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: This week of wrestling is pretty fun. On paper, it’s better than last week. Next week should be better, with two duals on BTN Friday night. But the Big Ten is missing a real opportunity (or maybe they’re doing this and haven’t told me, idk). Michigan’s covid pause has caused four duals to be postponed, including against Penn State and Iowa. Penn State and Iowa wrestle next Friday. The Big Ten can knock out two birds (or a bird and a lion) with one stone by moving Michigan and Ohio State to Sunday, and invite Michigan into Happy Valley for THE GREATEST TRI-DUAL EVER between the top three teams in the country. Please? PS (but before the article), tri-duals need to stay. Can you imagine a quadrangle of hate dual with fans?
#3 Penn State Nittany Lions at Wisconsin Badgers (recap)
Atinat: The Wisconsin-Penn State dual originally slated to be a part of this weekend’s tri-dual in Ann Arbor was moved up to Tuesday, so the Nittany Lions squad headed up to Madison from their weekend home in Evanston. Just as they did during last weekend’s tri-dual, Penn State forfeited the 125-pound match as they have no healthy wrestlers at the weight. However, from that point, the number three team in the country rolled.
Wisconsin freshman Kyle Burwick was able to hold the high-pace Roman Bravo-Young to a regular decision, losing 11-6, but #2 Nick Lee wasted no time in earning a first period technical fall, putting PSU up 8-6.
The best match of the night happened at 149 pounds, where Penn State backup Luke Gardner did battle with Wisconsin’s Drew Scharenbrock. Gardner earned a first period takedown, but after an escape, Scharenbrock scored his own on a reshot off of a single leg attack by Gardner, giving him a 3-2 lead at the end of the first. Gardner started the second down, earned the escape, and then got his second takedown after a sloppy single leg attack by Scharenbrock. The Badger escaped with 5 seconds left to draw within one, and then earned the escape after starting down in the third period. A scramble in the final seconds nearly ended the match in regulation, but Scharenbrock couldn’t secure the two, and then a snap-double eight seconds into regulation gave Gardner the win.
Penn State won the next two matches by major decision before 174-pound freshman Carter Starocci won a low scoring match versus Jared Krattiger. Aaron Brooks looked his best in majoring tenth-ranked Chris Weiler 13-3, and freshman Michael Beard made his debut with a splash, teching redshirt sophomore Andrew Salemme. Seth Nevills got the start at heavyweight again as we have yet to see freshman Greg Kerkvliet, and he downed Wisconsin backup Peter Christensen 4-3.
As dominant as this win looks, it really reveals just how weak this Wisconsin squad is. Only two ranked wrestlers are on this team, and one, Trent Hillger, didn’t go today and has had a rough start to his season, losing important seeding matches to Luke Luffman and Christian Lance and dropping all the way down to eleventh in the country.
However, Michael Beard looked phenomenal in his debut, where other freshman Nittany Lions have not, and Aaron Brooks looks like a real national title contender. While I don’t think Penn State competes with Iowa this year, their rebuilding years are still better than most second-tier schools’ best years.
#9 Illinois Fighting Illini at #14 Minnesota Golden Gophers (Friday, 5PM on BTN+)
Well, there’s a little bit to enjoy from this. Minnesota should win fairly comfortably, but this is still Gopher Wrestling and all you can rely on is Gable Steveson. 133, 174, 184, and 197 will be competitive matches between average wrestlers with the most entertaining spot being 184 between Owen Webster and Zach Braunagel. Boo Dryden has been decent for the Gophers at 133, and I think that “decent” should be good enough to get the win. 141 will probably go poorly unless Marcos Polanco finds some more consistency. 149 is the same story with Michael Blockhus and Mike Carr, with Blockhus coming off a confusing loss to yet another Van Brill on Rutgers last weekend. Jake Allar and DJ Shannon should be evenly matched which means that Allar will win (as opposed to getting the shit kicked out of him by someone far worse). I have nothing to say about the Garrett Joles matchup with Matt Wroblewski at 197 other than that it is a wrestling match that will take place at the Minnesota-Illinois dual meet.
