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Week 4 Big Ten Wrestling Wrap-up

Iowa beats Illinois handily with a Tony Cassioppi pin, Penn State sweeps Indiana and Northwestern but gets a Red Scare.

Iowa heavyweight Tony Cassioppi
Iowa heavyweight Tony Cassioppi
Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Editorial note: Please welcome old friends Atinat, He was a high school quarterback, and Kind of...but not really! They’ll be doing some previewing, recapping, and fighting over Big Ten wrestling. Thanks, guys!

As a note, all rankings are courtesy of Intermat, who do a good job and don’t charge me money to view them. Team rankings are dual rankings, not tournament.

He was a high school quarterback: There has been a lot of talk around the wrestling world about how young Cael Sanderson’s Penn State squad is, because of course there has. 90% of all NCAA wrestling coverage is Penn State and Iowa, and everyone else fights for scraps of attention. When I started looking at the matchups for this weekend’s tri-dual, I noticed that both Indiana and Northwestern were running lineups out there that were just as young.

That got me thinking and looking at other teams, and when you look around the rest of the conference, you see a lot of young, quality wrestlers. Penn State and Indiana both only have one senior and two juniors in the starting lineup. Illinois has two seniors and six sophomores in their usual lineup, although the lineup that beat OSU and Wisconsin had a freshman sub in for one of the seniors. OSU and Wisconsin only have one senior starting. Northwestern and Minnesota only have two senior starters. That’s seven out of ten, err, I mean fourteen in the league only starting 1-2 seniors. If your team wasn’t listed, either they have a normal 3-5 seniors starting or they’re Maryland and I refuse to bother myself to spend two minutes looking at their roster.

The B1G is always the dominant conference in college wrestling. With the youth movement around the league, that doesn’t appear that it will change anytime soon.

#10 Ohio State 24, #19 Michigan State 9

Atinat: Michigan State needed a lot to go their way in order to compete with Ohio State, and it did not start well for the Spartans as fifth-ranked Rayvon Foley dropped his second match of the year to fourteenth-ranked Malik Heinselman 5-4 thanks to a pair of takedowns by the Buckeye. Ohio State won each of the next three matches, though freshman Peyton Omania nearly upset #2 Sammy Sasso at 149-pounds. Michigan State won the next match in a small upset as Chase Saldate blanked Elijah Cleary, but Ohio State got major decisions from junior Ethan Smith and #3 Kaleb Romero at 165 and 174 points, respectively, to push the team lead to 20-3 and officially seal the dual victory. Favorites Layne Malczewski and Cameron Caffey gave Michigan State their second and third victories of the dual, but a major from Utah Valley-transfer Tate Orndorff closed out the dual for the Buckeyes, 24-9.

Ultimately, despite the progress made by the Michigan State program, and the set-backs faced by Ohio State, this dual was never really in question. There were enough toss-ups that it technically could’ve gone either way, but Ohio State did a great job at scoring bonus points when favored and winning their close matches, and that’s all you can ask for out of a program.

Next: MSU at Indiana with Nebraska and Rutgers (2/6); OSU at Purdue with Iowa (2/7)

#3 Penn State 24, Indiana 15

He was a high school quarterback: In Penn State’s first dual of the year after a two week COVID delay, they had a much closer match than anyone anticipated against Indiana. The match kicked off with a forfeit at 125 by Penn State, awarding six team points to the Hoosiers. Next up, third-ranked Roman Bravo-Young took on Kyle Luigs for Indiana. RBY wasn’t in danger of losing, but didn’t pick up his usual bonus points in an 11-8 victory. At 141, #2 Nick Lee had no trouble with the first of Indiana’s Rooks brothers and had no trouble cruising to a 16-1 second period tech fall.

Trailing 8-6, Indiana scored their first upset in a matchup of ranked wrestlers at 149 pounds as #10 Jarod Verkleeren of PSU took on Graham Rooks. Rooks was the early aggressor working on numerous first period shots, but Verkleeren fought them off to keep the period scoreless. Verkleeren started the 2nd period down and threw Rooks to the mat, nearly getting back points and scoring a reversal for 2-0 lead. Rooks escaped and then fought off a deep shot by Verkleeren and the second period ended 2-1. Rooks started down in the third and escaped to tie it up. Late in the third, a furious scramble near the edge of the mat ended with Rooks on top and he hung on for a 4-3 victory.

