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125 lb. NCAA Championship Preview

By Cullen Maksimowski, 03/13/17, 5:30PM EDT

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Cullen Maksimowski

Cullen Maksimowski

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. — March Matness is in full-tilt with the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Championships slated for this weekend (March 16-18) in St. Louis.

The staff at Michigan Grappler is diving into each weight class with full analysis and predictions leading into this weekend’s action.

Here’s a look at 125:

Last year’s runner-up Thomas Gilman of Iowa and Virginia Tech’s Joey Dance enter as the top seeds and favorites for a finals clash.

That being said, if recent history has taught us anything, that’s could change in the blink of an eye.

This weight class has been chocked-full of upsets in recent years with unseeded guys like David Terao and Zeke Moisey taking down names like Jesse Delgado and Nahshon Garrett on the way to All-American status.

Both Gilman and Dance have experienced first-hand the havoc these guys have caused. Gilman was pinned by Moisey in the semifinals two years ago and Dance, who was seeded No.2 last season was upset by 15-seeded Tarao in just the second round.

I don’t see this year playing out any differently. Someone at the top is bound to get knocked off, it’s just a matter of when and who?

Second Round Matchups:

#9 Josh Rodriguez (NDSU) vs #8 Nick Piccinni (OKST)

The two wrestled for the first time two weeks ago in the Big 12 title match with Piccinni taking the narrow 7-5 decision. I like the senior, Rodriguez, over the freshman, Piccinni, in this rematch.

#11 Josh Terao (AMER) vs #6 Lizak

Yes, there is another Terao in the field this and he’s looking follow in his older brother’s footsteps by making some noise on the big stage.

Lizak is without question one of the most talented 125-pounders in the Big Ten but exposed some weaknesses in high-pressure matches late in the season.

I think Terao capitalizes on a third-period mistake to complete the upset.

#7 Sean Russell (Edin) vs #10 Jack Mueller (UVA)

Both wrestlers have put together solid season but I like the freshman, Mueller, to duplicate his 6-2 win over Russell back in January.

**Dark horse Candidate: Conor Youtsey (Mich) vs #2 Joey Dance

Don’t ever count out Michigan’s Connor Youtsey. The fifth year senior and 2-time All-American has made a career out catching fire under the bright lights.

He showed he may have some magic left after an upsetting Lizak in the Big Ten Championships. He also beat Dance back in 2015.

Does he have another run left in him? We'll see

Quarterfinal Matchups:

#1 Thomas Gilman (IOWA) vs #9 Josh Rodriguez (NDSU)

Gilman defeated Rodriguez, 4-1, in their only meeting back on 2015. I think Gilman builds an early lead and heads to the semis with a 7-2 decision.

#5 Tim Lambert (NEB) vs #4 Darian Cruz (LEH)

This one should be a barn burner with both wrestlers holding a win in two career meetings.

Lambert has put together a solid senior campaign and in search of his first trip to the podium.

Cruz, a junior, has just two losses on the year to PSU’s Nick Suriano and Ethan Lizak, both of which were defeated by Lambert this season.

Lambert wins via 6-4 sudden victory.

#3 Suriano (PSU) vs #11 Terao (AMER)

Can’t say I’d be shocked if Terao pulled the upset here, especially since Suriano did not wrestle the Big Ten Championships.

However, I think Suriano wrestles a smarter match against an aggressive Terao and advances to the semis with a 7-4 decision.

#2 Joey Dance (VT) vs # 10 Mueller (UVA)

Mueller didn’t have much to offer Dance back in their January ACC dual meet losing by 11-3 major decision.

I think Mueller closes the gap a bit but Dance cruises to the semis with a 10-5 decision.

Semifinal Matchups:

#1 Thomas Gilman (IOWA) vs #5 Tim Lambert (NEB)

These two have been going at for four-straight years with Gilman holding the upper hand in all seven of their meetings.

Lambert has been on another level this season though and shrunk the gap between them considerably.

Gilman won, 6-3, in their regular season duel meeting took a 4-0 decision in the Big Ten title match.

I think eight is the lucky number for Lambert as finally edges his longtime nemesis and earns a trip to the finals on the strength of a late third-period takedown to win, 4-3.

#2 Joey Dance (VT) vs #3 Nick Suriano (PSU)

This one could go either way in my mind. Suriano possesses the talent and ability to knock off Dance I just can’t trust that he won’t collapse under the pressure after his Big Ten Tournament showing.

Ultimately, I think Dance overcomes last season’s disappointment and earns a trip to the finals with a 4-1 decision.

Finals:

#5 Tim Lambert vs #2 Joey Dance (VT)

These two have squared off just once in their careers. Dance took a 7-4 decision back in February.

I see this one going down to the wire with the winner being whoever gets the first takedown.

Dance is an absolute magician on his feet which and I think he uses patented high-crotch outside leg finish grab a first period takedown.

