The holiday tournaments are over, conference duals are picking up steam, and the 2019 portion of the wrestling season is in full swing. As expected, the 2018 NCAA Champion Nittany Lions held their No.1 spot in the NWCA Division I wrestling rankings on Tuesday after six wrestlers earned titles at the 2018 Southern Scuffle. Penn State has not wrestled since the Scuffle, but the Nittany Lions will take the mat again on January 11 against Northwestern.
Ohio State clung to the No. 2 spot after a 26-10 win over No. 9 North Carolina State on January 6, and the Buckeyes also widened their points gap over the competitive Oklahoma State Cowboys, a team that sat just eight points back last week. The Buckeyes had three winners at the 2018 Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas last month while Oklahoma State had four Southern Scuffle winners. In addition to Penn State, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, the next eight teams in the rankings - Iowa, Missouri, Michigan, Cornell, Minnesota, North Carolina State, Wisconsin and Nebraska - maintained identical rankings to the previous week.
Here are the notable takeaways from this week’s poll:
Big Ten remains dominant
Penn State and Ohio State, the two Big Ten wrestling powerhouses, earned the top two spots again in this week’s poll, but four other teams - Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin - also joined them in the Top 10. Ten total Big Ten teams earned spots in this week’s Top 25 poll, four more than the second-most dominant conference, the Big 12. The ACC, led by No. 9 N.C. State, has four teams in the Top 25. The EIWA is the only other conference with more than one representative.
Eight teams remain undefeated so far this season, and the first six hold the top spots in the polls. No. 2 Ohio State improved its record to 5-0 with the win over the 9-2 Wolfpack, and No. 6 Michigan kept its winning streak alive by defeating No. 16 Arizona State 23-12. No. 18 Pittsburgh, the only undefeated ACC team in the top 25, beat unranked Oklahoma to earn a sixth win this season.
Other notable wins
In a battle of the Big Ten, Nebraska overpowered unranked Northwestern 26-14 for a big conference win that helped the Cornhuskers hold on to their No. 11 ranking. Nebraska’s 6-2 record also includes wins against No. 15 North Carolina and No. 12 Wyoming. The Cornhuskers will be a threat to UNI when the two teams dual later this week.
Some things are bigger than wrestling. ❤️— Nebraska On BTN (@NebraskaOnBTN) January 8, 2019
Meet Harley, @HuskerWrestling's honorary captain. His courage during the fight of his life is inspiring. Thank you for showing us the true meaning of what it means to be #ToughTogether. #TeamHarley pic.twitter.com/2wEUKTyGXX
Wyoming moved up one spot in the rankings after sweeping No. 15 North Carolina, Army and American at the Cowboy shootout over the weekend. Last year over the same weekend, the Cowboys swept the same group of teams (plus Duke) at the UNC duals. No. 12 Wyoming will take on Oregon State - a team that just lost to No. 6 Michigan 33-8 - next at home.
The weekend of January 11-13 includes eight matches featuring top 25 teams, including two matches between ranked teams. No. 1 Penn State takes on No. 10 Wisconsin on Jan 13, and No. 6 Michigan duals No. 19 Illinois on Jan. 12. The Nittany Lions have been unfazed so far this year and remain on track to continue this streak throughout the remainder of the season, but the competition will start to heat up as March inches closer.
Here's the full Top 25 ranking:
|1||Penn State (16)||4-0||400||1|
|9||North Carolina State||9-2||265||9|
|23||North Dakota State||6-3||47||20|