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Penn State dominates Michigan, Ohio State impresses in loss to Iowa

Another Big Ten wrestling recap

Big Ten Championship Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images

So, uhh, what counts as a freshman? This was a busy, busy weekend, and several wrestlers deserve recognition for their performances. Two of them, Carson Kharchla and Greg Kerkvliet, are “freshman.” That is to say, they have three more years of eligibility after this one. But both started their collegiate careers in 2019, redshirting that season. Kharchla did not compete last year, but Kerkvliet did, finishing seventh and earning all-American status at NCAAs. So, we decided that when evaluating freshman of the week, we’ll take to the time-honored tradition here at OTE of making shit up as we go along.

So, our Freshman of the Week, for being the most freshman-y of the freshmen, is Dean Hamiti. Hamiti, a TRUE freshman, went 2-0 this weekend for the Badgers, recording a pin of Bubba Wilson and a tech fall over Hayden Lohrey. Are these good opponents? Not really, but we had to bring Hamiti up at some point. The 165-pounder is 16-0 with bonus points in 14 of those victories and pins in 5. Our Upset of the Week, however, goes to “freshman” Carson Kharchla, who knocked off perennial bridesmaid (and #1 ranked) Alex Marinelli 3-2. And finally, our Outstanding Wrestler of the Week, or OWW Award, goes to Michigan State’s Cam Caffey. Maybe you missed it because he wrestles for the Spartans (or because neither dual was on BTN), but he had a heckuva week. Coming into the week ranked fifteenth, he earned a major decision victory over #6 Greg Bulsak of Rutgers with a pair of third-period tilts. He followed that up by knocking off second-ranked Max Dean of Penn State 3-2 for the biggest victory of the three-time NCAA qualifier’s career. Those two wrestlers were a combined 27-1 going into those matches, with the one loss being Bulsak’s at the hands of Dean (Bulsak did lose to Pat Brucki on Sunday, though).

You may notice we missed someone. Greg Kerkvliet got what I at the time called the upset of the year when he topped Michigan’s Mason Parris 8-5, giving the Wolverine junior his first non-Gable loss in three years. Sorry Penn State fans, you’ll have to live with just having your best weekend since the 2019 NCAA tournament. Seriously, it feels criminal that this isn’t getting an award, but I guess that’s why our awards don’t count and we don’t get paid.


Who had the better week?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    The Penn State wrestling team
    (41 votes)
  • 26%
    Cameron Ronald (I’m guessing) Caffey
    (15 votes)
56 votes total Vote Now

In trying to find out Caffey’s middle name, I discovered that his Twitter is gold (I only scrolled a few tweets in, please don’t cancel me).

#1 Penn State Nittany Lions 29, #3 Michigan Wolverines 6

Atinat: Uh oh, death star alert. Penn State looked pretty good on Friday. Michigan did not. Here’s a fun fact, the following teams wrestled Penn State more competitively than Michigan: Penn (4 points), Lehigh (7), UNI (20), Cornell (5), Arizona State (19), Indiana (18), Rutgers (16), and Michigan State (19). Yes, obviously a lot of those were against different lineups, and Penn State is obviously in peak form right now, but this was still a not-great showing for Michigan. So, here’s how the dual went:

Michigan predictably got the first win, but Hildebrandt was able to slow down the top-ranked Suriano in just a 2-1 decision, with the Rutgers transfer earning the pivotal riding point in the third period. Ragusin did well to avoid surrendering bonus points against RBY, losing 8-1, but Drew Mattin was teched by Nick Lee shortly thereafter and the Nittany Lions had all the points they would need in the dual, leading 8-3. A pivotal swing match went against Michigan when Cole Mattin was forced to injury default just seconds into the 149 match, and Will Lewan’s victory only dampened the beating as the Wolverines trailed 14-6 at the break.

Brady Berge recorded a first-period takedown over #10 Cameron Amine, riding the period out en route to a 3-1 minor upset. Top-ranked Carter Starocci had a low-single-leg reattack for a takedown in the first period of his bout with #6 Logan Massa, which proved the difference in the 3-2 victory. The 1v2 match at 184 pounds was tied 1-1 going into the final minute, when a single leg attack from Amine was defended incredibly by Brooks, who continued to keep his own weight low and prevent Amine from elevating his leg until Brooks finally broke the grip on his leg and went behind Amine for the decisive takedown. #8 Pat Brucki was able to get a takedown in each of the first two periods against #2 Max Dean, but Dean rode Brucki out for the entire third period, earning a riding point and sending the match to sudden victory tied at four. A tired Brucki continued to fire at Dean in sudden victory, but the fatigue was obvious and Dean was able to go behind the sloppy Brucki for a simple takedown to win it. With the dual out of reach and their spirits already broken, Michigan had to watch their surest thing go out and get his butt kicked, with #2 Mason Parris falling by decision 8-5 to fourth-ranked Greg Kerkvliet.

