The biggest question heading into this college wrestling season was “Who is better? Iowa or Penn State?” This week’s college wrestling action gave fans their first look at both teams, with Penn State beginning its dual season against Oregon State and Sacred Heart, and Iowa sending nearly its entire starting lineup to the Luther Open. Both teams performed well and earned expected wins, but there’s unlikely to be any changes in their No. 1 and No. 2 rankings until the Big Ten schedule heats up at the start of the second semester. For now, these two teams, as well as the rest of the top six, held steady.
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Overall, this week’s poll brought few changes, but here are the notable shifts you need to know about and why they matter:
Arizona State and Oklahoma State impress
While Penn State and Iowa dominated the storylines last year, Oklahoma State and Arizona State rounded out the trophy teams with their third and fourth place team finishes. This year, these two teams sit in sixth and seventh place, with Oklahoma State’s ranking unchanged from last week, and the Sun Devils moving up into that seventh spot following a strong performance at the Mountaineer Open where the Sun Devils won eight of the 10 weight classes.
Eleven major decisions, seven pins, a No. 16 upset at 133, and Kyle Parco's #ParcoBomb of Jonathan Millner in the 149 final. Good trip out to the Mountains 😈— Sun Devil Wrestling (@ASUWrestling) November 15, 2021
The No. 6 Cowboys demonstrated why they’re a top-10 team on Saturday, earning the only ranked team win of the week with a 29-7 victory over the Stanford Cardinal. The loss didn’t negatively impact Stanford’s ranking, in fact, Stanford moved up a spot to No. 23.
Oklahoma State’s Dusty Hone, Dakota Geer and Luke Surber all earned bonus points in their victories over unranked Cardinal opponents, while reigning NCAA champion AJ Ferrari backed up his success last year with a dominant major decision against No. 25 Nick Stemmet of Stanford. The Cardinal battled tough, picking up wins at 165 pounds and 149 pounds from No. 1 Shane Griffith and No. 7 Jaden Abas, both in ranked matchups. Griffith topped No. 6 Travis Wittlake with his incredible top game and exquisite defense, while Abas showed off his offensive power by majoring No. 22 Kaden Gfeller. The Cowboys, however, proved too tough for this Stanford team.
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While Arizona State didn’t have an opportunity to pick up a dual win, the Sun Devils did run through their open tournament, and their ranking rise to No. 7 dropped Virginia Tech down one spot. Arizona State has to be excited about placing Brandon Courtney, Michael McGee, Jesse Vasquez, Kyle Parco, Jacori Teemer, Anthony Valencia, Kordell Norfleet and Cohlton Schultz all on top of the podium. This is a lineup that absolutely puts the Sun Devils in the trophy conversation.
A 3-0 weekend moved Rutgers up to No. 18
Rutgers, a team that went 0-4 last season, has already won more in the first two weeks than their entire 2021 year, and their early success has helped them continue to climb the rankings. After a dominant 3-0 start last weekend with wins over NJCU, Cleveland State and Binghamton, the Scarlet Knights continued their winning streak, beating Clarion 27-10, Davidson 34-6 and UT-Chattanooga 39-3 to start their season with a perfect 6-0 record and move up one position in the rankings to No. 18. This shift dropped Illinois down one spot, but the Fighting Illini have a lighter schedule this fall that prevents them from picking up ranked wins and moving up faster. Their next biggest test will actually be against the Scarlet Knights themselves on Jan. 14.
For now though, Rutgers has the edge, and 10 Scarlet Knight wrestlers earned bonus point wins across their three weekend duals, with Sammy Alvarez, Sebastian Rivera and Robert Kanniard leading the team with two bonus-point wins each. Rivera earned two techs against Seth Koleno of Clarion and Franco Valdos of UT-Chattanooga, while Alvarez and Kanniard had two major decisions. Rutgers’ 197-pounders Greg Bulsak and Kyle Epperly, along with 285-pounder Boone McDermott picked up pins each against Clarion, Davidson and UT-Chattanooga respectively, to round a headline-worthy performance for the Scarlet Knights. They’ll have Hofstra and North Carolina next on Nov. 27, the latter of which will be a ranked contest that will offer an even better indication of where Rutgers stacks up nationally.
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Wisconsin, the only other Big Ten team to move up in the ranking following a 32-13 win over Little Rock, will also be competing against North Carolina and Hofstra on the 27th for the Grapple at the Garden, creating exciting individual bouts. No. 19 Austin Gomez, one of two Badgers to earn a pin against Little Rock, could see North Carolina’s No. 6 Zach Sherman and Rutgers’ No. 25 Van Brill while heavyweight No. 6 Trent Hillger, the other Badger to earn a pin over the weekend, could have Rutgers’ No. 27 Boone McDermott. This cross-conference contest will be one you won’t want to miss.
Big results in the Big 12
The most notable change in the national rankings in terms of the Big 12 is the rise of Iowa State from No. 14 to No. 13, dropping North Carolina a spot. The Cyclones did not compete over the weekend, but they will have Army and Cal Baptist next week to kick off their dual season.
Beyond Iowa State though, fellow Big 12 foes Missouri and Oklahoma also earned good wins, with the Tigers dominating Northern Colorado and North Dakota State by a combined score of 75-6 and No. 17 Oklahoma topping a good team West Virginia 28-10.
Missouri, in its first year in the conference, has the chance to dethrone Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, the two teams that tied for the conference crown last year, but the depth of this group is exciting. Iowa State, Oklahoma State and Northern Iowa all make these midwestern matches that much more intense.
With every passing week, teams inch closer to conference competition and more ranked battles, suggesting that while this week’s rankings were fairly steady, nothing is guaranteed in the months to come.