The National Collegiate Duals are back! Penn State and Iowa join ten other teams in a quest to prove themselves the best dual-format team in the country, starting Monday, December 20th and finishing the following day.
So how does it work?
The event, sponsored by Rokfin and Journeymen Wrestling, will consist of four three-team pods, with the four pods divided into two pools. Action will start with a round-robin tournament, where each team will wrestle the other two in their pod. Then, the pod winners will face the other pod winner in their pool. Likewise, the pod runners-up will wrestle for 3rd, and last places for 5th. Unfortunately, there will be no cross-pool action, presumably to keep it as non-conference as possible, so Iowa cannot wrestle Penn State, and neither can Mizzou wrestle UNI, NC State wrestle Virginia Tech, or Lehigh wrestle Cornell.
Unlike a more traditional individual tournament, a wrestler does not advance solely based on their own performance. In fact, a wrestler could go 0-3 and win the title, if the team around them continues to win. Conversely, I can almost guarantee a few wrestlers will go 2-0 and wrestle for 3rd or 5th instead of a championship.
The event will begin Monday, December 20th, and the knockout rounds will continue on the 21st. The duals will be held at NW Florida State College in Fort Walton Beach, and is only available to watch on Rokfin’s streaming service, which requires a $10 monthly subscription and a $10 PPV fee for the event.
The Iowa Pod (#1 Iowa Hawkeyes, #21 Lehigh, Central Michigan) - Blue Pool
Atinat: Iowa should be the heavy favorite in this pod, regardless of who goes at 125 and 174 (where neither Lee nor Kemerer has wrestled yet this year). If Iowa sends all ten starters, I would only give Lehigh a shot at 157 pounds. Jordan Wood is one of the few guys that Cassioppi has not yet wrestled, but I’d still favor Slim Tony by a wide margin. Likewise, Central Michigan is going to need a major upset somewhere to score on the Hawks. All-American Matt Stencel is probably their best shot, as he pinned Cassioppi at the 2019 Midlands, but he did lose the rematch 5-1 at the following Midlands.
Lehigh matches up well with the Chippewas, who only have three ranked wrestlers. CMU’s Dresden Simon, eighth-ranked at 141, is the only Central Michigan wrestler with a higher ranking than his Lehigh foe. #19 Johnny Lovett at 157 has #10 Josh Humphreys of the Mountain Hawks, and #9 Matt Stencel has #8 Jordan Wood, but both of those matches are winnable. Lovett was denied a chance to wrestle Humphreys due to a medical forfeit from the latter at the Journeyman Classic this year, but Stencel did get a shot at Wood at the same tournament, falling 3-1. Neither team has a ranked wrestler at 174, 184, or 197 pounds, so all of those three should be tossups. Still, Central Michigan is going to win every tossup to have a chance.
The pod will start with Lehigh and Central Michigan at 3PM Central, followed by CMU and the Hawkeyes at 5PM, and Iowa and Lehigh at 7PM.
I am an Iowa fan, so it doesn’t need explaining that I have some bias, but I like the way Iowa lines up with the field in a dual format. That said, I’d feel a whole lot better with some news on the Lee and Kemerer front. If the Hawkeyes draw the Wolfpack in the title match, they’d need strong showings at 125 and 174. NC State has #5 Jakob Camacho at 125 and #5 Hayden Hidlay at 174. Hidlay was a three-time All-American at 157 pounds before jumping up to 174 this year. NC State should also be favored at 149, where they have third-ranked Tariq Wilson (a two-time All-American), and at 184 pounds, where third-ranked Trent Hidlay is looking to build upon his second-place finish as a sophomore at last year NCAAs. Without Lee or Kemerer, I’d give Iowa a 20-14 edge here, but with them, I’d say more like 27-7.
Mizzou could also surprise the Wolfpack, but Iowa matches up much better with them. Only 165-pounder Keegan O’Toole and 197-pounder Rocky Elam are top-five, and Iowa has good wrestlers at both of those weights. I’d give Iowa a 24-12 edge sans Lee and Kemerer, and 32-6 with them.
Should Iowa win the pool, they’ll wrestle in the championship match at 6PM on Tuesday.
The NC State Pod (#5 NC State, #10 Mizzou, Binghamton) - Blue Pool
Atinat: Both teams begin with the Bearcats, and there isn’t much to say there. Both teams could conceivably shut them out, and the only matches to watch for are at 197 pounds, where each team fields a top-20 wrestler. But, assuming both teams take care of business, it sets up a 1PM dual for the pod championship.