So, while this wasn’t a close dual in terms of team score, nearly every match was close. A lot of those Michigan wrestlers could win rematches in March. Still, it’s as clear now as ever that Penn State steps up in the spotlight like nobody else. Berge, Starocci, Brooks, and Dean all wrestled fairly boring matches, and I do not know how Dean never got dinged for stalling (I had a fifteen count on holding onto a single leg at one point in the third, but the ref’s count never got to two). Still, that backside for the Nittany Lions is very good, and through this dual, the 174-285 lineup had not suffered a defeat. That did change Sunday, though, thanks to Cam Caffey.

#2 Iowa Hawkeyes 21, #9 Ohio State Buckeyes 12

Atinat: Well, that was... underwhelming. After watching Penn State whoop ass on BTN, the Hawkeyes followed with a performance that was not worthy of the talent on this team. Ayala lost a sudden victory decision to Malik Heinselman, and really never looked comfortable. When Ayala fails to get to his offense, he will lose matches, and that happened on Friday. DeSanto made his return to the mat after a three-dual hiatus, shutting down the “out-for-the-season” rumors with a 19-4 technical victory over Dylan Koontz. Eierman got a 4-0 decision over D’Emilio, and then Murin showed guts in his close loss to national finalist Sammy Sasso. Young got a shutout win over Jashon Hubbard before Ohio State “freshman” Carson Kharchla shut down top-ranked Alex Marinelli, scoring the match’s only takedown in the final twenty seconds to win 3-2. Kemerer looked dominate, generating all the offense in a 6-3 decision over #7 Ethan Smith, and Assad was game for #7 Kaleb Romero, taking him to sudden victory but falling there. Warner won a close one over Gavin Hoffman, and Cassioppi was the victim of an arm throw early by Tate Orndorff but came back to win by major decision, 13-4.

Despite the bright spots (DeSanto, Murin, Kemerer, Assad), this was pretty difficult to watch as a Hawkeye fan. Iowa is going to have to show up in a much bigger way against Penn State next week, and that’s all I have to say about that for now. Ohio State wrestled Maryland on Sunday, but they have next week off before they get Penn State to start February (also Rutgers).

Michigan State Spartans 20, #15 Rutgers Scarlet Knights 17

Atinat: Before the dual, I asked if Michigan State could follow up their upset of Purdue with another one over Rutgers. Apparently, much to my surprise, the answer was yes! After dropping the first match 4-3, Michigan State got on the scoreboard with a Rayvon Foley 1-0 decision over Joey Olivieri. Yes, 1-0. No, I couldn’t find video. No, I don’t know if I want to. Rutgers got two big victories when SeaBass found a tech fall over Jordan Hamdan, then Mike Van Brill held off Peyton Omania 3-1, but Michigan State would answer with two victories of their own, with Chase Saldate and Caleb Fish each shutting our their foes, 9-0 and 4-0 respectively. Connor O’Neill would get Rutgers back in the win column with a 3-1 victory over Nate Jimenez, putting the Scarlet Knights up 14-10. With two top-ten wrestlers in the final three bouts, things felt all but certain for Rutgers, but Michigan State would topple both of those giants.

Layne Malczewski scored the first takedown on #5 John Poznanski, then trapped third-year freshman when Poznanski tried to roll out of a half-nelson, finishing the match with a first-period pin. Cam Caffey got a third-period merkle on sixth-ranked Greg Bulsak, pulling the Clarion transfer backwards into a tilt, letting him up before getting right back to a power-half for four more, good enough for a major decision. Boone McDermott would get the final victory for Rutgers in sudden victory, but it wasn’t enough as the Spartans came out on top, 20-17.

Indiana Hoosiers 26, Maryland Terra-ble 12

Atinat: King Sandoval got another fall! Rank him!! And Kyle Cochran knocked off DJ Washington, which is a great win for the Maryland junior. Dominic Solis got the only other Maryland win, an 8-4 decision over Nick South, and Indiana got a tech at 125 and a fall at 141 along with their five other decisions to win this dual. I don’t have much more to say here. Not many of the matches were close (Washington-Cochran was the only one or two point decision, and the average margin of victory was five points), yet not a ton of bonus points were scored (8 total, 6 by pin). Maryland is still the bottom of the Big Ten, and while it’s not a huge chasm or anything, it also isn’t close.

