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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | December 10, 2019

College wrestling rankings: Here's what's next for the top three teams in the country

Relive Iowa's Spencer Lee defending his 125 pound title

After an action-packed weekend of college wrestling, the Iowa Hawkeyes still sit atop the rankings, holding down the No. 1 spot with assertiveness after dominating No. 12 Princeton 30-9 on the road. The remaining top 10 in this week's NWCA poll is exactly the same as last week. So I decided to look at what's next for the top three teams and when we might see movement in the poll.

Iowa beats Princeton, heads to Midlands next

In their third ranked dual of the year, the Iowa Hawkeyes once again put on a show, scoring bonus points in five of the ten matches and walking away from Jadwin Gym in Princeton, New Jersey with a comfortable win against the Tigers.

Big Ten champion and two-time NCAA All-American Alex Marinelli led the Hawkeyes with a pin over Conor Melbourne to pick up his first bonus point win of the year with flair, and Michael Kemerer and Austin DeSanto also added big bonus points with tech falls over Sean Pierson and Kevin Parker, respectively.

Max Murin, who was only wrestling in his second dual after returning from injury, added a major decision, as did freshman phenom Anthony Cassioppi. All-Americans Pat Lugo and Jacob Warner also added hard fought decisions, with Lugo’s win over Mike D’Angelo coming in overtime and Warner’s win resulting from a 5-4 decision.

Freshman Aaron Cashman also made his dual debut for the Hawkeyes with Lee out of the lineup for the weekend to prepare for senior nationals later this month, but the young Hawkeye dropped a tough decision 10-4 to All-American Pat Glory. 

Princeton provided yet another test that Tom Brands' team passed with flying colors, but the Midlands tournament in Illinois later this month will be another challenge for the No. 1 overall team. The tournament will feature a number of top-ranked athletes in every weight, including former NCAA athletes, and Iowa will have the chance to enter more than one athlete at a given weight, potentially allowing for Vince Turk, Cash Wicke and Gavin Teasdale to fight for their starting spot in the lineup again. 

Nebraska wins Cliff Keen, Ohio State crowns two champs, rankings stay steady 

Nebraska held its No. 2 spot after a dominating performance at the Cliff Keen Invitational, highlighted by nine place-winners and one champion.

No. 7 Ohio State finished second at the tournament with both Kollin Moore and Luke Pletcher taking titles. No. 4 Arizona State, No. 13 Northwestern, No. 16 Minnesota, No. 18 Cornell, No. 22 Michigan, No. 20 Purdue and No. 23 Virginia also had Cliff Keen Champions in Zahid Valencia, Ryan Deakin, Brayton Lee, Chas Tucker, Mason Parris, Dylan Lydy, and Jack Mueller.

The tournament results did not shake up the rankings too much, but all of these teams will face more challenges that could disrupt the standings as conference duals heat up.

Team of the week: Nebraska Cornhuskers

The Cornhuskers made some waves when they moved up to No. 2 in the rankings following Penn State’s loss to Arizona last month. And the Cornhuskers showed why they are deserving of this ranking after surging to the top of the team rankings at a competitive Cliff Keen tournament.

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Isaiah White led the Red and White with his win at 165 pounds, but, as previously mentioned, eight other Cornhuskers also picked up podium finishes, including third-place results from Ridge Lovett. and Mikey Labriola. Nebraska will take on Oregon State next on Dec. 20 before wrestling Wisconsin, No. 1 Iowa and Penn State on back-to-back weeks. 

No. 3 Penn State unveils a new lineup 

Aaron Brooks, Brandon Meredith and Austin Hoppes all made their Rec Hall debuts this weekend against Penn, two days after the Nittany Lions picked up a hard-fought win against Lehigh.

The lineup changes at 184, 125 and 285 may not be permanent (in fact the 285 change is likely to be only the occasional match) but the new faces brought fresh energy and exciting talent to the mat that should give Penn State fans encouragement as the defending champs prepare for another title run.

