The NCAA Wrestling Championships get started Thursday at Chesapeake Energy Arena with the pigtails and first-round matches getting underway at 11 a.m.
Upsets and shocking finishes tend to highlight the early rounds, but with action going on across eight mats, it can be easy to miss a match.
If you need something to look forward to at each weight class, here’s 10 first-round matches worth watching:
125 — Match No. 23: (7) Ryan Taylor, Wisconsin vs. Jared Germaine, Eastern Michigan. Germaine is 20-2 in his senior season and gave the fifth-seeded Dylan Peters of Northern Iowa a close match in the MAC Championships finals. He’s a tough draw for a freshman, even one as impressive as Taylor.
133 — Match No. 34: (4) Jon Morrison, Oklahoma State vs. James Gulibon, Penn State. Morrison has put together a stellar season at 25-1, but the 17-13 Gulibon gave him a tough match during a two-point loss in February.
141 — Match No. 51: (3) Zain Retherford, Penn State vs. Ugi Khisignyam, The Citadel. Retherford has been one of the most impressive freshmen in the country all season, but could he have received a tougher draw than Khishignyam? The sophomore is 42-6 in his career and took fourth last season.
149 — Match No. 63: (5) Jason Tsirtsis, Northwestern vs. Bryce Busler, Bloomsburg. Tsirtsis has had a great freshman season, which includes winning a tough Big Ten Tournament, but Busler proved he can beat anyone with an upset over Oklahoma national champion Kendric Maple earlier this season.
157 — Match No. 77: (9) Dylan Ness, Minnesota vs. Spartak Chino, Ohio. Ness hasn’t finished worse than fourth in two previous trips to the tournament, but he’s seeded ninth after recently struggling with injuries. Most importantly for the fans, Ness’ style makes him one of the most exciting wrestlers in the country to watch.
165 — Match No. 103: (7) Pierce Harger, Northwestern vs. Zach Toal, Missouri. Somehow Toal got left out in the seeding process, but it resulted in this great first-round match between two wrestlers with a lot of tournament experience. Harger is making is third appearance and Toal his fourth.
174 — Match No. 114: (4) Michael Evans, Iowa vs. Bryce Hammond, CSU-Bakersfield. Hammond has spent time in the top 10 and has closed the season strong. Evans is still a big favorite here, but it shouldn’t be a walk in the park.
184 — Match No. 127: (5) Ethen Lofthouse, Iowa vs. Vic Avery, Edinboro. Another tough first-round draw for the Hawkeyes, who need the two-time All-American Lofthouse to have a solid tournament. Plus, it’s a chance to possibly see Edinboro’s awesome kilt-themed singlet.
197 — Match No. 143: (5) Kyven Gadson, Iowa State vs. Abram Ayala, Princeton. Ayala is Princeton’s lone competitor in the tournament, so if you enjoy the underdogs, here’s a major one. As for Gadson, look for him to take the mat with something to prove after receiving a disappointing seed.
285 — Matches No. 155-170: All of them could provide late excitement or an upset. Things have a tendency to remain tight in heavyweight matches, but this year the weight class seems more wide open than ever as everyone has at least two losses.