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.
Atinat: Thursday, the NCAA released the pre-allocations for the tournament and the first coaches rankings of the season, giving us the first glance at what the NCAAs will look like this year. Pre-allocations are automatic bids given out in addition to the conference champion as a reward for conference tournament placement. The Big Ten received seven pre-allocations (eight bids total) at all weights but 149 and 285, who each have six, and 197, which has five.
Ordinarily, the pre-allocations are calculated using a complicated formula that takes into account many factors that simply wouldn’t be fair this year, like winning percentage (which would disadvantage Big Ten-only wrestlers) and coaches’ rankings (which would disadvantage underclassmen who haven’t gotten to prove themselves at national tournaments). Instead, this year they were calculated simply by averaging the last five years’ pre-allocations for each conference. As we get into the coaches poll, we will see how that creates some disparities. In addition to pre-allocations and automatic bids for champions, each weight will have six or seven at-large bids to get it to 33 wrestlers total.
In the coaches rankings, the Big Ten has the number one wrestler at seven of ten weights, representing five different schools. Iowa leads the country with three number ones, being Spencer Lee (125), Jaydin Eierman (141), and Michael Kemerer (174). Penn State, Ohio State, Nebraska, and Minnesota all have a top-ranked wrestler as well. The Big Ten has twelve ranked (top 33) wrestlers at 125 pounds, seven at 133, eight at 141, twelve at 149, nine at 157, ten at 165, eleven at 174, ten at 184, eight at 197, and eight at 285. Those who haven’t wrestled yet this year aren’t ranked, including Stevan Micic, Ryan Deakin, and Myles Amine, among others, who could all be top-rated guys. If the tournament were to start today, only 133-pounds would have more guys allocated out of the Big Ten than ranked. Everywhere else, we’ll have top guys fighting for at-large bids, and we could see as many as four or five at-large bids in a single weight go to the Big Ten. So, is this too flawed? Or as good as we can expect given the abbreviated season? I’m leaning towards the latter, but let me know what you think.
#12 Ohio State at #2 Michigan (Friday, 6PM on BTN)
HWAHSQB: Hey, Maize and Blue Fans!!! Here’s your chance to beat on an Ohio State University!!! If that doesn’t put a little starch in your ole babymaker, I don’t know what will. With #1 Iowa and # 3 Penn State postponed, I suppose this becomes the marquee match of the weekend. Although I don’t believe the final score will be close, there will be some fine matchups with as many as six matchups of ranked grapplers, with three of those featuring top six bouts.
The dual will kick off with the first of those ranked matchups as #12 Malik Heinselman, who has been a pleasant surprise for tanned Tom Ryan and the Buckeyes, squares off with #8 ranked freshman Dylan Ragusin. This will be the toughest test thus far for the young Wolverine. Next up, Stevan Micic and his # 2 ranking will take on the solid Jordan Decatur. If it seems as though he’s been around forever, it’s only because he has. Micic puts Robbie Hummel to shame as this is his 7th!!! year at Michigan. He went 17-3 in 2015 as a true freshman. He got hurt and took a medical redshirt the following year and took an Olympic redshirt last year to wrestle for his native Serbia.
At 141, # 20 ranked veteran Drew Mattin will take on newcomer Anthony Echemendia and then our first top six matchup comes at 149. #1 ranked Buckeye Sammy Sasso, fresh off his pin of #5 Murin for Iowa, will take on #6 Kanen Storr. Storr is a tough customer, but is 0-2 in his past meetings with Sasso.
Moving up to the big boys, #8 ranked Michigander Will Lewan shouldn’t have too much trouble with Elijah Cleary at 157, although their lone previous meeting went to sudden victory before Lewan pulled it out. 165 gives us two more ranked foes with #16 Cameron Amine and #19 Ethan Smith.
174 gives us another marquee matchup as #2 Logan Massa and #4 Kaleb Romero will take the mat. Massa has been around almost as long as Micic and is coming off an Olympic redshirt year. Massa placed 3rd in NCAAs as a redshirt freshman in 2017, but hasn’t earned All-American honors since and is looking to regain that award. Massa is a really fun wrestler to watch and Romero is, well not so much, but this should be a low-scoring hard fought match.