Lambert gets out quick to knot the score, 2-2, in the second period.

Dance escapes early in the third and scores on off desperation shot from Lambert to secure the 125-pound crown, 5-2.

A Tough Lesson from the Olympiad

By Robbie Waller 11/17/2014, 6:45am EST

Robbie Waller reminisces one of many stories about his dad and growing up

The year was 1991.  I was a sixth grader at Norvelt Elementary.  Our school was named after Eleanor Roosevelt, who is widely regarded as one of the most esteemed women in our Nation’s history who pioneered the advancement of many controversial issues of her day including race, sexism and World War II refugees.  While I would not experience these social injustices while attending the school named in her honor, I would find my own injustice just the same.  

Once a year, during the spring our school district would compete in the “Olympiad” held to see which elementary school ruled overall athletic prowess within the district.  It was held at the high school stadium and one of the featured events was the 6th grade 100 yard dash.  

To win this event meant everything to a twelve year-old boy.  Each day, as I stepped off the bus, I would run as fast as I could up the steep hill to our house with backpack in tow hoping to gain the extra strength and speed needed to win the upcoming race.

Robbie with his father after winning his NCAA title
Robbie with his dad after winning NCAA title

The night before the race, my mother took me to the mall and purchased me a pair of new running shoes, the infamous Nike “Air Pegasus”.  With these shoes I could not lose.

During the day, our class would enter each event: the obstacle course, sack races, and tug-o-war but the finale would be the 6th grade 100 yard dash.  Every student from every district elementary school watched from the stands.  My mother and sisters were among them.  I removed my Air Pegasus from their box and tied them on nice and tight.  Now I was ready.

All of the fastest 6th graders stepped on to the track and took their place in the starting lanes.  One of the physical education teachers would sound the starting gun while the other PE teachers waited at the finish line to declare the winner.  I should now mention that one of the teachers at the finish line was my father.

BOOM!  The starting gun fired and off we went.  As we raced down the track, the pack began to separate and it soon became a two man race.  I was in it.  As my speedy sixth grade nemesis and I approached the finish line, we were neck and neck.

The finish line ribbon was in sight.  As we closed in I leaned forward and touched the ribbon.  Not only did I hit the ribbon first, I leaned forward so hard that I did a complete forward roll and came up with the ribbon around my chest.  The evidence was clear.  I had won the race.

I jumped up and looked back at the crowd of teachers to receive my glory.  My father and the other teachers huddled together.  My father turned toward the track, pointed and proclaimed in his loud scratchy voice, “WINNER!”  

But he wasn’t pointing at me.  Tears began to well up and I began to sob as I walked onto the infield where I sat dejected and alone.  How could I have lost?  I leaned first!  I had the ribbon!  I was his son!  I was devastated.  I removed my now not-so-surefire shoes and walked back to the school bus, still crying and in disbelief.  

When I returned home, my father was not far behind.  He didn’t say a word to me and I was in no mood to talk with him either.   As the days passed, I soon forgot the my defeat and the injustice of the race as most twelve year-old boys would.  Consumed by wrestling, soccer and swimming, it was on to the next race or game played.

But what I wouldn’t soon forget was the pain and feelings associated with losing something that I had worked so hard for.  As I pursued my future goals, it would be a frequent reminder as to the deep and gut-wrenching feeling of failure.  Over time, I found that by out-working and out-smarting my opponents, I could more definitively arrange a favorable outcome.

Years later, I would ask my father about the race.  My father simply answered, “It’s no big deal.  I knew it would make you work harder.”

Granted this was a gamble of a coaching technique.  But it worked.  I lost the race but would learn a valuable lesson of how to respond to defeat and setbacks.  In the end, I would go on to win, and sometimes lose much greater competitions on much bigger stages.  

No other experience resembles real life more than athletic competition.  Especially in individual sports like wrestling.  Sometimes as an athlete, you can get caught up in the wins and losses.  And when things don’t go your way it can cause tension or resentment between you and those closest to you.  

As an athlete, you must stay focused on what you can control.  You have to trust the people who care about you and have your best interest in mind.  That does not always mean you will agree with their decisions or actions.  

As coaches and parents, we need to teach our athletes and children how to respond to winning as well as losing and adversity.  I believe the key is to be truthful and upfront about their performance, work ethic and attitude.  Just as in life, competition and the sporting arena are not always fair.  That is reality.  The earlier they learn this lesson, the better off they will be.  Nothing mirrors the physical and emotional roller coaster of real life more than athletics.

I’ll never forget the sixth grade 100 yard dash.  But I won’t ever forget my first Junior Olympic, PIAA, Junior National Freestyle or NCAA National Championship either.

I guess the lesson learned is sometimes you have to lose a battle to win a war.  I think Eleanor Roosevelt would have agreed.  

 

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