That leaves us with 125, 157, 165, and HWT. You never know what you’re going to get from Patrick McKee, so a matchup with Justin Cardani should be fun. Both are good enough and are competing to avoid getting 4th or 5th in the seedings for the B1Gs. Brayton Lee has been spectacular all season and should continue to get bonus points against whatever meat the Illini plop in front of him, and the showdown between Andrew Sparks and Danny Braunagel should probably be the best match of the night. The true Freshman is 5-1 on the year and gave Alex Marinelli all he wanted a couple weeks ago. I’d like to think he’ll get another win in his impressive campaign, but I still haven’t seen him enough against good opponents to want to bet on that. And then there’s HWT. Illinois fat kid Luke Luffman shot up the rankings after beating Tate Orndorff and Trent Hillger a few weeks back, and that hasn’t really aged well. Hillger’s now 2-2 on the season, and you could probably write off the Orndorff win to a bit of luck. He came back to earth last weekend by getting pinned by the rather eh Tony Cassioppi. That’s not what you want to do going into a matchup against Gable Steveson. 6 matches into the season, and he’s got a 13 second pin, 4 tech falls (AS A GODDAMN HEAVYWEIGHT!), and only semi-impressive major decision over Cassioppi. That’s not a recipe for anything good, except maybe me giggling at my TV while they show the various stages of Luffman questioning his life choices that led him to this point.
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#8 Nebraska Cornhuskers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Michigan State Spartans, and Indiana Hoosiers in Bloomington (Saturday, 11AM, 1PM, and 3PM on BTN+)
Kind of… but not really: Look, unless you’re related to somebody participating or you are a co-author of this preview (and even then, maybe not), you’re maximum level of engagement with this quad dual is going to be checking the scores after that fact, so here’s the top line: Nebraska should go 3-0. Indiana is likely to go 0-3, and MSU/Rutgers should be competitive. However, with 3 matches in 6 hours, who knows how much wrestling each starter will do, so let’s just stick to big picture narrative stuff.
At 125, #9 Liam Cronin (Neb) enters with the highest-ranking, but #13 Rayvon Foley has the most upside and will be looking to right the ship. #17 Brock Hudkins (Ind.) hasn’t wrestled since January 17, so…? #6 Sammy Alvarez (Rutgers) is the only ranked wrestler going at 133 so he should make a move toward locking down the #4 seed for the B1G tournament. 141 lbs could feature your match of the day if #4 Sebastian Rivera and #9 Chad Red both go.
Indiana’s best chance to go 3-0 will come at 149 lbs where #19 Graham Rooks is the only participant in Intermat’s top 20. Though don’t overlook Nebraska rsFR Brock Hardy. Nobody is ranked at 157, but Robert Kanniard (Rutgers) and Chase Saldate (MSU) both look NCAA worthy, and that matchup will be pivotal in terms of the team dual. At 165, #18 Peyton Robb (Neb) and Jacob Tucker (MSU)—who Intermat doesn’t like as well as other rankings do—should fare best.
174 is your best overall weight. Drew Hughes (MSU) and Jackson Turley (Rut) are both good enough to make the NCAAs, but the showdown between #4 Mikey Labriola (Neb) and reigning B1G Wrestler of the Week, #17 DJ Washington (Ind) is the one you want to catch. At 184, look to see if #11 Taylor Venz (Neb) can improve his form, or if #16 Layne Malczewski (MSU) or #18 John Poznanski (Rut) hands him a third loss of the season.
Moving to 197, #2 Eric Schutz (Neb) is the highest-ranked wrestler going, according to Intermat, but other rankings like #5 Cameron Caffey (MSU) better. I do too, actually. Either way, if the match of the day isn’t at 141, it’s probably this one. Finally, while HWT is stacked in the B1G, #10 Christian Lance will be the only ranked grappler at this quad. He should fare well.
Can Indiana win at home?
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Yes, against MSU
Yes, against Rutgers
I am a crazy person who thinks they will beat Nebraska
#9 Illinois Fighting Illini at Northwestern Wildcats (Sunday, 12PM on BTN+)
He was a high school quarterback: The #9 ranked Fighting Illini squad will travel to Evanston, which is somewhat near Chicago, to square off with the unranked Northwestern Wildcats for the second of two road duals this weekend for the Chambana grapplers. The dual could feature as many as 12 ranked wrestlers as the Illinois team boasts seven ranked guys and Northwestern counters with five of their own.
Illinois heads into the weekend at 4-1 with three wins over teams that were ranked at the time including an upset of #6 Ohio State. Northwestern is 1-4 with their lone win coming against the hapless turtle boys from Maryland.
