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This is the first of my ten piece series I will be doing on the Big Ten preview.
The Favorite: Nico Megaludis.
He is the favorite for obvious reasons. He currently holds the highest rankings among Big Ten wrestlers. Owns the seasons series (one match) over returning Big Ten and NCAA champion Delgado. He also had a win over Iowa’s “back up” Thomas Gilman back in December.
The Contender(s): Jesse Delgado Has to be one of the best “non-favorites” to win a conference title. He is coming off a junior campaign which saw him crowned as a conference and national champion. Last season he won two out of the three meetings with Megaludis winning 6-3 at Big Ten’s and 7-4 at NCAA’s. His only loss to Nico last season was a third period pin. With the series tied at 2-2 this is set up to be a good finals rematch.
Cory Clark. I couldn’t bring myself to place Cory as a dark horse. A dark horse is typically someone that people don’t really know about, or wouldn’t even think to name as a champion. Clark lost his dark horse status last season when he beat the eventual champion Delgado 6-1 at the UNI open. Given Clark’s ability to ride, and score potential back points makes him a dangerous opponent to have on Delgado’s side of the bracket. That win over Clark in the final dual should send the clear message that his bonus ability is what this team needs. It is very conceivable to think Clark could make the final by beating Delgado, again, and then it’s also possible Clark could pull of a victory against Nico. The Big Ten has three wrestlers that if they are able to strike when the iron is hot, will be the one standing on the top spot of the podium.
The Dark Horse: Ryan Taylor. I am not really sure if Taylor has a shot at the finals at all, but it feels wrong to leave him out of the discussion. This weight is stacked with freshman who will be tough as nails next year. I like Taylor’s potential to make the podium this March and he is coming off a solid win over Lambert.
An Outside Shot: Tim Lambert. The Nebraska wrestler had a real strong showing against Gilman in their dual, with Gilman coming off a couple good wins, he was only able to narrowly beat Lambert. As things stand, Lambert would have to beat a good Ryan Taylor to have a shot at the semis, but I think he can be a handful for Megaludis. Not that I think he would win, but he has shown he has the ability to keep it close, and anything can happen in a close match.
Conference Finals: Delgado gets revenge over Megaludis
3rd place match: Clark over Taylor