The quest for Penn State to repeat as Big Ten champions is set to begin Saturday morning at Purdue University.
And for the Nittany Lions, a dominant regular season has resulted in eight wrestlers ranked in the top-three of their individual weight classes going into the tournament.
The Big Ten released its pre-seeds for the 2012 conference championships and three Lions will be No. 1 seeds.
All-Americans Frank Molinaro, David Taylor and Ed Ruth are all slotted in as top-seeds in their weight classes. Collectively, the trio is 61-0 on the season and are all looking to defend Big Ten individual titles.
Quentin Wright, Cameron Wade and Dylan Alton have been voted as No. 2 seeds.
Wright is the defending national champion and is ranked second nationally behind Wyoming’s Joe LeBlanc. But Minnesota’s Kevin Steinhaus is ranked ahead of Wright for the Big Ten tournament.
Steinhaus handed Wright one of his two losses on the season, back in November.
But the defending national champion admitted it is not where you start at, but rather where you finish.
Wright was a No. 8 seed to begin last year’s Big Ten tournament before going on to win the title.
“You can’t overlook anybody,” the 184-pounder said. “You’ve got to wrestle every person, every period and every second of every match. Especially in the Big Ten.”
True freshmen Nico Megaludis and Morgan McIntosh will be No. 3 seeds in their weight classes.
Frank Martellotti and Bryan Pearsall are No. 8 seeds.
In all, the entire lineup is ranked in the top-eight of the tournament.
The Big Ten Conference has been allotted 74 qualifiers to move onto to the NCAA championships in St. Louis.
There will be six automatic bids at 125, seven at 133, five at 141, nine at 149, six at 157, eight at 165, nine at 174, seven at 184, seven at 197 and 10 at 285.
The next closest conference to the Big Ten in NCAA bids is the Big 12 with 31.
Coach Cael Sanderson said that none of the seeding for Big Tens would become official until Friday night’s coaches meeting.
The rankings for the tournament are based strictly on the coaches’ vote.
“They [The Big Ten] send you each team’s record and each team is responsible for seeding each weight class and they poll them together and add up the points,” Sanderson said of the process.
If any of coaches think there is something wrong with the seeding, they will state their case at the meeting and revote if needed. But in most instances, the seeds are pretty much set and very few changes need to be made prior to the tournament.
There is an unwritten criteria for seeding that the Big Ten coaches normally follow.
Head to head matches in the Big Ten matters the most. Sanderson said that national rankings really do not play a factor in how coaches seed.
The rest of the coaches in the conference can see each other’s ballot. This is done in an attempt to prevent anyone from voting their entire team No. 1 seeds.
But although the voting is normally done fairly, the criteria is sometimes distorted by coaches trying to gain an advantage.
“It has been consistent for the most part, it has not been 100 percent consistent in the way coaches vote but they have a rough idea of what they are supposed to do,” the coach said.
Sanderson said the Penn State coaching staff does not foresee requesting any changes come Friday night at the meeting.
But the meeting does not always go as peacefully as just accepting all the seeds.
Sanderson joked that sometimes there are some confrontations and arguments that occur, but that it is normally done in good fun and out of passion for the sport.
“Seeding is a tough thing,” the coach said. “You don’t wrestle everybody, in wrestling you beat somebody, you lose to somebody that they beat and you lost to.”