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FIVE Televised Duals to Cap Big Ten Wrestling Season

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Northwestern-Minnesota, Illinois-Nebraska highlight eventful weekend

Can he repeat as B1G champ? What, are you gonna stop him?
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

It’s Christmas in February! Which is only fair, because it has been absolutely miserable weather-wise, and we invent reasons to pretend to enjoy this godforsaken season. One of those reasons being college wrestling! And the Big Ten has given us reason to celebrate. Eight six duals, five four on BTN and one on ESPNU. And you know what’s even crazier? It was supposed to be nine! Iowa-Northwestern was supposed to happen on Friday and on ESPNU, but Iowa cancelled because of fuck covid.

Hey, wanna hear a fun stat? In his two-match return last weekend, Myles Amine spent more time on the mat than Spencer Lee has. The Hawkeye has four pins in four matches, totaling 7:18 of mat time. Good thing this year is free eligibility-wise, because I am not ready to say goodbye to this kid. Also, my grandpa still hasn’t gotten to see him in person, so we better have fans in Carver next year.

Friday

#6 Michigan Wolverines at Michigan State Spartans (Friday, 4PM on BTN)

Atinat: Michigan looks to rebound to end a promising season after a disappointing split against Ohio State and Penn State last week, while a few Michigan State wrestlers are looking to bolster their resumes going into the postseason.

The dual should start with two questions at 125 pounds. The first question is who is Michigan going to go with as their starter at the weight this postseason. #8 Dylan Ragusin and Jack Medley have split the role, and absent Stevan Micic, whoever doesn’t go at 125 will likely go at 133 pounds instead. The second thing this match will judge is seeding, as this weight has been chaotic across the Big Ten. Both guys who go here are looking to impress the coaches before Big Ten seedings and bolster their national resume.

The next match to watch comes at 157 pounds, where #9 Will Lewan of Michigan looks to bounce back against Chase Saldate. Lewan went 1-1 last weekend, getting the walk-off victory over Elijah Cleary of Ohio State but losing to #8 Brady Berge of Penn State. Saldate is 4-2 on the season, with a win over Cleary and close losses to #6 Brayton Lee and #7 Kendall Coleman, and the freshman looks to make the most of this big opportunity in front of him before Big Tens.

The backside starts with a potentially tough matchup at 165 pounds, where #13 Cameron Amine looks to follow his upset of #14 Joe Lee with another staple victory, this time against the Spartan Jacob Tucker. Tucker, a senior, has had a tough year, going 2-3 thus far. A win for him could help lock down an NCAA berth.

Michigan State’s #9 Layne Malczewski looks to rebound from his first loss of the year at 184 pounds, but it’s unsure who he will face. Jelani Embree went for the Wolverines against Ohio State, but Jaden Bullock got the call for the second time this season on Sunday against Penn State. Malczewski should be favored above both, but this weight is wild and anything can happen.

All eyes will be on the 197 pound bout between 5-1 junior #8 Cam Caffey of Michigan State and the recently returned three-time All-American Myles Amine, up from 184 pounds. I was unimpressed by Amine in his two matches this weekend, but he did enough for Intermat to debut him at second in the 197 pound weight class.

While Michigan should coast in this one, they’ve got a lot to prove after last week. Still, I have the final score as something like 25-10 Wolverines. I think Lewan bounces back against Saldate in a close bout, but I think Amine loses to Caffey.

Poll

Let’s say the spread is 16

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    Wolverines cover
    (4 votes)
  • 42%
    Spartans cover
    (3 votes)
7 votes total Vote Now

Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Maryland Terrapins (Friday, 5PM on BTN+)

#2 Penn State Nittany Lions at #13 Ohio State Buckeyes (Friday, 6PM on BTN)

Kind of…: With OSU rebuilding this is not the headliner that it has been the last several years, but this is definitely still a dual meet to catch. PSU should win, but OSU has a (somewhat) plausible, though very improbable, path to victory. If the meet starts at 125, the first half should be very chalky. PSU’s Robert Howard debuted against Michigan and is not a pushover, but #10 Malik Heinselman is the clear favorite at 125. However, PSU should run roughshod at 133 and 141, behind #3 Roman Bravo-Young and #2 Nick Lee, respectively. At 149, the Buckeyes will counter with #2 Sammy Sasso. At 157, PSU’s Brady Berge is occasionally vexing, but should handle Elijah Cleary.

Coming out of intermission, 165 is a weight OSU needs if they have any chance of winning the dual. Ethan Smith (#10) is ranked higher that PSU super-frosh Joe Lee (#14), but this is a tossup, and I’d bet Lee will be motivated coming off of a loss to Michigan’s Cameron Amine last weekend. That will be followed by the marquee match of the night at 174: #5 Carter Starocci (another PSU freshman phenom) vs. #3 Kaleb Romero. Unless OSU wins both, PSU is winning the dual. If PSU wins both, get ready for the “Cael Sanderson is a wizard of the dark arts and Iowa might want to pay attention” talk to start up.

