Injuries have been the name of the game early in the 2018-19 season. Anticipated individual matchups have not always materialized as coaches and student-athletes are making sure things are in order before stepping on the mat. This week’s highlight event takes place in Las Vegas, the annual Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational; it will include entries from Ohio State, Michigan, Missouri, Virginia Tech, Minnesota, Cornell, among others, and could shake up the rankings, individually and team-wise. A notable matchup — Penn State and host Lehigh — in a battle of Pennsylvania elite. And in case you hadn’t noticed, the mighty Big Ten has five of the top 10 heading into December.
1 – PENN STATE: A possible test against a good Lehigh squad this Sunday. Biggest questions: Do the Nittany Lions have two top-five heavyweights in the room with Anthony Cassar and Nick Nevills? In addition, who will be the starter at 149 pounds, Jarod Verkleeren or Brady Berge? Whoever head coach Cael Sanderson puts on the mat at those weights, expect quality, something PSU has been known for over the last decade.
2 – OHIO STATE: Buckeyes got by a solid Arizona State group in Tempe and head to Cliff Keen/Las Vegas Invitational this weekend with team title prospects. If OSU can have a strong performance, go ahead and give Tom Ryan’s team the trophy in Vegas.
Based solely on 'expected placement points' from @FloWrestling's latest national rankings, Ohio State enters the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational as the favorite:— Ohio State Wrestling (@wrestlingbucks) November 26, 2018
1 - Ohio State (91 points)
2 - Michigan (63)
t-3 - Minnesota (53)
t-3 - Nebraska (53)
5 - Northern Iowa (49)
3 – IOWA: Still trying to get everyone on the mat. Backup Mitch Bowman highlighted the Hawkeyes’ victory over Purdue last weekend. Iowa is 3-0 heading into this Saturday’s dual with rival Iowa State. The Cyclones have not beaten their Iowa City foes since 2004, a string of 14 duals.
4 – OKLAHOMA STATE: Like Iowa, the Cowboys are trying to get healthy early in the 2018-19 campaign. Rookie Daton Fix has already knocked off two All-Americans at 133 pounds. OSU returns to the mat Dec. 9 at home against “one-time” rival Oklahoma. The Sooners have not beaten their Bedlam brethren since 2013.
5 – MICHIGAN: The Wolverines won the weather-delayed meeting with Lehigh, 21-13, Nov. 18 thanks in part to tough decisions by Logan Massa (165) and Miles Amine (174). UM, if they have a full complement of starters, should challenge OSU, Missouri, and the loaded field in Vegas this weekend.
6 – MISSOURI: Brian Smith’s Tigers have three good dual wins to start the season and will challenge the Buckeyes and Wolverines in Vegas this weekend. Do not expect anyone in the Mid-American Conference to challenge MU this season. Smith’s troops have won 23-straight dual meets.
7 – NORTH CAROLINA STATE: The Wolfpack, under the radar no more, have cruised early, outscoring three out-manned opponents by a combined 126-12. Pat Popolizio’s bunch wrestles at Old Dominion this Thursday and hosts Appalachian State Dec. 4 in Raleigh, a place becoming known for more than just basketball.
8 – CORNELL: The Big Red edged West Virginia on Nov. 17 minus a few starters. Rob Koll’s group heads to Vegas where, a year ago, eventual 141-pound national champion Yianni Diakomihalis announced his arrival. Cornell has had at least one Vegas champion for 10-straight seasons. Will that continue this weekend?
9 – LEHIGH: Pat Santoro’s group challenged second-ranked Ohio State and gets a shot at No. 1 Penn State this weekend. Maybe the toughest schedule in America has the Mountain Hawks facing Michigan, Penn State, Iowa, Oklahoma State, Missouri, and Cornell, among others inside the top 25; LU faces an improving Princeton program this Friday before a packed Rec Hall on Sunday.
10 – MINNESOTA: With the addition of superstar heavyweight Gable Steveson, the Gophers and head coach Brandon Eggum have a much-improved team. After hanging with Oklahoma State, Minnesota hammered South Dakota State, 35-6, on Sunday. The Gophers have something to prove in Vegas, a chance to show they belong inside the nation’s top 10.
Next five – Arizona State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Northwestern, North Carolina