The big question at 184 will be does #1 ranked Myles Amine wrestle. He hasn’t thus far. Rocky Jordan, ranked #19 is a fine competitor, but Amine should coast if he’s 100%. Amine took an Olympic redshirt to wrestle for San Marino. The Amine family is a fixture in wrestling at Ann Arbor. Myles and Cameron are cousins, not brothers. Their fathers were brothers who both wrestled in the maize and blue and both have a brother who is either a current or former teammate.
197 is the only weight that doesn’t feature at least one ranked combatant. At fat guy weight class, poor Tate Orndorff, the Utah Valley transfer, will take on #2 ranked Mason Parris. Mr. Orndorff entered the season ranked # 6, but has slid to #13 after taking three losses. If he loses to Parris, that will be his fourth loss in eight matches after going 18-4 last year. Life in the B1G is tough for the heavies.
If Myles Amine goes, I think MIchigan wins by around 25-9. If he doesn’t, Michigan still wins, but something closer to 21-12.
Who do we see?
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#10 Minnesota at Wisconsin (Friday, 10 AM on BTN+)
WSR: wisconsin is trash and Hillger’s gonna die. The only match worth watching will be 184 between #12 Owen Webster of the Gophers and #11 Chris Weiler of the badgers. The aforementioned ginger terror, #12 Trent Hillger, is the only other guy worth a damn on the team and he has the misfortune of getting fed to Gable Steveson. (Is it really “misfortune” if gingers deserve all the awful things that happen to them?) If wisconsin gets more than a single win, questions need to be asked of whomever else on the Gophers roster lost their match. Looking at you, Marcos Polanco. Don’t let me down here. This meet doesn’t deserve much more of a preview, and the recap should hopefully be just as concise.
How bad is the stevesoning?
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Purdue at Michigan State (Friday, 5PM on BTN+)
Atinat: This should be a fun, competitive dual, and I’m looking forward to it. While neither team is ranked, both probably could be. Michigan State is 2-3, coming off a split with Indiana and #8 Nebraska. Purdue is 2-4, coming off losses to top-ranked Iowa and #12 Ohio State, but with wins over Rutgers and Northwestern this year. Both teams boast multiple All-American candidates, and we’ll have three ranked matchups.
The dual kicks off with the first ranked bout between #11 Devin Schroder of Purdue and #13 Rayvon Foley of Michigan State. Both wrestlers have been much higher ranked this season, with Schroder starting it ranked second, and Foley getting as high as fifth, but Schroder picked up two losses in January and Foley is 2-3, only defeating Maryland and Indiana’s starters. Still, both could reasonably finish as high as second in the country this year. This is also their first career meeting, somehow.
Neither team has a ranked wrestler at the next two weights, and there’s not a lot to compare across wrestlers, so these could swing either way. Then, at 149, Purdue brings their second ranked wrestler, #15 Griffin Parriott, to face Michigan State’s Peyton Omania, and their third, #7 Kendall Coleman, at 157 against Chase Saldate.
Unranked matchups at 165 and 174 lead into consecutive ranked bouts at 184 and 197. Unbeaten #8 Layne Malczewski faces #20 Max Lyon at 184 pounds, and #6 Cam Caffey squares off with #17 Thomas Penola at 197 pounds. Michigan State has the advantage in both bouts here. The dual ends with an unranked finale at 285 that could very well decide its fate.
Overall, this is a balanced dual with a couple important matchups for seeding purposes. With a lack of bonus point opportunities, I predict a tie. Ties are broken first by number of victories, number of falls, and then total match points scored in non-fall matches. I honestly don’t understand why the first two are considered, because they almost never settle it. Virginia Tech-NC State was settled by tiebreaker earlier this year, and it went to match points, where Virginia Tech won by a single point. Anyways, I have no idea who wins the tiebreaker. Let’s say Michigan State.
Who wins this battle of secondary state schools?
