NCAA Tournament Previews 133 pounds

By John Fuller | March 16, 2003, 12 a.m. (ET)
The depth at the top of the 133-pound weight class is promising. There is a clear drop-off point around the fifth or sixth seed, but all of the top wrestlers have defeated each other this year. Needless to say, seeding for this weight class will not be easy. Five All-Americans return this year at 133, and all five have a legitimate chance at coming home with this title. Expect some fireworks in the quarterfinals and semifinals as some rivalries should be renewed again. The bracket should be separated into the Big Ten and Big XII, which may not be best for the fans anticipating Big Ten vs. Big XII matchups, but it all but assures a conference vs. conference final. Top Contenders Johnny Thompson (Oklahoma State) - There are many that feel that Thompson didn't deserve to win a national title last year. Those people must have forgot about Thompson throwing Lewis to his back in the finals. After some struggles this year, Thompson seems to be back on track. He has defeated the top wrestlers on his side of the bracket, which helps to make him the favorite from the top half of the bracket to advance to the finals. He is probably in the best shape of his life right now as well, which should quiet all doubters. Thompson is a threat to put any opponent on their back with his "snake" throw. Cliff Moore (Iowa) - Of any wrestler that can make a claim to a No. 1 seed at this tournament, Moore may have one of the better claims. He has wins over Thompson, two over Lewis, and others over Durden and Roberson. But, it is his early season losses which may cost him that top spot. Moore has become very effective from his feet, but the biggest difference is his defense. At the start of the year, he was giving up takedowns to anyone with a singlet. Now, he has become tough to score on, and is not making many mental mistakes. He will most likely be matched up with Lewis on the bottom half of the bracket. Moore is a proven competitor, and this may be his year to come out on top. Ryan Lewis (Minnesota) - Lewis has already lost three times as many matches as he did all of last year. This may be a good sign. He no longer has the pressure of going undefeated on his shoulders, and some don't even expect him to win a national title. That is when Lewis seems to shine. Technically, Lewis is as good as it gets, though when he is in scramble situations, he rarely seems to come out on top. Lewis may also have better stamina than anyone at this weight, but he must get back to attacking for a full seven minutes. Lately, he has become complacent in some of his matches, which may have cost him a couple of wins. If he gets back on track offensively, Lewis will be tough to stop. Witt Durden (Oklahoma) - Durden is another Sooner who is very capable of coming up with some big wins, but he has never beaten Thompson, which poses some problems. These two will most likely be on the same side of the bracket. Assuming that both make it to the semifinals, Durden's confidence has to be broken against Thompson against this point. This would be his last chance against Thompson, another motivational factor that has been used in past NCAA Tournaments. Durden seems to struggle offensively against top competition. He has a tendency to shut himself down. He must begin to realize that in his last season as a college wrestler, taking a couple of risks is what separates champions from the consolation round. Zach Roberson (Iowa State) - Roberson may be the most unlikely champion at this weight class, but he has posted wins over everyone but Moore this year. He is a little bit taller than some of the other 133-pounders. All-in-all, Roberson is a solid technician, but sometimes he is just outskilled on the mat. Being one of Iowa State's only bright spots this year, Roberson will be more motivated than ever before to perform at a high level. He is on the perfect side of the bracket if the seeds hold up. The Others Cory Cooperman (Lehigh) - The key for Cooperman is how well his knee will hold up at the NCAA Tournament. At the EIWA Championships, one of his opponents cranked his knee in the wrong direction, which caused him some problems. He has had two weeks to heal, which should help. Cooperman is tough from all positions, and fans should not be surprised to see him finish in the top four at this weight class. Josh Moore (Penn State) - Moore has posted some good wins this year, but he has had trouble against some of the top competition in the Big Ten. He has improved his technique dramatically this year, but it is still not to a championship level. He may end up on the same side of the bracket as Moore and Lewis, which means he will have to beat a top conference opponent to have a chance at a title. High-Impact Freshmen Cory Cooperman (Lehigh) NCAA Finals: Johnny Thompson (Oklahoma State) vs. Ryan Lewis (Minnesota)'s Pick: Johnny Thompson (Oklahoma State)
All-American Dark Horse: Travis Drake (Appalachian State)