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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | December 26, 2021

Cornell wrestling rises in rankings as Iowa, Penn State lead Collegiate duals showcase

The top storylines to follow this college wrestling season

The unique Collegiate Wrestling Duals held over the weekend in Niceville, Florida brought together some of the best teams in the country, including No. 1 Iowa, No. 2 Penn State, No. 5 NC State, No. 6 Arizona State, No. 8 Virginia Tech and No. 10 Missouri for a true test of team strength and lineup depth. Iowa and Penn State won their respective pools and built anticipation for what is expected to be an epic showdown between these two programs in their next meetup on Jan. 28. In the meantime, here are a few key takeaways on how the Collegiate Wrestling Duals and other ranked matchups last week impacted the latest NWCA standings: 

No. 2 Nittany Lions impress with wins over Cornell, UNI and ASU; Big Red rise in rankings

The Hawkeyes and the Nittany Lions both went 3-0 on the weekend in the Collegiate Wrestling Duals. Iowa notched wins over Lehigh, Central Michigan and NC State, while Penn State earned wins over Northern Iowa, Cornell and Arizona State. 

Penn State’s closest bout came against the Big Red with the Nittany Lions pulling out a 21-16 win behind bonus points from Roman Bravo-Young, Nick Lee and Aaron Brooks. Carter Starocci also notched an important team win over Chris Foca, 3-2, while Max Dean battled tough for his 4-2 win over Jacob Cardenas and heavyweight Greg Kerkvliet finished things off with a 5-0 shutout over Lewis Fernandez. All six of those Nittany Lions wrestlers went 3-0 on the weekend overall, while 149-pounder Beau Bartlett added two individual wins against Northern Iowa and Arizona State to help Penn State win those contests by scores of 29-9 an 29-10 respectively. 

STAROCCI THE STAR: How the 174-pounder won his first NCAA title 

Cornell may have lost to Penn State, but wins over Virginia Tech and Northern Iowa by scores of 18-15 and 29-7 helped the Big Red rise from No. 11 to No. 8 in the national rankings, sending the Hokies down to from No. 8 to No. 10. The biggest turn in the dual for Cornell against Virginia Tech came at 184 pounds when Jonathan Loew beat Tech’s Hunter Bolen in sudden victory, and Jacob Cardenas of the Big Red kept things rolling at 197 pounds with a decision over Harrison Smith. Virginia Tech notched the last victory of the night at heavyweight, but wins from Vito Arujau, Yianni Diakomihalis and Julian Ramirez earlier in the match allowed Cornell to emerge victorious. The Hokies also fell to the Sun Devils 23-13 during the Collegiate Duals, a loss that also contributed to their drop in the rankings, while Arizona State held steady at No. 6 

Iowa beats Lehigh and CMU, sneaks past NC State 

Much like Penn State’s dual with Cornell, the Hawkeyes felt some pressure in their matchups over the weekend, with the closest contest coming against the Wolfpack where Iowa narrowly earned the 19-15 win.

NC State advanced to this championship dual after an impressive performance against Missouri, where the Pack won 19-12 behind wins from Kai Orine, Tariq Wilson, Ed Scott, Hayden Hidlay, Trent Hidlay and Isaac Trumble. Both NC State and Missouri beat Binghamton by scores of 35-7 and 33-6, while the Tigers also notched a win against Lehigh 26-9. Despite those wins though, the loss to NC State dropped the Tigers down from No. 10 to No. 11 in the national rankings, while the Wolfpack held steady at No. 5.

DEFENDING CHAMPS: Here's how Iowa won the 2021 Big Ten wrestling title 

Against Iowa, NC State fell to an early deficit after Iowa’s 1-2-3 punch of Spencer Lee, Austin DeSanto and Jaydin Eierman all earned wins, though NC State’s Ryan Jack nearly had Eierman on his back as time expired. Without bonus points from Eierman or Lee in the early weights, NC State had an opportunity in this championship match, and they seized it. All-American Tariq Wilson picked up a workmanlike decision at 149 pounds over Cobe Siebrecht while Ed Scott turned the tide towards his team with a pin over All-American Kaleb Young to put six points on the board. Iowa’s Alex Marinelli responded at 165 pounds with a decision of his own, but wins from the Hidlay duo of Hayden and Trent at 174 and 184 for the Wolfpack brought the score to 15-13 in favor of NC State heading into the final two bouts. All the pressure was on Jacob Warner and Tony Cassioppi. With the team on their back, these two Iowa big men closed out the dual with two decisions and kept the Hawks undefeated. 

