1 ― Penn State: Do not be surprised when four Nittany Lions are ranked No. 1 in every ranking service in the nation this week. Zain Retherford (149), Jason Nolf (157), Bo Nickal (174), and Morgan McIntosh (197). Throw in three-time All-American Nico Megaludis (125) and you have the makings of a pretty salty dual and tournament squad. PSU (11-0) has a challenging stretch coming up with Michigan this Sunday, Ohio State on Feb. 5, and at Lehigh Feb. 12.
2 ― Oklahoma State: The January version is much better than the November-December version. Missouri went to Stillwater with a 37-match win streak last Friday, but won just three bouts. The addition of freshman Joe Smith and a new and improved version of Gary Wayne Harding (133) has the Cowboys building some momentum when it counts. The inaugural Bowl Dual Series might just send OSU back to Iowa City for a February rematch.
3 ― Iowa: The Hawkeyes have won 19 straight Big Ten duals; it’s a shame Penn State is not in the rotation this year. Little has changed for Tom Brands’s squad … they beat a good Nebraska team on the road last time out and host rival Minnesota this Friday. The Big Ten Championships are in Iowa City March 5-6. In front of the energetic Carver-Hawkeye fans, expect the Hawks to challenge PSU for top honors.
4 ― Lehigh: Pat Santoro’s crew beat a limping Cornell in Ithaca last Saturday and has a light schedule before a Feb. 12 battle with Penn State. 2015 NCAA finalist Nate Brown might be the only heavy hitter, but the Mountain Hawks have at least seven potential top eight finishers.
5 ― Missouri: After falling at Oklahoma State, expect the Tigers (9-1) to start another streak heading into a Feb. 14 showdown with North Carolina State, ranked third in the last USA Today/NWCA Coaches Poll. MU is at Oklahoma this Saturday, a challenge but possibly a rout.
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6 ― North Carolina State: Monday night the Wolfpack (18-0) opened a very competitive final stretch with a big win over No. 14 North Carolina. After Pittsburgh and West Virginia this weekend, NCSU faces No. 11 Nebraska, No. 10 Virginia Tech, and No. 4 Missouri. If they hold up, NSCU may get a shot at Penn State in the Bowl Dual Series.
7 ― Michigan: MU (9-1) continues to climb, hammering No. 21 Indiana last week. After a Friday night warm-up with Northwestern, the Wolverines will see just how good they’ve become at Penn State on Sunday. Domenic Abounader (14-1, 184), Max Huntley (14-2, 197), and Adam Coon (10-0) give head coach Joe McFarland a big 1-2-3 punch up top. Too bad rookie phenom Logan Massa isn’t suiting up this year; if the 165-pounder was, the Wolverines might just challenge PSU this weekend.
8 ― Ohio State: OSU will be 9-2 after trips to Purdue and Indiana this weekend. It will take all hands on deck Feb. 5 at State College, however, as the Buckeyes have a few too many holes in the lineup. If national champion Nathan Tomasello (125), World champion Kyle Snyder (285), All-American Bo Snyder (165) and rookie Micah Jordan (141) get their groove going down the stretch the 2015 champions might make things interesting.
Knocking on the door
Nebraska, Illinois, Rutgers, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, North Carolina