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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | January 24, 2019

College wrestling: Here's what you need to know about this weekend's Top 25 matchups

Time to fall again for wrestling

If last weekend’s conference duals and individual upsets weren’t enough, high-stakes wrestling is back with more Top 25 matchups and can’t-miss contests. Here’s everything you need to know about this weekend’s slate of college wrestling:

College wrestling preview: Top 25 matchups this weekend

Friday, January 25

  • 7 p.m. No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 19 Purdue, BTN2go

The Nittany Lions continue to be the most dominant team in college wrestling, and this match against No. 19 Purdue will likely be just another opportunity for Penn State to show off its deep lineup. With all four No. 1 ranked wrestlers back in the lineup, Penn State has the clear advantage in nine of the ten weight classes, with its weak spot again coming at 125 pounds.

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The 184-pound match, however, could present some intrigue, as senior Shakur Rasheed has announced that he is unlikely to wrestle this weekend due to an injury. Rasheed wrestled last year at 197 pounds, but cut down while teammate and defending national champion Bo Nickal stepped into the heavier spot. Rasheed, Nickal, 165-pound Vincenzo Joseph, 174-pounder Mark Hall and 157-pounder Jason Nolf are all undefeated on the year with at least 14 wins. Purdue will bring four ranked wrestlers into the match, but they will have a hard time against Penn State’s crew of champions. 

  • 7 p.m., No. 8 N.C. State vs. Duke, ACC Network Extra

In this local, ACC battle, it’s the Finesilvers versus the Wolfpack. Duke brothers, Mitch, Matt, Josh and Zach all appear on Duke’s list of probable starters, and two of the brothers, Mitch and Matt, hold top 20 rankings in their respective weight classes, 149 and 174.

Matt Finesilver will likely face N.C. State’s No. 20 Daniel Bullard in a marquee dual, while Matt is expected to square off against top-10 Justin Oliver in another ranked contest. And, if the excitement of watching those two duals isn’t enough, there's also the neat possibility that Zach Finesilver, an unranked 165-pounder and brother of his three Duke teammates, could end up facing N.C. State’s Thomas Bullard, brother of Wolfpack teammate Daniel Bullard in a second Finesilver-Bullard match of the weekend. 

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  • 8 p.m., No. 5 Missouri vs. Northern Illinois

Missouri enters Friday’s dual against Northern Illinois undefeated, and the Huskies will likely pose no threat to this perfect Tiger season. In their last bout, the Tigers took down Central Michigan 32-15 behind falls from No. 10 John Erneste, No. 3 Jaydin Eierman, No. 16 Jarrett Jacques and a technical fall from No. 13 Connor Flynn. Northern Illinois does not have a ranked wrestler in any of those five weight classes, putting the Huskies at a serious disadvantage in this dual.

Central Michigan managed 15 points against the Tigers, with six of those coming from Missouri’s forfeit at 184 pounds, so expect Northern Illinois to fight for a similar total. The Huskies do have an advantage at 174-pounds with ranked freshman Brit Wilson, but this weight class will likely not be enough to swing momentum to Northern Illinois against a Top 5 team. 

  • 7 p.m., No. 18 Rutgers vs. Michigan State University

Rutgers has been an interesting team to watch this year, as the Scarlet Knights have battled for wins against top-ranked teams, most notably Wisconsin, and also lost in matches that should have been victories, particularly against now-unranked Utah Valley State. No. 2 149-pounder Anthony Ashnault leads the way for Rutgers, and he won’t have any ranked competition in the Spartan lineup.

Another Rutgers weapon comes the form of 133-pound national finalist Nick Suriano, who, like his team, has come away with some unexpected losses while also notching some notable accomplishments. Suriano and Ashnault should both walk away with the win this weekend without a ranked opponent from Michigan State, and if they can help rally their team, the Scarlet Knights could secure a critical conference win and improve to .500 in the Big Ten. A win for Michigan State would bring the Spartans to .500 overall but only move the team to 2-3 in the conference. 

  • 7 p.m., No. 23 Arizona State vs. Lock Haven, Bear 99.9

The Sun Devils, who cling to their Top 25 ranking and need a win to hold their spot travel to Lock Haven for a Friday night dual against the 3-2 Bald Eagles, a team that Arizona State has never lost to in four meetings. Led by No. 2 174-pounder Zahid Valencia, Arizona State enters the dual off a win against Oregon State last weekend, but the previous weekend, the Sun Devils did fall to Oklahoma. Their 4-6 record should show Lock Haven that this visiting team could be knocked off the Top 25 list and replaced by the Bald Eagles if Lock Haven takes the win.

