As much fun as the non-con schedule was, with events like the All-Star Classic, Colliegate Duals, Southern Scuffle, and more, nothing can touch the excitement of the Big Ten wrestling season. Before we look at this weekend’s duals, a quick Q&A with our “writers:”
Q: We don’t have to do team champ. What team has most impressed you in the non-con, and who do you expect to take the biggest step forward in the conference schedule?
Atinat: I think the obvious answer for the most impressive team thus far is Maryland. The Terrapins went from 9-37 over their last three seasons to a 5-0 start and the #18 dual ranking in the country. Their Southern Scuffle performance was a disappointment, but they have a great chance at their first conference win since January 10th of… holy shit, 2016. Go Terps.
Now, the biggest step forward is probably going to go to someone who slid back a little in the non-con schedule. Ohio State losing to UNI and dropping from #3 to #9 sticks out, and the Buckeyes will wrestle #4 Michigan and #7 Northwestern this semester. I expect them to win at least one of those and reclaim a top-5 ranking.
Kin of...: Yeah, it all depends, right? If you underachieve in non-conference, I guess it’s a step forward when you find your level. But, if Northwestern gets passed by a couple of teams, I don’t want to knock them for it just because they had a great run at Midlands. They’ve only had one dual (but a nice win over Virginia), so I was sleeping on them a bit. Anyway, yeah, Northwestern and Maryland in terms of impressive thus far.
In conference season, Ohio State is a good bet because of the depth they’ve stockpiled. In terms of the dual season, I still like Northwestern. They’ll lose to Iowa and OSU, but I could see them winning the rest of their duals, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. There’s no Ryan Deakin on the roster, but they could easily end up sending 9 guys to the NCAAs (7 are basically locks), and four (maybe five if Chumbley keeps it up) of them are legit All-American contenders. Even in the B1G, that’s pretty good!
Q: The Big Ten is pretty crowded at 141, 149, 157, 165, 197, and 285. Who are your winners at those weights?
Atinat: I don’t remember this many weights being up for grabs in recent memory. Outside of 197, there’s 3+ guys at all these weights that could easily win the conference, and maybe the NCAA. In order, I’ll go with Real Woods (Iowa), Austin Gomez (Wisconsin), Peyton Robb (Nebraska), Carson Kharchla (Ohio State), Jacob Warner (Iowa), and Greg Kerkvleit (Penn State). Woods, Gomez, Robb, and Kerkvleit are fairly obvious, Kharchla has only lost to current Big Ten foes in sudden victory (5 of his 6 collegiate losses are by two or fewer points), and Dean hasn’t looked capable of repeating his incredible run of close victories from last year.
HWAHSQB: I REALly like Real Woods, but I’m going to pick bROCK HARDy at 141. Gomez has injury history and just sat out Midlands so give me the never exciting Sammy Sasso at 149. Peyton Robb is probably the pick at 157, but give me Kendall Coleman here so I don’t have to agree with a Hawkeye fan (gross) and he is fun to watch also. Hamiti is the pick at 165, also a really fun guy to watch. In fact, with Eiereman gone, he might be combine unconventional with effective better than anyone in conference. At 197, I’ll take Jaxon Smith because he’s the best shot Maryland has of ever winning anything and the top three guys at HWT are all so good, but I’ll take Cassioppi.
Kind of...: I’ll take Woods, Gomez (think Midlands was mostly precautionary), Robb, Hamiti, Warner, and Cassioppi. There, I agreed with you both three times each. Which probably means you’ll both end up 3-3, while I go 0-6.
I think Woods and Robb are the two easiest picks as I just don’t see Hardy as on Woods’ level and don’t trust Coleman. I feel good about Gomez. He hasn’t “solved” Sasso, but Sasso knows Gomez can do things that he can’t, which is nice. Hamiti is a bit of a homer pick, and nobody has mentioned Cam Amine yet, who is also in the mix. I respect the Jaxon Smith pick, but feel like Warner has something to prove. I’ll probably regret picking Cassioppi. Kerkvliet is probably the smart money.
Q: Take your shot. Where’s the big upset on this conference schedule? Alternatively, what dual are you most looking forward to?