The two teams only have one unranked starter between them, so this should be a high-quality dual. The Wolfpack are favored in the first two matches, before a tossup gives the Tigers a chance to get back into the dual. Ryan Jack is a freshman, and he and Allan Hart have never wrestled. NC State is a heavy favorite again at 149 pounds, but Mizzou should be able to get points back from junior Jarrett Jacques, a three-time national qualifier. He faces Ed Scott, another freshman. Then, last year’s third-place finisher Keegan O’Toole, still a freshman, could have a chance to tie the scoreboard against #15 Thomas Bullard. NC State is favored with the Hidlay brothers in the next two matches, but neither Mizzou sophomore is a pushover. Then, Mizzou is favored in the final two duals, and if everything goes chalk, we could have a 5-5 tie. If it comes down to bonus points, I like NC State a little more, but I think a lot of the young Mizzou wrestlers have real shots at upsets. Give me the Tigers. The winner will get to wait for the next 6 hours to see who comes out of the Iowa pod.
Blue Pool winner
This poll is closed
Iowa over Mizzou
Iowa over NC State
The Penn State Pod (#2 Penn State Nittany Lions, #11 Cornell, Northern Iowa) - Red Pool
Kind of...: Yeah, um, you should cheer for Northern Iowa. They constantly over-perform despite sharing a state with Iowa (and Iowa State) and Cedar Falls is right next to Waterloo, which gave us Dan Gable. That said, the Panthers aren’t beating Penn State, and would need a couple of upsets to take down Cornell.
Penn State should have little trouble winning the pod. I mean, just look at the lineup. With six different wrestlers in the top 4 at their weights, they’d have a fair shot at winning even if they forfeited the other four weights. So, you should be watching for compelling individual matches, especially in the PSU/Cornell dual. I wish there were more, but don’t miss Arujau/RBY at 133. And, even though Nick Lee will steamroll Handlovic at 141, keep watching just to see if Bartlett gives Yianni any trouble. He probably won’t, but Yianni isn’t always a dominant wrestler.
As for the Panthers, I wish Brody Teske was going to get more of a challenge at 125, but his resume doesn’t figure to get much of a bump. Not so with Parker Keckeisen. He should notch a quality win over Loew, and gets a crack at Brooks, who is among the very best in America at any weight.
Looking ahead, PSU/ASU could be a dynamite matchup if the Sun Devils can get past Virginia Tech. If that happens, and the Sun Devils limit PSU’s bonus points, it could come down to a #3 vs. #4 matchup at HWT. And Cornell/Virginia Tech really stacks up well in terms of entertainment value. There would be five ranked matchups, and 133, 141, and 174 all would be must see. UNI/Hofstra would be less compelling, but 184 and HWT would be worth catching. Again, poor Brody Teske.
The Arizona State Pod (#6 ASU, #9 Virginia Tech, Hofstra) - Red Pool
Atinat: Both teams should roll over Hofstra, but the contest between Arizona State and Virginia Tech should be a fierce one. The Sun Devils are favored in seven of ten duals on paper, but 141 and 149 could be rated at tossups, and the Hokies stand a chance at winning the bonus points battle.
NCAA runner-up Brandon Courtney is favored over defending ACC champ Sam Latona, as Latona has had a rough start to the season, but this match could still go either way. ACC champion and NCAA fourth-place finisher Korbin Myers is a similar favorite over all-American Michael McGee. 141 is pretty much a tossup, with the edge going to the undefeated freshman Jesse Vasquez. 149 is obviously the premier match of the dual, with third-year freshman Kyle Parco going against third-year sophomore Bryce Andonian. Parco, then with Fresno State, defeated Andonian 7-4 in the blood rounds last year to clinch all-American status. #3 Jacori Teemer is a big favorite against Connor Brady, and if all goes according to plans for the Sun Devils, they should be up big at the break.
Their momentum can continue with a favorable matchup at 165 pounds, where #6 Anthony Valencia gets an unranked foe. Then, Virginia Tech gets two such matches of their own, with #4 Mekhi Lewis and #9 Hunter Bolen favored at 174 and 184 pounds. Kordell Norfleet is a big favorite again for the Sun Devils, and then a potentially decisive heavyweight bout sees All-American Cohlton Schultz against familiar foe Nathan Traxler. Traxler is a Stanford transfer, and he lost to Schultz twice last year: first in the Pac-12 tournament, then in the blood rounds of the national tournament by fall in 0:44. Schultz is a big favorite, but Traxler is sure to come into this with a chip on his shoulder.
The heavier weights will be more about bonus points, and if Arizona State can win the four lightweight matches they’re favored in, it won’t matter. But if Virginia Tech can hang around, they will have opportunities to steal this one away. Winner probably gets Penn State though.
Red Pool winner
This poll is closed
Penn State over ASU
Penn State over VT