Penn State’s Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee, Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph, Mark Hall, Bo Nickal and Anthony Cassar help make up the most lethal lineup in the college wrestling this season, and they proved again last week that no team, not even the defending Big Ten champions, can take them down.
TAKEAWAYS: Penn State topples the Ohio State Buckeyes
The Nittany Lions cruised to a dominant 28-9 victory over the No. 6 Buckeyes, extending their dual meet winning streak to 56 and delivering Ohio State its second loss of the season. The result did not change the national ranking for either team, and No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 3 Iowa, No. 4 Michigan and No.5 Missouri also maintained their spots in the Top 6 of the NWCA poll.
Drama ensued for just about everyone else in the Top 15 though, as then No. 9-Nebraska delivered a Big Ten upset with a 21-18 win over then-No. 7 Minnesota, then-No. 16 Pittsburgh took down the ACC powerhouse then-No.8 NC State 18-16 and then-No. 15 North Carolina stopped the then-No. 11 Hokies of Virginia Tech 18-14. These results led to shakeups in the NWCA poll this week, and here’s everything you need to know about the new rankings:
Virginia Tech, N.C. State fall, Nebraska, North Carolina rise
With the exception of Ohio State's loss to Michigan two weekends ago, the Top 10 has remained relatively stable in the NWCA poll week after week, but Friday, Saturday and Sunday's matches brought some surprises. Minnesota, NC State and Virginia Tech, as previously mentioned, all dropped to lower ranked opponents, with the NC State and Virginia Tech losses throwing a wrench in the ACC standings as well. North Carolina remains the only ACC team undefeated in conference duals, with wins over Virginia, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech, but the Tar Heels have a big weekend ahead of them with duals against No. 10 N.C. State on Friday and No. 9 Cornell on Sunday.
Head coach Coleman Scott's Tar Heels are led by No. 4 Austin O'Connor at 149, but with the help from two athletes, Brandon Whitman and Cory Daniel, earning wins over ranked opponents against the Panthers, North Carolina might have enough momentum to challenge the Wolfpack in this upcoming inter-state dual.
Thirteen other changes occurred in the Top 25, complete with No. 25 Stanford dropping out of the rankings, and Army West Point earning the final spot on the list. Nebraska moved up two with its win over Minnesota, and the Gophers dropped one spot with the loss. Cornell claimed the Ivy League title with its win over No. 19 Princeton, and the victory also elevated the Big Red from No. 10 to No. 9. Iowa State, Wyoming, Virginia and Lock Haven all moved up one spot, while Illinois fell two spots after losing to Wisconsin over the weekend. The win didn't help the Badgers in the rankings though, as they also moved down two spots.
Notable individual wins
Aside from some the three top-10 team upsets, a series of highly-ranked individuals, including three No. 2-ranked wrestler, also fell at the hands on their opponents, two of those losses coming in the form of a fall.
Missouri’s No. 4 Daniel Lewis headlined the weekend of upsets with his pin of No. 2, and defending national champion, Zahid Valencia in Missouri’s dual against the unranked Sun Devils. Lewis put the Arizona State junior on his back 4:15 into the match to deliver Valencia his second loss on the season and his only loss not to Penn State. This fall marked Lewis’ third and four duals and moves him to 19-1 on the season with his only loss coming from Michigan’s Myles Amine at the Cliff Keen Invitational.
ARIZONA STATE WRESTLING: 5 questions with NCAA wrestling champion Zahid Valencia
The other two No. 2-ranked wrestlers to suffer losses this weekend both represent the Buckeyes, as 141-pounder Joey McKenna lost in a upset to Penn State’s No. 6 Nick Lee. The loss marked McKenna’s first of the year and came as a surprise as the senior captain had recently teched his last Top-5 opponent during the Ohio State-Michigan dual. Teammate and co-captain 197-pounder Kollin Moore fell as well, but he was the only one of the three No. 2 wrestlers to lose to an opponent of a higher seed. Moore dropped to No. 1 Bo Nickal in the first period, as Nickal secured the dual win for the Nittany Lions and left Columbus with wins in seven of the ten weight classes.
One of Ohio State’s three wins, however, came from senior captain Myles Martin, the top-ranked 184-pounder who should have control of the weight class after No. 3 Nick Reenan of N.C. State dropped to No. 13 Nino Bonaccorsi of Pittsburgh in the Panthers big win of the then No. 8 Wolfpack. With Reenan suffering the upset loss and No. 2 Shakur Rasheed of Penn State sitting out over the weekend due to an injury, Martin simply needs to maintain his momentum to fight for a Big Ten title and battle for that top spot in Pittsburgh. He’s in a comfortable position and heads into these last few weeks of the dual season as the favorite, but as his teammates McKenna and Moore learned against the Nittany Lions, nothing is guaranteed.
MOST DOMINANT WRESTLER: Nittany Lions on top in Division I rankings
One weight class up, at 197-pounds, Army senior then No. 4 Rocco Caywood suffered his fourth loss of the season, and first dual loss of the season, this one coming against Drew Phipps of Bucknell in a 7-3 decision. The Black Knights still managed to pull out the win 22-19 and move up in the rankings, but Phipps kept his team in the battle with a three-point swing in favor of the Bison.
Utah Valley’s Kimball Bastian also joined the list of upset winners, as he took down Northern Iowa’s No. 6 Taylor Lujan 6-5. The win marks Bastian’s 14th of the year, bringing him to 14-8, while Lujan drops to 20-4.
WRESTLERS TO WATCH: 5 wrestlers we underestimated this season
What to watch
The next two weeks will feature a packed slate of top-ranked duals including this weekend’s biggest matchups between No. 2 Oklahoma State vs. No.5 Missouri, No. 3 Iowa vs. No. 18 Rutgers, No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 7 Nebraska, No. 10 N.C. State vs. No. 13 North Carolina, and No. 9 Cornell vs. No. 14 Virginia Tech. Top top-ranked Penn State also has two duals scheduled for this weekend again Michigan State and No. 24 Illinois, though neither of these two matches should pose too much of a challenge for the defending national champion Nittany Lions.
NCAA tournament allocations are set to be announced later this week, and athletes will have their eyes on conference tournaments as they fight for national championship spots and higher-ranked seeds with just over one month remains in the 2018-2019 wrestling season.
Here is the full NWCA Top 25 this week:
|1||Penn State (16)||11-0||400||1|
|25||Army West Point||7-2||15||NR|
NCAA TOURNAMENT INFO: How the NCAA wrestling tournament works