Brackets out for NCAA mats

Don Solomon/donsolomonphotography.com
Mifflin County graduate and North Carolina State wrestler Hayden Hidlay, top, takes on Pitt’s Taleb Rahmani in the ACC tournament.

When Hayden Hidlay made his spectacular run to the 157-pound final at the 2018 NCAA Wrestling Championships, he did it as a No. 1 seed. If he wants to duplicate that run, or take one step up to the top of the podium in 2019, his path will be a bit steeper.

The NCAA released seeds and brackets Wednesday night and Hidlay, the North Carolina State sophomore, was seeded fifth. His first step in improving on his second-place finish of a year ago will be against No. 28 seed Hunter Willits (19-8) of Oregon State.

Hidlay would then face a potential Round of 16 showdown with Pitt’s Taleb Rahmani. Hidlay has beaten him twice this year, 3-2 in the dual meet and then 8-2 in the ACC final.

A potential quarterfinal matchup for Hidlay is Michigan’s Alex Pantaleo, whom Hidlay beat 10-2 in last year’s semifinals. A win there would likely mean a semifinal bout with top-seed Jason Nolf of Penn State, who decisioned Hidlay, 6-2, in last year’s finals.

Another former Mifflin County standout, Noah Stewart, is seeded No. 28 at 184 pounds. The Army West Point junior will meet No. 5 seed Max Dean (21-5) of Cornell in the first round.

Over the mountain in Happy Valley, the three-time defending champion Nittany Lions learned they had been accorded three No. 1 seeds and three No. 2 seeds as they try to win a fourth consecutive championship and eighth in the past nine years.

In addition to Nolf at 157, Mark Hall (174) and Bo Nickal (184) earned top seeds.

In the first round, Nolf will await the winner of a pigtail bout between No. 32 seed Alex Klucker (21-9) of Lock Haven and No. 33 seed Ben Anderson (8-14) of Duke.

Hall (26-0), an undefeated junior, is a two-time finalist and one-time champion. He will meet the winner of a pigtail match between No. 33 Devin Kane (15-13) of North Carolina and No. 32 Jake Covaciu (17-12) of Indiana. Hall will be on the opposite side of the bracket from the man who defeated him in last year’s final, Zahid Valencia of Arizona State, who is seeded third.

It’s no surprise that Nickal, an undefeated (25-0) senior who is a two-time defending NCAA champion and three-time finalist, is the top seed at 197. He will meet the winner of a pigtail bout between No. 33 seed Rod Jones (20-18) of Chattanooga and No. 32 Ethan Laird (19-11) of Rider.

Three Nittany Lions — junior Vincenzo Joseph (165), senior Shakur Rasheed (184) and senior Anthony Cassar (285) — earned No. 2 seeds.

Two-time defending NCAA champion Joseph (23-1), after losing his first match of the season in the Big Ten 165-pound final, was relegated to the No. 2 seed. The man who beat him, Iowa’s Alex Marinelli, snared the No. 1 seed. Joseph will meet No. 31 seed Evan Delong (16-13) of Clarion.

Despite medically forfeiting to Ohio State’s Myles Martin in the Big Ten final, undefeated (18-0) Rasheed is the No. 2 seed at 184. Martin is seeded first. Rasheed will meet No. 31 seed Kevin Parker (22-11) of Princeton.

Perhaps the most anticipated seeding decision of the 10 weights came at 285 pounds. Cassar (25-1) is seeded second behind Oklahoma State’s Derek White, who handed Cassar his only loss of the season, in January at the Southern Scuffle.

Cassar will meet No. 31 seed Zack Parker (15-12) of Ohio. He could potentially meet Minnesota’s Gable Steveson, the No. 3 seed who Cassar beat in the Big Ten finals and who also handed White his only loss, in the semifinals.

Nittany Lion sophomore Nick Lee (27-2) earned a No. 3 seed and faces No. 30 seed Nate Limmex (18-15) of Purdue.

Freshman 133-pounder Roman Bravo-Young earned a No. 10 seed. He will meet No. 23 Mario Guillen (17-3) of Ohio to open the tournament.

Freshman 149-pounder Brady Berge (18-3) is seeded No. 12. His opponent will be No. 21 seed Khristian Olivas (21-11) of Fresno State.

The first round of the NCAA Championships will start at noon March 21. Complete brackets for all 10 weights can be found at NCAA.com.

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