Purdue Boilermakers 25, #19 Illinois Fighting Illini 13

HWAHSQB: Purdue was impressive in dominating an overmatched Illini squad. Kicking off with Devon Schroder and Justin Cardani, where Schroder predictably notched a 1-0 victory. Those two have squared off four times now, 28 minutes of wrestling (in)action, and they have combined for a total of ZERO takedowns. ZZZZZZZZZZ, Cardani probably leads the nation in shots taken from too far away that end in stalemates. Lucas Byrd did what he does and beat Matt Ramos 5-0. Ramos worked hard and scrambled well in the defeat. Parker Filius picked up a second period TF next. Hayden Lohrey picked up the biggest win of his career beating Danny Braunagel at 165. Gerrit, the mulleted wonder, Nijenhuis got a first period pin. In a ranked matchup, Zac Braunagel controlled Max Lyon and won the scrambles to grab his first career win against the Boiler 5-2. The last two matches were split and each team got bonus points. At 197, Illinois sent out their 174# Russki against one of the strongest 197s in the B1G, which didn’t end well as Penola grabbed a 3rd period TF. At HWT, Luke Luffman got the major for the only bonus point for the orange and blue. Purdue won 6/10 matches, but also outscored Illinois 8-1 in bonus points to reach the 12 point final margin.

#14 Nebraska Cornhuskers 22, #7 Wisconsin Badgers 12

Kind of...: I predicted that Nebraska would show up Friday night and, sadly, I was right. Other than Dean Hamiti continuing to build his legend, the lone bright spot for UW was #8 Austin Gomez’s dual-opening win over #4 Ridge Lovett at 149. Gomez was injured the last two years, but had shown some real potential in 2019 at 133, beating Austin DeSanto once and wrestling a couple of close matches with Daton Fix. Now up two weights, Gomez looks really good. He picks his spots well and sure looks like a potential All-American.

Otherwise...not good Bob. Garrett Model was impressive in saving the Badgers a point in the 3rd period of his bout, taking a potential MD off the board, but Peyton Robb wasn’t in any trouble. And Nebraska really separated themselves at the upper weights. Mikey Labriola was a clear favorite and won handily at 174. Ditto Taylor Venz at 184. At 197, Braxton Amos continued his trend of staying close with really good opponents (this time #3 Eric Schultz), but not pulling out the win. The 3-1 loss accurately sums up how hard its been for Amos to break down All-American caliber defenses, so far.

And to top it off, Trent Hillger lost to Christian Lance. HWT in the B1G (Steveson, Parris, Cassioppi, and Kerkvliet) is so deep that it really doesn’t matter that much seeding-wise. But you really wold prefer to stay in that 6-11 ranking area nationally to give yourself the best chance of missing one of those four in the second round of the NCAAs. But that’s a long ways off, and plenty of Badgers need to keep improving before there’s any talk of getting past the second round of the NCAAs. All in all, a pretty clear reality check for the Badgers. And a pretty clear statement by Nebraska that they’re top 10 worthy.

#7 Wisconsin 23, Purdue 12

Kind of...: A better effort from UW, even accounting for a weaker opponent (yes, I know Purdue beat an injury-affected Nebraska a couple of weeks back). Thanks to the non-award-winning production values of BTN+, nobody saw the lone showdown among top 15 wrestlers, but the internet swears UW’s #8 Eric Barnett got things started with a win over #15 Devin Schroder. After Matt Ramos’s (PUR) slight upset of Kyle Burwick (UW) and Joseph Zargo’s (UW) slight upset of Parker Filius (PUR), UW was up 6-3. Then, after two non-upsets—Austin Gomez (UW) with an MD over Alec White (PUR) and Kendall Coleman (PUR) over a game Garrett Model (UW), UW’s lead was 10-6.

That was bad news for Purdue, because Dean Hamiti was up next. An 18-1 TF later (he got bored and gave up an escape), it was 15-6, and Purdue basically had to run the table. Gerrit Nijenhuis did win a tossup against Andrew McNally in SV, but Chris Weiler’s minor upset of Max Lyon at 184 basically clinched things for UW. Which was good, because Thomas Penola’s motor was more than enough to defeat Braxton Amos, who looked slow, frustrated, or both. Trent Hillger rebounded from his loss to Christian Lance Friday night, taking it out on an overmatched Michael Woulfe in a 10-0 MD.

