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Big Ten Wrestling Update: Results and Predictions for the NCAA Wrestling Postseason

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Warning: for True Sports Enthusiasts Only

NCAA Wrestling: DI Wrestling Championships Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

You’ve come to a Big Ten blog to read about real Big Ten sports, so we’re going to hit you with coverage of THE premier conference in THE ONLY true sport. We’re right in the thick of Big Ten Wrestling Season with five weeks left until the Big Ten Tournament. Read this to see what storylines YOU need to watch for.

What, you want some football recruiting content? You want us to analyze a bunch of data from shootyhoops? You want us to spit a bunch of numbers at you? We’ve got numbers. The numbers don’t lie, and they spell disaster for you at the Big Ten Tournament if you don’t read this primer.

125: Spencer Lee vs Sebastian Rivera and BAH GAWD A SPARTAN OUTTA NOWHERE

Matches to Watch:

  • Feb. 8th: #1 Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern) vs. #7 Rayvon Foley (Michigan State)
  • #2 Spencer Lee (Iowa) vs. Himself (Ongoing)

So yes, the most important narrative is the drama involving defending champ Spencer Lee and Sebastian Rivera. The latter is 18-0 and gave Lee his only loss in the finals at the Midlands championship, after which Lee reportedly tossed his silver medal into a trash can. Lee sat out Sunday’s dual against the Wildcats for reasons that are unclear, ducking a rematch with Rivera. This beef is far from over.

While this drama’s unfolding, however, Rayvon Foley is quietly 24-1, with a loss to undefeated Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State) as the only blemish on his record. Edinboro transfer Sean Russell (Minnesota) is 18-3 with three losses to the top 4 wrestlers in the weight class. Foley will take on Rivera next Friday; Lee’s status remains cloudy.

133: Five Big Ten Wrestlers Vying For #1

Matches to Watch:

  • Feb. 3rd: #8 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) vs #14 Ben Thornton (Purdue)
  • Feb. 10th: #4 Nick Suriano (Rutgers) vs #14 Ben Thornton
  • Feb. 15th: #1 Steven Micic vs #4 Nick Suriano
  • Feb. 24th: #3 Austin DeSanto (Iowa) vs. #5 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State)

There’s a lot of Big Ten competitors at the top of this class, with Steven Micic holding the top spot with a 9-0 record (he didn’t wrestle any of Nov/Dec tournaments for Michigan). 125lb national runner-up Nick Suriano is 15-2, with one of those losses coming to Austin DeSanto. Two-time All-American Ethan Lizak is #8 with a 19-4 record, with losses to DeSanto and #6 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State).

141: Big Ten Title Rematch On Tap

Matches to Watch:

  • Feb. 1st: #2 Joey McKenna (Ohio State) vs. #4 Mike Carr (Illinois)
  • Feb. 1st: #6 Kanen Storr (Michigan) vs. #7 Nick Lee (Penn State)
  • Feb. 8th: #2 McKenna vs. #7 Lee
  • Feb. 10th: #9 Tristen Moran (Wisconsin) vs. #4 Carr
  • Feb. 17th: #4 Carr vs. #7 Lee
  • Feb. 22nd: #2 McKenna vs. #1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell)

InterMat’s #2 wrestler at 141lb is Joey McKenna, who’s 14-0 on the year with four wins over current top-10 wrestlers (Mizzou’s Jaydin Eierman, Kanen Storr, Northern Iowa’s Josh Alber and Wisconsin’s Tristan Moran). Tomorrow night he’ll defend his position at the top of the B1G against Mike Carr in a rematch of last year’s Big Ten title match. Carr is 9-2 with two losses to Eierman.

Another major match tomorrow night will see Storr take on Nick Lee , putting records of 17-3 and 19-1 on the line. These four are the power players in this weight class, but Moran has a win over Lee and Minnesota’s Mitch McKee boasts a victory over Oklahoma State stalwart Kaid Brock and shouldn’t be slept on. Max Murin (Iowa) and Chad Red (the most aptly named Nebraska wrestler) also appear in the top 20, making eight of the top 20 in this weight class Big Ten wrestlers. Friday’s matches will have a big impact on tournament seeding.

149: There’s Still Another Jordan

Matches to Watch:

  • Feb. 3rd: #2 Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) vs. #1 Matt Kolodzik (Princeton)
  • Feb. 8th: #3 Micah Jordan (Ohio State) vs. #11 Brady Berge (Penn State)

There are really only two wrestlers vying for the top spot in this weight class: three-time All-American Anthony Ashnault, who missed all of last year with an injury, and Micah Jordan. Ashnault is 17-0 and won a 14-10 decision over Jordan at the Cliff Keen Invitational, which has been Jordan’s only loss.

