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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | January 24, 2019

Michigan vs. Ohio State wrestling: 3 key matches to watch

Watch this to be reminded why there's nothing quite like college wrestling

The Ohio State - Michigan rivalry is one of the best in sports and it will take center stage Friday at Schottenstein Center in Columbus, Ohio. The No. 2 ranked undefeated Buckeyes will host the No. 6 undefeated Wolverines in this intense Big Ten battle.

RANKINGS AND RECORDS: Division I wrestling championship records | NWCA poll

Each team enters the match with a No. 1-ranked athlete — Michigan’s Stevan Micic holds the top spot at 133 pounds and Ohio State’s Myles Martin at 184. Both teams also still have No. 1 Penn State on their schedules and they’ll see each other again at the conference championships in March. Until then, pride, and a higher national ranking lie in the balance for these two teams.

Here are three matches between Ohio State and Michigan featuring ranked opponents that you won’t want to miss. 

133- No. 1 Stevan Micic vs. No. 6 Luke Pletcher

Michigan's Micic has not lost a match yet this season but he’ll face a tough test from Pletcher (16-1) in what could be a championship preview.  In the four times that these two have wrestled, Micic has emerged victories three times —  once in last year’s dual, once at the Big Ten Championship in 2018 and then again on the big stage at the NCAA Championships in Cleveland. His win in the quarterfinals of the national championship was particularly notable because Micic ultimately earned a spot in the finals before falling 13-8 to eventual two-time NCAA champion Seth Gross. 

With Gross out of the weight class for the year with an injury, however, Micic could be in a position to claim the title he missed by one match last year. 

WRESTLING HISTORY: Looking back at the best college wrestling teams in history

The last time Pletcher beat Micic was at the Cliff Keen Invitational in Las Vegas last year. Pletcher has already proven that he’s beatable this season, falling to No. 2 Micky Phillippi at Cliff Keen. Micic, for this part, has only wrestled half as many matches as Pletcher and has not had to face Phillippi. Will Pletcher close the gap between him and Micic with a win on Friday? 

141- No. 5 Kanen Storr vs. No. 2 Joey McKenna

In a second Top-10 matchup, Michigan’s Storr will take on two-time All-American McKenna in the 141-pound contest. McKenna enters the dual undefeated while Storr comes in with a 17-2 record, his losses coming to Illinois’ No. 4 Mike Carr and Missouri's’ No. 3 Jaydin Eierman. Some of McKenna’s biggest wins this year have come over Eierman, one of the two opponents that Storr lost to, as well as No. 16 Tristan Moran of Wisconsin and No. 6 Josh Alber of Northern Iowa. 

Storr, a transfer from Iowa State, has not yet completed in Big Ten tournament or NCAA championship, as he left the Cyclones in January after just two seasons with the team. At the 2018 Cliff Keen Invitational, Storr finished third to McKenna’s first but the two athletes did not wrestle head to head. Storr’s record this season indicates he could be an All-American contender in March and he’ll experience an NCAA tournament-caliber match when he faces McKenna. 

157- No. 10 Alec Pantaleo vs. No. 6 Ke-Shawn Hayes

Despite facing an illness early in the season, Michigan’s Pantaleo has racked up several ranked wins over the last two months, beating No. 12 Eric Barone of Illinois and No. 13 Griffin Parriott of Purdue. The two-time All-American will have another test in Ohio State’s No. 8 Ke-Shawn Hayes, a 2018 NCAA qualifier with a 15-3 record on the season. Hayes’ three losses have come at the hands of N.C. State’s No. 4 Hayden Hidlay, Nebraska’s No. 2 Tyler Berger and Illinois’ No. 12 Barone.

Pantaleo also has recorded a series of losses this year, dropping to Arizona State’s No. 15 Christian Pagdilao, Ohio State’s Sammy Sasso, Northern Iowa’s No. 10 Max Thomsen and Arizona State’s Jacori Teemer for a 10-4 record. Three of those losses, however, came when Pantaleo dropped down to wrestle at 149 pounds for the Midlands tournament. He has since returned to 157 and looks comfortable at the heavier weight. 

Hayes also has experience wrestling 149 pounds. He filled that starting spot last season before teammate Micah Jordan took over the weight this season. Look for this to be a competitive, scrappy battle between two experienced wrestlers fighting for a higher national ranking. 

TOURNAMENT INFO: How the NCAA wrestling championship works 

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