Bottom line: Hamiti and Gomez are legit All-American threats. Barnett is too, but at a weight that is much more of a merry-go-round. Hillger could get there, but has his shaky moments. The other six are all potential NCAA qualifiers, but any of them could crash and burn, too. None of them appear to be threats to make the blood round. But, hey, get your bid and take your chances.

As for Purdue, if they’re going to break their All-American droughts, it sure seems like it’s going to have to be Coleman or Schroder, but I wouldn’t bet on either. No disrespect. There’s just a lot of good wrestlers out there.

#9 Ohio State 39, Maryland 4

HWAHSQB: Umm, Maryland? You ok? This was always going to be ugly, but after losing a spirited match to the Hawkeyes, the Buckeyes took out their frustration on the boys from the land of Mary. Not only did the Bucks win 9 of 10 matches, but they ended five of those matches early by fall or tech fall. Do you know how bad a wrestler has to be to get Sammy Sasso to score 24 points? Don’t answer that. In addition to Sasso’s tech, Karchla and Heinselman added two more and Jashon Hubbard and Dylan D’Emilio had first period pins.

The lone bright spot for the Terps was King Sandoval earning a 10-0 major over Dean Koontz. In the single matchup of ranked grapplers, #7 Kaleb Romero scored two second period takedowns on #12 Kyle Cochran and secured a 6-2 victory.

#1 Penn State 28, Michigan State 9

Atinat: Hey Sparty, that could’ve been worse! A backup at 133 gave Michigan State their first win, Chase Saldate gave them their second, and Cam Caffey continued his amazing weekend with a win over Max Dean to give the Spartans their third and final victory of the night. Good job, guys!

Now, as for Penn State... Kerkvliet recorded a fall over Brad Wilton and Starocci teched... Marty Larkin? Hildebrandt and Lee both majored their unranked foes, and Bartlett and Berge got solid victories over Peyton Omania and Caleb Fish, respectively. Aaron Brooks had the biggest win for Penn State on the day, beating #27 Layne Malczewski.

#14 Nebraska 23, #21 Northwestern Wildcats 12

Atinat: This was a fun one! DeAugustino and Cannon got wins for the Wildcats to start things, but neither collected any bonus points. Chad Red beat Tal-Shahar just 4-2, and then 149 saw the match of the dual with #4 Ridge Lovett facing off against #11 Yahya Thomas. Yahya got three takedowns in the first, but Lovett started the second down and got his escape and a takedown to end the period tied at 6. Yahya chose down in the third, but a full two-minute, boots-in rideout for Lovett gave him the riding point and a 7-6 victory. Thomas has now lost three of his last four matches, by a combined four points. In better news for the Wildcats, we got the return of Ryan Deakin in a somewhat underwhelming 4-2 decision victory over #5 Peyton Robb. Yeah, Deakin beat the #5 guy in the country and I called it underwhelming. How many non-national champions could you say that for?

Trailing 9-6 at the break, Nebraska ripped off four straight wins to put this dual away, getting bonus points in three. Northwestern did get the moral victory (and seeding victory) with Lucas Davison handling Christian Lance 8-3. Like Kind of... said above, though, the top 4 at heavyweight in the Big Ten is really good, so the difference between the five seed and the eight seed isn’t much. If we seeded by Intermat rankings, the seeding going into this week would have Hillger 5, Lance 6, Orndorff 7, and Davison 8. I would say Orndorff 5, Davison 6, Lance 7, Hillger 8 now, which is nuts because Hillger is a two-time All-American.

#3 Michigan 35, #15 Rutgers 8

Atinat: Michigan bounced back in a big way, crushing Rutgers 35-8. Suriano opened the dual against his former team with a 16-1 tech fall, and Ragusin followed that up with a 3-1 victory over Olivieri. No Micic meant a tech fall victory for SeaBass, and a Van Brill win over Patrick Nolan knotted the team score at eight. It would be the last victory for Rutgers on the day, though, as Michigan swept the backside with two pins and a forfeit at 174 pounds. The match of the day was Pat Brucki’s sudden victory decision over Greg Bulsak, giving the Rutgers 197-pounder his third consecutive loss. This match had all the right kinds of defense, and was exciting despite no takedowns in the regulation seven minutes. Brucki ended things shortly into the two-minute sudden victory, though, with a low-single-turned-double leg attack. If you’re a Rutgers fan, you might be worried about Bulsak’s three losses, but Max Dean, Cam Caffey, and Pat Brucki is a tough stretch, and he still has time to right the ship before Big Tens.