NCAA Tournament Previews 141 pounds

By John Fuller | March 16, 2003, 12 a.m. (ET)
The competitors at 141 pounds have slowly taken each other out as the season has gone on. Two true freshmen now control the top two seeds, a rarity in college wrestling. Incredibly, they are in the same conference and wrestle for in-state rivals. Outside of the top three wrestlers, the field seems very narrow at this weight. But, last year, Aaron Holker came out of nowhere to win an NCAA title. This weight has proven in the past that anything can happen at the NCAA Tournament. Top Contenders Teyon Ware (Oklahoma) - Ware was pulled out of redshirt at mid-season, and he has been the most dominating wrestler in the nation at this weight class since. He has since posted three wins against Esposito and another over defending champion Aaron Holker of Iowa State. Pay no attention to Ware's early season losses. He is the real deal and will contend for this title. Ware has a stout body, but his quickness is deceiving. His two best attributes are his strength and his technical skill on his feet. Ware has improved greatly this year at finishing his takedown attempts, which is the main reason he is now the top wrestler in the nation. His toughest opponent may be Jason Mester of Central Michigan, someone he is yet to see. Ware only struggles against first-time opponents, so it is possible he could go down in the quarterfinals or semifinals. Zack Esposito (Oklahoma State) - Esposito jumped into the spotlight early on this season with his flare for the dramatic and his fantastic pinning ability. He has only one flaw: defense. Esposito has been put on his back plenty of times this year, but he does not panic, which is how he has come out on top of all of those matches. His only three losses this year are to Ware, and the matches seem to get further apart with each meeting. Esposito has a tough time scoring on Ware, and it is not a competitor he can easily put to his back, which may frustrate this youngster. Esposito needs to be more patient in this tournament. He is a key piece to his team's title puzzle, and a top three finish is important for him. Esposito has a quality that you just don't find in everyone: a desire to win at all costs. He has proven that this season, but at the risk of sounding like Mr. Miagi, he must learn how to channel that desire and use it to his advantage. Dylan Long (Northern Iowa) - Long is still upset with his performance at last year's NCAA Tournament when he was pounded by Holker before getting defeated in the consolation round. Long has made great strides from last year to this year. He will most likely be matched up with Esposito in the semifinals, a meeting that could be to his advantage. Long has lost twice this year to Esposito, but the second one was much closer than the first. Those meetings benefited Long more than they did Esposito. His body type is similar to that of Esposito, and Long is very good from the top position. Expect Long to score a lot of back points throughout this tournament, possibly even in the semifinals if he makes it there. The Others Aaron Holker (Iowa State) - Holker is the defending national champion, but like last year's regular season, he has lost a lot of matches and struggled at a lot of points. Maybe that means he is right on track. Technically, Holker seems to have taken steps backwards this year. He struggled immensely in the Big XII Championships and his hope is that it doesn't carry over to the NCAA Tournament. Dana Holland (Arizona State) - Holland is a great athlete, and he seemed to be the most dominating 141-pounder at mid-season, but he has struggled to score points since. Holland must get back to his attacking style that he showed earlier this year in order to get into the top four in the nation. His downfall is that when he falls behind in matches, he has a tendency to shut himself down. He cannot let that happen in this tournament. Jason Mester (Central Michigan) - Mester has slowly moved up the contender's list this season. He has yet to post any significant wins in his career, but he dominates competition when he is supposed to. Mester may be a good match up for someone of Ware's caliber. They have contrasting body types and wrestling styles. Mester is a little taller and he has gotten very good at finishing his takedowns. This is a name to remember going in to this tournament. Phillip Simpson (Army) - Simpson may be the most underrated wrestler in the country. When he gets on top, he has a great series of tilts he likes to use, and can get them on just about anyone. But on his feet, he has improved a lot this year as well. Simpson has a good low-single leg that he likes to score on. This is a wrestler that could shove his way into the top four in the nation. High-Impact Freshmen Zack Esposito (Oklahoma State), Teyon Ware (Oklahoma), Josh Wooten (Northern Illinois) NCAA Finals: Teyon Ware (Oklahoma) vs. Dylan Long (Northern Iowa)'s Pick: Dylan Long (Northern Iowa)
All-American Dark Horse: Derek Phillips (Minnesota)