should be a favorite. It’s doubtful we’ll see bonus points anywhere near this matchup.

2011-12 Previous Matchups
Telford DEC Walker 2-0
Gelogaev MD Telford 10-2
Gelogaev MD Nelson 16-5
Nelson DEC Walker 3-1

Matchup Possibilities
#2 Alan Gelogaev vs. Pat Walker
#4 Tony Nelson vs. #13 Bobby Telford
#2 Alan Gelogaev vs. #4 Tony Nelson
#2 Alan Gelogaev vs. #13 Bobby Telford
Pat Walker vs. #4 Tony Nelson
Pat Walker vs. #13 Bobby Telford

Dual Projections
Oklahoma State 19, Illinois 12
Minnesota 16, Iowa 15
Iowa 16, Illinois 15
Oklahoma State 21, Minnesota 11
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