In a battle of Big Ten powerhouses, the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes will host the No. 1 undefeated Penn State Nittany Lions with the hopes of ending Penn State’s dual meet winning streak and climbing in the national rankings. The Nittany Lions enter the match fresh off Top-5 win over No. 4 Michigan, a team that beat Ohio State two weekends ago in a 19-17 thriller.
Ohio State comes into dual after recording two Big Ten wins against No. 22 Illinois and Northwestern last weekend, 23-14 and 27-15, respectively to regain some momentum after a Big Ten loss to the Wolverines. Friday’s match between the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions will feature eight ranked matches, and these are the three bouts in particular that you won’t want to miss.
141: No. 2 Joey McKenna vs. No. 5 Nick Lee
Ohio State’s No. 2 Joey McKenna and No. 5 Nick Lee will meet for just the second time on Friday night as they kick off a series of top-ranked matchups between these two dominant programs. McKenna did not wrestle against No. 22 Illinois or Northwestern last weekend, and head coach Tom Ryan has said that the 141-pounder is battling an injury. However, he’s listed as the only probable starter for the Buckeyes on Friday, and if he does wrestle, he'll face Lee in a Top-5 Big Ten dual likely to impact the national individual rankings at this weight class.
McKenna enters the match with an undefeated 14-0 record, his biggest wins this season coming over No. 9 Tristan Moran, No. 7 Josh Alber, No. 3 Jaydin Eierman and No. 6 Kanen Storr. His win against Storr in particular showed McKenna power at 141-pounds, as he teched the then Top-5 ranked Michigan wrestler. He'll need the bonus points in this dual against Penn State if he hopes to help his team pull off the upset, and if he can compete against Lee like he did against Storr, he could be a game-changer for the Buckeyes in a dual where Ohio State will need every point it can earn.
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Lee took a loss to Moran earlier this year, his only “L” of the year, and comes into the dual with a 20-1 record. The last time McKenna wrestled Lee, he fought for a 7-6 decision during last year’s dual. The two did not meet at the 2018 Big Ten Tournament last year, as Lee dropped to Mike Carr in the quarterfinals and wrestled back for third, and McKenna won the tournament with a victory over Carr in the finals. At the 2018 tournament, McKenna and Lee missed a chance to wrestle again, as Lee slipped into the consolation bracket early and battled back for fifth. McKenna, in the same tournament, moved to the quarterfinals before dropping to second-place finisher Bryce Meredith and then wrestling for a third-place finish.
Look for this match to bring everything you would expect from a NCAA tournament-style match between two rivals: aggressive action, high-scoring, gritty and intense wrestling.
184: No. 1 Myles Martin vs. No. 2 Shakur Rasheed
While McKenna vs. Lee will offer excitement for Ohio State and Penn State fans alike, the battle between No. 1 Myles Martin and No. 2 Shakur Rasheed marks the first of two 1 vs. 2 contests in this dual and should bring the sell-out crowd at St. John Arena to its feet, if the over 10,000 fans aren't standing yet. Martin is one of three Buckeyes carrying an undefeated record into Friday’s dual with the Nittany Lions, and he'll be looking for the first Penn State dual meet win of his career. A senior captain for Ohio State, Martin has a 2017 NCAA title, three All-American honors, and two Big Ten runner-up finishes to his name, but what he doesn't have is a win in the Penn State-Ohio State dual.
In 2016, he lost in the rivalry dual at 174 to now-No. 1 Bo Nickal 11-5 and then lost to Nickal again in 2017 during the same dual at 184 pounds in an 8-2 decision. Nickal continued to stop Martin in 2018, earning a 10-2 major decision against the Buckeye during the Ohio State-Penn State match, before moving up to 197 pounds this year, where he'll now face Martin's teammate and co-captain Kollin Moore. For the first time in four years, Martin has the chance to put up a win in the dual against the Nittany Lions without having Nickal in his way. This year, Martin will wrestle No. 2 Rasheed, an undefeated wrestler who will by no means an easy opponent, but one who has battled injuries this year. Rasheed recently notched a decision over Jelani Embree in the Nittany Lions battle against Michigan, and he'll come into this match looking to find another gear and take down the undefeated Martin. One of these wrestlers will walk away from this 184-pound Ohio State-Penn State battle with a loss, the question is: can Martin prevent it from being him again?
197: No. 1 Bo Nickal vs. No. 2 Kollin Moore
The bout between No. 1 Bo Nickal and No. 2 Kollin Moore will be the encore to the top-ranked matchup at 184, as this contest again features two top-ranked athletes hoping to stay undefeated. Nickal enters the match ranked first in the recent Most Dominant Wrestler rankings and his 12 pins this season make him a threat against any opponent. His match against No. 2 Kollin Moore will be no different. Nickal has not faced an opponent as highly ranked as Moore yet this season, but he has a history of taking down highly-ranked Ohio State wrestlers, the most notable example coming from his pin over Myles Martin at the 2018 NCAA Championships. In his first year at 197 pounds, Nickal has shown his versatility and utter dominance. He'll enter this match favored, and the pressure will be on Moore to pull off the upset.
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Moore, for his part, is also undefeated on the year and has recorded a fall or a tech fall in five of his last seven matches. On paper, the Buckeyes and the Nittany Lions shout spit the dual 5-5, meaning that the team score will likely come down to bonus point, an area Nickal and Moore have excelled. The two wrestlers have never competed head-to-head, but Nickal has not lost a single match against any opponent since 2017, when he dropped a 6-4 decision to Myles Martin in the Big Ten tournament. The Nittany Lion senior is riding a 55-match win streak, a number that matches his team's dual meet winning streak.
Moore's most recent loss came against Kent State's Kyle Conel in the third-place match at the 2018 NCAA tournament where he dropped 5-3 to the unexpected Conel. A top-ranked seed in that tournament, Moore left Cleveland disappointed, but he's shown this year that he's ready to compete for that top podium spot again. He'll have to get through Nickal if he wants a shot at the title, and Friday's match will be a good test. Nickal is flashy and quick, a fun matchup against the strong and steady Moore. Expect Nickal to take control, but if the team score comes down to 197, be ready for Moore to put up a challenge on his home mat in front of the Buckeye Nation.
How great is the No. 1 @pennstateWREST-No. 2 @wrestlingbucks matchup?— Big Ten Network (@BigTenNetwork) February 6, 2019
Here's the talent on display at 8:30 ET Friday (BTN): 17 ranked wrestlers, including five No. 1s. 😱@ShaneSparksBTN is pumped for it, and for @RUWrestling Anthony Ashnault's latest test. pic.twitter.com/W9iShSCtBq
Other notes: Last year, Penn State beat Ohio State in Rec Hall 19-18, and this year, the Nittany Lions are favored in five of the ten weight classes. Ohio State will bring one No. 1 ranked wrestler to the mat in Martin, while Penn State will have four in Nolf, Joseph, Nickal and Hall. It’s a battle that will give the Buckeyes an indication of what to improve before Big Tens and ultimately before the national tournament next month.
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