PSU’s Aaron Brooks (#2) should roll past Rocky Jordan (#20) at 184, and at 197, Michael Beard (#16) is yet another heralded PSU frosh. Gavin Hoffman will be game, but is unlikely to win. If OSU has managed to win four weights to this point, #16 Tate Orndorff would have a chance to steal the dual for OSU vs. PSU’s Seth Nevills (#8). However, even if OSU takes five matches, PSU is quite likely to have more bonus points. And OSU isn’t going to win five matches anyway.

OSU will do better at the NCAAs than this prediction would indicate, but I have PSU rolling 29-7.

Poll

Penn State -18

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    cats
    (13 votes)
  • 31%
    nuts
    (6 votes)
19 votes total Vote Now

Sunday

Northwestern Wildcats at #9 Minnesota Gophers (Sunday, 12PM on BTN+)

Atinat: This one could be a lot closer than the rankings would indicate. Northwestern is 1-6, but their strengths line up well with this Minnesota team. Still, they’ll need a lot to go right, and if all of these tossups go the other way, Minnesota could be looking at a 20-point victory. The Gophers are 6-2, and both teams boast a top ranked wrestler, two more top 10 guys, and still two more in the top 20.

Our first tossup is at 125 pounds, where #7 Michael DeAugustino of Northwestern faces #15 Pat McKee of Minnesota. DeAugustino is 2-0 on the season, only wrestling against Indiana and Illinois, while McKee is 5-3. DeAugustino’s ranking is likely a product of a shortened season for him, as most Big Ten lightweights have been cannibalizing each other. Northwestern is going to need this, and every other close match, if they hope to pull off the upset. They’ll also need to hold serve at 133, where undefeated and twelfth-ranked freshman Chris Cannon will face senior Boo Dryden, who will be fighting for an NCAA bid in March (he’s currently 21st in the coaches rankings).

Minnesota has their first sure shot at a win at 141 pounds, where Marcos Polanco will face Frankie Tal-Shahar. However, 149 should be closer, as #14 Yahya Thomas will face Minnesota-by-way-of-UNI wrestler Michael Blockhus, who is also nearer the cusp of qualification. Then, if you’re only going to watch one match, it should be 157 pounds.

#1 Ryan Deakin of Northwestern will face #6 Brayton Lee of the Golden Gophers. Lee is moving up from 149 pounds this year, so the two have never wrestled. Deakin is obviously the heavy favorite, and he’s one of the few wrestlers to not show rust in his return, teching Garrett Model of Wisconsin last week. Still, Lee likes to wrestle close matches, and you never know what can happen when a match goes into the third. The Wildcats (god, get a better name) will need each of the two and a 12-3 lead at the break to have a hope in the dual.

Minnesota has the heavy advantage at 165 pounds, where #17 Andrew Sparks wrestles the 1-5 freshman David Ferrante. They’ll look for bonus points here. The final tossup comes at 174 pounds, where Minnesota’s Jake Allar faces Troy Fisher of Northwestern. Neither are world-beaters, though Allar is ranked 24th by the coaches poll. If Northwestern wins this one, they’d be up 15-7.

Minnesota should be able to find bonus points at 184, with #10 Owen Webster drawing 1-4 sophomore Jack Jessen. However, Northwestern could return the favor at 197 pounds, where #14 Lucas Davison faces 2-6 sophomore Garrett Joles. If the pair is split, Northwestern will have the dual sealed up before the shaved bears take the mat. Which is good, cause… yeah:

Anyway, that doesn’t all happen. Let’s say 23-13 Minnesota.

Poll

Minnesota -8

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Gophers
    (16 votes)
  • 20%
    Cats
    (4 votes)
  • 0%
    Cats straight up??
    (0 votes)
20 votes total Vote Now

#8 Nebraska Cornhuskers at #12 Illinois Fighting Illini (Sunday, 1PM on ESPNU)

HWAHSQB: Despite this being two teams ranked closely together, this is probably going to be a comfortable win for the Cornhusky boys. This should be a fun dual though with a lot of talented wrestlers taking the mat in matches that will have important seeding implications for the upcoming tournaments.

As 125, #7 Liam Cronin of Nebraska takes on #16 Justin Cardani. Although Cardani is lower ranked due to taking some tough losses this year, he has beaten Cronin in all three of their previous meetings. At 133, Illini and #13 ranked Lucas Byrd should have little trouble with Alex Thomsen.

141 is another matchup of ranked wrestlers that I’m looking forward to as #5 Chad Red will don the red singlet against #13 Dylan Duncan. These guys are both experienced quality wrestlers who are effective on both offense and defense. Chad Red is 7-1 on the year with his only loss being to Jaydin Eierman. Duncan is 4-1 on the year with his only loss being to Jaydin Eierman. Moral of this story is don’t mess with Eierman.

149 gives us my favorite Illini #8 Mikey Carr against the guy who wrestles using my porn name. Seriously, is bROCK HARDy not a great name for both a wrestler and an adult film star. Mr. Rock Hard is a fine wrestler and ranked #20, but I think Carr will win it.

