It is a Big Ten world and the rest of collegiate wrestling is just living in it. The new Power Rankings show six of the top 10 from the Big Ten Conference. No surprise — annually the nation’s elite wrestling league wins championships, individually and team-wise.
Penn State set a new scoring record at the Southern Scuffle last weekend, crowning six champions and out-dueling Oklahoma State over two days. The Nittany Lions enter 2019 with four top-ranked wrestlers and five others inside the top 12 in their respective weight classes. Ohio State held off a good North Carolina State squad in Columbus last Sunday and is a solid No. 2. The Cowboys’ injury woes continue with a difficult trip to Princeton and Rutgers this weekend. There are a ton of great duals this weekend, including Iowa at Minnesota, Penn State at Northwestern, and the annual battle between Cornell and Lehigh.
1 – PENN STATE: Six champions for the Nittany Lion wrestling machine at the Southern Scuffle. It might not matter if Gavin Teasdale sees the mat at 125 pounds second semester because PSU, with their current lineup, is at least 25 points better than anybody else out there. Jason Nolf (157) and Bo Nickal (197) appear to be non-human in regards to their ability to put opponents on their backs. That duo will score more points than half the field at the 2019 NCAA Championships.
2 – OHIO STATE: The Buckeyes, after taking a month off from competition, beat a good North Carolina State squad last weekend. Head coach Tom Ryan’s group is led by three-time All-American Myles Martin, who picked up a nice win over rising Nick Reenan on Sunday. Veteran 149-pounder Micah Jordan had a big one-point win in the same dual. Indiana hosts OSU this Friday and Michigan State hits St. John Arena on Sunday. A huge Ohio State-Michigan dual meet looms on Jan. 25.
3 – OKLAHOMA STATE: A banged up Cowboy squad challenged Penn State at the Southern Scuffle and showed they, if healthy, could challenge in March. Undefeated OSU travels to Princeton and Rutgers for duals this weekend and who head coach John Smith takes on the trip remains to be seen. The return of Joe Smith, a finalist at the Scuffle at 174 pounds, gives OSU another solid point scorer. Talented rookie Daton Fix should face 2018 NCAA finalist Nick Suriano on Sunday; the nation’s wrestling fans will be tuning in.
4 – IOWA: The Hawkeyes take an undefeated dual record into the rugged Big Ten schedule, starting this weekend against a resurgent Minnesota program. Not long ago, the Iowa-Minnesota dual featured two programs fighting for national championships. Both are trying to get back to those days. Spencer Lee took his first loss of this season at the Midlands, and should get fifth-ranked Sean Russell this weekend. Lee probably has Jan. 27 circled on his calendar – Iowa is at Northwestern.
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5 – NORTH CAROLINA STATE: Pat Popolizio’s Wolfpack has backed down from nobody, wrestling as tough a schedule as anyone. Last weekend, the Atlantic Coast Conference members traveled to Ohio State and dropped a 26-10 dual. All-American Tariq Wilson was injured in the final bout of the dual; if Popolizio’s group is going to make a run in March they will need all hands on deck. Expect the boys from Raleigh to roll in January duals.
6 – MINNESOTA: After a solid win over Rutgers, the Gophers will see if they belong inside the top 10 with duals against Iowa (this weekend), Illinois, Northwestern, and Wisconsin the rest of the month. UM hosts the Big Ten Championships in March and will need some home-mat advantage if they are to challenge Penn State, Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, and others. Rookie heavyweight Gable Steveson brings a confidence to the mat and is one to watch for numerous reasons.
7 – MICHIGAN: The Wolverines picked up a nice win at Arizona State last weekend to move to 5-0. Can the Wolverines break into that top four? Top five? There is plenty of firepower with Stevan Micic (133), Kanen Storr (141), Alex Pantaleo (157), Logan Massa (165), and Myles Amine (174), but in order to challenge the big boys it takes finalists and at least eight All-Americans. This March it might take nine All-Americans … and that might not be enough.
8 – MISSOURI: The Tigers were second at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in December and finished the first semester with a win over Cornell and a 10-0 standard and 30 straight dual victories. MU’s remaining schedule includes Northern Iowa, Arizona State, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State. Do not expect anyone from the Mid-American Conference to challenge the Tigers. Like Michigan, Missouri has plenty of firepower, but can they get something from those not ranked inside the top 10?
9 – NEBRASKA: A great schedule has already seen North Carolina State, Wisconsin, the CKLV Invitational, and Northwestern. Tyler Berger’s win over previously unbeaten Ryan Deakin at 157 pounds sparked the Huskers’ 26-14 win over Northwestern last Sunday. Nebraska hosts Northern Iowa this Saturday and travels to Penn State for a Jan. 20 afternoon meet. NU also sees the best of the Big Ten with remaining duals against Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio State. No doubt, head coach Mark Manning’s troops will be battle tested headed into March.
10 – CORNELL: The Big Red suffered its first loss of the season, to Missouri, in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., two weekends ago. This Saturday, Cornell and Lehigh square off in Bethlehem, Pa., in a dual that always provides plenty of atmosphere. Yianni Diakomihalis, national champion last March, leads the Big Red. To remain inside the top 10, 125-pounder Vitali Arujau, among others, will have to continue to climb in the individual rankings.
The Next FIVE – Northwestern, Rutgers, Princeton, Arizona State, Northern Iowa