125 features the first of three potential matchups of ranked wrestlers as #6 Michael DeAugustino takes the mat for Northwestern. Across from him will be #16 Justin Cardani wearing the orange and blue. Cardani will look to turn things around after losing his last two matches to last year’s B1G finalists. DeAugustino hasn’t really been tested as his lone match was a 5-3 win over Indiana’s backup last weekend.
Next up at 133 is another matchup of ranked wrestlers. Two freshman square off with #15 Chris Cannon will be donning a purple singlet against Lucas Byrd who is ranked #17. This match would have important seeding implications for the B1Gs as these two young guns try to narrow the gap between themselves and a loaded B1G field at 133. The B1G boasts five of the top six in the nation at this weight plus these two ranked men. There is a health question at this weight for NU. Cannon limped off the mat last Sunday after his match with Indiana and didn’t wrestle in the second match against PSU Sunday. If Cannon isn’t ready to go, that will be a big blow to Northwestern’s chances of upsetting the Illini.
At 141, #15 Dylan Duncan for Illinois will be a heavy favorite and Illinois will be looking for bonus points here.
149 gives us our final ranked matchup. #9 Mikey Carr will take on #18 Yahya Thomas. This should be a fun match as both wrestlers aren’t shy about getting to their offense so we should see some scoring. This is the type of guy Carr needs to beat if he wants to earn AA honors in his senior season after making the blood round and round of 16 as a freshman and sophomore.
157 has a big question mark. Where is #1 ranked Ryan Deakin? Does he really exist? Or does Ryan Deakin belong to the pantheon of myths with the Loch Ness Monster and Bigfoot? Tune in this Sunday to find out! Deakin hasn’t wrestled all year and no one seems to know his status. Without him, the path to victory for the Wildcats gets really bumpy.
165 also features a ranked wrestler who may or may not be ready to go. #8 Danny Braunagel has missed the last two weeks wearing a sling on one arm. He is 4-0 on the year, but hasn’t wrestled since wrestling an extra match against Wisconsin. (Seriously?? He wrestled two matches during the duals that day and is like, “That’s not enough. I want an extra match.” Dude? WTF?) If the brawler isn’t ready to go, two true freshmen will take the mat.
Instead of previewing a blah 174 matchup, I want to take a moment to call out Intermat rankings. Braunagel is out injured and moved up a spot in the rankings this week while Cardani and Duncan lost to #1 ranked guys and dropped three spots each. What? Cardani did just as well as everyone else who has faced Spencer Lee. Sure, he didn’t score any points and got pinned, but he’s human and all mere mortals get that treatment from Lee. Duncan was wrestling a smart, tough match and was only down 5-3 in the third when he made one mistake and one mistake is all it takes for #1 Jaydin Eierman to make you pay, but none of the guys that passed him beat anyone good last week. Hey, Intermat! It shouldn’t be better for your ranking to be hurt than it is to wrestle the #1 guy tough!
The next three matchups have a clear favorite as top ten guys take on unranked wrestlers. The other Braunagel twin, also ranked #8, (I guess they take that twin togetherness thing seriously) at 184 and #9 Luke Luffman at HWT should have no trouble notching victories. Likewise, #10 ranked Lucas Davison for Northwestern should not struggle too much taking a victory.
The dual will start at noon with coverage on BTN+. If everyone is healthy, I would call this a narrow 19-17 win for the orange and blue. With the question marks probably affecting NU more than the Illini, I’m calling it 20-15 for the downstate Illinois crew.
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#1 Iowa Hawkeyes, #10 Ohio State Buckeyes, and Purdue Boilermakers at West Lafayette (Sunday, 10:30AM and 1PM on BTN; 3PM on BTN+)
Atinat: The top-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes join the Ohio State Buckeyes in traveling to West Lafayette to do battle with each other and host Purdue. Iowa is 3-0, most recently defeating Illinois 36-6 in dual where they scored their most bonus points since 2019. Ohio State is 4-1, with their lone loss coming to Illinois, and is coming off of wins over Michigan State and Maryland this past weekend. Purdue is 2-3, and comes off a split, losing to Minnesota before upsetting Rutgers in a tri-dual. Sunday’s tri-dual will feature two televised duals and a lot of top-ranked matchups, if not particularly competitive team scores.
