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Ohio State-Michigan, Iowa-Penn State headline a busy weekend of wrestling

The Big Ten Network picks up four duals, including the biggest dual of the year

Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

#5 Ohio State at #7 Michigan Wolverines, Friday at 5PM on the Big Ten Network

Atinat: This dual is definitely overshadowed by the one to follow, but these are likely the third- and fourth-best teams in the Big Ten, as well as fierce rivals. 19 of the 20 starters on these teams are ranked by Intermat, so not only will this dual be close, but it will be decided by high-level matches between some of the best wrestlers in the country. The big ones to watch are 133, 165, and 184. At 133, Ohio State freshman #9 Jesse Mendez and Michigan sophomore #12 Dylan Ragusin meet for the first time in their careers. Both young guys are looking for all-American finishes this March, and are jockeying for the #2 spot in the Big Ten right now. At 165, #9 Carson Kharchla and #6 Cam Amine are looking to settle a score over their 1-1 career record. The Wolverine Amine won their last matchup, a sudden victory decision at Big Tens last year. And finally, at 184, #5 Kaleb Romero is looking to repeat his victory over #8 Matt Finesilver, a senior who transferred into Ann Arbor from Duke. Their Michigan State Open meeting was lopsided, with Romero winning 12-5, but Finesilver will look to even the score tonight.

I have Ohio State favored, 25-9. They have strong favorites at 125, 141, 149, 174, and 197, and I think they win at 133, 165, and 184 as well. That just leaves 157 and 285 for the Wolverines.

#2 Iowa Hawkeyes at #1 Penn State Nittany Lions, Friday at 7:30PM on the Big Ten Network

Atinat: Alright, this is the biggest dual of the year, so we’re going to look at every single match one by one and what each wrestler needs to achieve for their team. But before I get into it, I’ll give you the short answer: this is an uphill climb for Iowa. The easiest path to victory is to get six from Spencer, wins at 141 and 149, and wins from two of 157, 165, 197, and 285. Then, just give up three or fewer bonus points in the losses. Iowa is not going to beat Penn State in Tulsa this year. That’s just the sad reality of it. However, they match up well enough that they have a chance to take down the defending national champs in State College.

125: Starts off easy enough. It’s 3x National Champion Spencer Lee vs redshirt freshman Gary Steen. Steen has a 5-9 record this year, just recently punching his first Big Ten win in sudden victory over Tristan Lujan. The goal for this match for Steen is to not get pinned. Give up five, it doesn’t matter, but do not give up six. Penn State has three good chances at bonus points: 133, 174, and 184. If Steen gets pinned, not only does Penn State need to convert all of those chances in a tied dual, but they need a tech fall from one of the three, as Iowa would win an 18-18 dual on criteria (number of pins). Of course, to not get pinned by Spencer Lee is no easy task. And I’m just some guy with a laptop and just enough free time to write about wrestling, so I don’t know how one goes about this. Of course, the goal for Lee is to get six. That’s easy enough, as the Hawkeye has seven pins in his ten matches this year, including his last six straight. And, to be frank, all over better guys than Steen. Go out, do your thing, and start the dual on the right foot. That’s my prediction, so call it 6-0 Iowa after one.

133: This is the first of those three bonus points opportunities for Penn State, and also maybe the easiest to convert. Teske is a junior who started his career at Penn State, going 11-4 in two seasons before transferring to Northern Iowa. RBY is just a two-time national champion with a 89% bonus rate this season. Teske doesn’t stand a chance at winning this, barring a fluke pin, but he can still help his team out by keeping the decision to seven points or fewer. Denying Penn State chances at bonus points is going to be huge for Iowa, for reasons mentioned above, and keeping RBY to just three team points would be a big win for Iowa. That said, for Bravo-Young, the goal should realistically be to match Lee. If RBY goes out and matches six, that is going to take a lot of life out of Iowa going into the crucial middle weights, as well as obviously taking away any bonus point advantage for the Hawkeyes. Last weekend, Bravo-Young struggled with Ragusin before pinning Rayvon Foley, and Teske is definitely somewhere between the two. Cullan Schriever is listed as well for Iowa on the probables, but his goals would be similar to Teske’s. I will take RBY to score bonus points here, something like an 11-2 major decision to cut it to 6-4 Iowa.