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These two teams have not competed against each other since 2003, but 2019 is the perfect year to bring back this dual, with Arizona State looking for a win to regain momentum, and Lock Haven hoping to pull out a victory and earn its spot back in the Top 25. 

  • 7:30 p.m. No. 12 Virginia Tech vs. No. 13 Pittsburgh, ACC Network

This Top 20 ACC contest should be a headline-making dual between the 5-2 Hokies and the recently no longer undefeated Panthers. While the whole dual will provide wrestling fans with high-level conference action, the three matches to pay particular attention to are the ranked duals 133 pounds, 184 pounds and 285 pounds. In the lighter weight class, Virginia Tech's No. 15 Korbin Myers takes on the rising No. 2 Micky Phillippi, and both athletes enter the match with momentum in their favor. Myers, who most recently competed in the Virginia Duals and notched a decision over Virginia's Louie Hayes, holds an 11-4 record. Phillippi holds a 13-1 record with his only loss coming to Nick Suriano at the Cliff Keen Invitational. 

At 184, a similar battle will occur with Tech's No. 8 Zachary Zavatsky taking on Pitt's No. 12 Nino Bonaccorsi. These two athletes hold 16-2 and 12-4 records respectively. Lastly, the heavyweight contest could be the most tightly contested ranked matchup. Virginia Tech's No. 14 Billy Miller is expected to compete against Pittsburgh's No. 8 Demetrius Thomas, and, if the duals are wrestled from lightest to heaviest, this could be the deciding match in the dual. Look for Pittsburgh to chase a win after dropping its first dual of the season to Oklahoma State last weekend, but expect the Virginia Dual champion Hokies to make the Panthers work for every point. 

  • 7 p.m., No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 6 Michigan, Big Ten Network

In one of the biggest duals of the weekend, Ohio State will take on rival No. 6 Michigan in Columbus. Read all about that match here.

  • 8 p.m, No. 7 Minnesota vs. No. 14 Wisconsin, BTN2Go

In another battle between Big Ten rivals, No. 14 Wisconsin hosts No. 7 Minneapolis at home for a chance to regain momentum and put another win on the season. The Badgers lost a tough contest against then-unranked Rutgers on Jan. 11, fought valiantly against Penn State on Jan. 13 before falling 24-13, and then dropped to unranked Northwestern 25-18 last weekend. Head coach Chris Bono and his team could use a win, but they’ll face a tough Gopher team that beat Rutgers and Northwestern, and also recorded ranked wins against now No. 17 North Carolina and No. 19 Illinois.

Minnesota’s only losses this year have come from No. 3 Oklahoma State and No. 4 Iowa, and the team’s success shows in its 10-2 record. Anchored by No. 1 heavyweight freshman Gable Steveson, Minnesota will be a tough challenge for the Badgers and could be the latest team to hand Wisconsin a loss. 

  • Friday, January 25, 9 p.m. No. 4 Iowa vs. No. 20 Illinois, Big Ten Network

Spencer Lee, Austin DeSanto, and the Iowa wrestling cast of characters are back for more Big Ten action as the No. 4 Hawkeyes take on the Fighting Illini. Fresh off a win against now No. 18 Rutgers, the undefeated Hawkeyes will now look to take care of another Top 20 conference opponent with their nine ranked wrestlers. Illinois most recently lost back-to-back duals against No. 6 Michigan and No. 7 Minnesota, and this dual against the dominant Hawkeyes will present a similar challenge as the previous two Top 10 teams did.

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The highest-ranked Illini, No. 2 Emery Parker will likely face Iowa's No. 14 Cash Wilcke, a new opponent who he's never faced before and who lost his only match against a ranked opponent, No. 6 Drew Foster at the Midlands. In addition to Parker, the Illini will bring five other ranked wrestlers into the dual at 125, 133, 141, 157 and 165 pounds, all of whom will face Iowa ranked wrestlers and all of whom hold a lower ranking than their Iowa opponent with the exception of No. 4 141-pounder Mike Carr. With six ranked matchups, this is a can't- miss Big Ten dual, but expect Iowa to walk away with the win, just as they have against every other opponent this year. 