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How dare you
I don’t know what a spartan says
Maryland at Indiana (Sunday, 10AM on BTN+)
Atinat: Somebody has to win! That’s the upside of this dual. These two teams come in with a combined win (Indiana’s) and eleven losses. Maryland has won 5 individual matches and lost six duals on the season. So anyways, let’s talk about the dual that you’re definitely gonna watch.
In a weight stacked with young talent across the conference, we have two wrestlers who haven’t won an attached match. There’s a chance Brock Hudkins, a two-time NCAA qualifier, returns to action, but he hasn’t wrestled since the Michigan dual on January 17th. Most of the weights are gonna look like this. I would say only four matches are going to involve an NCAA qualifier, and one might include two.
At 149 pounds, Indiana sends out sophomore Graham Rooks. He’s 1-1 on the season, with his win coming against Penn State’s Jarod Verkleeren, and his loss coming on the same day to Northwestern’s Yahya Thomas. He would have been the 23 seed in the NCAA tournament last year, and he’ll look for bonus points against Maryland’s Hunter Baxter, who is 0-3 in duals this year. Both Nicholas South and Jonathan Spadafora at 165 pounds have a chance at qualifying for NCAAs this year, though that could be reduced by the Big Ten’s relative weakness at the weight.
174 is the weight to watch as NCAA qualifier Phillip Spadafora goes up against the Indiana freshman DJ Washington, ranked 16th in the country. Washington knocked off Penn State’s star freshman Carter Starocci in the latter’s collegiate debut. His losses are to Logan Massa and Mikey Labiola, the second and third best 174-pounders in the country, respectively. Spadafora’s had a tough go this year, but could still punch his ticket to St. Louis in March.
Maryland’s Kyle Cochran is on the outside of the NCAA picture at the chaotic 184 pound division, but I fully expect this weight to go insane at Big Tens, and Cochran could find himself with a national qualifying place, as the Big Ten got ten allotments here last year. He’ll face Drayton Harris, and should look for bonus points.
Nick Willham and Jaron Smith are also in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten at 197 pounds. This match should be important for seedings for yet another two guys who just need some March magic to make the NCAAs.
Ultimately, where the Iowas and Penn States of the world (so just Iowa and Penn State, I guess) are counting titles, and much of the rest of the Big Ten is looking to count All-Americans, these programs are still counting qualifiers. And honestly, there’s nothing wrong with that. Yes, these programs aren’t where they should be, given the atmosphere they wrestle in. That’s probably why their few qualifiers look to transfer away, like Liam Cronin did to Nebraska this past offseason. But these are still talented wrestlers with a huge opportunity in front of them. And while this won’t have the skill of a Mark Hall-Michael Kemerer matchup, there’s still some exciting matches between young wrestlers with a lot of potential here. Genuinely, I am going to watch it, but likely piecemeal on replays. And I favor Indiana to take the dual, by 10-15 points.
Indi-terds, wrestling’s illi-butt
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Northwestern Wildcats at Wisconsin Badgers (Sunday, 2PM on BTN+)
Kind of…: I was going to let you know how much I’m suffering in previewing this dual, but given that Atinat is handling Maryland/Indiana, it would churlish to complain too much so...LET’S GET HYPED FOR WISCONSIN (1-4) vs. NORTHWESTERN (1-5)!!!
Simple version: Northwestern is the better team and has a fair shot at a top 10 finish at the NCAA championships, but UW has a chance to win this dual because NW hasn’t been wrestling full strength and the weak spots in their lineup matches up well with UW’s (relative) strengths.
IF Northwestern rolled out a full strength lineup, 184 (#11 Chris Weiler) and HWT (#12 Trent Hillger) would be the only two weights where UW would be strong favorites. However, UW probably has the better unranked wrestler at 174 (Jared Krattiger), and if #1 Ryan Deakin continues to sit out for the Wildcats (he is 0-0 on the season), the Badgers’ Garrett Model would be favored at 157, too.
Deakin aside, Northwestern’s strengths include #7 Michael DeAugustino at 125, #13 Chris Cannon at 133, #14 Yahya Thomas at 149, and #11 Lucas Davison at 197, who are a combined 14-1 so far this season (the only loss was Davison dropping a 3-2 decision to #1 Eric Schultz of the Nebraska Cornhuskers). However, DeAugustino has only wrestled twice and Cannon didn’t go last week vs. Illinois. If either isn’t in the lineup, UW becomes favored at that weight and, probably, favored to win the dual.