141: And now we get into the meat of it. Both teams got an early shot to put up some points, but from here on, every match is going to have to be won by tooth and nail. First up, #2 Real Woods from Iowa vs #4 Beau Bartlett of the Nittany Lions. Last year, Bartlett went 15-10 up a weight at 149 pounds, qualifying for NCAAs but going 1-2. This year, he’s 14-0. Real Woods is also in a different place this year, but in a more literal sense. The junior transferred in from Stanford this year, where he was a 3x national qualifier and an all-American last year. Woods is also undefeated, having added a top-ten win in sixth-ranked Brock Hardy this past weekend. The goal for both is to just win, baby, and I’m going to take Woods to do that here, for a couple of reasons. First, he’s older and more experienced, and I think that matters a lot in first-time meetings. Second, he’s faced tough competition this year, and I don’t trust Bartlett just yet to wrestle to his ranking. Third, it keeps things interesting, because Iowa has no margin of error here. 9-4 Iowa.

149: Max Murin and Shayne Van Ness are four years apart, but they’ve got pretty similar records this year. Van Ness is a redshirt freshman out of Blair Academy in New Jersey, whereas Murin is a sixth-year senior out of Ebensburg, PA. Both lost to Austin Gomez and Paniro Johnson already this year, but are a combined 24-1 outside of those matches (with Murin losing to Yahya Thomas in their dual matchup earlier this month). Murin is ranked 7th by Intermat, while Van Ness is 13th. Don’t you dare think that this is anything but a tossup, though. The goal for both is to just win: Murin to keep Iowa alive, Van Ness to tighten Iowa’s path to victory to nearly nothing. I’ll take Murin, for similar reasons to Woods’ above. 12-4 Iowa.

157: This might sound crazy, with a repeat of last year’s title bout at 197 pounds and a preview of this year’s heavyweight final to come in this dual, but this is the match I’m most looking forward to. #15 Cobe Siebrecht, a junior from just-down-the-road Lisbon, Iowa, vs #9 true freshman Levi Haines. The two combine for a 22-3 record, with Siebrecht boasting a win over #12 Trevor Chumbley and Haines beating #10 Will Lewan. I would classify both as all-American contenders, though they’ll have to earn their way in the loaded 157-pound division. This is where I would start to classify Iowa’s margin-of-error-zone as… marginal. Which is better than zero. If Iowa is up 12-4 going into this match, they could realistically lose this or the next one and be fine. Of course, Siebrecht’s goal is to not do that. Regardless of what happens before or after this match, these wrestlers need a victory here in order to take control of the seeding race for March. A 2-seed at Big Tens could mean a top-eight seed in Tulsa and an inside track to an all-American finish. A loss throws either of these guys into a busy middle of the weight in the Big Ten and vastly complicates their all-American chances. I am going to, for the third time in a row, choose a Hawkeye to win a toss-up. If that happens, I will be very, very happy. Don’t worry, though. I’m about to make myself very, very sad. I will note here that Penn State did list Terrell Barraclough alongside Haines in the probables, but I think it is highly unlikely that Haines doesn’t wrestle. Iowa 15-4 after five.

165: What do you know, it’s another tossup! Penn State again has the higher-ranked wrestler, with #5 Alex Facundo donning the blue and white, and #13 Patrick Kennedy representing the balck and gold. Kennedy is a sophomore, and Facundo is a redshirt freshman. Facundo just got a signature win over Cam Amine, and has only a loss to David Carr on his resume. Kennedy has lost to both Carr and Dean Hamiti, but is otherwise unblemished on the season. I’m not very confident in Kennedy at this point, so give me Facundo by a large decision. Iowa 15-7

174: Now we get to Penn State’s power section. Carter Starocci will be the first of three national champions to take the mat, and opposite him with be Nelson Brands, the son of Terry Brands. Brands kept things close with Mikey Labriola a week ago, but he also has losses to Edmond Ruth and Rocky Jordan on the season. Starocci, meanwhile, is on another level, losing a Big Ten finals match in 2021 and then winning his next 38 matches straight and claiming two national titles along the way. He has a 90% bonus decision rate this season, but did only beat Julien Broderson of Iowa State by decision. Can he go 0-2 on bonus points against wrestlers from the state of Iowa? That’s gotta be Brands’ goal. Starocci needs to score bonus points here to try to level the bonus point advantage, but Penn State can also just win out to take the dual. Foreshadowing… 15-11 Hawks.

184: It’s deja vu all over again! Aaron Brooks is a national champion, and Abe Assad is not. Abe’s goal here is to keep it to a decision, and Brooks’ is to score bonus points. Surprisingly, this is the first matchup in this dual with any history behind it. Brooks is 2-0 all time, winning by decision in 2020 and 2022. Those decisions were by 4 and 5 points, respectively, so Brooks is going to dig a little deeper to put up bonus points. However, I think that happens, so I have it 15-15 after eight weights. Should the next two split, Iowa owns the tiebreaker.