At 157 and 165, Penn State picked up comfortable decisions, but no bonus points, from #11 Brady Berge and #6 Joe Lee, 5-2 and 8-4 respectively, to take a 14-9 lead in the dual.

At 174, Indiana picked up another big upset as highly regarded recruit and fifth-ranked Carter Starocci took over the spot of long time star Mark Hall and Starocci would echo Hall’s start by also losing the first match of his career. DJ Washington of Indiana, also a freshman, started the match off with a bang by throwing Starocci for a takedown and four-point nearfall to take an early 6-0 lead. Starocci escaped, but was unable to generate any offense. Washington scored another takedown and turned Starocci again for two back points, riding Starocci out to end the 1st period with a large 10-1 margin. Washington started the 2nd period on bottom and Starocci went to work cutting into the lead, picking up a stall call on Washington and two back points to cut the lead to 10-4. He continued to work on top and late in the second grabbed another four-point nearfall. Washington’s lead was down to two. Starocci quickly escaped to start the third. Now down a single point, Starocci kept charging forward but Washington avoided both a takedown and a stall call despite being forced off the mat several times and held on for a 10-9 win.

At 184, Aaron Brooks cruised to an 18-5 major decision for Penn State. Indiana’s Nick Willham won easily at 197 against backup Levko Higgins, although Higgins scored a late takedown to keep the match to a decision at 10-3. That was potentially a big takedown as it left the match at 18-15 Penn State in the lead, so Indiana would need bonus points at heavyweight to secure a win, as Penn State owned the first tiebreaker on matches won. Last second drama was avoided as Seth Nevillis quickly scored a takedown of IU’s Rudy Streak. Nevillis worked that takedown into a 1:14 pinfall to secure the 24-15 team victory.

(Of course, here is where I point out that Illinois beat Indiana by 36 and since they don’t face Penn State in a dual this year, I’m claiming a 27 point Illinois transitive win over PSU.)

Next: Penn State vs Wisconsin (2/7, Madison) vs Wisconsin (2/2); Indiana vs Nebraska and Rutgers and Michigan State (2/6)

Indiana 18, Northwestern 16

He was a high school quarterback: At 125, #7 Michael DeAugustino and Jacob Moran actually got to wrestle since both teams had a 125-pounder. DeAugustino won 5-3 over Jacob (Get a Brain) Moran. Next up at 133, #23 Chris Cannon won an action-packed 12-10 decision over Kyle Luigs. Luigs went 0-2 on the weekend, but he showed well against a couple of hammers in Cannon and RBY. The victory might prove costly for NU as Cannon appeared to potentially pull a hammy late in the third in a potentially dangerous tie up. He limped off the mat and didn’t wrestle in the second dual.

Northwestern was looking good up 6-0 with Colin Valdiviez favored against Cade Rooks at 141. Neither wrestler scored in regulation other than one escape each, but Rooks scored a takedown to win in sudden victory and give Indiana their first victory of the dual. Yahya Thomas quickly answered for Northwestern at 149-pounds with an 8-4 victory over Graham Rooks. At 157, Indiana’s Matt Ortiz beat Maxx Mayfield in a battle of two freshman 8-3, and at 165 Indiana claimed another decision as Nick South beat David Ferrante 8-4.

At 174, DJ Washington scored another big win for his team as he got the pin against Troy Fisher with only 19 seconds remaining in the third. That broke a tie in the dual and gave Indiana a 15-9 lead. Those bonus points would prove to be the difference in the match as each team won five matches.

Next, Jack Jessen took a slim 3-2 victory for Northwestern over Drayton Harris. #11 Lucas Davison for Northwestern got a major 10-2 decision that put Northwestern in the lead and set up the heavyweight match to be the deciding match for the dual. Jacob Bullock of Indiana had an easy 8-2 decision victory over Brendan Devine and sealed the victory, 18-16.

Next: Northwestern vs Illinois (2/7)

#3 Penn State 29, Northwestern 13

He was a high school quarterback: The dual began with a Penn State forfeit as they had no one healthy to wrestle at 125. Many people were anxious to see highly touted frosh Robbie Howard make his debut, but I guess wrestling fans will have to keep waiting. Brandon Meredith is listed at 125 on Penn State’s roster, but he wrestled extra matches at 141, so that’s not happening. Northwestern picked up 6 team points for the forfeit.

