NCAA Tournament Previews 149 pounds

By John Fuller | March 16, 2003, 12 a.m. (ET)
Not much has changed among the top of the 149-pound weight class, unless you count the top wrestler in the country. Eric Larkin moved up in weight this season and has completely dominated his competition. Most fans will be watching the other side of the bracket, where there could be some very interesting matchups in the quarterfinals and semifinals. The winner of this weight class will get serious consideration for the tournament's Most Outstanding Wrestler. Top Contenders Eric Larkin (Arizona State) - Larkin seems primed to finally capture the national title that has eluded him for so long. Last year, he lost in the NCAA finals at 141 pounds, but moving up in weight has helped him tremendously. His stamina is much better, and he is more dominant now than at any point in his career. Larkin has destroyed all of his closest competition, including two major decision wins over Lawrence. Amazingly, Larkin actually looks big for this weight class as well. He has improved his strength, and not having to cut a lot of weight has helped him to stay focused on his goals this year. Coming in to this tournament, he knows that he is the clear favorite to win the title. Larkin has "Most Outstanding Wrestler" and Dan Hodge Award written all over him. Jared Lawrence (Minnesota) - Lawrence is the defending national champion, but he has struggled in certain matches this year (see preview for Larkin). Against other competition, Lawrence seems to be just as dominating as he was last year, but now he must get through someone to get to the title this year. It is not a role Lawrence planned to have at the start of this year. He has exceptional technical ability from his feet, and that should get him at least to the semifinals. Minnesota is looking for its third consecutive national title, and a big performance by Lawrence can only help that cause. Expect him to dominate in the early rounds and be as aggressive as possible in the later rounds. Jesse Jantzen (Harvard) - Jantzen's only loss this season is to Larkin. This season, he has 15 pins and 10 technical falls. Simply put, he has been absolutely dominating. He was stellar at last year's NCAA Tournament, placing third, but with another year under his belt, this sophomore may be ready to get to the next level. Jantzen is a great rider, and a possible matchup between him and Lawrence in the semifinals should have fans drooling. With him wrestling on the East Coast, most fans tend to forget about wrestlers like Jantzen, but come Kansas City, he should be able to remind people why he was a great high school wrestler and is in the midst of a great college career as well. Jantzen is solid and does not make many mistakes. At the same time, he does not like to sit back on his heels and let his opponents shoot on him. That aggressiveness may put Jantzen in the finals. The Others Jake Percival (Ohio) - Percival made a name for himself last year with his whooping of Iowa's Mike Zadick in the quarterfinals. Percival is a great competitor, but he just does not see enough of the top competition throughout the regular season to be considered as a serious title contender. Of course, if he gets on top in a match against any of the top three, he could prove us wrong. Jerrod Sanders (Oklahoma State) - Fans have been looking all season long for a reason to count Jerrod Sanders out as one of the top wrestlers in the country. At this point, those fans are faced with the fact that Sanderson is definitely one of the top five wrestlers in the nation. A strong performance by him could go a long ways in helping his team to capture an NCAA crown. High-Impact Freshmen Ryan Churella (Michigan), Ty Eustice (Iowa), Dustin Manotti (Cornell) NCAA Finals: Eric Larkin (Arizona State) vs. Jesse Jantzen (Harvard)'s Pick: Eric Larkin (Arizona State)
All-American Dark Horse: Ty Morgan (Central Michigan)