Big weekend coming up! Two BTN duals on Friday, a BTN and an ESPN dual on Sunday, and Michigan State-Indiana on BTN on a Monday afternoon?? So we can be fools on record, myself and the fellow “writers” decided to put our Big Ten Championships predictions out there a full two months early. Both HWAHSQB and I had Spencer Lee in before that news came out, and so we both chose Ayala in his stead (I swear, I told him he didn’t have to, but dang it he just loves his Hawkeyes).
We also did a power rankings, though we entered our results at different times and mostly before the Big Ten season started, so don’t factor recent results in too much in ridiculing us. We’ll try to do another power rankings after Iowa-Penn State (and Michigan-Penn State), and once more before Big Tens. Remind me, though.
- Iowa (2 first, 1 second place vote)
- Penn State (1 first, 2 second)
- Michigan (3 third)
- Nebraska (3 fourth)
- Ohio State (2 fifth, 1 seventh)
- Wisconsin (1 fifth, 2 seventh)
- Minnesota (2 sixth, 1 eighth)
- Rutgers (1 sixth, 2 eighth)
- Northwestern (2 ninth, 1 tenth)
- Illinois (1 ninth, 1 tenth, 1 twelfth)
- Purdue (1 tenth, 2 eleventh)
- Michigan State (1 eleventh, 2 twelfth)
- Indiana (3 thirteenth)
- Maryland (sucks)
Some really clear tiers are established here, with Iowa-Penn State obviously at the top, Michigan the dark horse, Ohio State through Rutgers unanimously in the 5-8 range, then the Northwestern through Michigan State tier, then the other two. This, of course, was proven stupid when Purdue beat Nebraska. But, we did have Wisconsin above Rutgers and Northwestern before those happened, so that’s cool. Anyways, onto the previews!
#3 Michigan Wolverines at #7 Ohio State Buckeyes, Friday at 6PM on BTN
Atinat: Did you know J’Den Cox signed with Cliff Keen WC? Do you guys care about freestyle news? There’s plenty of ranked matches to look forward to in this dual, starting hot at 125 with the newly christened #1 Nick Suriano facing #18 Malik Heinselman. #4 Stevan Micic looks to bounce back against #21 Dylan D’Emilio at 141 pounds, and then Ohio State is favored for the first time as #2 Sammy Sasso meets up with #16 Kanen Storr. Ohio State freshman Bryce Hepner, ranked 26th, will look for an upset against #15 Will Lewan at 157 pounds, then a pair of freshmen face off at 165 pounds, where #7 Carson Kharchla sees #10 Cameron Amine. The match of the day is at 174 pounds, where #6 Logan Massa meets #7 Ethan Smith. It’s the first career meeting for the pair of upper classmen. Then we get the third top-ten match in a row when #2 Myles Amine gets #7 Kaleb Romero, with the former down from 197 and the latter up from 174. Michigan is favored in the final two matches, with #8 Pat Brucki and #2 Mason Parris meeting #20 Gavin Hoffman and #12 Tate Orndorff, respectively.
It’s pretty nuts that these two schools combine for 19 ranked wrestlers, which might be the most in a dual this year (Iowa and Michigan both have ten, but they don’t wrestle this year). Still, Michigan is pretty heavily favored in the dual, with heavy favorites at 125, 133, 141, 184, and 285, and only one big underdog at 149 pounds. I would give Michigan the edge at 157, 174, and 197 as well, though none of those would surprise me either way. I think the Wolverines get bonus points at 125, 133, and 285, giving us a final score of 27-6. If Ohio State is going to win, they’re going to need to sweep the toss-ups and find either a big upset or a fall somewhere.
This poll is closed
Michigan by 12+
Michigan in a close one
#10 Nebraska Cornhuskers at #14 Minnesota Gophers, Friday at 8PM on BTN
Atinat: Minnesota had a good week, keeping things respectable with Iowa and whooping Northwestern 31-9, and Nebraska had an awful one, losing to Purdue with several wrestlers out and one very big upset. Still, wrestling is more about matchups than momentum, so how do these two match up?
Well, with a full, healthy lineup, Nebraska would be favored in 6 of 10 weights. However, injuries to starters Liam Cronin (125), Chad Red (141), and Peyton Robb (157) flip two weights and leaves the Huskers open to bonus points at 125. If Minnesota can hold serve at 133 and 165, they should win this dual by a score of something like 20-13. To win, Nebraska will need to steal one of those two, and add bonus points at 149, 174, and 184. And not get pinned by Gable.
Who you got
This poll is closed
Children of the Corn
The Gilded Rodents
#15 Illinois Fighting Illini at #17 Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Friday at 6PM on BTN+
HWAHSQB: Illinois was one of two teams that didn’t have an opening weekend match oddly , so the long trip to Piscataway will start the dual season for the Illini. They follow this trip up with a short turnaround to face the defending champs in Champaign on Sunday so a big weekend. The home team should be a heavy favorite, but there are several potentially really fun matches at stake depending on the lineups used by each coach.
