NCAA Tournament Previews 157 pounds

By John Fuller | March 17, 2003, 12 a.m. (ET)
The race for the title at 157 pounds has seemed like a round-robin competition all season long, so why should the NCAA Tournament be any different? The top three seeds have all defeated each other, and the fourth has lost two close matches to those seeded ahead of him. This weight class could have a major impact on the team title as well. Luke Becker of Minnesota and Shane Roller of Oklahoma State could meet up in the finals, which could possibly help to decide the championship. This weight class is also home to some of the top freshmen in the nation. It will be a good opportunity for fans to see the level of competition that will displayed over the next few years. Top Contenders Luke Becker (Minnesota) - After a sluggish start to the season, Becker returned to his old form with a strong showing at the Big Ten Championships. The defending NCAA champion is peaking at the right time, and now it appears he will also be the top seed. The change in Becker has been very noticeable. His stamina is much better than it was two months ago, and he is being more aggressive on his feet. When Becker pursues takedowns, he usually comes out the winner. He gets himself in trouble when he plays that defensive game that he has done so many times this year. The Gophers need Becker to score big for them in this tournament. When it comes to big matches, Luke Becker the NCAA champion usually shows up. Fans shouldn't expect anything different from him this year. Keaton Anderson (Ohio State) - Anderson was the clear favorite to win the NCAA title heading into the postseason, but a torn ACL may have set that possibility back. Anderson has defeated most of the wrestlers who will earn seeds. His only loss this year is to Becker, whom he defeated at a later date. But now the injury has his All-American hopes in serious jeopardy. If he goes down with an injury, it could be a huge break for the other seeded wrestlers on his side of the bracket. Anderson will need to play some tough defense and keep opponents off his legs as much as possible. Also expect him to choose top in all of his matches when he has the choice. He can lock a cradle on just about any opponent, and that may be the best way for him to be able to get through early round matches quickly. Shane Roller (Oklahoma State) - Roller will once again enter the tournament as a championship hopeful, but all of that depends on which Shane Roller shows up. There are two versions. The first is the unbeatable, come out on top of every scramble version. The second is the sluggish, tired and non-technical version. But, Roller does have a great tendency to step it up during the postseason. He has had stellar NCAA Tournaments the last two years and will be looking to go out on top this year. He has a great opportunity ahead of him, especially if Anderson cannot make it to the semifinals. Roller's funky style may be enough to give Anderson problems anyways, just as it did with Becker. Roller may be the biggest risk taker at this weight class. Sometimes that is good and sometimes that is bad. One thing is for sure, it offers an exciting brand of wrestling for fans. Scott Owen (Northern Illinois) - Owen is the wrestler nobody wants to think about winning this title, simply because he is from the Mid-American Conference. This is one wrestler that should not be underestimated. He is dangerous on his feet and on the mat, but he has learned how to completely dominate this season. He does not wrestle the toughest schedule in the country, but he never ducks tough matches either. Owen is a solid technician on his feet. He makes fewer mistakes than most wrestlers at this weight class, which is a big reason as to how he has solidified himself as a top title contender this year. His only losses are to Becker and Anderson this year, but those should help him more than hurt him. He needed to get in experience against the top wrestlers in the country. The Others Gray Maynard (Michigan State) - Maynard will receive a lower seed because of his two losses to Anderson this year. Maynard has a rough style of wrestling. He is a grinder. He is much more physical than most at this weight class, which is the main reason he should place in the top five. This is his last go-around at this tournament, so expect him to be much more motivated. Ryan Bertin (Michigan) - This was supposed to be a big year for Bertin, but he has had trouble keeping up with some of the top dogs at this weight, mainly Becker and Maynard. Bertin is as talented as they come, but he has yet to realize his full potential. This could be a make or break tournament for him. Derek Zinck (Lehigh) - Zinck is one of the more underrated wrestlers at this weight class. He also has a physical style, and is known as a pinner. His exciting style will not only help him to make a name for himself, but it should also help his team get back into the top 10 in the nation. If fans have not heard of this freshmen yet, then they are in for a treat. Joe Johnston (Iowa) - Johnston was inserted into the Iowa lineup at mid-season, and his arrival has been nothing but a blessing for Hawkeye fans. He struggled somewhat at the Big Ten Championships, but his aggressive and attacking style should help him to become an All-American in his first postseason. High-Impact Freshmen Joe Johnston (Iowa), Mike Patrovich (Hofstra), Alex Tirapelle (Illinois), Derek Zinck (Lehigh) NCAA Finals: Scott Owen (Northern Illinois) vs. Shane Roller (Oklahoma State)'s Pick: Shane Roller (Oklahoma State)
All-American Dark Horse: Adam Britt (V.M.I.)