While No. 9 Nebraska wresting was busy winning the Cliff Keen Invitational over the weekend, five of the top 10 ranked teams competed in dual action over the weekend and forced an adjustment of the national rankings, with No. 8 Virginia Tech making the most significant jump in the standings within the top 10 after an upset over then-No. 3 Missouri.
This shift up for Tech also scrambled the rest of the top-10 rankings as well, with Michigan, Oklahoma State, NC State, Arizona State and Ohio State each moving up one spot, and Missouri dropping from No. 3 to No. 10. Of the 25 teams ranked nationally, 17 changed positions overall this week after Cliff Keen and dual results, and here are the biggest takeaways and key notes from the latest NWCA rankings:
Virginia Tech upsets Missouri, tops Northern Iowa to propel forward in the rankings
The upward advancement of the Hokies from No. 10 to No. 8 comes after the team put on a show against two ranked opponents, beating No. 17 Northern Iowa 39-3 and then taking down the then-No. 3 Tigers 18-16. In the dominant win over the Panthers, the Hokies won every weight class except 125 pounds.
Battling the out-of-conference Tigers, Tech went into a deficit early, dropping 125 pounds after Missouri’s No. 18 Noah Surtin upset No. 12 Sam Latona of the Hokies by fall. Virginia Tech All-American Korbin Myers put his team back on track with a decision against No. 27 Trey Crawford, but Missouri extended its lead again at 141 pounds when No. 12 Allan Hart topped Collin Gerardi of Virginia Tech in sudden victory. Gerardi’s ability to prevent bonus points in this match was crucial in keeping Tech in the fight, and the Hokie duo of Bryce Andonian and Connor Brady finally evened the score 9-9 after two back-to-back decisions at 149 and 157 against No. 19 Josh Edmond and No. 11 Jarrett Jacques, respectively.
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While the Hokies tied the Tigers at this point in the dual, Virginia Tech would not actually take the lead in the contest until 184 pounds when No. 9 Hunter Bolen topped No. 10 Jeremiah Kent 6-3 in a top-10 battle that came to define the dual. Bolen built off the momentum established by No. 4 Mekhi Lewis’ tie-breaker win over No. 10 Peyton Mocco to finally give Tech the edge, but the win wasn’t easy. Just two matches earlier, the Hokies took a tough major decision loss at 165 pound when No. 3 Keegan O’Toole earned just the second bonus win of the night by topping Clayton Ulrey 12-4. Tech needed in a win at 184 to stay in the game.
Missouri put itself on the board first in this upper-weight matchup with a takedown from Kent, and while Bolen escaped, he couldn’t pick up an offensive point in the first period. The Tigers had the team score lead as well as the lead in this critical bout. But that would soon change. Bolen earned an escape to start the second, tying the score, and he then went on the attack, hitting a double-leg takedown to build a 4-2 lead after the first five minutes with riding time. It would all come down to the last period. Missouri chose down to start the third period and lost its riding time advantage quickly but picked up the escape, making the score 4-3 before Hunter Bolen did Hunter Bolen things with the team score on the line. He notched a second takedown to finish out the bout 6-3 for the win.
Missouri regained the lead after 197 pounds when No. 5 Rocky Elam topped Dakota Howard 8-2, setting up an epic heavyweight battle between No. 14 Nathan Traxler and No. 13 Zach Elam with the dual on the line. Unlike the 184 pound bout, this one had a lot less scoring and a lot more suspense, as a pair of escapes between the two wrestlers after seven minutes sent the dual to sudden victory. With his team trailing 16-15, Nathan Traxler earned his biggest win in the biggest moment of the year when he secured his takedown in extra time and locked this up for Virginia Tech. Missouri, despite taking a loss to Virginia Tech, did beat Northern Iowa 25-16 to stay within the top 10 in the rankings, while UNI dropped from No. 17 to No. 20.
The rise of Virginia Tech, though, inches the Hokies closer to the No. 5 defending ACC champ NC State and creates more heat for that conference rivalry dual in late January.
No. 1 and No. 2 hold steady in the standings
Speaking of conference and state rivalries, both No. 1 Iowa and No. 2 Penn State competed this weekend, with Iowa topping then-No. 13 Iowa State in a chippy 23-11 contest and Penn State notching a 2-0 weekend record with a 20-16 win over a Penn and a 23-16 win over No. 22 Lehigh.
Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series wrestling highlights for your Monday morning! Hawkeye State. pic.twitter.com/d3wLvhAhkc— Iowa Hawkeye Wrestling (@Hawks_Wrestling) December 6, 2021
The Hawkeyes came closer to showcasing the championship lineup expected for the postseason in that Murin was added to the mix against the Cyclones, but Myles Wilson still wrestled in 184 in place of Abe Assad, and Nelson Brands took the mat at 174 pounds instead of Michael Kemerer. Jesse Ybarra also started the dual at 125 pounds for Iowa, as opposed to three-time NCAA champion and two-time Hodge winner Spencer Lee. Murin and Brands picked up wins in decision fashion, while Wilson dropped to No. 14 Marcus Coleman 4-1, and Ybarra took a 8-2 loss against No. 21 Kysen Terkukina. Jacob Warner did also make a return for the Hawkeyes at 197, though the 2021 All-American had a surprising upset loss against No. 24 Yonger Bastida 4-3 to create some fiery emotions on both sides of the mat.
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In addition to Terkukina, Bastida and Coleman, NCAA champion David Carr added a win of his for the Cyclones with his victory coming against No. 9 Kaleb Young in comfortable 6-2 fashion. Carr has been the calm, composed leader that this new era of Cyclone wrestling is attempting to model itself after, and he has the kind of elite wrestling IQ that could help inspire added greatness from this team. But even with Carr’s impressive performance, the night belonged to Iowa, with Jaydin Eierman, Alex Marinelli, and Tony Cassioppi earning bonus points through major decisions and DQs, and Austin DeSanto, Murin and Brands contributing team points through decisions. Iowa will take the mat next at the Rokfin Collegiate Duals on December 20.
Penn State will also be at that event where it is expected to take on Northern Iowa and Cornell. But Penn State, like Iowa, is still figuring out its lineup after the The Daily Collegian reported that injury and illness have impacted the program.
Against in-state foe Penn, the Nittany Lions pushed for a 20-16 win, even with a forfeit at heavyweight. NCAA Champion Carter Starocci and NCAA finalist Max Dean earned the only majors for Penn State in the contest with Starocci topping 21 Nick Incontrera of Penn 13-3, and Dean notching a 10-0 shutout against Cole Urbas. The Quakers, for their part, earned bonus at 133 with No. 12 Michael Colaiocco topping Penn State’s utility team player Brandon Meredith, a sophomore who has wrestled at 125, 133 and 141 in his career with the Nittany Lions.
Penn State’s dual against Lehigh told a similar story, as Starocci majored Jake Logan, Dean pinned J.T. Davis and Lehigh won by forfeit at heavyweight. In between those moments, NCAA champion Nick Lee earned his 100th victory after toping Connor McGonagle 13-6 to go 2-0 on the weekend after also beating Carmen Ferrante of Penn 6-3. NCAA champion Roman Bravo-Young also returned against the Mountain Hawks to earn bonus against Sheldon Seymour via major decision. Penn State middleweights Creighton Edsell and Donovon Ball also went 2-0 on the weekend, with Edsell earning ranked wins against both Lehigh and Penn.
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Aaron Brooks will be expected to slot in for Ball later in the season, but Edsell’s ability to pick up these big-time wins at 165 could help him secure that spot for the postseason, depending on what plans coach Cael Sanderson & Co. have for that weight moving forward. The biggest takeaway from Penn State’s performances this weekend is that this team is good, and more is coming. The lineup that the team put out over the weekend likely isn’t the second-best lineup in the country, but, come March, this team will be fine-tuned and ready to compete for a team title with stars from the lightest to the heaviest weight.
The Mountain Hawks did rebound from this loss to the Nittany Lions to score a 37-3 victory over Lock Haven to bring them to 3-2 on the season and move them from No. 22 to No. 18. This shift impacted Illinois, who dropped from No. 21 to No. 23, Princeton, who went from No. 20 to No. 21, and Pitt, who rose from No. 23 to No. 22. Stanford also fell out of the rankings this week while No. 25 Wyoming snuck in the final spot.
Rutgers stay undefeated and impresses yet again
Rutgers might have been one of the most underestimated teams at the start of the season, but the Scarlet Knights just continue to impress in every ranking — this week moving up from No. 14 to No. 12 after a dominant win against American in Washington, D.C. Coach Scott Goodale led his team to a 41-3 victory over the Eagles, only giving up points at 133-pound with American’s Jack Maida topping Devon Britton 6-2. Other than that, it was wins by bonus for Rutgers as Sebastian Rivera, Robert Kanniard, John Poznanski and Greg Bulsak earned techs, Michael Van Brill picked up a pin and Boone McDermott earned bonus by DQ over Isaac Righter.
AU rebounded to beat Duke later in the weekend, before dropping another match to Hofstra. Duke also took a loss to Maryland over the weekend, falling 23-17 to the Terps.
The Scarlet Knights will take on Army next before heading to Midlands. Don’t be shocked if they crack the top 10 before the end of the dual season.