Atinat: Does Illinois over Maryland count as an upset yet? Probably not. How about Michigan over Iowa? Even a healthy Iowa has a lot of close matches in that dual, and it comes pretty late into the season. I’ll also say that’s the dual I’m most looking forward to, even though it’s probably actually Iowa-Penn State and I’m just protecting myself from the heartache.
HWAHSQB: I’ll take Nern over Iowa for upset and Illinois-Indiana for looking forward to because it might be Illinois only win.
Kind of...: Ohio State strikes me as a high variance dual team this year, so let’s say NW gets a mild upset or two in the lower weights and the Davisons clinch it with wins at 197 and 275. But yeah, Iowa losing to somebody other than PSU is totally possible given some of the lineup juggling that might continue throughout the year, and a little less depth in the bottom half of the lineup.
In terms of anticipation, basically any dual among Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Nebraska. I’m not sure any of them are better than OSU or Michigan (most nights), but I think they’re all better than the lower six teams: MD, Rut, Ill, MSU, Pur, Ind (most nights). Further, Minnesota and Northwestern look better built for dual success while UW and Nebraska look like better tournament bets. Will be fun to see that sort itself out...if it does.
That said, with all due respect to @atinat’s heart, Iowa/PSU is going to be great. Wrestlestat currently calls it 19-15 PSU, picking Warner over Dean and Kennedy over Facundo for Iowa, but Kerkvliet over Cassioppi and Van Ness over Murin for PSU. I could easily see Murin toughing out a victory and Iowa getting the road upset. (Of course, I can also see Van Ness and Facundo out-performing Murin and Kennedy at nationals, but we can come back to that later.)
#9 Ohio State @ Indiana, Friday, January 6th at 6PM on the Big Ten Network
HWAHSQB: The Buckeyes have been underwhelming, but the Hoosiers remain being, well the Indiana wrestling team. This one will get ugly. If the Hoosiers are to avoid a shutout, they will need a minor upset at 157 where #20 Derek Gilcher takes on #18 Paddy Gallagher or 174 where the always exciting #18 ranked Donnell Washington takes on #8 Ethan Smith. I think one of them will pull it off so let’s call this 36-3.
#1 Penn State @ #13 Wisconsin, Friday, January 6th at 8PM on the Big Ten Network
Kind of...: I mean, PSU is going to roll late. Assuming they start at 125, UW could have the lead at intermission if Model wins at 157, and they should be no worse than tied after 165. However, that’s it. Even if RBY injury defaults and Barnett and/or Hamiti score a bonus point, I’d take PSU to win the dual if they’re down 18 or less heading into the last four weights. Just an absolute gauntlet they have with Starocci, Brooks, Dean, and Kerkvliet. Anyway, Van Ness (149) and Facundo (165) are both elite talents for PSU, so watching them against Gomez and Hamiti will be quite interesting.
HWAHSQB: My prediction.....PAIN! Illinois will be favored at 133 and 174 and you could maybe call 165 a tossup if you’re feeling generous. However, iowa will be heavy favorites in the other matches and are probably racking up bonus at 125, 141, 157 and HWT. Add it up and it comes out to something like 32-6. 165 with Danny Braunagel and Patrick Kennedy and 174 with Edmond Ruth and Nelson Brands will be key matches for seeding in the B1Gs and NCAAs. Dylan Connell popped into the rankings at 29 after a pretty solid Midlands tourney, but Abe Assad is a tough ask. The real drama will be to see if Zac Braunagel and Jacob Warner can wrestle a match with even less offense than Brauny and Braxton Amos managed at Midlands.
Atinat: Probables are out for this weekend, and it’s good news for the Hawkeyes. Spencer Lee, Cobe Siebrecht, and Nelson Brands are all on it, and alone. The only alternate on the list is at 133, where we have our first Brody Teske sighting in two months, alongside Cullan Schriever. Brands historically has been a big favorite of the “or,” so to have those three on the lineup without abbreviations is a sight for sore eyes. I really want Iowa to be very cautious in order to ensure a healthy team going into March, but obviously I also always want to see our best guys wrestle.