157, with apologies to Mrs. Mologousis and Mrs. Licking (speaking of porn names), nobody but these guys’ Moms wants to hear about. 165 though, should be a great match. #6 ranked is the first of the Braunagel twins for Illinois against #18 Peyton Robb of Nebraska in a match with serious seeding implications Winning here for Braunagel would pretty much guarantee a 2 or 3 seed in B1Gs and keeps him on the opposite side of the bracket from Marinelli.

174 gives us national title contender and #3 ranked Mikey Labriola for Nebraska against #32 DJ Shannon. This won’t end well for Illinois. Next up, we spin the random wheel of #CHAOS at 184 and we get two guys with multiple appearances in the B1G 184 serpent of trasch. Nebraska gives us #11 Taylor Venz countered by Braunagel number two who is ranked #12. Venz is super funky and prone to big moves that can score big points for either himself or his opponent against Braunagel who is a very fundamentally sound methodical wrestler. It should be fun. The final two matches feature four more ranked grapplers. #1 ranked Eric Schultz should easily dispatch #22 Wroblewski for the orange and blue. Heavyweight gives us another big seeding match as #8 Illini breakout star Luke Luffman takes on #10 Cornhusker breakout star Christian Lance. Neither of these guys owned a top 20 win prior to this year, but they both beat Wisconsin’s Hillger in extra time this year for a win against a highly ranked heavy. Maybe they’re not breakout stars and Hillger just is having a bad year. Luffman also has a win against Orndorff to his credit, but Lance has had closer losses to golden god Steveson from Minnesota and Cassioppi of Iowa. Winner will likely get the 4-seed in B1Gs so he can last one more match in the conference tournament before getting sacrificed at the altar of the Son of Steve.

In summary, there are going to be a lot of close matches. Illinois is somewhat favored at 133, 165 and 149. Nebraska is favored heavily at 141, 174 and 197. 125, 157, 184, and HWT are all pretty much tossups, but 174 and 197 are very likely bonus point victories for Nebraska and if there is an upset, it is much more likely to fall in favor of the Cornhuskers. I’m calling for a 21-12 win for the Cornhuskers.

Poll

Nebraska -7.5

This poll is closed

  • 62%
    Corners
    (10 votes)
  • 25%
    Illiners
    (4 votes)
  • 12%
    Straight up ‘Nois!
    (2 votes)
16 votes total Vote Now

#1 Iowa Hawkeyes at Wisconsin Bad-gers (Sunday, 8PM on BTN)

Atinat: AAAAAAAAAAAAaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa I hate this.

Monday

Maryland Terrapins at #2 Penn State Nittany Lions (Monday, 5PM on BTN)

Kind of…: Maryland is not good at wrestling. Leading up to the meet with Rutgers, the Terps are 0-7 thus far in the season. Of 70 matches, they are 9-61. That drops to 1-49 when you remove the NW and Ind meets. Going by Wrestlestat, the highest ranked wrestler anybody in a Maryland singlet* has beaten this year is #73. PSU is going to win every match they try to win and, if all their starters go, 50 points would be possible (unlikely, but possible).

*If you’re having a Happy Hour drink on Monday and are bored, you should tune in if only to see what Maryland is wearing. For the meet with Indiana, they ditched their singlets and went with the “bored in P.E.” shirt/shorts look, which really fit with how the season is going.

Atinat: Line not available. Pick a number.

Indiana Hoosiers at Purdue Boilermakers (Monday, 7PM on BTN)

HWAHSQB: So, everyone excited for the battle for Indiana dual? You didn’t get the Old Oaken Bucket, but you might actually get a Hoosier/Boiler dual! On BTN no less!!! Purdue has some potential All Americans on the docket at 125 and 157 with #11 Devin Schroder and #6 Kendall Coleman. In addition, they could have as many as five more national qualifiers. I suppose #9 ranked Griffin Parriot is an AA candidate also, but I’m just not buying it. His last win against a top ten opponent was in 2019. At 184, you have Max Lyon who has four appearances in the 184 random wheel of CHAOS! this year. I really like Thomas Penola at 197 as a hard nosed competitive guy who doesn’t ever quit. Indiana counters with four ranked wrestlers who should be NCAA qualifiers, but maybe one All American. At 125 Brock Hudkins is solid and ranked #20. 149, Graham Rooks is ranked #17. His brother Cayden also wrestles for the Hoosiers. The next ranked Hoosier is Nick South at 165 at #25. Last but not least, is redshirt freshman Donnell Washington, ranked #8 at 174. That eighth spot in the national rankings will be good enough to earn him a six seed at the B1Gs in that loaded weight class. When you boil it all down, it should be an easy win for Purdue, probably about 22-12.

Poll

Nobody reasonable would BATTLE FOR INDIANA

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Hoosiers
    (1 vote)
  • 90%
    Boilermakers
    (10 votes)
11 votes total Vote Now