No. 6 Michigan and No. 19 Illinois both enter Saturday’s Big Ten dual with a collection of ranked wrestlers hungry to take on a conference opponent.
The Wolverines boast a 5-0 record and the team’s best start in almost two decades. Illinois, on the other hand, has spent the better part of fall competing in tournaments, rather than duals, and thus has a 2-1 dual record. Both teams hold Top-20 rankings and have at least six ranked starters. With eight ranked wrestlers on the roster and seven ranked probable starters, Michigan holds the edge in this dual, but don’t sleep on Illinois.
These are the three matches to watch when Illinois takes on Michigan on Saturday night at 6 p.m.:
133 pounds - No. 2 Stevan Micic (5 - 0) vs. No. 18 Dylan Duncan (9-4)
Michigan redshirt junior Stevan Micic's match against No. 18 Dylan Duncan will be his sixth dual of the season. While Duncan has eight more matches under his belt this year, Micic has the stronger collegiate resume and far more experience. An NCAA finalist and Big Ten champion in 2018, Micic enters his second Big Ten dual of the season undefeated with wins over Brock Bergelin, Brandon Paetzell, Garrett Pepple, Kegan Calkins and Josiah Kline. Though he battled an injury earlier this season that kept him out of the Cliff Keen Invitational, Micic is expected to be at full strength against Duncan, and he has already proven his health against Calkins and Kline this year.
Duncan, on the other hand, has posted an 9-4 record in his second year as a starter for the Illini, with two of those wins coming in the form of falls. Though he did medically forfeit the fifth-place match and end up sixth at Midlands, he accumulated three wins previously in the tournament, beating Colin Valdivez, Bobby Jordan and Lukus Stricker. Duncan’s top 20 national ranking reflects his ability to compete with top-ranked wrestlers, but he’ll need to have an extra edge if he wants to challenge Micic on Saturday.
We’re locked in heading into the start of our Big Ten season next weekend 🔒😤@dyldunk was absolutely all business last year on his way to third place at 133-pounds at the B1G Championships #tbt #Illini 🔶🔷 pic.twitter.com/VoSNhclcAk— Illinois Wrestling (@IlliniWrestling) January 4, 2019
141- No. 5 Kanen Storr (15-1) vs. No. 9 Mike Carr (5-2)
This 141-pound contest in this dual presents the only Top-10 matchup between Michigan and Illinois. Storr and Carr both enter the tournament having competed against similar ranked opponents at the Cliff Keen Invitational. Storr, who posted a third-place finish at the tournament, took down three ranked wrestlers, most notably No. 8 Josh Alber and No. 7 Dom Demas, both wrestlers that Carr medically forfeited to in the same tournament. Carr finished sixth in the tournament, and the shared history of mutual opponents between Storr and Carr makes this matchup a must-watch dual.
Carr has only wrestled once since Cliff Keen, and he’ll have another challenging welcome back against Storr. These two wrestlers will each be aiming for a win to help build a Big Ten resume of success and earn a high bid to the NCAA tournament.
157- No. 12 Alec Pantaleo (7-4) vs. No. 14 Eric Barone (14-5)
Alec Pantaleo, a redshirt senior and two-time NCAA All-American, placed sixth at Midlands, and is a dominant force at 157 or at 149 pounds, the weight he wrestled at Midlands. He enters this dual off a loss to No. 15 Christian Pagdilao, and he has also battled some health concerns this season. He’ll face Illinois redshirt junior No. 14 Eric Barone on Saturday and attempt to hold off his opponent and maintain his higher ranking. Barone’s finish at Midlands, fifth, was his first time placing in the tournament, and his 14-5 record suggests that he could be a threat if he wrestles well against Pantaleo. So far this season, Barone has only wrestled three dual matches, but he’s won all three. He’s also earned three falls this season, making him an asset in the team score.
Other notes: Two of Michigan’s five wins this year have been against Top 25 teams, and they will add a third ranked win to that list if they take down the Illini. Michigan has outscored opponents 141-52. Following the Michigan match, Illinois will continue its Big Ten dual season and wrestle Minnesota at home on Jan. 18. Michigan will wrestle Michigan State on the same day.