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Wrestling Mailbag! Off Mat Empire’s Center Circle picks their favorite freshman, plus rankings updates

Like last week, these are mostly our own questions, but do ask your own for us to get to eventually!

NCAA Wrestling: Wrestling Championships
Guess who’s back, back again
Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Q: Who is your favorite freshman in the Big Ten this year?

HWAHSQB: Penn State freshmen were supposed to be the story this year, but they really haven’t been. Robbie Howard and Kerkvielet haven’t wrestled. Beau Bartlett has only wrestled extra matches as he declined to bump up to 149, but can’t displace Lee at 141. Finally, at 174, PSU’s next superstar, Carter Starocci lost his first match to my favorite freshman this year, Donnell Washington. Donnell or DJ depending on who you ask, puts up a lot of points and can occasionally give up a lot of points, but he’s going to get his money’s worth when he steps on the mat and what more could you ask for.

Atinat: Okay I loved DJ first but whatever, it’s cool. For real, Ohio State freshman Anthony Echemendia has an amazing story. He’s a Cuban defector, undefeated Arizona state champ in high school, amazingly decorated freestyle wrestler, and the starting 141-pounder for Ohio State. He won his first four matches before getting caught in an otherwise close match with #1 Jaydin Eierman. I’m definitely rooting for him personally and professionally, except when he’s wrestling Iowa.

Kind of…: See above for more mainstream answers, but if you want to be down with the indie band before they get more widely known, consider my two guys. At 133, Lucas Byrd of Illinois is off to a 6-1 start, with the only loss being an 18-6 MD to #5 Austin DeSanto (Iowa). DeSanto is a well-conditioned freight train, and a frosh avoiding a TF is actually impressive. More impressively, Byrd went toe-to-toe and took the punishing, sending some heavy hands back in DeSanto’s direction. 133 is stacked, but look for Byrd and NW frosh Chris Cannon to be wrestling for 5th, and I like Byrd. I also like Chase Saldate of Michigan State at 157. He won’t be seeded any higher than 7th at the B1G tournament, but at 4-2, his only losses are 5-4 to #6 Brayton Lee (Minnesota) and in sudden victory to #Kendall Coleman (Purdue). These two are not close to being the two best frosh in the B1G, but I’m keeping an eye on each, and think they’ll be heard from the rest of the way.

Q: How much will the lack of non-conference meets and tournaments impact the NCAA tourney? By that I mean that while the B1G is a meat grinder, will there be other highly ranked guys who haven’t been really tested this year who falter, or who are maybe underrated because they haven’t had a chance to prove themselves? Or will it impact the seeding, as it’s a lot harder to compare cross conferences? -ChitownHawkeye

HWAHSQB: I think the B1G has a sizable advantage this year. By the time NCAAs roll around, most B1G wrestlers will have 6-10 matches against national qualifiers and most other conferences will have ½ that many. I think our boys will be better prepared. I do think seeding will be hurt somewhat by having many more losses and no chances to obtain head to head victories over non-conference foes. Look at Orndorff, was ranked #6 preseason, and will likely be 4-4 after this weekend. Had he stayed put at Utah Valley, where he went 18-4 last year, he likely stays around a 6 seed, but now his ranking is down to #15 after running the B1G gauntlet. Still, honestly, I think seeding is overrated. To AA, you’ve got to beat some damn fine wrestlers, whether in the 1st or 2nd round, so step up to the mat and take your shot and don’t cry about seeding. (not that I won’t be screaming DISRESPECKED!! If an Illini gets a worse seed than he deserves) I also think the shortened season might give us less guys that are banged up in the tournament as cutting weight and staying in competition shape for five months is pretty grueling.

Atinat: I don’t know if it really advantages or disadvantages any conferences particularly. Obviously lesser-known guys from smaller conferences can’t prove themselves until they get to the NCAAs, but the middle of the Big Ten is going to get seeded poorly because they didn’t get to wrestle those lesser know guys and the Big Ten guys will have 3 or 4 losses. It really disadvantages younger wrestlers, though, which means it’s really going to help older teams. Go Hawks.

Kind of…: The competitiveness of the B1G might be overrated a bit since there have been plenty of cancellations/strategic lineup decisions. There aren’t going to be guys who went 1-8 in B1G competition but are threats to become All-Americans. However, at the margins, if you get stuck at 15/16 when you’re probably the 10th or 11th best guy at your weight, that can really affect things in the second round. That’s probably the biggest seeding impact. But if you’re 8 instead of 6, who cares? If the #1 opposite you is THAT much better that the #3 then you’re not winning anyway, and if you’re in a weight where the 8-seed can dream of winning, then it’s going to be a bear fight from the quarters onward anyway.

