There has been a ton of changes individually, but the top teams remain the top teams. Penn State takes a 52-match win streak into this weekend and Ohio State and Michigan do battle in a meeting of top-five squads. Virginia Tech jumps into the top 10 and gets immediate challenges from Pittsburgh and Lehigh this weekend. Lineups are starting to get settled for the stretch run and you can bet this is going to be a competitive race. The Nittany Lions appear to be the best of the bunch, but Nebraska showed Cael Sanderson’s team is actually human.
POLL: Wrestling Top 25
1 – PENN STATE: The Nittany Lions appeared human against Nebraska, winning 25-6 but not in the usual, high-flying fashion. Still, the numbers are astounding. The overall record of Cael Sanderson’s starters is 140-14 with nine of the losses coming at 125 pounds. The math shows a 135-5 mark from 133 through 285 pounds. Top-ranked Jason Nolf (157), Vincenzo Joseph (165), Mark Hall (174), and Bo Nickal (197) are all unbeaten — that group alone will be tough to top in Pittsburgh this March. A winning streak that is now 52 should continue with matches at Purdue and Indiana this weekend. Might this Penn State winning streak reach the NCAA record of 76 that Oklahoma State set from 1937 to 1951?
2 – OHIO STATE: The unbeaten and rested Buckeyes (7-0) host Michigan this Friday. Ohio State hammered Michigan State, 37-4, on Jan. 13. The numbers do not lie for the Buckeyes, who have Joey McKenna (141), Myles Martin (184), and Kollin Moore (197) at a combined 33-0 with Micah Jordan (149) and Luke Pletcher (133) losing a total of two matches between them in 31 starts. This Ohio State team is good with only one real question: can they find some tournament points at 125 pounds?
🌰 🆚 〽— Ohio State Wrestling (@wrestlingbucks) January 22, 2019
☑ 🔝5️⃣ tilt
☑ Conference clash
☑ Undefeated dual records
☑ 15 nationally-ranked wrestlers
☑ At 'The Schott'
☑ Live on national 📺
THIS Friday (Jan. 25) | 7 p.m. #GoBucks pic.twitter.com/QbMacF7RwE
3 – OKLAHOMA STATE: A rugged road schedule since mid-December has the Cowboys battle-tested for the stretch run. The biggest question is health with All-Americans Boo Lewallen (149), Chandler Rogers (165), and Preston Weigel (197) not 100 percent; who shifts where if they do return remains to be seen. Rookie Daton Fix won a wild, 40-minute match with Rutgers’ Nick Suriano, but took his first loss a week later to Pittsburgh’s Micky Phillippi. Nick Piccininni (125) is the last of the unbeaten Cowboys. Oklahoma State wrestles at home this Sunday — it is the first home match since Dec. 9.
4 – IOWA: The Hawkeyes moved to 8-0 with wins over Minnesota and Rutgers; next up are road duals at Illinois and Northwestern meaning Spencer Lee will get another shot at Sebastian Rivera, who bested Lee in the Midlands final in December. The news around Iowa City has focused on 133-pounder Austin DeSanto, who took out Rutgers’ Nick Suriano, and continues to show he is a threat to wrestle on Saturday night in the nation’s deepest weight class. Kaleb Young (157) and Alex Marinelli (165), along with Lee, are also, potential finalists. Put four in the finals and Iowa might just challenge the Nittany Lions.
5 – MICHIGAN: Michigan takes an 8-0 dual mark into Friday’s massive rivalry clash with Ohio State. A week later (Feb. 1), the Wolverines visit State College to face Penn State, so a lot will be learned about Sean Bormet’s team over the next two weeks. Veteran Alec Pantaleo is finding his legs at 157 pounds and Stevan Micic leads the pack at 133 pounds; he should face fellow All-American Luke Pletcher this Friday, while Pantaleo could move up with a win over Buckeye Ke-Shawn Hayes. Adding heavyweight Mason Parris to the lineup has given the Wolverines another potential All-American for a team that has championship aspirations.
6 – MINNESOTA: Minnesota’s only dual losses are to Oklahoma State and Iowa. Last weekend, the Gophers dispatched a good Northwestern team, 29-12, on the road. Heavyweight Gable Steveson moved to 22-0 in his first season and leads a solid group of Gophers that includes five ranked inside the top 10. A great dual team, Minnesota will need to wrestle above their seeds to finish this high at the NCAA Championships. Hosting the Big Ten Championships could provide a momentum boost late.
7 – NORTH CAROLINA STATE: Since a Jan. 6 loss at Ohio State, the Wolfpack have routed Brown, West Virginia, and Drexel by a combined 80-36. Duals with Virginia, Pittsburgh, North Carolina, and Virginia Tech remain after this Friday’s meeting with Duke. Keeping 125-pounder Sean Fausz on the mat and the health of 133-pounder Tariq Wilson could be key to any chances Pat Popolizio’s group has of contending in Pittsburgh.
8 – MISSOURI: A 32-15 win over Central Michigan last weekend moved the Tigers’ win streak to 33; it also marked Missouri's 70th win in the last 71 duals and an eighth consecutive Mid-American regular season title. “It’s always about team goals and one of our team goals every season is winning the MAC regular season title,” head coach Brian Smith said. “It’s another trophy in the case, we may need to buy a new trophy case. That’s a good thing.” Missouri has not missed a beat at 149 pounds where freshman Brock Mauller (22-1) has taken over for injured All-American Grant Leeth.
9 – VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies hammered rival Virginia to claim top honors at the Virginia Duals and take a five-match win streak into Friday’s meeting with improved Pittsburgh and a Sunday dual at always tough Lehigh. Head coach Tony Robie’s squad is solid from 157 through 285 pounds led by All-Americans David McFadden (174) and Zack Zavatsky (184). Korbin Myers (133), Mitch Moore (141), and BC LaPrade (157) are ones to watch over the next two months.
10 – NEBRASKA: Despite a lop-sided 25-6 score against top-ranked Penn State, the Huskers were very competitive, dropping five matches by two points or less. Eric Schultz challenged Bo Nickal at 197 pounds, Mikey Labriola battled Mark Hall at 174 pounds, and Isaiah White battled Vincenzo Joseph for a tough seven minutes. Mark Manning’s squad certainly has the potential to put eight men inside the top eight this March. Nebraska has a showdown with Iowa on Feb. 3.
THE NEXT SIX – Princeton, Northwestern, Lehigh, Cornell, Illinois, Rutgers