Sunday will kick off at 10:30 God’s time on BTN with the hosting Purdue Boilermakers squaring off with the best team in the country. Right off the bat, defending-Hodge Trophy winner Spencer Lee will face his toughest test of the year in #12 Devin Schroder. While Schroder did lose to Pat McKee, who Spencer pinned two weeks ago, he is also the last person to force Spencer to wrestle a full seven minutes, losing by 16-2 major decision in the Big Ten Championships final last year. He probably won’t be able to replicate that, but he might be the first person this year to not end a match with Spencer on his back.
The Hawkeyes should roll the next three matches before a top 10 matchup at 157 pounds. Seventh-ranked Kendall Coleman will host #5 Kaleb Young, who bested him twice last year, the first by sudden-victory fall at Midlands and the second in the dual meet 4-3. Young also defeated Minnesota’s Brayton Lee in sudden victory this year, while Coleman lost to the Gopher 3-2. Expect a tight, low-scoring match with huge seeding implications for both tournaments in March.
Iowa is expected to be without Marinelli again, and should give up a loss at 165 pounds accordingly. Kemerer should roll, and the Hawkeyes should be favored over the final three matches as well.
Realistically, Purdue cannot win this. In their best case scenario, they hold Lee and Desanto to majors, Eierman to a decision, find upsets at 149 and 157 pounds before adding a major over backup Joe Kelly at 165. Max Lyon at 184 pounds represents their only remaining chance at a victory, but the rest of the lineup could be held to decisions, giving Purdue a very respectable 20-13 loss. However, I predict the Hawkeyes score at least five bonus points in their first three matches, hold serve at 157, and get bonus points out of 174 and heavyweight, giving a final score in the realm of 34-3.
After a 30-minute rest, Iowa returns to the mat and to the Big Ten Network at 1PM to face Ohio State. The Hawkeyes are heavily favored in the first three matches, as always, and could realistically have eight bonus points, coming in the way of two falls and a tech from the ever-high pace Desanto.
At 149 pounds, we will see our second top ten matchup of the day, as eighth-ranked Max Murin gets his biggest test of the season in the form of second-ranked Sammy Sasso. Sasso went 1-1 against Pat Lugo last year, with both matches ending controversially, and Max Murin looks incredible thus far at this new weight. Still, Sasso is a mountain to climb, and I don’t think Murin is there, so I expect Sasso to hold by a score of 3-2.
Kaleb Young should give the Hawkeyes another victory at 157 pounds, but the Hawkeyes could give up a major decision at 165 to #19 Ethan Smith. Then, at 174 pounds, we get our only top five match of the day. The nation’s best 174-pounder Michael Kemerer will get a test from third-ranked Kaleb Romero. Kemerer beat Romero 6-1 last year in a dual meet, but Kemerer hasn’t looked top form so far this year, and he’s going to need to find it in order to dispatch the Ohio State junior. That said, Kemerer’s “meh” is still pretty freaking good, so I think he holds here.
184 should have another close match between Nelson Brands, who is coming off an overtime loss to Zach Braunagel, and Rocky Jordan, a solid wrestler for the Buckeyes. Jacob Warner shouldn’t be tested too much by Gavin Hoffman, and big Tony Cassioppi has already proven how much better than the rest he is, so he should roll all-American Tate Orndorff.
Ohio State would need a lot in order to stay competitive in this dual. Besides needing to win the matches highlighted above, they’d also need upsets at 184 and heavyweight, and a fall at 165 pounds. They’d then need to limit Iowa to fewer than three bonus points over the course of the dual. I do think they give Iowa the closest team score so far, if because of Marinelli’s absence, but I think they drop the dual 30-7, surrendering 5 bonus points in the first three matches and a major decision at heavyweight.
The day will close with the host Boilermakers taking on tenth-ranked Ohio State at 3PM on BTN+. This dual doesn’t feature any particularly top-rated matches, but several close matches will decide its fate. Purdue looks for its second upset in as many weeks, and can get there with a Max Lyon victory over Rocky Jordan at 184 pounds, as well as bonus points from Kendall Coleman and Devin Schroder. They will also need to limit the scoring from Ohio State, who is heavily favored at 149, 157, 174, and 285 pounds. Likewise, all Ohio State needs to do to win is score those bonus points. Just two major decisions could put this out of reach, but an upset at 125 or 197 pounds would ice it for the Buckeyes. I expect Ohio State to be victorious, 21-12.
Who is more likely to lose?
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