197: It’s an NCAA finals rematch, maybe to decide the dual. Gotta love this rivalry. Last year, Dean beat Warner twice. And while I’d love to speculate on Warner’s odds, the senior just hasn’t looked that good this year. He’s got losses to Yonger Bastida and Zach Braunagel, and a couple victories over less notable guys that were way closer than expected. Some of that is Warner’s style, but it also makes you wonder what kind of form he’s in. Dean also lost twice already this year, losing consecutive matches in December to Ethan Laird and Michael Beard. However, he’s on a seven-match winning streak, including a 4-1 decision over Yonger Bastida. I think Dean’s just the better wrestler, simply put, and unless Warner is able to engage some body locks, I don’t like his chances. 18-15 Penn State, going to heavyweight.

285: Now here’s some guys with history (and future). Cassioppi is 3-0 against Kerkvliet in sanctioned matches, but lost to him at the All-Star Classic earlier this season. Cassioppi is undefeated on the season, while Kerkvliet lost last weekend to Mason Parris to lose the #1 ranking. These two guys are both very likely to finish top three on the podium, and either could be a national champion. If I’m right, or wrong in inconsequential ways, this match could decide this dual. Unfortunately, this is a lot like the previous weight in that I just don’t know what kind of form Cassioppi is in right now. His last couple victories include a very tight win over Lucas Davison and a regular decision over Trent Hillger. He needed a last second takedown to beat Davison, and his 4-1 win over Hillger was his eighth (!) all-time, but his closest since December of 2019. Of course, Hillger is also the only guy to hold Kerkvliet to a decision so far this year, so maybe that’s a testament to the Badger. The goal for Cassioppi is to close the gap and win the ties, and for Kerkvliet it’s to attack from space and negate Cassioppi’s Greco advantage. I have Kerkvliet getting the job done, and so I have a very sad 21-15 Penn State final.

Obviously a lot of these matches could go either way. The atmosphere is going to be electric, the stakes are going to be high, and anything can happen. I have the range of scores possible being 24-9 Iowa all the way to 30-6 Penn State. So, while my official prediction is Penn State 21-15, I have a pretty low degree of confidence on it.

#17 Illinois Fighting Illini at #11 Minnesota Gophers, Saturday at 1PM on the Big Ten Network

HWAHSQB: As a recent resident of the state of Minnesota, I was a little bummed that this dual is taking place while I’m away on business. In Hawaii. Ha, ha, suck it. 1:00 Saturday it is forecast to be 8 degrees in Minneapolis (or The Cities as we locals say) and it will be 80 in Hawaii. That is 8, but then there is a zero behind it.

Anywho, I know this is at Minnesota and they’re ranked higher for a reason, but I like this matchup for Illinois and I think my Illini will pull off the upset.

We’ve got a handful of marquis matchups going on Saturday and there should be a lot of tight matches up and down the docket. 133 will be fun with the first matchup between #10 Lucas Byrd and #15 Aaron Nagao. At 174, we get another 10v15 matchup as Edmond Ruth takes on Baba O’Reilly. Ok, his name is Bailee, but it would be cooler if it were Baba. If Mike Carr goes, he’s ranked #14 against #17 Brayton Lee. I think Dylan Connell is underrated at #25, but he’s got a shot to move up in the world, taking on Isaiah Salazar. I think that’s a little more than he can chew just yet. The highest ranked pair of the night will be #8 Danny Pucino against #15 Jake Bergeland.

I’m going to say Illinois wins 133, 141, 165, 174, and 197 and picks up a sixth win at either 157 or HWT, which is enough as Minnesota will get bonus at 125, but regular decisions elsewhere. Give me Illinois 18-15.

#15 Northwestern Wildcats at #24 Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Sunday at 3PM on the Big Ten Network

Kind of...: Rutgers is having a down year, and this dual shouldn’t be as close as the rankings might otherwise indicated. #11 Dean Peterson, a freshman, looks like a rising star at 125, but you still have to like DeAugustino to win the bout. And maybe Joe Heilmann knocks off Chris Cannon. After that, Joey Olivieri at 141 and Brian Soldano at 184 are the only Scarlet Knights favored to defeat a Wildcat starter (though Billy Janzer did win his only matchup with Andrew Davison). If the stars align, Rutgers has a puncher’s chance, but Northwestern’s best 10 are clearly better than Rutgers’.

#22 Maryland Terrapins at Michigan State, Friday at 5:30PM on BTN+

Atinat: Okay, another chance for Maryland to win a Big Ten dual. Come on, Terps, we’re all rooting for you! The Terrapins are favored at 125, 141, 149, and 285. I would rate 157, 174, and 197 as tossups. That should mean that Maryland is favored to win the dual. However, the Spartans have bonus point favorites at 133 and 184, so I think it’s important for Maryland to win two of the three tossup matches. I’ve incorrectly picked Maryland to win a dual a few times now this year, so let’s go with the Spartans, 18-17.

