With every passing week of the 2021-2022 college wrestling season, the intensity rises, the upsets become more extreme and the rankings hold more value. The newest team in this week’s Top 25 — No. 22 Lehigh — impressed with weekend win over then- No. 15 Pittsburgh while the top teams — Iowa, Penn State, Missouri — showed off their dominance, beating all of their opponents by at least 20 team points.
From an individual standpoint, Nebraska’s Peyton Robb and Cornell’s Julian Ramirez made headlines when they took down defending NCAA champions Austin O’Connor and Shane Griffith while helping their team’s to victories. Robb then challenged Iowa State’s David Carr, the defending champ at 157 pounds, later last week at the Daktronics Open but fell in sudden victory to the Cyclone champ.
The weekend also marked the return of NCAA champion Gable Steveson, who dominated his Oklahoma State opponent by major decision and put on a show for Gopher fans. The story of Steveson and his return to college wrestling for one last ride will be a narrative to follow throughout the year, as will that of fellow Hodge winner Spencer Lee’s quest for a fourth national title. Lee is the only NCAA champion who has not yet competed this year as he did not wrestle against Princeton and his exact return date is unknown. His Hawkeyes, though, did register an impressive win over the Tigers in their Carver debut of the season.
Here are the Nov. 23 rankings, and what you need to know about all of the ranked results from last week:
Ohio State, Lehigh earn top-15 wins to move up in rankings
The Ohio State Buckeyes have already had an electric start to their season, taking on North Carolina and Virginia Tech and beating them both by a combined score of 40-25. This most recent win against the Hokies elevated the Buckeyes one spot in the poll and showed just how dangerous they can be, particularly against one of the best teams in the ACC.
Head coach Tom Ryan’s team was solid from start to finish in this dual, as 125-pounder Malik Heinselman kicked this off with a strong 5-2 win over NCAA All-American Sam Latona. Heinselman, a four-time NCAA qualifier, is now 6-0 on the year, but the Latona win is no doubt his most impressive victory and one that should give him confidence potentially heading into the Cliff Keen Invitational next weekend.
Ohio State also earned wins at 141 pounds, 149 pounds, 165 pounds, 197 pounds and 285 pounds, with 149 and 285 serving as key highlights for the Bucks. At the lighter of those two weights, Ohio State’s No. 2 Sammy Sasso, an NCAA finalist at 149 pounds last season, scrambled his way to a 11-7 win over No. 9 Bryce Andonian for his second consecutive top-ten win of the season. His poise in this moment of stress showed just how calm he is when the pressure is on, and he set an example for his teammates for the kind of mindset needed to win in big moments.
After Virginia Tech won bouts at 133, 157, 174 and 184, the score was tied heading into heavyweight. Virginia Tech had some momentum after No. 4 Mekhi Lewis held off Ohio State’s No. 6 Ethan Smith in another thriller, but the Bucks had the edge, points wise, going into heavyweight, the weight that would decide it all. In a low-scoring affair, it was Ohio State’s Tate Orndorff who got it done and held strong for the Buckeyes against a competitive Nathan Traxler of Virginia Tech 3-2 to elevate himself and his team to another win. Ohio State will take on Notre Dame College tonight in Columbus before traveling out to Vegas for the Cliff Keen Invite, and they’ll do so now as the No. 8-ranked team, a ranking that represents their efforts and victory against a great Virginia Tech team now ranked No. 10.
The Hokies did rebound after this loss to dominate Gardner-Webb 35-6 where Latona got himself back on top with a win, and Lewis also continued his impressive streak with a tech fall over Evan Schenk.
Ohio State, however, wasn’t the only team to pick up a ranked upset win this weekend, as Lehigh propelled itself back into the Top 25 with a 26-9 convincing win over then-No. 15 Pittsburgh. The Panthers started slow, dropping 125 and 133 pound matches, with the latter, in particular, being one that Pittsburgh needed to win. Not only did Lehigh win these matches, but, at 133 pounds, Lehigh’s Malyke Hines came up big for his team by pinning NCAA Round of 12 finisher Micky Phillippi in the final seconds of the third period. That point swing set the tone for the Mountain Hawks, and while Pittsburgh won the 141-pound match, that’s the only weight the Panthers would win again until 184 pounds. Lehigh reeled off its wins one by one: Manzona Bryant by major of Luke Kemerer, Josh Humphreys by decision over Elijah Cleary, Brian Meyer over NCAA finalist Jake Wentzel 4-3 in upset fashion and then Jake Logan by decision over Hunter Kernan. It was all Lehigh for four weights in a row. The gap was growing.
Pitt won 184 and 197 as Gregg Harvey and Nino Bonaccorsi did what they were expected to do and earned their wins, but Jordan Wood of Lehigh ended things in commanding fashion with his major decision win over Jake Slinger. This win resets the Mountain Hawks after a mixed start to the season following a loss to Campbell and a win against Oregon State. Lehigh has a tradition of excellence, and this top-15 win adds to that legacy and puts the team back in the national standings.
Much like Virginia Tech though, Pittsburgh responded to this loss well and earned a win in their next match following this loss, dominating Maryland 26-7 by winning eight of the ten weight classes. The Panthers, now ranked No. 23, will take on Ohio State next for what should be another fun cross-conference battle. The Buckeyes, of course, will have the advantage on paper, but if Pittsburgh can find an extra spark and continue to rally, they could certainly push the Bucks, particularly at 125, 133 pounds, 165 pounds and 197 pounds.
