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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | January 18, 2019

College wrestling: Preview, how-to-watch guide to this weekend’s top matchups

Time to fall again for wrestling

This weekend has everything college wrestling fans could possible want: Top 10 matchups, the No. 1 team in action, highly-anticipated duals and Top 25 ranking spots on the line. Here's everything you need to know about this weekend's contests, including how to watch, wrestlers to note and teams to follow. 

MORE: College wrestling weight-by-weight power rankings

Friday, January 18th

No. 9 Nebraska vs. Maryland, 7 p.m., BTNPlus: The Terps have struggled as of late but still have one ranked athlete, Youssif Hemida, on the Top 20 at heavyweight. The Cornhuskers will look to take down Maryland behind efforts from their eight ranked wrestlers, including No. 2 Tyler Berger, No. 6 Isaiah White, No. 9 Mikey Labriola and No. 5 Taylor Venz from within the Top 10. This match will allow Nebraska to work out any problems before heading to Rec Hall on Sunday to face the defending national champions.

Will a freshman dominate the mat in the 285 lb weight class this year?

No. 7 Minnesota vs. No. 19 Illinois, 7 p.m., BTN2go: Coming off a 24-10 loss to No. 4 Iowa, Minnesota will look to reverse its fortunes against No. 19 Illinois, a team that lost 28-10 to No. 6 Michigan last week in a Big Ten dual that featured four top 20 matchups. The Gophers are led by heavyweight freshman No. 2 Gable Steveson who racked up a major decision against Iowa, but they also have ranked wrestlers at 125 pounds, 133 pounds, 141 pounds, 157 pounds, and 174 pounds. This match will feature four ranked match-ups and will produce high-level, scrappy wrestling sure to please fans of Big Ten

No. 23 Utah Valley vs. Western Wyoming, 7 p.m., WAC Digital Network: Utah Valley came off a tough series of matches at the South Beach Duals over the winter holiday and earned its first win of 2019 against Harvard last weekend before dropping another match to Stanford the following day. Friday’s match against Western Wyoming will be a chance for the Wolverines to catch up, reset and prepare for the conference duals ahead. To stay in the Top 25, Utah Valley will likely need a win, and they will be a facing an opponent with a 5-4 record, two NJCAA All-Americans and two losses to Utah Valley in the previous meetings between the two teams. 

MORE: Division I wrestling championship records | Wrestling teams ranked

No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. West Virginia, 8 p.m. MoutaineerTV: The Oklahoma State Cowboys, led by No. 2 Daton Fix and No. 2 Derek White, head to Morgantown on Friday to take on the unranked Mountaineers with the the goal of continuing their undefeated season and sharpening their skills. West Virginia’s line-up includes three ranked wrestlers - Matthew Schmitt (133), Christian Monserrat (149), and Nick Kiussis (165) - who will likely face Oklahoma’s Fix, No. 5 Kaden Gfeller and No. 10 Chandler Rogers. The big contest to watch in this dual will be Gfeller vs. Monserrat, as the Oklahoma State redshirt freshman attempts to put up a W after two straight losses to top-ranked opponents last weekend.

No. 6 Michigan vs. Michigan State, 8 p.m., BTN2go: The Wolverines are off to a positive start in 2019 to continue their successful season campaign, most recently picking up a ranked Big Ten win against Illinois last weekend. In this inter-state battle, look for Michigan to come out firing. No. 1 133-pounder Stevan Micic leads the Wolverines, but all ten athletes on their line-up hold Top 25 rankings nationally in at least one ranking system. Michigan State’s two ranked wrestlers, No. 7 RayVon Foley at 125 and No. 15 Cameron Caffey at 184, come in two of Michigan’s weaker weight classes, but everything is relative when nearly all of the Wolverine athletes are in nationally ranked positions. Watch for competitive battles at 125 and 184, and be prepared for Michigan State to compete hard with one of the top teams in the country.

No. 18 Purdue vs. Indiana, 8 p.m., BTNPlus: Purdue kicks off its weekend of Big Ten duals with Indiana away, and the Boilermakers will attempt to carry their momentum after a 28-10 win over Maryland into this first battle with the Hoosiers. Ironically, Indiana enters the match with a similar mindset, having taken down the Terps two days after Maryland’s dual with Purdue. The Hoosiers earned that lone Big Ten win with a dominating 36-3 victory. Though Indiana does not have a single ranked wrestler in its lineup, junior Fernie Silva notched a major decision over then No. 18 Alfred Bannister of Maryland and could contend for a Top 20 spot in the 149-pound weight. If he can score bonus points against Purdue’s Parker Filius, he could give his team a morale boost in the contest against the Boilermakers.

