NCAA Tournament Previews 125 pounds

By John Fuller | March 16, 2003, 12 a.m. (ET)
125 pounds is a very deep weight class. Realistically, as many as 15 wrestlers will be vying for All-American status. Once the first round is out of the way, this weight class should become one of the most exciting to watch. Eight All-Americans return to this year's NCAA Tournament, but with some new faces jumping into the mix with high hopes, there will be some very good wrestlers going home without an All-American plaque. Top Contenders Chris Fleeger (Purdue) - Fleeger is one of the top young athletes in the nation. He is only a sophomore, but has quickly learned how to be a dominant force at the collegiate level. He possesses remarkable quickness, speed and technique on the mat. Pound-for-pound, he could be the top wrestler in the country. Fleeger was an All-American last year and has proven that he can compete at a high level at any point in the season. This tournament should be no exception. He has been waiting a full year for this opportunity again. Don't expect Fleeger to be an early casualty. Travis Lee (Cornell) - Last season, Lee would have easily qualified for the "All-American Darkhorse" distinction. This year, he has been only one of two wrestlers to go undefeated at this weight class. His dominating performance over NCAA finalist Luke Eustice of Iowa at the Midlands solidified his role this year. If Lee wrestlers the way he did at the EIWA Championships, he will have a hard time placing in the top four. His quickness is unmatched, and he is tough from his feet, but he needs to be more persistent on offense at times. If he wrestles like he has for most of this season, he is going to be tough to beat in this tournament. Ben VomBaur (Boise State) - When people are talking about national champions, they seem to always forget about VomBaur. His tall and lanky frame make him a threat to win any match. VomBaur is a very good mat wrestler, but can be shut down on his feet. If he can become more of an offensive threat to score the big takedown when he needs it, then he will be trouble when the semifinals and quarterfinals roll around. VomBaur will most likely be on the same side of the bracket as Lee, which could pose an interesting semifinal. But remember, this is a deep weight class. It will be tough just to make it to the semifinals. The Others A.J. Grant (Michigan) - Grant drops down to "The Others" category simply because of his three losses, two by pin, to Fleeger this year. He seems to have returned to his All-American form from two years ago, and has been on a hot streak since mid-January. Grant could end up as a finalist, but he will have to kill an old demon to do it: Fleeger. Nick Simmons (Michigan State) - Simmons, only a freshman, still needs to improve technically on his feet to become a national title contender. He has taken college wrestling by storm this year. Simmons is a great mat wrestler. Just ask anyone who was spladled by him this year. When he becomes comfortable enough on his feet to take shot after shot, this kid could become unstoppable. Bo Maynes (Oklahoma) - Maynes is a wrestler who could slip under someone's radar. Given Oklahoma's recent history in the NCAA Tournament, this senior could be in the NCAA finals. Maynes has posted wins over some All-American hopefuls, and some close losses to others. He is a very consistent wrestler and should not disappoint Sooner fans. Luke Eustice (Iowa) - Eustice was an NCAA finalist last year, but could not keep the momentum this season. He has been destroyed by some of the top wrestlers in the nation, which does not bode well for his prospects in this year's postseason. With only seven wrestlers in the tournament, the Hawkeyes need Eustice to score some big wins again this year. But is his confidence shaken? High-Impact Freshmen Nick Simmons (Michigan State), Matt Valenti (Pennsylvania) NCAA Finals: Chris Fleeger (Purdue) vs. Travis Lee (Cornell)
TheMat.com's Pick: Travis Lee (Purdue)
All-American Dark Horse: Matt Valenti (Pennsylvania)
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