Jordan is the brother of four time Buckeye All-American Bo Jordan and the cousin of four-time Wisconsin All-Amercan Isaac Jordan. He’s also the son of Ohio Congressman Jim Jordan, who won 156 matches as a Badger and two national titles but has come under fire for possible knowledge of an ongoing abuse scandal during his tenure as an assistant coach at Ohio State that he took no action to prevent or end.

Real wrestling has drama too.

157: Jason Nolf is getting lonely

Matches to Watch:

  • Feb. 1st: #1 Jason Nolf (Penn State) vs. #5 Alec Pantaleo (Michigan)
  • Feb. 3rd: #3 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) vs. #6 Ke-Shawn Hayes (Ohio State)
  • Feb. 3rd: #2 Tyler Berger (Nebraska) vs. #7 Kaleb Young (Iowa)
  • Feb. 8th: #1 Nolf vs. #6 Hayes
  • Feb. 8th: #2 Berger vs. #8 Steve Bleise (Minnesota)
  • Feb. 10th: #3 Deakin vs. #5 Pantaleo
  • Feb. 17th: #2 Berger vs. #6 Hayes
  • Feb. 22nd: #6 Hayes vs. Freddy Stroker (Cornell), because what a glorious name
  • #1 Nolf vs. Ghost of Isaiah Martinez (Illinois)

Jason Nolf is 120-4 over his career, including a loss in his redshirt year, an injury forfeit as a redshirt sophomore, and two losses to Illinois legend Isaiah Martinez as a redshirt freshman. If you disregard the injury loss, his last defeat was a 6-5 decision to Martinez in the 2016 NCAA championships. He’s one of two wrestlers to defeat Martinez; both are Nittany Lions who would become national champions.

Nolf is in search of his third straight national title, and hopes to find a worthy challenger along the way. When Martinez moved up to 165, it was basically like the part of Death Note where Kira defeats his sole challenger and operates unchecked. Here’s a short documentary about Nolf’s existential despair:

165: Vincenzo Joseph’s Reign of Terror Continues

Matches to Watch:

  • Feb. 1st: #1 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) vs. #7 Logan Massa (Michigan)
  • Feb. 3rd: #2 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) vs. #6 Isaiah White (Nebraska)
  • Feb. 17th: #2 Marinelli vs. #3 Evan Wick (Wisconsin)
  • Feb. 17th: #1 Joseph vs. Joey “Mustache” Gunther (Illinois)

The other wrestler to defeat Isaiah Martinez, Joseph went 2-3 against him for his career. However, both wins were in the national championship final. The junior has some challengers, principally Alex Marinelli. Marinelli is the only active wrestler with a victory over Joseph; Iowa and Penn State do not have a dual meet this year.

174: Oh Look, It’s Penn State Dominating Another Weight Class

Matches to Watch:

  • Feb. 1st: #1 Mark Hall (Penn State) vs. #3 Myles Amine (Michigan)
  • Feb. 8th: #9 Mike Labriola (Nebraska) vs. #11 Devin Skatzka (Minnesota)

Junior Mark Hall owns the #1 spot in this weight class with a perfect 18-0 record, including a win over Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia in a dual meet to avenge his loss at Valencia’s hands in the national championship final last year. The 2017 national champion owns an 81-4 career record. He’ll take on the closest thing he has to a challenger in Myles Amine tomorrow; Amine is 14-1 with a loss to Valencia.

184: #1 Ohio State vs #2 Penn State Is Actually Happening At Last; Delany Smiles

Matches to Watch:

  • Feb. 1st: #1 Myles Martin (Ohio State) vs. #5 Emery Parker (Illinois)
  • Feb. 8th: #1 Martin vs. #2 Rasheed Shakur (Penn State)
  • Feb. 17th: #1 Martin vs. #4 Taylor Venz (Nebraska)
  • Feb. 17th: #2 Shakur vs. #5 Parker
  • Feb. 22nd: #1 Martin vs. #10 Max Dean (Cornell)

The house of cards that was Emery Parker’s perfect record met its end by pin at the hands of Taylor Venz, leaving two undefeated wrestlers left in the league at 184: Myles Martin and Rasheed Shakur.

Martin won the national title at 174 his freshman year, but was knocked out by Parker in the second round of the 2017 tournament. 2017 also marked the last time he, or anyone for that matter, defeated Bo Nickal, whose move up to 197 is the only reason I’m even talking about Martin. Shakur started for the first time last year at 197, going 24-5, but dropped to 184 when Nickal decided he was bored with the 184lb kingdom and wanted to conquer 197 this year.

Should Martin’s record survive tonight’s match against Parker, he’ll have a week to prepare for the ensuing #1 vs #2 match that will see only one remain perfect...provided that Bo Nickal doesn’t become disgruntled, interrupt the match and pin them both at the same time.