No. 11 Wisconsin vs. Northwestern, 8 p.m., BTN2Go: Wisconsin finished last week’s Big Ten road duals with an 0-2 record, but the Badgers looked competitive in both matches, dropping by just one point to Rutgers and forcing 13 points against the No. 1 ranked Nittany Lions. Friday’s match against Northwestern gives the Badgers a chance to add to their win column if they wrestle to their potential. Northwestern has one of the dark horse teams this year with victories over No. 10 Virginia Tech, Cal Poly and a third place finish at the Midlands. Top-ranked 125-pounder Sebastian Rivera puts on a show wherever he goes, and Madison should be no different for the 2018 Midlands champ.

No. 12 Wyoming vs. Air Force, 9 p.m., FloWrestling: Against a familiar opponent that the Cowboys have wrestled 55 times in program history, No. 12 Wyoming will attempt to extend its six-match winning streak and notch another conference victory. Air Force enters the match with a streak of its own having won all three of its matches at the Borah Duals last weekend. The last ten times these teams have met, Wyoming has been victorious, and they have the upper hand in this dual once again, with six ranked wrestlers to Air Force’s zero. Both teams hold the same 1-1 record, so the winner will earn a crucial January conference win. Past performances suggest that the Cowboys should have no problem against the Falcons on their home mats.  

No. 4 Iowa vs. No. 20 Rutgers, 9 p.m., BTN: This Iowa vs. Rutgers match will feature a series of big name college wrestlers including 2018 NCAA champion and Midlands runner-up Spencer Lee, 2018-2019 undefeated 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault, and a dual between No. 5 Kaleb Young and No. 14 John Van Brill at 157. But the match of the day will no doubt be the scrappy 133-pound contest between NCAA runner-up Nick Suriano and Drexel transfer Austin DeSanto. Rutgers’ Suriano will be coming out for vengeance after he lost in a controversial match to Daton Fix, and he’ll face a confident DeSanto, who won an aggressive match against Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak last weekend. Tune in on BTN to see these two teams due battle with one another for a piece of Big Ten pride.

No. 23 Utah Valley vs. Fresno State, 9 p.m., WAC Digital Network: The Utah Valley Wolverines have found themselves just inside the Top 25 for the 10th-straight week now. Look for the Wolverines to continue to fight for their spot in this battle with Fresno State. Led by No. 8 141-pounder Matt Findlay, Utah State’s roster includes four additional ranked wrestlers, and they will need to wrestle at their best to earn a victory against the Bulldogs. Findlay will likely wrestled unranked sophomore Chris Deloza who holds a 9-7 record but is 7-3 in the conference. He should be able to pull out a win and earn necessary team points to give his team an edge. Fresno State wrestlers to watch include 197-pounder No. 16 Josh Hokit, No. 17 Khristian Olivas at 149, 184-pounder Jackson Hemauer, and No. 21 AJ Nevills at 285. Utah Valley will also put ranked wrestlers at 285 and 197 pounds, so look for those two weights to provide the most excitement in this dual.

ALSO: How the NCAA college wrestling championship works

Saturday, January 19 

No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 14 Pittsburgh, 12 p.m., ACC Network Extra: In a battle of two undefeated teams, Oklahoma State and Pittsburgh take the mat on Saturday with the goal of extending their winning streaks, earning a Top 15 win and carrying momentum into future ranked matches later this month. The Cowboys hold the advantage with nine ranked guys, including No. 2 Daton Fix at 133 pounds and No. 2 Derek White at heavyweight, but Pitt’s four ranked wrestlers will put up a fight in their respective weight classes. The big match of the weekend will be between Fix and Pittsburgh’s No. 5 Micky Phillippi, a redshirt freshman whose beaten several top-ranked athletes already this year including No. 9 Ethan Lizak and No. 5 Luke Pletcher. The 184-pound weight will also be a tight contest between No. 11 Jacobe Smith from Oklahoma State and No. 13 Nino Bonaccorsi. Tune in to watch this Big 12- ACC challenge at noon at Saturday.