  • 8 p.m., No. 15 Iowa State vs. Oklahoma, Cyclones TV

No. 15 Iowa State's dual against Oklahoma should give the Cyclones a confidence boost before they take on the No. 3 ranked Cowboys of Oklahoma State on Sunday. However, unranked Oklahoma should not be underestimated, as the Sooners have a history of surprising Iowa State. Last year, Oklahoma beat the Cyclones leaving Iowa State to chase its first win against the Sooners since 2015. Iowa State does lead the overall series, 50-42-3, and in this particular match, they should have the upper hand. The Cyclones are led by No. 6 Willie Miklus at 197 pounds and come into this match on a five-match winning streak. Look for the seven ranked Iowa State wrestlers to pick up big team points and give the Cyclones that win that eluded them in their last match against Oklahoma. 

  • 8 p.m. No. 16 Northern Iowa vs. Northern Colorado, FloWrestling

No. 16 Northern Iowa's match against Northern Colorado shouldn't be too much of a challenge for the Panthers. They bring five ranked wrestlers to the mat compared to Northern Colorado's two, but neither of those seven ranked wrestlers will compete against a ranked opponent. The Panthers are by led by No. 6 Josh Alber, who took down Missouri's No. 3 Jaydin Eierman last week, and is riding a ten-match winning streak that should give him the momentum to score big points against his unranked Northern Colorado opponent this weekend. If he notches a win against Bears, he will reach the 100th win milestone, but he isn't the only Panther chasing big stats this weekend. Teammate Jay Schwarm will be going for his 10th pin of the year when he wrestles one of the two Northern Colorado probable starters, No. 17 Rico Montoya or Michael Johnson. 

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Northern Iowa also has a No. 6 ranked athlete at 184 pounds, Drew Foster, and the 2018 Big 12 champion will look for another win on his quest to defend his national title. 

  • 10 p.m., No. 22 Stanford vs. California Baptist, Live stream

The Stanford Cardinal will start their weekend of California duals at home against unranked Cal Baptist, and they should have no problem taking down the Lancers, even with ranked 149-pounder Requir van der Merwe set to skip Friday's match and wrestle only on Sunday. Taking van der Merwe's place against Cal Baptist is expected to be Steven Abbate, a normally 141-pound redshirt freshman with a 2-2 record on the year. He previously lost to Cal Baptist's Zander Silva at the Reno Tournament of Champions in December, but he's slated to compete against 149-pounder Daxton Gordon this weekend while one of his two teammates, either Jack Ramlia or Brandon Kier will take on Silva. Stanford's No. 9 197-pounder Nathan Traxler will compete against either Cal Baptist's Frankie Wyshinski Or Ali'i Loyola, both unranked wrestlers. Look for the Cardinal to take a win and stay undefeated in this dual before they head to Bakersfield on Sunday for another in-state contest. 

Saturday, January 26

  • 11 a.m., No. 10 Cornell vs. Brown, ESPN+

Cornell put themselves back on track last week with a dominating victory over Ivy foe Columbia after suffering a tough loss to Lehigh the weekend before, but a win against Brown would help the team get set and focused with bigger matches still to come on the schedule. Brown's lone ranked wrestler, No. 17 Jonathan Viruet at 165, will likely face either Cornell's Andrew Berreyesa (10-4) or Jon Jay Chavez (0-0), both of whom are unranked, though Chavez does have an All-American title to his name after finishing seventh at last year's tournament. Cornell brings six ranked wrestler to the match, headlined by No. 1 Yianni Diakomihalis.

  • 6 p.m., No. 10 Cornell vs. Harvard, ESPN+

The Big Red will compete in their second match of the weekend against unranked Harvard and again, this should be Cornell’s match to win. This Cornell team will need to use these two matches to work out any problems before heading into a competitive February schedule that includes No. 17 North Carolina and No. 2 Ohio State before the EIWA championships in March. The Big Red are led by No. 1 141-pound defending national champion Diakomihalis, who spent first part of the season recovering after an ACL injury and has not competed in every dual.

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Diakomihalis sat on against Columbia but was on the list of probable starters for Cornell's dual with Sacred Heart that ended up being canceled due to a storm. Other Big Red athletes to watch include No. 10 Max Dean (184), No. 11 Vitali Arujau (125), No. 12 Chas Tucker (133) and No. 15 Brandon Womack (174). Harvard does not have any ranked wrestlers, so expect Cornell to take a solid victory in this Ivy dual. 