Next up, Roman Bravo-Young dominated Dylan Utterback, who was filling in for possibly injured starter Chris Cannon. RBY was much too fast for Utterback(up) and had a substantial lead from seven takedowns before getting the pinfall at 3:48 and knotting the dual at 6. Nick Lee, Penn State’s lone senior, took the mat next against Frankie Tal-Shahar. Frankie put up a good fight and lasted all seven minutes, but dropped the major decision 12-2.

At 149, Cael held back his #15 ranked starter Jarod Verkleeren and had Terrell Barraclough go against #17 Yahya Thomas. Barraclough played defense hard and ended up losing 3-2 in a hard fought match.

At 157, freshman Maxx Mayfield continues to fill in for #1 ranked Ryan Deakin going against #11 Brady Berge. Berge coasted to a comfortable 12-7 win and Penn State was leading 13-9 as the dual switched over to the heavier weights.

Next up is the match that gets my vote for the most entertaining match of the weekend. Penn State’s #6 ranked freshman Joe Lee (aka No, not that Lee, the other Lee) took on freshman David Ferrante. Lee was a heavy favorite in his collegiate debut.

Wrestlestat predicted a 19-4 tech fall win for Lee and after he scored a takedown 30 seconds into the match and tacked on an early minute of riding time, it looked like he would cruise. Ferrante then reversed Lee to get back into the match. Lee immediately reversed Ferrante to regain his 2 point lead at 4-2. Ferrante got an escape but also gave up a penalty point, which would end up being crucial. Ferrante started the second period on bottom and gained a reversal to tie the match 5-5. The underdog Wildcat then rode Lee out to erase Lee’s riding time advantage and Lee picked up a stall call to give Ferrante a 6-5 lead to start the third period. Lee had enough of Ferrante riding him and chose neutral to start the third. After a single leg shot by Ferrante, Lee countered. Ferrante fought him off initially, but Lee kept working and after nearly half a minute of working it, Lee gained the go-ahead takedown. Ferrante escaped with 20 seconds left to tie the match at 7, but Lee’s ride on top had lasted long enough for him to surpass the one-minute mark of riding, scoring a point and taking the match 8-7.

Another highly-touted freshman took the mat for Penn State at 174, as #5 Carter Starocci took on Troy Fisher. The next superstar for Penn State didn’t look particularly impressive as he managed a single takedown plus an escape and a stall call on Fisher for a 4-1 win, his first of his collegiate career. Third-ranked Aaron Brooks earned a tech fall victory over Jack Jessen, pushing the team score to 24-9.

At 197, Penn State ducked another ranked Northwestern grappler as back-up Donovan Ball took on #11 Lucas Davison. Davison had little trouble with the Nittany Lion and gained a 12-3 major decision.

In the shaved bear weight class, Nevillis picked up a 24-9 second period tech fall to close the dual.

#1 Iowa 36, #9 Illinois 6

He was a high school quarterback: Iowa continued their dominance against Illinois. Spencer Lee did Spencer Lee things and got a first period pin against #15 Cardani in the first of several ranked matchups. Lucas Byrd and Austin DeSanto both were high motor guys getting after their offense, but DeSanto finished his attacks for an 18-6 major decision. #12 Dylan Duncan looked competitive against #1 Eierman, but trailed 5-3 when Eierman locked in a cradle and pinned Duncan in the third period for a 16-0 Iowa lead after only three matches.

#8 Max Murin (Iowa) defeated #9 Mikey Carr in a highly anticipated matchup of top ten grapplers. It was a typical Murin match as Carr never got close to a takedown and Max scored a late third-period takedown to win 3-1. #5 Kaleb Young (Iowa) defeated Johnny Mologousis by MD, 13-4.

Illinois scored their first takedown of the match as two backups battled at 165 and true freshman Luke Odom (Illinois) scored a decision victory 10-6. #1 Michael Kemerer responded for the Hawkeyes, majoring DJ Shannon 10-2.

