In a sport dominated by Big Ten Conference schools – five of the top 10 teams in the latest NWCA/USA Today Coaches Poll reside in the Big 10 – it is no wonder that the best duals almost every week take place in Iowa City, State College, Ann Arbor, or Columbus.

For two straight weeks it was Iowa City where the Hawkeyes hosted Penn State and Ohio State. This week it is Columbus where the fourth-ranked Buckeyes (8-1) welcome No. 2 Penn State (10-0). OSU is coming off its first loss of the season, a 21-13 setback to Iowa where national champion and Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder did not suit up due to his ongoing international competition. PSU, meanwhile, has rolled through its schedule unblemished and almost unchallenged.

Snyder (6-0) should be back in the lineup and joins a star-studded cast that includes national champion Nathan Tomasello (11-0, 133), Micah Jordan (21-1, 149), Bo Jordan (9-0, 174), national champion Myles Martin (20-5, 184), and Kollin Moore (20-2, 197).

There are plenty of great matches to choose from including Micah Jordan and top-ranked Zain Retherford (15-0), Bo Jordan and Mark Hall (20-2), Martin and Nickal (14-0), and Snyder and Nick Nevills (13-1).

OSU head coach Tom Ryan is 5-6 all-time against Penn State in dual meets.

“This is another chance for us to compete in a high-stress environment because you’re wrestling people that want something as badly as you do,” Ryan said. “The Penn State team, like the Iowa team, like the Ohio State team, all believe that they are the best team.”

Heading into the first weekend in February, Penn State appears to be “the best team.” Top-ranked Oklahoma State (10-0) would argue and might get the chance to prove it Feb. 19 in Stillwater for the Bowl Dual Series title match. But, PSU and head coach Cael Sanderson, are focused on the task at hand – a good Ohio State team in Columbus.

“For us, it’s just let’s continue to improve, let’s love what we do, let’s compete with passion,” said Sanderson this week. “We’re not afraid to make mistakes. Let’s just see where we’re at, let’s go play hard.

“I think there are a lot of great match-ups. You have a lot of great guys going head-to-head but a lot of times in matches like this it’s matches where you have guys that aren’t ranked. Every match is important and (OSU is) looking to get bonus points in some weight classes and we’re looking to get bonus points in some weight classes. Anywhere you can get a point, just like the national tournament or the Big Ten tournament, anywhere you can get points you have to get them; that’s what it takes to win.”

Jackson stepping down in Ames

Iowa State dropped to 1-9 with losses to Oklahoma and Oklahoma State last weekend, prompting head coach Kevin Jackson to announce he would step down at the end of the 2016-17 campaign. He took over in 2008 after Sanderson left for Penn State. The Cyclones, who wrestle at Pittsburgh (Feb. 10) and West Virginia (Feb. 12), finished third at the NCAA Championships in Jackson’s first season, but have done no better than 11th since. Jackson was part of the Cyclones’ 1987 NCAA championship squad and won a gold medal in freestyle at the 1992 Olympics.

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“Iowa State has a great wrestling tradition and everyone involved with the program has very high expectations,” Jackson said. “We have not consistently met those expectations recently, which has been disappointing to me, my staff, our current and former wrestlers, and making this announcement now relieves some pressures and uncertainties for our current student-athletes as well as for incoming recruits.”

One former Cyclone who is certain to be a candidate in Ames is Chris Bono, who has South Dakota State ranked 19th and 10-3 in duals this season. The Jackrabbits host Oklahoma (8-4) Friday night.

No rest for the weary

Head coach Tom Brands is probably happy January is over. His Hawkeyes grinded through a month that saw them face Oklahoma State, Penn State, and Ohio State. But life in the Big Ten is never easy as Iowa (8-2) faces another tough weekend with duals at home against Wisconsin Friday night and at Minnesota on Sunday.

Iowa has gone through a gauntlet of Big Ten powers the last two weeks.
Iowa Athletics
Iowa has gone through a gauntlet of Big Ten powers the last two weeks.
“We are shifting gears a little bit,” Brands said. “The teams aren’t maybe as highly ranked, but as you know, and I say it every week, it doesn’t matter because we still have opponents we have to get ready for and our guys are looking forward to it. We have some guys who look razor sharp and we have some guys who have work to do.

“What it really boils down to is every has work to do.”

Wisconsin lost 33-11 to streaking Penn State last Friday, while Iowa is coming off a victory over the Buckeyes, a dual they won without the services of 133-pound All-American Cory Clark, who may or may not wrestle this weekend. His status is day-to-day.

