Before the conference season, we challenged ourselves to make some predictions about the coming slate. How did we do?
Who do you expect to take the biggest step forward in the conference schedule?
Atinat: “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.”
Ohio State went 7-1 in the conference schedule, only losing to Penn State and jumping to #5. This wasn’t the boldest prediction, though.
Kind of…: “...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’ll lose to Iowa and OSU, but I could see them winning the rest of their duals, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.”
Northwestern lost to Iowa, Ohio State, and Nebraska, and are ranked eleventh. It’s hard to say that this is either a step forward from their preseason or non-conference expectations. Such is life in the Big Ten.
Take your shot. Where’s the big upset on this conference schedule? Alternatively, what dual are you most looking forward to?
Atinat: “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.”
Iowa beat Michigan 33-8. The Wolverines didn’t send all their starters, but I don’t think it mattered all that much. Iowa-Penn State wasn’t really heartbreaking, just inevitable. Although it was a far better dual than the above.
HWAHSQB: “I’ll take Nern over Iowa for upset and Illinois-Indiana for looking forward to because it might be Illinois’ only win.”
“Nern” lost 27-9. Illinois beat Wisconsin, Purdue, Maryland, and Michigan State. They did not wrestle Indiana, so maybe he was thinking about Purdue, aka Indiana A&M?
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…. In terms of anticipation, basically any dual among Minnesota, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Nebraska.”
But you just said they wouldn’t beat OSU (and then you said “Take your shot”)… and they didn’t. But yeah, Northwestern went 2-1 against that group, Wisconsin went 0-3, Minnesota went 1-2, and Nebraska went 3-0. They were mostly competitive duals, though NU and UN were clearly better than the other two.
Damn, we went 0-3 for upset predictions.
Now, we asked for picks at 141, 149, 157, 165, 197, and 285. Any changes to those picks?
Atinat, before the conference schedule: “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).”
Now: Gomez is hurt, so change that to the ever-boring Sasso. Kharchla was pinned twice this year, and lost to Penn State’s Alex Facundo. Amine also lost to Facundo. Kennedy beat Facundo. Screw it, Pat Kennedy, Big Ten champ. That Warner pick... ugh. Gimmie Max Dean, I guess. I’ll stick with Woods, Robb, Kerkvliet though.
HWAHSQB: Hardy, Sasso, Coleman, Hamiti, Smith, and Cassioppi
Now: As much as I love me some bROCK HARDy, Woods is the Real deal and needs to be the pick. I like watching Kendall Coleman wrestle and I probably would’ve stuck with this pick even after he lost to Robb, but losing to Garrett Model, yeah, I can’t pick that guy. Give me Robb. I’ll stick with Hamiti. Jaxon Smith hasn’t been healthy and I’ve no idea who will win at 197 so give me Zac Braunagel. Yeah, yeah, it’s a homer pick, but 197 this year is like 184 was last year where there are a lot of guys who can wrestle each other close, so if it happens, your heard it here first. I’ll take Parris at HWT.
Kind of…: Woods, Gomez, Robb, Hamiti, Warner, and Cassioppi
Now: Woods, Sasso, Robb, Facundo, Dean, Parris
Q: Who's been your favorite freshman to watch this season?
HWAHSQB: I really want to cheat here. Edmond Ruth isn’t a freshman, but his first year in the Illini singlet was really special, going 24-3 with wins over Nelson Brands, Rocky Jordan, Peyton Mocco, and a Midlands title. Ok, so actual freshman, let’s talk about a pair of guys from the same room. You thought I was going to talk about Haines and Facundo I bet. Everyone talks about Penn State. NOBODY talks about Maryland, but Braxton Brown (21-4) and Jaxon Smith (16-5) have been very good. You could actually throw Ethen Miller in there and the future looks bright for the Terps.
Atinat: Braxton Brown has been fantastic. Dean Peterson has been a fun addition to the Rutgers lineup. Jesse Mendez has been about as-anticipated, which is to say pretty good. Brock Hardy is technically a freshman (wrestled the free year, redshirted last year), but that’s definitely cheating. Haines and Facundo deserve shoutouts in the middleweights. But I asked favorite to watch, so I’m gonna go with the Hawkeye, Patrick Kennedy. He’s only lost to David Carr and Dean Hamiti, and has several ranked wins both in and outside the Big Ten. He’s a threat to all-American, and that’s pretty fun when he wrestles for your team.
Kind of...: Hate to be the killjoy, but it’s Haines. Unlike Facundo and Van Ness, he’s a true frosh. But, sure, all the guys my colleagues mentioned deserve props too. Kennedy is fun, and we all have a soft spot for Maryland. The days of scoring 0 points at the B1G touranment seem to be clearly in the rearview.
Q: What's your favorite match(es) of the regular season?
HWAHSQB: Edmond Ruth vs Mikey Labriola with Labriola taking the match 8-6 in SV. Fantastic competition by both guys and also showed that Ruth is a legit threat to podium nationally.
Zac Braunagel vs Cameron Caffey was also fantastic with three scores in the final 14 seconds as Caffey won 6-4.
Atinat: The temptation to put in like six Spencer Lee matches... Okay, let’s just go with three. First up, the Soldier Salute final against teammate Drake Ayala. Apparantly Spencer didn’t want to wrestle the match, and Ayala did, and so Spencer did what he does. I like Drake. He’s the future. But the future ain’t here just yet.
That match with Ayala was the first in a six-match pin streak. That streak also included a match with Purdue’s rising star Matt Ramos. Ramos got off to a hot start, getting an early takedown and then a second takedown straight-to-back with a lat drop. That woke Spencer up, and he took down Ramos, got his 4NF pin, then ran the bar and got another first period pin. He’s had 7 of those this year, in just 14 matches.
And finally, his Carver finale. Reece Witcraft thought he saw an opening on Spencer, going in for an underhook-chinstrap combo and trying to run a cow-catcher. Spencer Lee ain’t no cow. The generational talent cartwheeled over his opponent, cinching a headlock along the way and settling in for a 0:51 fall. Just another match for Spencer.
.@LeeSpencerlee36 didn't even need a minute to stick his 34th career pin for his last match in Carver Hawkeye Arena! @Hawks_Wrestling x @B1GWrestling pic.twitter.com/UpGeesc7Ne— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 19, 2023
God I’m gonna miss him. I also want to shoutout Cronin-Peterson from a few weeks back. Cronin is a top-three 125er in the conference, and Peterson stood with him for seven action-packed minutes before finally giving up the decisive takedown late in the third.
Kind of: Lee/Ramos was just exhilarating. But I can go justifiably homer here. Yianni Diakomihalis is 106-2 in his career at Cornell. The first loss was in December of 2017. There has been some close calls—and maybe should’ve been losses—since then, but it was Wisconsin’s Austin Gomez who gave Yianni his second (and probably final) collegiate loss. A TD+2NF staked Gomez to a 5-1 lead after two periods, but it wasn’t a one-move bout as Gomez added two takedowns in the third to win in dominant fashion, 9-3. Alas...