I’m gonna agree with HWAHSQB about the dual, generally. I am going to move 133 and 174 into the tossup category, even if I would pick the Illinois guy in both of them. Teske vs Byrd could be a really good match if it happens. I’ll say 33-6 Iowa.
#8 Minnesota @ #7 Northwestern, Saturday, January 7th at 2PM on BTN+
Kind of...: This is probably the biggest tossup of the opening weekend, and you really should watch. Wrestlestat is saying 15-15, which sums it up. 125 (DeAugustino vs. McKee) is a battle of top 5 wrestlers. Cannon (NW) at 133 and Bergeland (Minn) at 141 should cancel each other out, but both could be upset. Ditto Thomas (NW) at 149 and Lee (Minn) 157, though Chumbley (NW) is coming into the 157 bout on a roll. Gophers are clear favorites at 165 and 174, and a slight favorite at 184. Northwestern a slight favorite at 197 and a bigger favorite at 275. IF McKee wins at 125, Minnesota probably wins the dual. But if an MD will win if for NW, I like Davison to get it against Joles. I’m going with the latter scenario, given DeAugustino the opening win, and Davison majoring Joles for a 16-15 Wildcat win.
#2 Iowa @ Purdue, Sunday, January 8th at 1PM on the Big Ten Network
Atinat: Iowa is favored at nearly every weight, with 157 being the glaring exception. Spencer will get his toughest test of the year in ninth-ranked Matt Ramos, as will Real Woods with #15 Parker Filius. Kendall Coleman is the remaining ranked wrestler for the Boilermakers, coming in a third in the country at 157 pounds. Expect Iowa to roll in this one, with tons of bonus points. Call it 34-3, with the big six coming from Tony and a couple majors from the rest.
#13 Wisconsin @ #28 Illinois, Sunday, January 8th at 3PM on the Big Ten Network
HWAHSQB: I am quite sure that I will regret the following statement, but Illinois matches up pretty decently with the Badgers. If you squint just right, you can see a path to an Illini victory, particularly if Austin Gomez is still out of action Sunday. Illinois is a solid favorite at 133, 174, and 184. 141 and 197 are tossups so a path to five wins is there. Then you have to match bonus with Wisconsin and if Gomez goes, that goes from unlikely to well, really really unlikely. I’m thinking 22-13 Sconnie is more likely, but hope springs eternal for sports fans.
Kind of...: No need to regret speaking the truth @HWAHSQB. Zach Braunagel just beat Braxton Amos at Midlands, and neither Zargo nor Model are locks. Win those three, and Byrd plus UW weakness at 174 and 184 gets it done for the Illini as you laid out. That said, UW has far better bonus point opportunities at 125, 149, and 165, and probably won’t lose all three of the above mentioned bouts (especially Model at 157, which would be a pretty big upset). I’ll give Byrd an MD over Lamont—who’s still finding himself—and Pucino the win at 141, but otherwise I think UW will do enough to win regardless of what happens at 197. I’ll say 22-14 if Amos avenges his Midlands loss, and 19-17 if he doesn’t.
Indiana @ #18 Maryland, Monday, January 9th at 6:30PM on BTN+
Atinat: Well, like I mentioned above, here’s Maryland’s chance at a dual victory. The Terrapins look like a bonafide wrestling team this year, and Indiana is the worst team in the conference (unless you ask a certain pessimistic Illinois writer). The Hoosiers do boast six ranked wrestlers, but four of them are in the 31-33 range. Still, three of those four, and five of the six overall, are ranked higher than their Terrapin foes. In fact, on paper, Indiana is ever-so-slightly favored in this dual. But we don’t wrestle on paper. It doesn’t offer good grip, and it tears too easily.
If Maryland (or Indiana) wants to win this one, they’re going to need to win the close matches. That’s going to include 141, with the only ranked guy is #33 Cayden Rooks, and 157, where nobody is ranked. Neither has a ranked guy at 184, either, and the heavyweights are right next to each other at #31 and #32. A bonus point here or there (133, 149, and 174 for Indiana, or 125 or 197 for Maryland) could make the difference, as could an upset at 157, where #20 Gilcher and #33 North have no history and few common opponents.
I think Maryland gets the job done, if for no reason other than I want them to. Call it 19-14, Terps.