  • 6:30 p.m., No. 17 North Carolina vs. No. 25 Virginia, ACC Network Extra

Recently ranked Virginia will travel to Chapel Hill on Saturday to take on the 7-5 Tar Heels for Carolina’s first ACC matchup of the year. The Heels, who started the season strong with a win against now No. 23 Arizona State, have struggled as of late, losing to unranked Indiana at the South Beach Duals and barely sneaking past unranked North Dakota State 20-19 in the same tournament. North Carolina enters the dual fresh off a loss to now No. 21 Princeton 23-16, while Virginia comes in with a two-match win streak after dominant victories over VMI and Ohio. North Carolina has the edge in the national rankings, but Virginia could surprise people in what promising to be an exciting, intense ACC event. 

  • 7 p.m., No. 23 Arizona State vs. No. 24 Lehigh, Patriot League Network

Not only will No. 23 Arizona State and No. 24 Lehigh present a competitive team dual, but the Sun Devils and the Mountain Hawks will also set up what could be an NCAA matchup between No. 2 Zahid Valencia and No. 7 Jordan Kutler in the 174-pound weight class. Valencia has been undefeated since his loss to Mark Hall in the Arizona State-Penn State dual at the beginning of the year. He’s also gone on to rack up five pins and Virginia Duals Outstanding Wrestler Honors. In addition to Valencia, the Sun Devils have four ranked wrestlers with No. 5 Josh Shields also holding a Top 5 rankings. The matchup to watch in this dual will be Arizona State’s No. 14 Christian Pagdilao against No. 18 Josh Humphreys at 157 pounds. Beyond this ranked dual, however, Lehigh will be worth watching to see how the Mountain Hawks perform since cracking the Top 25 for the first time in 2019.  

Sunday, January 27 

  • 3 p.m., No. 4 Iowa vs. Northwestern, FloWrestling

The Hawkeyes finish out their Big Ten weekend against an unranked, but competitive Northwestern team that took No. 14 Wisconsin and No. 12 Virginia Tech earlier this year. While this match should present some interesting matchups, no weight class will be more hyped than the 125-pound dual between defending NCAA Champion Spencer Lee and 2018 Midlands Champion Sebastian Rivera.

Here's a look at Lee and Rivera facing off at last year's Big Ten championship: 

Sophomore Spencer Lee wowed the wrestling world at the national tournament last year after having his redshirt pulled late in the year, and his performance suggested that he could be one of the great light weight wrestlers in the sport. Lee held onto his No. 1 ranking through the early part of the season and was on pace to carry that spot through March, until he met Rivera at Midlands. The Northwestern redshirt sophomore topped Lee 7-3 and has held the top ranking ever since. This could be an NCAA championship preview match, but it won't be the only highly-touted contest of the night. At 157 pounds, the dual between Iowa's No. 5 Kaleb Young and Northwestern's No. 3 Ryan Deakin is also a critical Big Ten battle that will offer an indication of what to expect in March. Iowa should walk away with the team win in this dual, but between the Lee-Rivera rematch and the Young-Deakin dual, the individual matchups make this one of the most exciting Big Ten battles of the weekend. 

  • 2 p.m, No. 12 Virginia Tech vs. No. 24 Lehigh, Patriot League Network

Virginia Tech enters this dual with two more ranked wrestlers than Lehigh, but this contest is by no means an easy win for the Hokies. Lehigh, fresh off a five-game winning streak with a particularly big win over then No. 7 Cornell, has four ranked wrestler taking the mat, with 157-pounder Josh Humphreys and heavyweight Jordan Wood (285, No. 4) helping to lead the way. Virginia Tech’s highest-ranked wrestler, No. 6 David McFadden, recently teched Virginia’s Robert Patrick and will be a force at 174, and he should cruise to a victory against his unranked opponent on Sunday. The heavier weights will create the biggest intrigue in this dual with ranked matchups at 184 pounds, 197 pounds, and heavyweight. 

  • 1 p.m. No. 1 Penn State vs. Indiana, BTN2go

In another Big Ten weekend battle, No. 1 Penn State will look to extend its dual meet winning streak even further and start to inch towards 60 consecutive victories. The unkranked Hoosiers do not have a single ranked wrestler on the list of probable starters, meaning that the closest match will probably occur at 125 pounds where unranked Penn State sophomore Devin Schnupp (5-9) will wrestle against either sophomore Liam Cronin (16-11) or senior Elijah Oliver (15-9). Indiana has won just four duals this season and one conference dual compared to Penn State’s seven overall victories and perfect 3-0 Big Ten record. This should be one of Penn State’s easier conference duals, and after the Nittany Lions allowed just three team points against No. 9 Nebraska, expect Penn State to own this match in a similar, dominant fashion. 