Brooks, a true freshman 184-pounder, stepped in for Creighton Edsell and Shakur Rasheed at the weight and put up a 10-5 win against Lehigh’s Chris Weiler and a tech fall over Jesse Quatse. With his redshirt now pulled, Brooks could be a staple in the lineup moving forward.

But that begs the question of where Shakaur Rasheed might fit in once he returns from injury. Rasheed could bump up to 197 pounds where he found success as an All-American in 2018, but that leaves Kyle Conel out of the lineup. Penn State has options, yet the team will need to make some big decisions in the coming month or two. 

Hoppes came in for Anthony Casar at heavyweight and gave up a loss, but Cassar is expected to return. The discussion around Penn State’s 125-pounder, however, is far more interesting: with redshirt freshman Brody Teske starting the first two duals against Navy and Arizona State, but yielding his spot to Brandon Meredith (a Pennsylvanian native with a long history of Penn State alums in his family), against Penn and Lehigh.

Meredith took a major decision loss to No. 7 Brandon Paetzell against Lehigh , but reversed the outcome and earned his first Rec Hall with a tough 6-4 decision upset win over No. 12 Michael Colaiocco. Penn State may not have solidified a solution at 125 pounds yet, but the Nittany Lions should at least have a nationally ranked wrestler now at a weight that has caused concerns for the team over the last several years. 

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Penn State will be off until January 10 when its Big Ten schedule kicks off against Illinois.

No. 12 Tigers proved competitive in ranked weekend

The Tigers, still at No. 12, battled a tough weekend that deserves recognition, despite their 0-2 result. Princeton took on No. 9 Oklahoma State, falling 18-15, just two days before losing to No. 1 Iowa at home.

Head coach Chris Ayes' should be able to find some bright spots from the competitive weekend, as Pat Glory proved he’s a title contender by taking out Oklahoma State’s Nick Piccinnini in Gallagher-Iba Arena - the same arena where Piccinnini pinned NCAA champion Spencer Lee last season.

Glory didn’t have the chance to wrestle Lee in the Iowa dual because the Hawkeye junior is out preparing for senior nationals in Fort Worth, Texas later this month. But the win against Piccinnini sent a message to the rest of the 125 pound weight class that Glory is ready.

Quincy Monday and Travis Stefanik, Princeton’s 157- and 184-pounders, respectively, also ended the weekend with two wins, with one of them coming in upset fashion. Monday battled Oklahoma State’s Wyatt Sheets for a 3-2 win while Stefanik showed off his Princeton toughness with a sudden victory over Anthony Montalvo.

A forfeit at 165 pounds proved detrimental to the Tigers, as they fell just several points short of upsetting the Cowboys. But the tight score should be at least a moral victory for a Tiger team that isn’t afraid to wrestle two of the best schools in the country in the same weekend.

Undeterred after the loss to the Cowboys, Monday, Stefanik and the Tigers stormed back in to Jadwin Gym and worked to score points anyway they could. Monday put the crowd on their feet with an upset win over Iowa’s No. 4 All-American Kaleb Young, while Stefanik delivered Iowa’s Nelson Brands his first collegiate loss. 

Princeton faces Rider before heading to Illinois for the Midlands tournament. Despite going 0-2 on the weekend and sitting with a 1-2 record, don’t count out the Tigers. 

Central Michigan sneaks into the top 25 after two ranked wins

The Chippewas knocked off No. 25 Lock Haven and No. 20 Rider in the same weekend, and earned the No. 24 spot for the first time in program history. Rider dropped down to No. 25, while Lock Haven fell out of the rankings.

Central Michigan's Dresden Simon made some noise early for the Chippewas when he beat All-American Kyle Shoop by an 18-5 major decision in the dual against Lock Haven, giving his team momentum and leading into another major decision from Tracey Hubbard who topped Austin Bell 8-0. Drew Hildebrandt, Corbyn Munson, Logan Parks, Matt Stencel and Landon Pelham also picked up decisions in the 24-12 win over the Bald Eagles.

Hildebrandt and Stencel led the squad two days later against the Broncs, bookending the dual with pins, while Simon also picked up another major decision and Brock Bergelin, Munson, Parks, Tracey Hubbard added decisions. 

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