Martin and McDaniel: The NCAA Championships will be unique this year

Iowa State Head Coach Kevin Dresser claps during a match at the Big 12 Championships on March 8 inside the Bank of Oklahoma Center in Tulsa.

Zach Martin and Stephen Mcdaniel

Stephen, we’ve finally hit the week before the 2020 NCAA Championships. You ready for three days of crazy in Minneapolis?

Crazy doesn’t even begin to explain what the world of sports has gone through lately. But short answer? Absolutely.

We still don’t even know what the NCAA’s stance on letting media into the NCAA Championships will be, but if they do allow for media, it’ll be one of the most unique NCAA tournaments that we will have ever seen with no fans in U.S. Bank Stadium that’s capacity can reach over 70,000 people.

There’s honestly a chance that the tournament doesn’t even happen, which isn’t crazy considering everything that has happened recently. 

Personally, it’ll be by and far one of the coolest experiences I’ll have ever witnessed and I absolutely cannot wait to make the trip and watch three consecutive days of some of the best collegiate wrestling, assuming the NCAA allows us to go.

Also with the nature of NCAA tournaments and postseason action, there’s bound to be some shocking upsets.

Speaking of shocking, we’re all still dealing with the news of Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia suspension and how that completely opens up the bracket at 184 pounds.

It’ll be a crazy tournament for sure, but Zach and I are excited and prepared for the madness.

Zach, we know what happened on Wednesday. Are you surprised by the decision?

Two weeks ago, I would’ve been stunned if they proceeded with no fans. Now, I’m not.

I think when the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a “global pandemic” this was going to happen. It’s the right call.

This does, however, suck for the sport of wrestling. To get the biggest tournament in Division I inside a football stadium and expect 40,000 spectators in each of the six sessions, to now this, it’s definitely a shot of confidence.

What is peaking my curiosity is when we’ll get a decision of media attending and the barriers that will take place between coaches, athletes and the media. We’ve seen professional leagues take those steps, it wouldn’t shock me to see the NCAA take similar actions.

We’re in a waiting game now. With it being a week away, I have a feeling we’ll get an answer soon.

Okay, time to focus on Iowa State. In your eyes Stephen, what would a good tournament look like for the Cyclones?

So where the team is at isn’t where we thought they’d be at back during Iowa State’s media day back in November. The Cyclones were tasked with competing without one of their best guys in Austin Gomez (133), who dealt with weight issues and a concussion that resulted in a medical redshirt. They’ve also had to deal with injuries to Todd Small, Jarrett Degen, David Carr and Sam Colbray.

That being said, Iowa State is by no means a bad team, it’s still very good.

Looking at the tournament, it’s not crazy to think that the Cyclones have an opportunity for multiple NCAA All-Americans and some podium finishes.

Carr and Parker could definitely find top four finishes at their respective weights, while also becoming All-Americans. Degen definitely has a shot at also becoming an All-American for the second consecutive season.

It’s also not out of the realm of possibility if guys like Alex Mackall and Gannon Gremmel go on runs. Mackall has looked good this year and even made it to the finals of the Big 12 Championships. Gremmel did the same, but he also showed what he’s capable of in his title run at the Southern Scuffle.

I think a good tournament for Iowa State is at least two podium finishes and three All-Americans.

Establish some of your top guys now and wait for next season when everyone is healthy and you get to add a guy initially pegged at No. 5 at 133 to start the year in Austin Gomez.

OK Zach, give me one of the nine qualified wrestlers you’re really excited to see against the best in the nation?

The easy answer would be David Carr (157) or Ian Parker (141), but give me Alex Mackall at 125.

Look, I think even though he didn’t register a takedown against Oklahoma State’s Nick Piccininni, he’s got to feel confident. Even if the Cowboy was willing to play defensive and conservative, Mackall kept it close for the first time in three career meetings.

And, his draw is decent.

He could get a second round rematch against Purdue’s Devin Schroder, whom he wrestled very close at Vegas in December. Win that and he gets Virginia’s Jack Mueller in the quarters.

Maybe this is the weekend we see how good the redshirt junior is for the Cyclones. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he wrestled the best he’s had all year.

Since we won’t touch on the team race this week, who wins and who gets trophies?

McDaniel: In my eyes, it has to be Iowa without a doubt. Iowa has one of the most talented teams we have ever seen from top to bottom. They have guys like Spencer Lee, who’s basically a lock to win the 125 bracket for the third consecutive year, and guys like Tony Cassioppi, who’s placed himself as one of the top heavyweights in the nation as a freshman.

There’s a possibility that Iowa crowns champions in half of the weights. There’s no question as to why Iowa is the No. 1 tournament team and it’s not even close.

Besides Iowa, I think the other three trophies go to the other top ranked Big 10 teams: Penn State, Ohio State and Nebraska.

Penn State and Ohio State are going to have guys contending for NCAA titles and Nebraska is going to be another team that’s going to be incredibly deep.

Martin: It would be dumb for be not to pick Iowa, right? You’re talking about a team that can have at least five champions and place all 10, like, that’s unheard of.

Even if the Hawkeyes get three champs and place all 10, you’re talking about one of the greatest teams in Division I wrestling history. Only the 2001 Minnesota team had all 10 guys be All-Americans. They are my easy winner.

As for the other three teams that get trophies, I’ll take Nebraska, Penn State and Arizona State.

The Huskers are the only team outside of Iowa that are bringing their entire lineup. While they may not win multiple NCAA titles, they are deep.

I would be stunned if the Nittany Lions don’t win three individual titles while I believe the Sun Devils, even without Zahid Valencia, will bring home the second most All-Americans to finish in the top-four.