If you’re paying attention (right…) that leaves 141 and 165. NW’s roster has combined to go 3-13 at 141 compared to UW’s 1-7, and at 165 NW shows a cumulative 0-10, while UW is 1-5. Every win either team has at 141 and 165 have come in the “extra duals” and did not count toward dual meet scoring. Again, in 11 combined dual meets, neither UW nor NW have scored any team points at 141 and 165. ONE MORE TIME...ON THE SEASON NW AND UW HAVE COMBINED TO GO 0-22 IN DUAL MEET ACTION AT 141/165 THIS YEAR. There are not enough shruggie emojis in the world to express my lack of confidence in how those matches will play out.
I will predict guess that Cannon and Deakin sit out and call for UW to win 20-15. If either goes, expected NW to take the dual.
battle of the good west football teams
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#2 Michigan Wolverines at #3 Penn State Nittany Lions (Sunday, 10AM on BTN)
Atinat: Finally, the Big Ten went ahead and scheduled this one. And kindly, they waited until after this article was published. Anyways, Penn State will get to wrestle this week after having their dual with Iowa postponed, and they’ll get to go against the second-ranked Michigan Wolverines. I don’t need to hype this. Hopefully BTN picks it up (Update: They did!). Let’s look at matchups.
Penn State forfeited at 125 each of their three duals this season, but hope to have freshman Robert Howard for this one. I expect Michigan will bring out freshman Dylan Ragusin, who is 3-0 on the season. They have also listed Jack Medley as an alternate at this weight, and the duo is listed at 133 pounds, too, in Stevan Micic’s absence. Whoever goes at 133 will face #3 Roman Bravo-Young, unless Micic returns. Assuming that’s not the case, expect bonus points to alternate these two weights. I have it as 4-4.
Penn State has a large advantage at 141, with #2 Nick Lee facing #20 Drew Mattin. Again, Penn State will look for bonus points, and again, I think they’ll secure a major. Michigan has the superior wrestler at 149, with #6 Kanen Storr facing either #19 Jarod Verkleeren or Beau Bartlett. However, this is the first time bonus points won’t be reached, and Michigan will only draw it to 8-7.
157 pounds will see fireworks with the first tossup match of the day coming from a top ten bout between #8 Will Lewan of Michigan and #9 Brady Berge of Penn State. It will be the first career meeting between the two All-American candidates, but I expect Lewan to win a close one. At 165, two undefeated redshirt freshmen will do battle in perhaps the second tossup of the day. Penn State has #6 Joe Lee, and Michigan has #16 Cameron Amine. They have never met, and neither has really been tested on the year, so this could really go either way.
174 presents another top ten matchup, but one I don’t think should be close. #2 Logan Massa faces off against freshman #8 Carter Starocci, but I think Massa could be looking bonus points here. Playing it conservatively here though, and expecting a split in the prior two matches, I’d have it 13-11 Michigan here. Jelani Embree went for the Wolverines on Friday, and if he goes again, I expect #3 Aaron Brooks to major him, putting Penn State up 15-13.
#14 Michael Beard will face the former 184-pound #1 Myles Amine, who looked sluggish in his 197-pound debut on Friday, but should be favored here over the freshman. If Amine loses, #2 Mason Parris would need to pin #7 Seth Nevills in order for Michigan to win outright, otherwise a tech fall would force a tiebreaker (which in this scenario would go to third criterion, match points scored). I'm gonna say Amine holds, and Parris majors, for a 24-16 Michigan win.
Obviously with a ton of tossups and opportunities for bonus points, this is a can’t miss dual that could go either way. There’s a lot of question marks on Michigan’s roster, and a lot of young, unproven talent on Penn State’s. If Penn State looks like they did against Indiana, they will lose by 15. If they look like they did against Wisconsin, they will win. Meanwhile, Michigan is going to have to wrestle better across the board than they did Friday.
How psyched are you?
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So freaking psyched, dude
Wait, how’d I get on a wrestling article?