197: Bo Nickal roams the countryside seeking a true challenger

Matches to Watch:

  • Feb. 3rd: #5 Jacob Warner (Iowa) vs. #11 Eric Schultz (Nebraska)
  • Feb. 8th: #1 Bo Nickal (Penn State) vs. #2 Kollin Moore (Ohio State)
  • Feb. 8rd: #12 Christian Brunner (Purdue) vs. #9 Nathan Traxler (Stanford)
  • Feb. 15th: #2 Moore vs. #12 Brunner
  • Feb. 24th: #5 Warner vs. #10 Dakota Geer (Oklahoma State)

Kollin Moore carries an 11-0 record and two top-four finishes at the NCAA tournament, and even defeated Rasheed Shakur to win the Big Ten title last year, but it’s hard to envision him knocking off Nickal, whose last match against a Buckeye was a first-period pin of Myles Martin to win the NCAA title at 184.

Nickal laid waste to entire cities on his way to the 184 title last year, and this year will likely be no different at 197.

Big Bois: Gable Steveson Claims His Birthright

Matches to Watch:

  • Feb. 1st: #4 Anthony Cassar (Penn State) vs. #8 Parris Mason (Michigan)
  • Feb. 2nd: #6 Youssef Hemida (Maryland) vs. #11 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin)
  • Feb. 8th: #6 Hemida vs. #3 Sam Stoll (Iowa)
  • Feb. 10th: #1 Gable Steveson (Minnesota) vs. #6 Hemida
  • Feb. 15th: #6 Hemida vs. #8 Mason
  • Feb. 17th: #3 Stoll vs. #11 Hillger
  • Feb. 24th: #3 Stoll vs. #2 Derek White (Oklahoma State)
  • Feb. 24th: #4 Cassar vs. #10 Jake Gunning (Buffalo)

Minnesota’s highly-touted freshman heavyweight Gable Steveson has quite a name to live up to. It’s hard to argue he hasn’t done this, as he’s currently #1 with a 24-0 record that includes an 8-2 decision over Derek White. His stiffest remaining test before the postseason comes in the form of Youssef Hemida, aka “The Maryland Wrestler,” on Feb. 10th.

The other contenders will have to wait until the Big Ten Tournament to get their shot at Steveson. Sam Stoll is 6-0 in his recovery from an injury; he’ll also take on Hemida and concludes the regular season with a shot at White. Anthony Cassar’s only blemish is a loss to White; tomorrow he takes on Parris Mason.

Team

Meets to Watch:

  • Feb. 1st: #1 Penn State vs. #4 Michigan
  • Feb. 3rd: #3 Iowa vs. #11 Nebraska
  • Feb. 3rd: #13 Rutgers vs. #18 Princeton
  • Feb. 8th: #1 Penn State vs. #5 Ohio State
  • Feb. 8th: #7 Minnesota vs. #11 Nebraska
  • Feb. 15th: #4 Michigan vs. #13 Rutgers
  • Feb. 17th: #5 Ohio State vs. #10 Cornell
  • Feb. 24th: #3 Iowa vs. #2 Oklahoma State

Let’s all be honest with ourselves: Penn State is most likely going to run away with the Big Ten title and the national title yet again. It’ll be their fourth in a row and their 7th in the past 8 years. Reread this whole article and look at how many absolute legends Penn State is churning out.

There exists the possibility that it doesn’t happen, however. I can’t imagine the 157, 165 or 197 weight classes going to anyone but Penn State, and 174 will likely come down to Valencia vs. Hall again. It’s certainly possible that Penn State will take the individual national championships at those four, 184 and heavyweight, which would be impossible for any team to overcome.

Iowa, Ohio State and Michigan could potentially win it, but only with some serious upsets: Here’s my predictions for each team’s NCAA Championship qualifiers:

Penn State: 9 (every weight but 125)

Iowa: 8-10 (depending on what happens with Lee, and if Mitch Bowman can qualify at 174 filling in for injured national title hopeful Michael Kemerer)

Michigan: 10 (if RS-Fr Jelani Embree is eligible at 184 and 149lb Malik Amine wins a few more)

Ohio State: 10 (only 125lb Malik Heinselman is in any danger of not making it)

Minnesota: 7-10 (165, 174, 197 questionable)

Nebraska: 8 (every weight but 133 and 149)

Rutgers: 6 (133, 149, 157, 165, 174, 184)

Wisconsin: 8 (every class but 133 and 157)

Northwestern: 6 (125, 141, 157, 165, 174, 285)

Purdue: 6 (125, 133, 157, 174, 184, 197)

Indiana: 5 (125, 141, 157, 165, 174)

Michigan State: 5 (125, 133, 174, 184, 197)

Illinois: 6 (125, 133, 141, 157, 165, 184)

Maryland: 2 (149, 285)