125 features two competent wrestlers that will be competing to qualify for NCAAs and this match could be important for seeding and RPI purposes to both of them as #26 Justin Cardani and #31 Dylan Shawver square off. The most anticipated match for me will be 133, where stud freshman Joey Olivieri will don the scarlet singlet against last year’s top freshman and All-American Lucas Byrd. These two could be at it for quite a while, so hopefully we get some fireworks. Another matchup to look forward to is 184 where #19 Zac Braunagel needs to show he can compete with guys like #5 John Poznanski if he wants to take the step forward to being an All-American. My prediction is a 23-12 win for the Scarlet Knights, but I’m holding the option to change my numbers if Illinois has Dylan Duncan and/or Mikey Carr in the lineup.
#2 Iowa Hawkeyes at #19 Northwestern Wildcats, Friday at 7PM on BTN+
Atinat: This dual should start with fireworks as #7 Michael DeAugustino and #12 Drake Ayala are both coming off big wins, and then #9 Chris Cannon will get a shot at the electric #3 Austin DeSanto. I have Iowa winning those two, but a split isn’t unlikely. Eierman will look for bonus points against #32 Frankie Tal-Shahar, and then Northwestern will be heavily favored for the first time when #5 Yahya Thomas gets a chance to bounce back after his recent loss against #12 Max Murin of Iowa. #12 Kaleb Young will also have to swing big against #2 Ryan Deakin, with the former coming off a close loss to #4 Brayton Lee. Iowa is heavily favored in the next four matches, with the night likely ending with #5 Tony Cassioppi seeing #14 Lucas Davison.
I have Iowa winning this dual by a score of 30-6, with Ayala and DeSanto each getting wins and Murin and Young both losing decisions by 3-6 points. Young is actually 2-2 against Deakin all time, defeating him twice on the same day, both in sudden victory, at the 2019 NCAAs (the latter for fifth place). That said, Deakin won 6-0 at Big Tens last year, and Wrestlestat projects a major for the Wildcat. I don’t, but I also don’t see Young winning. Murin is also 1-0 against Thomas, but that was all the way back in 2017 and the two somehow haven’t wrestled since. I also have Cassioppi handling Davison with ease, which Wrestlestat does not. The two haven’t wrestled before, but Davison is up from 197 last year, and Cassioppi tends to maul lighter guys.
Maryland Terrapins at the Virginia Duals, Friday and Saturday
Atinat: Maryland will wrestle Kent State, Chattanooga, Penn, and Oklahoma, the former two on Friday and the latter two on Saturday. The duals will be available on Flowrestling, but I can’t imagine many Maryland fans pay to watch. Wrestlestat has Maryland winning the first two and losing the last two, and I don’t really care enough to do a deep dive on four duals. #12 Kyle Cochran will see #21 Darrien Roberts from Oklahoma and #32 Neil Antrassian from Penn, as well as two unranked foes, so a perfect weekend would be big for him. #31 Jaron Smith at 197 pounds has only #11 Jake Woodley of Oklahoma among his four opponents, so he should be able to go 3-1 and cement his place as a potential NCAA qualifier. Heavyweight Zach Scrader is ranked 26th and has #27 Josh Heindselman of Oklahoma and #32 Ben Goldin of Penn as his ranked foes, so he has probably the most realistic potential to improve in the rankings with a good weekend. Action starts at noon central time on Friday.
Michigan State at #16 Purdue Boilermakers, Saturday at 6PM on BTN+
HWAHSQB: After Purdue’s big win over Nebraska last weekend and their 16th ranking, this might seem like it should be an easy win for the Boilers, but the Spartans match up pretty well and if they can win a couple tossups, they could easily upset the Choo, Choo! boys.
The first two matches feature a heavy favorite for each side with PU’s Schroder and MSU’s Foley at 125 and 133 respectively. Both will likely bonus. Purdue will be favored at 141, 174, and HWT as well and MSU should comfortably take 149 and 165, meaning the dual should come down to three tossups.
At 157, Chase Saldate and Kendall Coleman square off. Prior to the season, this match would’ve been considered Coleman’s to lose, but Coleman has faltered a few times and Saldate’s picked up some top notch wins against ranked opponents. I’m leaning Saldate here. At 184, two tough hombres will take the mat with #23 ranked Max Lyon for Purdue against #29 ranked Layne Malczewski on the other side. This is the tossiest of all tossups, a true coinflip match. The last tossup is the one I’m most looking forward to. At 197, #15 Thomas Penola toes the line against Cam Caffey, who is ranked #18. This is going to be a dogfight, but give me the Spartans by a score of 18-17 with bonus points providing them the edge.