#4 Michigan @ Cal Poly, Friday, January 6th at 9PM; @ CSU Bakersfield, Sunday, January 8th at 2PM
Atinat: Oh yeah, we’re still doing non-con duals. Ew. Let’s see, what’s interesting here… Well brothers Chance and Legend Lamer are on opposite sides of the Michigan-Cal Poly dual, though at different weights. Michigan has more ranked wrestlers than their two foes combined, but that’s not to say their opponents are total scrubs. Cal Poly has four ranked guys, including Oklahoma-transfer Dom Demas, Adam (son of Lee) Kemp, and #8 Bernie Truax. Bakersfield has ranked wrestlers at 133 and 141 pounds, though each is lower than their Wolverine counterpart. I expect Michigan to win both of these, obviously, and I’d be surprised if they gave up more than four matches total.
Michigan: Kurt McHenry (125, #27); Dylan Ragusin (133, #5); Cole Mattin (141, #20); Chance Lamer (149, #20); Will Lewan (157, #8); Cam Amine (165, #6); Joseph Walker (174, #31); Matt Finesilver (184, #9); Mason Parris (285, #2)
Cal Poly: Antonio Lorenzo (125, #25); Dom Demas (149, #18); Legend Lamer (165, #30); Adam Kemp (184, #22); Bernie Truax (197, #8)
CSU Bakersfield: Chance Rich (133, #19); Angelo Martinoni (141, #28)
#30 Michigan State vs Bucknell, Friday, January 6th at 5PM on BTN+
MSU: Tristan Lujan (125, #28); Rayvon Foley (133, #11); Chase Saldate (157, #21); Caleb Fish (165, #33); Layne Malczewski (184, #20); Cam Caffey (197, #15)
Bucknell: Kurtis Phipps (133, #22); Darren Miller (141, #18)
#17 Nebraska @ Gardner-Webb, Campbell, Saturday, January 7th at 4:30PM and 6PM
Atinat: Imagine Nebraska playing road games against Gardner-Webb and Campbell in football. Now imagine them losing. Ha ha! What were we talking about? Oh yeah, wrestling! The North Carolina schools have four ranked guys between them, and three of them stand a fighting chance against their corn-fed Cornhusker opponents. Rodrick Mosley of the Bulldogs is #29 at 165 pounds and would see Bubba Wilson, ranked 25th. Domenic Zaccone (133, #29), Caleb Hopkins (184, #27), and Taye Ghadiali (285, #12) all represent the Camels Unfiltered, with Ghadiali considered a heavy favorite and Zaccone a tossup. I’ll give Nebraska 16 of the 20 matches combined, and two easy dual victories.
Nebraska: Liam Cronin (125, #10); Boo Dryden (133, #33); Brock Hardy (141, #5); Peyton Robb (157, #1); Bubba Wilson (165, #25); Mikey Labriola (174, #2); Lenny Pinto (184, #10); Silas Allred (197, #25)
Gardner-Webb: Rodrick Mosley (165, #29)
Campbell: Domenic Zaccone (133, #29); Caleb Hopkins (184, #27); Taye Ghadiali (285, #12)
#21 Rutgers @ Bloomsburg, Friday, January 6th at 6PM; @ Rider, Sunday, January 8th at 1PM on ESPN+
Atinat: Rutgers has five ranked guys, Bloomsburg has zero, and Rider has three. None of the duals should be close, as Rider is favored in three matches with only one real tossup match, and Bloomsburg… Bloomsburg’s just happy to be there, I guess. The wrestler to watch from Rider is Ethan Laird, ranked 10th at 197 pounds after a shocking upset by fall to Owen Pentz at the Southern Scuffle (and fourth before that). If you’re planning on watching these duals… I guess let me know how it goes, cause I’m not tuning in. Rutgers by a million.
Rutgers: Dean Peterson (125, #14); Joe Heilmann (133, #14), Samm Alvarez (141, #12); Tony White (149; #32); Brian Soldano (184, #15); Boone McDermott (285, #24)
Rider: McKenzie Bell (141, #29); Quinn Kinner (149, #23); Ethan Laird (197, #10)