NCAA wrestling power rankings: Lehigh makes a push into the fold
1 – Oklahoma State: The Cowboys set a new Southern Scuffle tournament scoring record with 198 points and broke the margin of victory record, lapping the field in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Sunday and Monday. Oklahoma State had four champions, highlighted by Chandler Rogers’s pin of Missouri’s Daniel Lewis in the 165-pound final and Anthony Collica’s razor-thin victory over Missouri’s Lavion Mayes for the 149-pound championship. Although it shows up as a dominating tournament win, there were plenty of gut-checks and down-to-the-wire battles won by OSU wrestlers. The next test is a big one as Iowa visits Stillwater for a Jan. 15 dual. Iowa has won three straight versus its rival to the south.
2 – Penn State: Cael Sanderson’s reigning champions could not make it to Nevada for the Reno Tournament of Champions on Dec. 18 due to weather issues and did not defend its title at the Scuffle this season. There was one prominent member of the Nittany Lion roster in Chattanooga, however. Freshman Mark Hall served notice that he will be tough to handle in the future by winning the 174-pound title. A rested Penn State squad steps on the mat this weekend at Minnesota on Friday and at Nebraska on Sunday. The Gophers wrestled well in Chattanooga, and the Huskers battled Iowa for two days at the Midlands. Expect Sunday’s dual to be competitive.
3 – Ohio State: Ohio State wrestles at Wisconsin on Friday and hosts Rutgers Sunday in Columbus. The Buckeyes won the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Invitational the first week of December and followed that up with a resounding win over Missouri. A partial squad went to the Midlands, so the Buckeyes have had some time to heal in preparation for the January schedule. Wrestling fans circled Jan. 27 a long time ago: Ohio State and Iowa in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
4 – Iowa: Missing Cory Clark, the Hawkeyes still won the Midlands title on Dec. 29-30. Top-ranked 125-pounder Thomas Gilman was his dominant self and Brandon Sorensen was good at 149 pounds. Highly-touted freshman Michael Kemerer added his name to the list of title contenders with a championship at 157 pounds. Head coach Tom Brands will find out what his team is made of this month with duals at Michigan (Friday), at Oklahoma State (Jan. 15), against Penn State (Jan. 20), and Ohio State (Jan. 27). Whoever, if anyone, makes it through January unscathed they immediately move to the top of this list.
5 – Missouri: Missouri showed its quality at the Southern Scuffle, finishing second behind Oklahoma State and in front of a good Lehigh squad. J’Den Cox won a nail-biter over the No. 2 man, Brett Pfarr of Minnesota, in the 197-pound final. Lavion Mayes lost a nail-biter to rival Anthony Collica of Oklahoma State in the 149-pound title match, and Daniel Lewis was shocked in his 165-pound finals bout. Joey Lavallee (157) lost for the first time this season and freshman Jaydin Eiermann showed he is going to be someone to watch at 141 pounds. The Tigers (5-1) have a good January schedule, opening at Oklahoma this Sunday. MU travels to Cornell for a dual with the Big Red on Jan. 14.
6 – Nebraska: The Huskers flexed muscles at the Midlands, challenging Iowa until the final session. Head coach Mark Manning has a lineup with zero weak links led by 184-pounder T.J. Dudley, who joined Eric Montoya (133) and Aaron Studebaker (197) as champions at the Midlands. Two others, Tim Lambert (125) and Tyler Berger (157), lost in the finals. Nebraska hosts Penn State this Sunday inside the Devaney Center in Lincoln. It will be a dogfight.
7 – Virginia Tech: The Hokies (5-1) wrestle at Princeton on Friday and at North Carolina on Sunday. It starts a very busy month with trips to the Virginia Duals (Jan. 13-14), duals at home against Pittsburgh (Jan. 20) and Virginia (Jan. 22), and at Lehigh (Jan. 27). The Hokies’ only loss came at Missouri back before Thanksgiving. It ended a 13-match win streak dating back to the Virginia Duals last January.
8 – Lehigh: Head coach Pat Santoro showed off a deep Lehigh squad at the Scuffle, challenging Missouri until the end for runner-up honors. Even with Randy Cruz (141) and Mitch Minotti (165) losing early, the Mountain Hawks got strong performances from All-American Darian Cruz (125), Scott Parker (133), Cole Walter (165), Ryan Preisch (174) and 157-pound rookie Jordan Kutler, who beat Oklahoma State All-American Joe Smith in the finals with a late rally. Lehigh (5-1) returns to the mat at Navy (Jan. 13) and at American (Jan. 14).
Knocking on the door – Cornell, Minnesota, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, South Dakota State, Arizona State.