  • 3 p.m. No. 3 Oklahoma State vs. No. 15 Iowa State, FloWresting

The Iowa State Cyclones' aggressive schedule continues with a stop in Stillwater, where they will face the No. 3 undefeated Cowboys led by No. 2 Derek White at heavyweight and No. 3 Daton Fix at 133 pounds. Oklahoma State has eight ranked wrestlers to Iowa State’s three, creating high-pressure matchups at 141-pounds, 184-pounds and 197 pounds. Oklahoma State easily has the upper hand in this match on paper, but Iowa State has been known to challenge ranked teams and dominate its lower ranked opponents. The Cyclones forced No. 4 Iowa to a fight for a one-point 19-18 dual meet win, and they also easily handled the only other ranked team on their schedule, then No. 23 North Dakota State 29-7. Look for the Cyclones to be competitive with the No. 3 Cowboys and force another close dual. 

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  • 3 p.m., No. 9 Nebraska vs. No. 20 Illinois, Big Ten Network

The No. 9 Cornhuskers will welcome their Big Ten opponent, the No. 20 Illini, to Lincoln, Nebraska on Sunday for their lone matchup of the weekend. After falling to No. 1 Penn State 25-6, Nebraska will be looking to pick up a conference win against Illinois with help from its eight ranked wrestlers. No. 5 Taylor Venz earned three of Nebraska's six points against the Nittany Lions when he took down Penn State's Mason Manville, who wrestled in place of traditional starter No. 3 Shakur Rasheed. Though Venz' win gave his team some added support, he'll need a top performance to beat Illinois No. 2 Emery Parker this weekend. In addition to 184 pounds, the Cornhuskers and the Illini will also have ranked duals at 125, 141 and 157 pounds. Nebraska should have the upper hand, but Illinois has had experience competing against top-level talent and could have the manpower to put up a fight against the Cornhuskers. 

  • 3 p.m., No. 16 Northern Iowa vs. Oklahoma, FloWrestling

The Sooners will battle their second Iowa team of the weekend when they face the No. 16 Panthers in Cedar Falls. Oklahoma will bring just one ranked wrestler to the mat against Northern Iowa, four less than the number of ranked athletes on the Northern Iowa side. However, unlike Northern Iowa's dual against Northern Colorado, Oklahoma's ranked athlete will have the chance to face a ranked opponent. No. 10 Dom Demas will wrestle No. 6 Josh Alber at 141-pounds in the marquee match of the dual, and the only ranked dual of Northern Iowa's weekend. Both athletes carry nearly identical record: Alber is 21-4 while Demas holds a 20-4 record on the season. They also both competed at the Cliff Keen Invitational with Alba advancing to the semifinals and Demas dropping to Ohio State's Joey McKenna in the quarterfinals. A win against Oklahoma will be crucial for Northern Iowa to hold its Top 15 spot, and a win for Alber would allow to stay ahead of Demas as the Big 12 tournament inches closer. 

  • 4 p.m.: No. 11 Wyoming vs. West Virginia, FloWrestling

West Virginia has been busy wrestling top-level talent over the past two weekends, but the Pokes should still have no problem cruising to victory against the Mountaineers. Led by No. 9 165-pounder Branson Ashworth, Wyoming has five athletes in the Top 20 compared to West Virginia’s three. Watch for West Virginia to put up a fight at 133 and 165, and maybe win 149, as the unranked Mountaineers take on the Big 12 force of Wyoming.  

  • 5 p.m., No. 22 Stanford vs. CSU Bakersfield

The Cardinal have the honor of participating in the last ranked dual of the weekend when they take on CSU Bakersfield for their second California contest of the weekend. Stanford holds the advantage in this dual, and they will look to stay undefeated and hold on to their Top 25 ranking with another win. Both ranked Stanford wresters are set to compete in this dual with No. 6 Requir van der Merwe at 149 pounds and No. 9 Nathan Traxler at 197 pounds. CSU Bakersfield's Sean Nickell (133 pounds will compete against either Stanford's Anthony Le (5-6) or Stanford's Mason Pengilly (6-3). Stanford should secure an easy victory in this dual, giving them a chance to work out any issues before taking on No. 23 Arizona State next weekend. 

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