Those Iowa stars all went undefeated on the weekend as well, though some of the individual matches offered insights into where these athletes were at compared to their championship form. Lee, for his part, made a return to the mat for the first time this season after tearing a second ACL last year in the Big Ten finals and wrestling with the injury on his way to winning a third national championship. In his first match back against Central Michigan, Lee looked to be in peak form, running through his opponent for a tech fall in the second period. His tech fall put six points on the board for the Hawkeyes and helped lead them to a 44-0 win over CMU. Against Lehigh, which Iowa won 28-7, Lee once again picked up bonus, earning an 8-0 win, but his 6-1 decision over Jakob Camacho of NC State in the third match was just the third second decision win he’s had in the last three years. Lee is the undeniable No. 1 wrestler in his weight class given his credentials and his talent, but his weight class will be tougher this year than it has been in the past.

PACK ATTACK: A complete recap of NC State win at the 2021 ACC wrestling tournament

Like Lee, teammates Eierman and DeSanto is also both zeroed in on a national title, but they’ll be chasing their first titles after each finishing on the podium in previous NCAA tournaments. Eierman, however, was less dominant than Lee over the weekend, earning three decisions, with two of those coming by one-point margins. DeSanto, on the other hand, was the most successful Hawkeye in Florida, earning two tech falls and a major decision, and while he didn’t have the stiff competition at his weight that his teammates might have, DeSanto continues to wrestle his relentless pace and put points on the board for his team. The big question will be how this team wrestles against Penn State when the time comes. 

Iowa's and Penn State’s wins kept them at the No. 1 and No. 2 spots respectively, while Michigan maintained its spot at No. 3. The Wolverines did not wrestle over the weekend, but they’ll have a fun, competitive battle with Arizona State coming up on Jan. 3 that will be a can’t-miss event. 

No. 4 Cowboys complete weekend sweep, stay undefeated 

At No. 4, the Oklahoma State continues to prove why they’re a competitive trophy team after roaring past Utah Valley, Wyoming and Air Force over the weekend, outscoring those opponents 112-3. The only weight where the Cowboys didn’t win across these three duals was 184 pounds against Wyoming when No. 14 Tate Samuelson pulled out a win, but other than that, Oklahoma State rolled through with wins and bonus.

BEDLAM: A complete history of the rivalry between Oklahoma State and Oklahoma

Travis Wittlake went 3-0 with bonus across those three bouts to lead the team while Daton Fix, Kaden Gfeller, Wyatt Sheets and Dakota Geer also earned two bonus victories over the three duals. The Cowboys will take the mat next at the Southern Scuffle in an attempt to add more quality individual wins to the resumes of their stars. 

More changes in the bottom half

While the Collegiate Duals impacted rankings in the top 10 and created great action for fans, this week’s rankings did include some shifts in the bottom half of the rankings, as usual. Wisconsin, a team that remains undefeated on the year, moved up from No. 16 to No. 15 despite not competing last weekend, while Purdue dropped from No. 15 to No. 16.

The Boilermakers took a 23-13 loss to No. 13 Iowa State while contributing to their drop and the shakeups in the spots around them. Oklahoma also dropped from No. 18 to No. 19. Princeton, the only team in the Top 25 with a losing record, moved from No. 19 to No. 18. All of these teams — Purdue, Wisconsin Princeton, Oklahoma — were expected to wrestle at the Midlands tournament next weekend but will now make alternative plans given the cancellation of the tournament. 

With the first semester coming to a close, there’s still so much wrestling to come with dual season right around the corner. 

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