184-pounds brought the second highly-anticipated matchup of the dual as #6 Nelson Brands and #13 Zac Braunagel met. Braunagel beat Brands at Midlands in a close fought match 3-2 last year. Both wrestlers used head snaps and heavy hand defense, and neither wrestler got close to scoring in regulation other than an escape each. In sudden victory, Brands got in on a single leg and Braunagel did the splits to avoid the takedown. Brands gathered up again and dove at the free leg and Zac split it out again and avoided the takedown. Back to the center, Braunagel got in on a single, Brands tried to go behind, but Braunagel reached for Brand’s leg and secured the takedown for a 3-1 sudden victory.

#4 Jacob Warner (Iowa) blanked Matt Wroblewski 4-0. At HWT, Tony Cassioppi earned the OTE OWW! Award by pinning #5 Luke Luffman with a cradle in the second period to complete the Iowa destruction of Illinois 36-6.

Atinat: First, the positives: Lee looked absolutely phenomenal against a talented (and flexible) opponent, earning his third first-period fall in as many matches. Desanto fought through literal shots to the chin to dominate his foe. Eierman finally locked his patented cradle and earned a fall. Max Murin secured an important victory where he always looked in control, and he is showing confidence at his new weight class. Cassioppi had by-far his best performance of this young year.

But there were disappointments, too. Obviously not seeing Marinelli sucks, and it sounds like he’s going to be missing possibly three duals over the next two weekends as well, as Brands said something about “17 days” during the post-dual presser. Joe Kelly looked pretty rough, and I’d be surprised to see him start next week. And Nelson Brands. Man. That was a tough match to watch. As my colleague mentioned, both wrestlers were content to lay heavy hands and work upper body ties rather than shooting on the legs for the first seven minutes. One thing I noticed Max Murin doing really well even when he couldn’t finish was setting up multi-level shots. He’d fake at the double, then go around for an ankle pick. There was none of that from Brands. The shots he took were rudimentary, and that isn’t going to work against Big Ten talent. He looked the better wrestler in sudden victory, landing two nice shot attempts, and very nearly getting a takedown on the edge of the mat before Braunagel pulled his ankle out from under himself. He ended up giving up the winning takedown by taking a sloppy re-shot, not moving his feet enough to clear danger and earn the two himself. Still a lot to learn, but this weight is going to have ups and downs for just about everyone in it.

Next: Iowa at Purdue with Ohio State (2/7); Illinois at Minnesota (2/5) and at Northwestern (2/7)

#16 Minnesota 31, #25 Purdue 4

Atinat: Minnesota absolutely dominated a dual that projected to be close on paper. But you don’t wrestle on paper! Pat McKee set the pace for the Gophers at 125 pounds, knocking off #6 Devin Schroder 5-3. Boo Dryden won the 133-pound bout 6-2 over freshman Jake Rundell, and Marcos Polanco knocked off #20 Parker Filius 3-2 thanks to a first-period takedown. Michael Blockhus held a 4-2 lead before Purdue’s Alec White had to bow out of the 149-pound match due to injury, giving Minnesota a 15-0 lead.

In a top-10 bout at 157 pounds, #6 Brayton Lee used a first-period takedown and a slow, defensive pace to hold off seventh-ranked Kendall Coleman and keep Purdue off of the scoreboard, winning the match 3-2. Andrew Sparks controlled Gerrit Nijenhuis 7-3 at 165 pounds, and Minnesota won two close toss-ups at 174 and 184 pounds to grow their lead to 27-0. Thomas Penola finally put Purdue on the board with a 14-4 major decision over Garrett Joles, but Jamarcus Grant couldn’t slow down top-ranked Gable Steveson, succumbing to a technical fall. Five matches were decided by 2 or fewer points, and all five went the Gophers’ way.

Next: Minnesota vs Illinois (2/5); Purdue vs Iowa and Ohio State (2/7)

#16 Minnesota 21, #18 Rutgers 18

Atinat: Bonus points made all the difference for the Gophers in their matchup with the hosting Scarlet Knights. Pat McKee kicked things off with a third-period pin of Nic Aguilar to give Minnesota a 6-0 lead, and they only gave up one bonus point against a pair of top ten wrestlers in sixth-ranked Sammy Alvarez and fourth-ranked Northwestern transfer Sebastian Rivera, coming from Rivera’s 14-3 major of Marcos Polanco. Mike Van Brill was able to upset Michael Blockhus at 149 to give Rutgers a 10-6 lead, but Brayton Lee scored his second victory of the day over Robert Kanniard, and Andrew Sparked scored a major decision over Brett Donner to put the Gophers up 13-10.