No. 10 Cornell vs. Columbia, 1 p.m, ESPN Ithaca: Though this dual is a standard conference dual, the battle between Cornell and Columbia is set to be fairly one-sided. Cornell brings to the mat 2018 NCAA Champion and 2018-2019 undefeated 141-pounder Yianni Diakomihalis as well as four other ranked wrestlers while Columbia, despite only having one loss on its record, suffered a tough defeat against American last weekend. The Big Red need this match to find their feet again after an upset loss to Lehigh, a traditionally strong team that failed to score a single team point against Penn State earlier this year, and the Lions need this match to give their athletes experience as March draw closer. Columbia could surprise the wrestling world on Saturday night, but Cornell should have the upper hand.

No. 10 Cornell vs. Sacred Heart, 6 p.m., ESPN+: In the second of two Saturday dual, Cornell travels from New York City up to Fairfield, Connecticut to take on the unranked pioneers. With five ranked wrestlers in its lineup, Cornell will attempt to put together a winning weekend record and flip its momentum after the loss to Lehigh last weekend. Sacred Heart, on the other hand, does not have any ranked athletes in its lineup, and will be competing in only their third dual meet of the season after competing mostly in tournaments and opens this fall. Look for Cornell to come in with force and earn bonus points, but, as Lehigh showed, Top 10 teams are nowhere near invincible. 

No. 8 N.C. State vs. Drexel, 6 p.m., ACC Network Extra: Drexel’s lineup is marked by three ranked wrestlers, No. 16 Joey Goodheart at 285, No. 15 Stephen Loiseau at 197 and No. 16 Ebed Jarrell at 165, two of which, Jarrell and Loiseau, will face a ranked opponent in Raleigh. North Carolina State, ranked eighth in the national poll, does not have a Top 20 athlete at 285, but 165 pound Thomas Bullard recently earned recognition in the Intermat rankings for taking down then No. 19 Nick Kiusss of West Virginia. N.C. State’s Malik McDonald also stayed just inside the Top 20 in the No. 20 spot. Despite the potentially intriguing matchups at 165 and 197, the Wolfpack are still headlined by 157-pound superstar Hayden Hidlay, the redshirt sophomore All-American. The Wolfpack have recently been without 133-pound star Tariq Wilson who suffered an injury. The 2018 NCAA third-place finisher will hope to be back in the lineup as March inches closer, but the Pack will miss Wilson against this dual with the Dragons.

Can Jason Nolf win a 3rd consecutive title at 157 pounds?

No. 5 Missouri vs. Central Michigan, 8 p.m., Mizzou Network: The Missouri Tigers have faced a series of high-level talent over the last several weeks, and this match against Central Michigan should give them a chance to work on any technical skills and loosen themselves out before their schedule heats up again in February. Central Michigan holds a 2-3 overall record and 1-1 conference record after wins over Maryland and Northern Illinois, but their most recent match, a 24-9 loss to Old Dominion, proved that the team has areas to improve. The Chippewas have scored 73 team points across their duals this year and are led recently by 157-pounder Logan Marks who took down then No. 3 Larry Early in the dual against the Monarchs to advance to 16-7 just weeks after going 7-2 at the Midlands tournament. Watch for Missouri to roll through this match without much trouble, but keep an eye out for a Central Missouri surprise, perhaps at 157.

Sunday, January 20th

Relive Bo Nickal's dramatic title run capped by his clinching pin

No. 7 Minnesota vs. Northwestern, 12 p.m., BTN2go: Northwestern has a had a particularly interesting season thus far headlined by No. 1 Sebastian Rivera taking down Iowa’s defending national champion 15-pounder and then No. 1 Spencer Lee at Midlands. The Wildcats also have ranked athletes at 157 pounds and heavyweight, both of whom will compete against ranked Minnesota wrestlers, with NU heavyweight Conan Jennings taking on Minnesota’s No. 1 Gable Steveson, and No. 3 Ryan Deakin competing against No. 7 Steve Bleise of the Gophers. The 125-pound match will also be exciting, featuring the undefeated Rivera against Minnesota’s No. 6 Sean Russell. Though Minnesota has the edge in this match, the Gophers dropped to Northwestern in their dual last year after a match-winning pin from Deakin, so anything can happen when these two Big Ten teams take the mat on Sunday.