Cowboys, Huskers also continue to climb
While the Bucks and Mountain Hawks generated a lot of attention for their top-15 wins, Oklahoma State and Nebraska also improved their positions with victories over ranked opponents. The Cowboys moved up one spot with a win over Minnesota, swapping places in the rankings with the N.C. State Wolfpack, who earned a win against West Virginia 34-6 that was headlined by Trent Hidlay earning a pin over Anthony Carman in 23 seconds. N.C. State’s drop from No. 5 to No. 6, like many of the drops this early in the season, isn’t a product of a loss, but rather the natural byproduct of another team, in this case Oklahoma State, earning a statement win and prompting a rise in the rankings.
Oklahoma State’s lineup is strong, and the Cowboys elevated themselves nationally by winning even more individual matches than they were favored to on paper this weekend against Minnesota, the most notable being at 125 pounds where Trevor Mastrogiovanni beat All-American Pat McKee 10-6. Jake Bergeland attempted to get things back on track for the Gophers with a win over highly-touted Oklahoma State recruit Carter Young at 141 pounds after Cowboy star Daton Fix picked up bonus at 133, but Bergeland’s win would be one of just three victories for Minnesota that night. The Cowboys ran away with Ws at every weight except 141, 157 and, of course, 285 pounds where Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson gave Minnesota a moral victory with his major to end the dual.
Much like Oklahoma State, Nebraska’s rise up one spot was also a product of a series of impressive individual performances that combined for a team win over North Carolina, and, in this case, Peyton Robb stole the show when he topped Austin O’Connor at 157 pounds to dethrone 2021 149-pound NCAA champion. Robb’s teammate Ridge Lovett also earned an upset win for the Cornhuskers by taking down All-American Zach Sherman, and these two middleweight wins made it tough for Carolina down the stretch as the Cornhuskers amped up the pressure and force through the success of their upperweight sequence of Bubba Wilson, Mikey Labriola, Taylor Venz, Eric Schultz and Christian Lance. At the lightest weight, Liam Cronin also put up points for his Cornhuskers in a close one against Spencer Moore. Carolina’s only wins came at 133 pounds when Jaime Hernandez beat No. 33 Alex Thomsen and at 141 pounds when No. 12 Kizhan Clake upset No. 5 Chad Red pounds.
While the loss hurt the Tar Heels, they did rebound with a 24-12 win over Campbell, where O’Connor responded to his loss to Robb with a DQ win over Matthew Dallara. Sherman, on the other hand, did take another loss, this time to Josh Heil, a 149-pounder who also beat Virginia grad transfer Jarod Verkleeren this weekend in Campbell’s 21-15 win over Virginia. There’s a lot to like about these teams and a lot of storylines to continue to follow as these programs continue to progress throughout the season.
Notable dual results shift rankings in the bottom half of the Top 25
It’s the changes at the top of the rankings, even subtle, one-rank changes, that generate buzz, but the drama and battles are really brewing in the bottom 10 places of the Top 25 rankings.
Rutgers, coming in this week at No. 15, had one of the biggest jumps over the last seven days, going from No. 18 to No. 15, suggesting that this team continues to raise its profile and become a national threat. Though the Scarlet Knights didn’t dual anyone this week, they bumped up because of action around them. Oklahoma dropped one spot following its 22-12 loss to No. 7 Arizona State, a win that kept the Sun Devils in their same ranking. Arizona State stars Brandon Courtney, Michael McGee, Kyle Parco, Jacori Teemer and Anthony Valencia all earned ranked wins in this battle, with McGee picking up bonus against an impressive Anthony Madrigal and Parco earning the highest-ranked win over Mitch Moore. Oklahoma’s Jake Woodley put critical points on the board and made a statement with his ranked win over Kordell Norfleet, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Sooners at No. 19.
First dual in the books, and man was it awesome to be back in front of Sun Devil Nation. 😈 pic.twitter.com/f3TjWHNAfs— Sun Devil Wrestling (@ASUWrestling) November 23, 2021
Wisconsin and Purdue, like Rutgers, also rose three spots in the rankings, with Purdue’s rise coming because of wins over Brown and Duke, and Wisconsin’s rise coming from the rankings changes around the Lehigh-Pittsburgh shuffle, and the fact that Stanford dropped one spot following a fiery dual with Cornell.
The match between the Big Red and the Cardinal marked the return of two-time NCAA champion Yianni Diakomihalis who beat ranked Stanford wrestler and All-American Jaden Abas 3-1 in a tight one, and the dual also featured the aforementioned win by Julian Rameriez over Shane Griffith. Stanford followed the Cornell loss by picking up its first win of the Rob Koll era with a 25-13 victory against Binghamton, and this team will need to keep winning to stay ranked.
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Princeton held steady at No. 21, despite the loss to No. 1 Iowa, and while this dual was one-sided, it is worth noting Quincy Monday’s win over Iowa’s Kaleb Young 9-5 and Jack DelGarbino pin over U23 world champion Tony Cassioppi.
Early season rankings don’t mean much in terms of final results, but they do provide great bulletin board material from teams in the weeks to come, and this shifts and initial matches will no doubt be motivating wrestlers nationwide.