Jackson Turley, an unranked sophomore, teched Jake Allar to put Rutgers back on top, but Owen Webster earned his second victory of the day over John Poznanski to answer for Minnesota, reclaiming the lead 16-15. Garrett Joles dropped a 6-4 decision to Billy Janzer, setting this dual up for a heavyweight finish, but Gable Steveson mauled his Rutgers counterpart 17-2, earning the five-point tech fall and a 21-18 team victory. Both sides won five matches, but a pin for the Gophers proved the difference. Each team had an additional three bonus points in the form of a tech and a major decision.

Next: Rutgers at Indiana with Michigan State and Nebraska (2/7)

#25 Purdue 18, #18 Rutgers 15

Atinat: Again Rutgers was defeated by bonus points in an even dual, this time by the rebounding Boilermakers. Like McKee, Devin Schroder also pinned Nic Aguilar to give his team a 6-0 lead, and like Minnesota, they did not roll over for the lightweight one-two punch that Rutgers offers. Alvarez defeated Jake Rundell by a dominant score of 6-0, but fell short of a major decision, and Rivera had to hold off a strong third-period push by Filius to win 7-6. Purdue’s Griffin Parriott won a toss-up against Mike Van Brill, and Kendall Coleman added three more over Robert Kanniard. Gerrit Nijenhuis blanked Andrew Clarked 5-0 at 165 to keep the train rolling for Purdue, but a toss-up victory for Jackson Turley and Rutgers finally stopped the bleeding and left the team score at 15-9 for the Boilermakers.

#18 John Pozanski used that momentum to win his own toss-up match against #12 Max Lyon at 184 pounds, but a Thomas Penola victory over Billy Janzer all but locked up the Purdue win. Rutgers heavyweight Boone McDermott was able to score a 3-1 decision over Jamarcus Grant, but it wasn’t enough as the Scarlet Knights fell 18-15. The only three bonus points all night came from the 125-pound pin, and Rutgers is going to have a really hard time winning these close duals if they can’t turn their talent in the lightweights into three or four bonus points each dual.

#10 Ohio State 41, Maryland 0

Atinat: Ohio State earned pins at 125, 149, and 285 pounds. Chase Singletary needed sudden victory to defeat Jaron Smith at 197 pounds, and three other matches were within two points. Maryland is really bad. This was Ohio State’s first shutout of a Big Ten opponent since 1971! Maryland is really bad.

Next: Maryland idle, at Indiana (2/14)


Outstanding Wrestler of the Week goes to Tony Cassioppi of the Iowa Hawkeyes. Two weeks ago, Luke Luffman made a huge jump up the rankings by winning against the #5 and #6 ranked wrestlers in the nation in a single day. Now ranked #6, the hometown kid from Urbana set his sights on #3 Tony Cassioppi.

We got to see just how wide a chasm there is between the top four heavyweights in the nation and the rest.

Cassioppi was completely dominant over the upstart Illini big man. Big Cass scored an early first period takedown and then put an incredibly heavy ride on. He worked Luffman’s right shoulder hard as he rode the first period out for a 2-0 lead with two minutes of riding time. He started on bottom and immediately escaped to go up 3-0. Cass would then go right back to that right side early in the second period. Luffman had nothing left to fight off a standing side cradle by Tony C, and the Hawkeye took him straight to the mat. Luffman vainly tried to keep his hip from flipping, but it only took a few more seconds for Cassioppi to put Luffman flat on his back for the pin.

Cassioppi’s total domination of a top ten wrestler on roll earns him the OWW award for this week!

Upset of the Week

Donnell (DJ) Washington had a big weekend and earned our Upset Special for the weekend.

DJ had a quick start against the fifth-ranked true freshman phenom from Penn State, Carter Starocci. He took a shot right off the opening whistle and threw Starocci to his back for a takedown and a four point nearfall. He added another first period takedown and two more backpoints in the first to have a 10-1 lead. Carter Starocci was nearly as dominant in the second to close the gap to 10-8. Starocci got an escape in the third, but that was all he could muster and DJ Washington holds on by his fingertips 10-9 for the Upset Special of the Week.