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Lauren Muthler | Centre Daily Times | January 25, 2018

Penn State widens the gap with Ohio State heading into toughest stretch of season

Coming off a pair of dominating conference wins over No. 24 Purdue and Maryland, the Penn State wrestling team remains ranked No. 1 and picked up another first-place vote from Ohio State.

This week's National Wrestling Coaches Association/USA Today Team Coaches Poll, which was released Tuesday, has the 9-0 Nittany Lions ranked at the top with 396 points and 12 first-place votes, taking one of each from the No. 2 Buckeyes.

Meanwhile, Ohio State improved to 10-0 this week after holding off No. 4 Iowa in front of a scarlet-and-gray crowd of 15,117. Senior Nate Tomasello's last home meet was spoiled by an upset from Iowa's true freshman and Franklin Regional product Spencer Lee.

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The Nittany Lions and Buckeyes will clash Feb. 3 at Rec Hall. But, first, Penn State must get by ranked foes Minnesota and Rutgers this weekend.

There was shakeup in the top 10 this week as Lehigh (9-2) dropped two spots to No. 9 after losing to conference rival Cornell. The loss bumped Michigan and Arizona State each up a spot to Nos. 7 and 8 respectively. Cornell moved up to No. 11.

Tomasello's loss provided the biggest shake-up in Tuesday's InterMat Division I individual rankings, as the Buckeye fell to No. 4 at 125 pounds, and former Nittany Lion Nick Suriano, now wrestling for Rutgers, took his place at the top. Lee moved up to No. 3, while Lehigh's reigning champ Darian Cruz took the No. 2 spot.

For the Nittany Lions, the only movement came from heavyweight Nick Nevills, whose wins over two ranked opponents this past weekend bumped him up from No. 8 to 6.

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Zain Retherford, Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph and Bo Nickal all remain No. 1 at 149, 157, 165 and 184, respectively. Mark Hall sits at No. 2 at 174, Nick Lee at No. 7 at 141 and Shakur Rasheed is No. 10 at 197.

The NCAA also released its first of four Division I wrestling coaches' panel rankings, which will factor into the selection process to determine qualifiers for this year's NCAA championship.

The NCAA's rankings, which were released Thursday, mirror InterMat's for Retherford, Nolf, Joesph, Nickal and Hall.

The most notable difference between the two sets of rankings is at 197, where the NCAA had Anthony Cassar tied for seventh, in place of Rasheed. The two Nittany Lions have been splitting time in the lineup since the Southern Scuffle in the beginning of the month.

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The NCAA also has Nevills and Lee ranked eighth and Corey Keener 22nd at 133 pounds. However, the rankings were released prior to Penn State's duals with Purdue and Maryland, where Nevills knocked off the Terrapins' Youssif Hemida, whom the NCAA has at No. 6.

Nittany Lions wrestlers will have no shortage of opportunities in the upcoming weeks to improve their rankings and make stronger cases when it comes to selecting NCAA qualifiers and seeds, as they'll face numerous ranked ranked opponents in Minnesota and Rutgers this weekend, and with Ohio State and Iowa on the horizon.

The biggest match this coming weekend will be for Lee, as he'll take on Minnesota's two-time NCAA qualifier Tommy Thorn. The No. 10 wrestler at 141 recently earned a major decision over Ohio State's Joey McKenna.

Keener will also have an opportunity to crack the top 20, as he's set to face No. 12 Mitch McKee, of Minnesota, and No. 19 Scott Delvecchio, of Rutgers.

This article is written by Lauren Muthler from Centre Daily Times and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.