#2 Iowa at #15 Illinois, Sunday at 3PM on BTN
HWAHSQB: Illinois moved up to #15 in the rankings, passing Northwestern and Rutgers, who took losses on the opening weekend. Even still, the 15th ranked team in the country will be the underdog in all 10 matches if all the starters go. I don’t think Iowa will put all their starters in, likely resting some guys if they are banged up at all. I really hope DeSanto goes though as Byrd appeared to close the gap somewhat between the two wrestlers last year.
Atinat: Yeah, this won’t be a competitive dual, but there’s a couple fun matches to watch for. 125 and 133 could both be fun, as we get a feeling for how good Ayala is against Cardani, who is kinda middle-tier in the Big Ten, and DeSanto-Byrd promises a good match. DeSanto won the first match last year 18-6, but Byrd fell just 5-4 in the rematch at the Big Ten Championships. The other fun one should be 184, where #18 Abe Assad of the Hawks gets #19 Zac Braunagel of the Illini. I think both of these guys are underrated, though Assad maybe slightly more. Assad pinned Braunagel at Midlands in 2019-20, and I don’t expect that to be replicated, but I do like the Hawkeye here. If all the starters do go, gimmie a shutout, something like 36-0.
#9 Wisconsin Badgers at #14 Minnesota Gophers, Sunday at 1PM on BTN+
Kind of...: This is intriguing. Minnesota is favored, and should be. If nothing else, even if everything breaks UW’s way, Gable Steveson is the ultimate insurance policy for the Gophers. Trent Hillger is an All-American, but if Minnesota needs bonus points, Steveson is going to go get them. There are several tossups that don’t involve All-American candidates. Wisconsin probably needs to sweep those and/or get an upside at one of the more premiere weights to win. That will be a tall order.
125 should be fun. Eric Barnett is capable of hanging with Patrick McKee, but McKee deserves to be favored. At 133 neither Kyle Burwick nor Jake Gliva is likely to make a lot of noise in March. UW needs this weight if they want to win the dual. It should be competitive. Ditto Joey Zargo vs. Jake Bergeland at 141. Bergeland is hovering right around the top 20. Zargo is capable of winning, but is probably a year away. Austin Gomez needs to, and should, beat Michael Blockhus at 149. At 157, hopefully Garrett Model can keep it close against Brayton Lee. If UW is up 9-6 at this point, they have a chance. If not, they can’t lose until HWT.
At 165 Cael Carlson has actually performed better among common opponents, but Dean Hamiti should still be favored. Then come three straight bouts that could all go either way: Andrew McNally vs. Bailee O’Reilly at 174; Chris Weiler vs. Isaiah Salazar at 184; and Braxton Amos vs. Michial Foy at 197. Then Hillger/Steveson to finish things off.
I think UW will acquit themselves well, winning at 141, 149, 165, 174, and 197. However, I fully expect Steveson to win the meet of Minnesota by grabbing a MD. My guess is Gophers by a count of 16-15.
#17 Rutgers at #1 Penn State Nittany Lions, Sunday at 4PM on ESPNU
Atinat: Hey, the Big Ten is wrestling a conference dual on ESPN. Penn State should be favored pretty heavily here, with top-5 guys at six of ten weights, and ranked wrestlers at nine. Still, Rutgers has Sebastian Rivera, John Poznanski, and Greg Bulsak, as well as an exciting true freshman at 133 pounds and a scrappy middleweight class that could cut through the weak point in the Penn State lineup. I anticipate Rutgers winning three matches, including 149, 157, and an upset of your choosing.
Drew Hildebrandt scored a major decision in his Nittany Lion debut, and will have another chance to impress against #31 Dylan Shawver. #1 Roman Bravo-Young is a good barometer to judge freshman Joey Olivieri by, as his consistency will let us gauge how far along Olivieri is based on how badly he loses by. #3 Sebastian Rivera looks to make a statement after seeming on the outside looking in against #1 Nick Lee (and Jaydin Eierman) at 141 pounds last year. Aaron Brooks will have to defend his crown against fifth-ranked John Poznanski at 184 pounds, also a freshman. The final matchup of interest is at 197 pounds, where Cornell-transfer Max Dean will see super-senior #7 Greg Bulsak for the Scarlet Knights. I’ll say 25-9 blue dudes.
Michigan State Spartans at Indiana Hoosiers, Monday at 2:30PM on BTN
Atinat: Apparently the answer to getting on TV is wrestling when literally nothing else is going on. Still, this dual being televised feels wrong. Although, I’m probably still gonna watch it. The two schools combine for seven ranked guys, but the only ranked matchup is at 184 pounds, where #8 Donnell (DJ) Washington faces #20 Layne Malczewski. Malczewski is probably underrated, but I still like DJ here. Four weights have no ranked wrestlers, though that includes 165 where I expect Michigan State freshman Caleb Fish to be an NCAA qualifier. Overall, Michigan State is a “big” favorite, but that mostly means they’re expected to win a bunch of relatively close matches. If you’ve got nothing going on at 2:30 on a Monday, I suppose you could watch this. Again, I will be.