3/2: The Big Ten official pre-seeds were released after this article was published. For this weight, in order, they are: Marinelli (IA), Braunagel (IL), Smith (OSU), Amine (MI), Sparks (MN), Lee (PSU), Robb (NE), Tucker (MSU), South (IN), Nijenhuis (PU), Spadafora (MD), Ferrante (NW), Donner (RU), Otto (WI)
We have seen some really amazing stuff at the top of this class the last four years, but it won’t be anything like that this year. 165 is one of the weaker weight classes at the top in the B1G this year, but it is fairly deep.
The last two years, we saw Alex Marinelli (The Bull) go against Vincenzo Joseph. The two previous years were IMar and Joseph giving us some excellent entertainment as well. Kind of, But Not Really described last year’s match as King Kong vs. Godzilla stuff and I couldn’t have said it any better, so I’m not going to. Watch these predators stalk each other around the mat. Don’t let the fact Joseph never won a Big Ten title fool you. He actually was a pretty decent wrestler.
Alas, I don’t expect a title match like that this year, but still, some very good wrestlers will get after it next weekend. The Big Ten will send 8 wrestlers on to NCAAs through auto bids and likely at least one more at large.
For 133 preview, I separated the wrestlers into tiers, but that doesn’t work well for 165. Alex Marinelli (Iowa Hawkeyes) is the clear favorite here. He isn’t ranked because he only wrestled twice before he took a COVID timeout and as soon as he was back, his team took a break. He is head and shoulders better than the crowd.
Next up in the middle tier is pretty much everyone else. Nine Big Ten wrestlers are ranked in this week’s coaches poll between 5-28. Any of those guys are capable of finishing second.
#5 Danny Braunagel (Illinois Fighting Illini) W: Smith, Robb, South Braunagel will get the 2 seed based on his undefeated 6-0 record and is probably the favorite to make the final. He missed a match with Sparks due to a fractured wrist, but came back and beat Robb 9-6 after falling behind 6-3 after two periods.
#7 Ethan Smith (Ohio State) W: Lee, Amine, Nijenhuis, Tucker L: Braunagel Smith has an impressive 8-1 record with his only loss a tight match to Braunagel. His last match was an impressive first period pin of Lee.
#13 Cameron Amine (Michigan Wolverines) W: Lee, South, Tucker L: Smith Amine has an impressive 5-1 record with his only loss coming to Smith. Give Amine credit for being one of the few Wolverines interested in winning against PSU.
#14 Joe Lee (Penn State Nittany Lions) W: South L: Smith, Amine Lee probably shouldn’t be ranked this high, but gets the bump for wearing a PSU singlet. If PSU is going to make this tournament semi close, which they won’t, but if they are, Lee is going to have to look better than he has thus far.
#15 Andrew Sparks (Minnesota Gophers) W: Robb, Tucker, Nijenhuis L: Marinelli Sparks is a true freshman who is 8-1 and really has looked good doing it. He’s very quick and is going to have a nice career in my estimation. Not to give anything away, but I think he will outwrestle his seed.
#18 Peyton Robb (Nebraska Cornhuskers) W: South L: Marinelli, Braunagel, Sparks Robb is a tough competitor whose matches tend to have scoring, so that’s fun. He is 6-3 this year after going 20-6 last year and placing third in the B1G championships at 157.
#22 Jake Tucker (Michigan State Nose Breakers) W: Nijenhuis L: Smith, Amine, Sparks, South Tucker has medically forfeited the last two B1G tourneys, but not before punching his ticket as a national qualifier last year. He had some quality wins, including Peyton Robb last year down at 157.
#25 Nick South (Indiana Hoosiers) W: Tucker L: Braunagel, Lee, Amine, Robb, Nijenhuis 3-5 record doesn’t look great, but all five losses came against ranked guys. He’s a redshirt freshman who is probably a year away from competing for a placement.
#28 Gerrit Nijenhuis (Purdue Boilermakers) W: South L: Smith, Sparks, Tucker Like Sparks, Nijenhuis is a true freshman with potential. His 5-3 record is good, but most of the wins were against weaker competition.
You could probably draw a line between Sparks and Robb or Robb and Tucker and say there is some differential there, but it’s not huge.
The rest of the pack is pretty much cannon fodder and has zero wins total against the ranked guys above them.
Jonathan Spadafora (Maryland Terrapins) 1-7 The lone win was Ferrante. He had a good year as a redshirt wrestling unattached last year, but feasting on wins in opens doesn’t mean you can compete in the Big Ten.
Brett Donner (Rutgers) 0-3
Josh Otto (Wisconsin Badgers) 0-5
This depends somewhat on the seeding, but I will pick it to go Marinelli, Smith, Sparks, Braunagel, Amine, Robb, Lee, Tucker for the auto bids. I think Nijenhuis does enough to punch his ticket as an at large unless the NCAA doesn’t want to figure out how to spell his name. South is probably on the outside looking in.