No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 9 Nebraska, 1 p.m., LionVision: After taking down then No. 10 Wisconsin 24-13, the undefeated, top-ranked Nittany Lions will now host another Top 10 Big Ten opponent in Nebraska on Sunday. The Cornhuskers (7-2) boast seven ranked wrestlers in the lineup that should generate some interesting matchups against Penn State's nine ranked athletes. Nebraska recently lost to Wisconsin, a team Penn State handled last Sunday. The last time Nebraska faced Penn State in Rec Hall, in January 2016, the Cornhuskers pulled out a 24-10 victory, but Penn State has won the last four battles, none of which occurred in Rec Hall, winning the most recent dual in January 2017 27-14.

No. 16 Iowa State vs. West Virginia, 7 p.m., MoutaineerTV: On paper, the No. 16 Iowa State Cyclones hold a clear advantage over the unranked 2-9 Mountaineers, but the competitive West Virginia schedule has given its wrestlers the chance to gain high-level experience and potentially pose a threat to this next Big 12 opponent. Iowa State holds a perfect conference record and just one loss on the season to No. 4 Iowa, whereas the Mountaineers have taken losses to six ranked opponents including No. 10 Cornell, No. 15 Northern Iowa, No. 14 Pittsburgh, No. 13 Virginia Tech, No. 18 Purdue and No. 9 N.C. State. The West Virginia wins came against North Dakota State and Northern Colorado. Three ranked wrestlers will take the mat for West Virginia while Iowa State has seven.

No. 15 Northern Iowa vs. Air Force, 8 p.m.,  Mizzou Network: The Northern Iowa Panthers will welcome the Air Force Academy to their gym on Sunday for Military Appreciation Day for what promises to be an exciting matchup between the No. 15- ranked team in the country and the unranked, but hungry, Falcons of Air Force. To kick off the weekend of wrestling, UNI suffered a 29-12 to No. 5 Missouri on Thursday.  Air Force, on the other hand, will wrestle its first match of the weekend against No. 12 Wyoming on Friday, giving them a chance to prep for the Panthers. Both teams will have the opportunity to put their wrestlers against some of the best athletes in the country before they meet each other in Iowa, and watch for Air Force to pull out some surprising wins. The last time these two teams met, in 2013, the Falcons walked away with the win, and though this will be the first time UNI and Air Force meet as fellow Big 12 teams, the intensity in the gym, and the desire to pull out a win for rankings sake, will help make this a fun match to follow.

No. 6 Michigan vs. No. 18 Purdue, 8 p.m, BTN2go: Michigan’s match against Purdue will be the more difficult of its two matches this weekend, but the Wolverines still have the heavy advantage in this ranked dual. Purdue, ranked 18th nationally, has split its duals 4-4 and will be looking to pull off the upset and move beyond .500 with a win over the Wolverines. No. 12 Griffin Parriott and No. 12 Christian Brunner lead the Boilermakers in the national rankings at 157 and 197 pounds respectively, and they will take on No. 11 Alec Pantaleo and unranked Jackson Striggow in those particular weights. Michigan is led by 133-pounder Stevan Micic who remains undefeated on the season and is expected to pick up another conference win against Purdue on Sunday.
No. 21 Arizona State vs. Oregon State, 9 p.m., Pac-12 Network

Relive Zahid Valencia completing an undefeated season with a title at 174

Despite the national success and experience of defending national champion Zahid Valencia, the Sun Devils have struggled so far this year across their highly competitive schedule, falling to No. 21 after losses to No. 2 Ohio State, No. 17 North Carolina, No. 1 Penn State, No. 6 Michigan, Virginia and Oklahoma. They still have, however, a Top 25 ranking and should be a strong force against the Beavers. Oregon State has two ranked wrestlers on opposites ends of the weight divisions, with No. 3 Ronnie Bresser at 125 and No. 5 Amar Dhesi at heavyweight, setting up a Top 10 matchup between Bresser and Arizona State’s No. 8 Ryan Millhof. Valencia will, of course, be an athlete to watch as he continues to be one of the top 174-pounders in the country, but in this dual in particular, the focus should be on 125 as the Sun Devils take on the Beavers. 

MORE: Penn State wrestling looks almost unbeatable. Here are 3 teams that could unseat the champs.

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