Beavers ready for February run

Oregon State’s 2016-17 season has been anything but easy. Head coach Jim Zalesky’s squad lost heavyweight Amarveer Dhesi to injury and are without the redshirting Ronnie Bresser at 125 pounds. It’s been a different lineup each dual for most of the season. But the five-time defending Pac 12 Conference champions found the right formula last Sunday, knocking off Stanford, 18-15, in Corvallis. A week earlier the Cardinal (8-3) beat Arizona State in a dual between what many considered the top two teams in the conference. The Beavers (3-6) showed they are not going to relinquish that Pac-12 title without a fight.

Oregon State upset Stanford last week to show it's still in the Pac-12 race.
Oregon State Atheltics
Oregon State upset Stanford last week to show it's still in the Pac-12 race.
“It was a much better effort,” Zalesky said. “The lineup changes we made, putting Bob Coleman down to 174, his natural weight, and getting Seth McLeod in there helps our lineup. It was a hard-fought match. I told them we need better fight and effort, and that is the first time I’ve seen our team have the fight and effort I want to see, up and down the lineup.”

Keaton Subjeck’s pin at 165 pounds and Peter Galli’s decision at 174 pounds gave Stanford a 15-8 lead with three bouts remaining. McLeod, a transfer from Boise State making his season debut, beat Zach Nevills, 9-2, to start the comeback. Corey Griego edged Josh Marchok, 9-5, at 197, and Cody Crawford beat Nathan Butler with a takedown in sudden victory in the finale. Crawford (17-5) moved into the starting spot when Dhesi went down. Butler was coming off a victory Arizona State’s Tanner Hall to secure SU’s victory over the Sun Devils.

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OSU won three of the first four bouts, including Joey Palmer’s 2-1 decision of SU All-American Connor Schram and Joey Delgado’s 5-0 win at 149 pounds. Palmer improved to 18-5 this season, while Delgado moved to 13-6.

“There’s a lot of ups and downs every day,” Delgado said. “We’ve been making sure we’re refocusing and listening to our coaches and having faith in our process here at Oregon State. It’s nice to see our hard work start to pay off. We are just going to continue to press forward and make sure our highs aren’t too high and our lows aren’t too low.”

The Beavers wrestle at Boise State this Saturday and host Arizona State on Sunday.

Most Dominant

Penn State’s bonus-point army shows up in full force in the first edition of the NCAA’s Most Dominant Award standings. National champion Zain Retherford (15-0, 149) currently leads the pack, edging out teammate Bo Nickal (14-0, 184). Two other Nittany Lions – Jason Nolf (15-0, 157) and Mark Hall (19-2, 174) – are also among the top 10. That same PSU foursome are ranked 3,4,8,9 in most falls.

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Cornell’s Gabe Dean (22-0), who leads Division I with 14 pins, ranks third in the Most Dominant standings, with Illinois’ Isaiah Martinez (19-0, 165), Iowa’s Thomas Gilman (19-0, 125), South Dakota State’s Seth Gross (21-1, 133), Arizona State’s Zahid Valencia (26-0, 174), and North Dakota State’s Josh Rodriguez (17-1, 125) all among the nation’s best in regards to victories by major decision, technical fall, and pins.

Quick Hits

- Army won its second consecutive All-Academy Championship in Annapolis, Maryland, last Sunday. The Black Knights had three champions – Trey Chalifoux (125), Russ Parsons (157), and Trevor Smith (285) – and had four silver medalists. Kevin Ward’s team totaled 103.5 points to edge Navy. Air Force Academy was third.

-Top-ranked Oklahoma State (10-0) wrestles at Edinboro (7-4) on Friday night. The Cowboys will be without the services of heavyweight Austin Schafer (19-1), injured in OSU’s win over Iowa State last Sunday. Schafer’s major decision last Friday helped OSU beat Missouri, 20-16, in a dual that saw each team win five bouts; technical falls by Nick Piccininni (125) and Nolan Boyd (184) proved large as the seventh-ranked Tigers (9-3) got wins by Lavion Mayes over rival Anthony Collica at 149 pounds in their eighth all-time meeting and rookie Kyle Wisman, who beat All-American Kyle Crutchmer at 174 pounds.

-Only one team in the Southern Conference is above .500 in dual meets in 2016-17. Appalachian State (11-2) is ranked 20th entering Sunday’s match with Chattanooga.