#18 Wisconsin Badgers at #15 Northwestern Wildcats, Friday at 7PM on BTN+

Kind of...: Very interesting match that is relegated to BTN+ by OSU/Michigan and PSU/Iowa. Northwestern has to be favored as they’re deeper, but there are plenty of close matchups, starting at 125 where #8 Eric Barnett takes on #6 Michael DeAugustino. Either guy could take third nationally...or fail to matk the blood round. Northwestern will be favored at 133 and 141, though Joey Zargo’s recent form at 141 makes that one to watch. At 149, a resurgent Yahya Thomas, now up to #4, will take on #2 Austin Gomez. This is probably the bout of the night, and a must win for UW if they hope to take the dual.

#20 Garrett Model will try to upset #15 Trevor Chumbley, and #7 Dean Hamiti should grab bonus points vs. Maxx Mayfield. After that, though, the Wildcats are favored in three of the remaining four, with Braxton Amos a slight favorite for UW at 197. I give DeAugustino the win at 125, but call for Zargo to pull a minor upset, with it being chalk the rest of the way. That would add up to an 18-13 Wildcat victory.

#22 Maryland Terrapins at #7 Michigan Wolverines, Sunday at 11AM on BTN+

Kind of...: Could Michigan rest some guys and come out flat Sunday? Yes. Will it matter in terms of winning the dual meet? Almost certainly not. Braxton Brown/Jack Medley is an interesting ranked showdown at 125, and if Maryland wins that and 141, it might get interesting. However, 197 is the only weight where Maryland is a clear favorite. The Terps are getting better, but they’re still a ways behind Michigan, even in a rebuilding year for the Wolverines.

Michigan State at #5 Ohio State, Sunday at 12PM on BTN+

Kind of...: Nobody is reading this anyway, so let’s be clever:

Could Michigan Ohio State rest some guys and come out flat Sunday? Yes. Will it matter in terms of winning the dual meet? Almost certainly not. Braxton Brown/Jack Medley Rayvon Foley/Jesse Mendez is an interesting ranked showdown at 125 133, and if Maryland Sparty wins that...

Nevermind, I can’t keep it up. MSU will be favored at two weights (157 and 197), but is further behind OSU than Maryland is Michigan. It’s not going to be close.

#18 Wisconsin Badgers at #10 Nebraska Cornhuskers, Sunday at 2PM on BTN+

Kind of...: Wisconsin has a path to the upset, but it’s narrower that it was a month ago as the Huskers are rounding into form. Or were rounding into form before Iowa drilled them. Though it’s hard to hold that against Nebraska.

Wait, what? Wrestlestat has UW winning 20-14? Let’s take a closer look.

Eric Barnett/Liam Cronin is a big match as two members of the “yeah Spencer Lee toyed with me, but I’m still really good and could finish 2nd at B1G and 3rd nationally” population square off. Cronin is 2-0 lifetime, but they haven’t met since 2021. Wrestlestat likes Barnett and I do too. At 133, Taylor LaMont will face either Boo Dryden or former Badger Kyle Burwick. Wrestlestat also likes the Badger here, but I’m not so sure. Let’s call for Brock Hardy and Austin Gomez to each register MDs that cancel each other out and for Peyton Robb and Dean Hamiti to do the same at 157 and 165. That would make it 11-11 with four weights left. Mikey Labs is likely to get (at least) four at 174, and Lenny Pinto is likely to defeat Tyler Dow, Dow’s upset pin of Abe Assad notwithstanding. It’s hard to expect bonus points from Braxton Amos. In fact, a win would be fine, as Silas Allred is no pushover. That would make it 18-14, and Trent Hillger is unlikely to register bonus points over Cale Davidson. So, let’s call it 18-17 Huskers. Though, if LaMont can get the win at 133, then, yeah, a Badger win is possible.

#21 Indiana Hoosiers at Purdue Boilermakers, Sunday at 4PM on BTN+

HWAHSQB: The battle for the Old Oaken Singlet is a thing that will take place this Sunday. I’m quite sure no one outside the state of Indiana cares and it’s possible that no one inside the state of Indiana cares either. There are no matches in this dual that interest me. I guess maybe #19 Derek Gilcher versus #6 Kendall Coleman might be worth tuning into, but I think Coleman will smoke him. Indiana probably wins this dual as Purdue, who looked like a program on the rise recently, is now on Maryland’s radar as the team they can maybe beat. Indiana 20-13.