Q: At what points in the season does a guy have to actually show up to maintain a #1 ranking? Looking at you Ryan Deakin and Myles Amine. -HWAHSQB

Atinat: In a normal year, I’d say four weeks. This year? I have no idea. I think you only shouldn’t rank someone if you don’t know if they’re going to wrestle. Daton Fix of Oklahoma State just came off a suspension, but there was no doubt he was going to wrestle. Stevan Micic, on the other hand, probably could’ve been dropped when Michigan athletics went on pause, having not wrestled to that point. Ultimately, this year, you can choose to wrestle only your conference tournament and still make the NCAAs, and if you’re the returning champion or finalist, you’ll still get your top seed. So I guess there’s no hurry to bump anyone.

Kind of…: I don’t think you should be ranked until you’ve wrestled a match. That said, if you only have a match or two, but looked good, then, this year, I have no problem putting you really high the first time you’re ranked. For example, Amine and Deakin both have matches under their belt now, and each looked pretty good. So, I’m fine with Deakin at #1 at 157 and Amine at #2 or #3 at his new weight of 197. But, given that Micic’s last match was for 3rd place at the 2019 NCAA tournament, and 133 is pretty stacked, for now, he shouldn’t be ranked. His NCAA seed should be one lower than wherever he finishes at the B1G tournament (assuming Fix wins the Big XIIs and is #1).


The Big Ten gained a number one this week after Mekhi Lewis lost by injury default and Alex Marinelli took over the top spot at 165 pounds, giving Iowa their fourth number one. It also lost one as Myles Amine bumped up to 197 pounds in his return to action and was reclassified accordingly.

Intermat rankings, 2/16

Weight Rank Wrestler School Previous
Weight Rank Wrestler School Previous
125 1 Spencer Lee Iowa 1
125 7 Michael DeAugustino Northwestern 7
125 8 Dylan Ragusin Michigan 8
125 9 Liam Cronin Nebraska 9
125 10 Malik Heinselman Ohio State 12
125 12 Eric Barnett Wisconsin NR
125 13 Rayvon Foley Michigan State 13
125 14 Devin Schroder Purdue 11
125 15 Patrick McKee Minnesota 10
133 2 Stevan Micic Michigan 2
133 3 Roman Bravo-Young Penn State 3
133 5 Austin DeSanto Iowa 5
133 6 Sammy Alvarez Rutgers 6
133 12 Chris Cannon Northwestern 13
133 14 Lucas Byrd Illinois 15
141 1 Jaydin Eierman Iowa 1
141 2 Nick Lee Penn State 2
141 3 Sebastian Rivera Rutgers 4
141 7 Chad Red Nebraska 8
141 14 Dylan Duncan Illinois 15
149 2 Sammy Sasso Ohio State 2
149 5 Kanen Storr Michigan 6
149 7 Max Murin Iowa 8
149 10 Michael Carr Illinois 9
149 14 Yahya Thomas Northwestern 14
149 15 Griffin Parriott Purdue 15
149 19 Graham Rooks Indiana 18
149 20 Terrell Barraclough Penn State NR
157 1 Ryan Deakin Northwestern 1
157 5 Kaleb Young Iowa 5
157 6 Brayton Lee Minnesota 6
157 7 Kendall Coleman Purdue 7
157 8 Brady Berge Penn State 9
157 9 Will Lewan Michigan 8
165 1 Alex Marinelli Iowa 2
165 8 Danny Braunagel Illinois 8
165 10 Ethan Smith Ohio State 19
165 13 Cameron Amine Michigan 16
165 14 Joe Lee Penn State 6
165 17 Andrew Sparks Minnesota 17
165 18 Peyton Robb Nebraska 18
174 1 Michael Kemerer Iowa 1
174 2 Mikey Labriola Nebraska 3
174 3 Kaleb Romero Ohio State 4
174 5 Carter Starocci Penn State 8
174 6 Logan Massa Michigan 2
174 14 Donnell Washington Indiana 16
184 2 Aaron Brooks Penn State 3
184 7 Chris Weiler Wisconsin 11
184 9 Layne Malczewski Michigan State 8
184 10 Owen Webster Minnesota 12
184 14 Zach Braunagel Illinois 13
184 15 Nelson Brands Iowa 14
184 16 Taylor Venz Nebraska 15
184 17 John Poznanski Rutgers 17
184 18 Max Lyon Purdue 20
184 20 Rocky Jordan Ohio State 19
197 1 Eric Schultz Nebraska 1
197 2 Myles Amine Michigan 1 (184)
197 3 Jacob Warner Iowa 2
197 8 Cameron Caffey Michigan State 6
197 14 Lucas Davison Northwestern 11
197 16 Michael Beard Penn State 14
197 17 Thomas Penola Purdue 17
285 1 Gable Steveson Minnesota 1
285 2 Mason Parris Michigan 2
285 3 Tony Cassioppi Iowa 3
285 8 Seth Nevills Penn State 7
285 10 Luke Luffman Illinois 10
285 11 Christian Lance Nebraska 11
285 12 Trent Hillger Wisconsin 12
285 16 Tate Orndorff Ohio State 13
Intermat rankings, 2/16