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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | January 5, 2022

College wrestling rankings: Top teams hold steady as individuals shine in holiday tournaments

The top storylines to follow this college wrestling season

Despite two weeks of open tournaments, winter matches and several duals, the latest NWCA poll showed few changes. Purdue, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Princeton shuffled spots in the Top 20, while Northwestern and Illinois swapped positions near the bottom of the rankings, but, for the most part, top teams held steady.

Check out the latest poll and analysis below: 

RANK

TEAM (FIRST)

RECORD

POINTS

PREVIOUS

1 Iowa (11) 6-0 344 1
2 Penn State (3) 8-0 339 2
3 Michigan 3-0 315 3
4 Oklahoma State 7-0 303 4
5 NC State 5-1 299 5
6 Arizona State 3-1 285 6
7 Ohio State 4-0 263 7
8 Cornell 3-1 240 8
9 Nebraska 3-0 237 9
10 Virginia Tech 4-3 223 10
11 Missouri 6-2 219 11
12 Rutgers 10-0 199 12
13 Iowa State 3-1 183 13
14 Minnesota 1-1 170 14
15 Purdue 6-1 156 16
16 Wisconsin 4-0 135 15
17 Lehigh 4-4 111 17
18 Oklahoma 2-2 92 19
19 Princeton 0-1 89 18
20 North Carolina 4-4 65 20
21 Pittsburgh 3-2 63 21
22 Northern Iowa 1-4 55 22
23 Northwestern 0-0 46 24
24 Illinois 2-0 36 23
25 Cal Poly 0-0 25 25

Here’s what you need to know about this week’s poll, the impact of key results from the Matmen Open and the Southern Scuffle and what to expect from these ranked teams moving forward: 

Nittany Lions earn three first-place team votes but hold steady at No. 2 

The No. 2 Penn State Nittany Lions maintained their second-place ranking this week, despite major news from No. 1 Iowa that three-time NCAA champion, two-time Hodge winner Spencer Lee will be out for the remainder of the season after electing for surgery on his two torn ACLs. Lee’s absence in the Hawkeye lineup tightens the team race and opens the door for Penn State even more, but this news did not cause the coaches to put the Nittany Lions No. 1, though three voters did elect to move the Nittany Lions up a spot. Penn State will wrestle Iowa on January 28, and, unless something dramatic happens before that point, the winner will take the top spot until the Big Ten Tournament. 

CAN PENN STATE BEAT IOWA? Early season predictions about the Nittany Lions

Top Michigan wrestlers pick up big wins

Michigan, of course, is also contending for a title, and the Wolverines will expect to have NCAA champion Nick Suriano slot into the lineup later this month, adding even more firepower to a squad that produced a Matmen Open champion in Myles Amine and split matches with No. 6 Arizona State on Monday. No. 2 Amine and heavyweight No. 2 Mason Parris are currently the top-ranked wrestlers for the Wolverines, though they are joined in the top 10 by their teammates in the following respective weight classes: No. 8 Dylan Ragusin (133), No. 3 Stevan Micic (141), No. 10 Cam Amine (165), No. 6 Logan Massa (174), and No. 8 Patrick Brucki (197).

Myles Amine and Micic both picked up wins against the Sun Devils on Monday, while Ragusin and 125-pounder Jack Medley took losses to Michael McGee and Brandon Courtney, respectively. This team, overall though, is stacked, and this is a group of guys that will be pushing for that team championship all the way through the final matches at the NCAA tournament in Detroit. Michigan will wrestle Ohio State on January 14 before meeting the Nittany Lions on January 21 in a can’t-miss dual between two of the best squads in the country. 

Southern Scuffle and Matmen Open results build excitement for ranked duals to come 

Speaking of exciting matchups, results from the Southern Scuffle and Matmen Open tournament caused individual weight class rankings and expectations to shift, leading to new energy around specific athletes in upcoming duals. Rutgers put two athletes on the top of the podium at the Matmen Open as 141-pounder Sebastian Rivera ran through the competition and teched CJ Composto of Penn in the finals, and Greg Bulsak earned a 3-2 win at 197 pounds over NCAA finalist Nino Bonaccorsi. The No. 12 Scarlet Knights have remained undefeated as a team, but they’ll see the Nittany Lions on January 16th for the biggest test of the year. Rutgers will also face Indiana, No. 16 Wisconsin and No. 24 Illinois in early January, giving their athletes even more competition in the Big Ten and offering fans a chance to see just how dominant some of these Rutgers stars can be against ranked opponents. 

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Pitt, despite losing the finals bout at 197 pounds, won the team title at the Matmen Open behind an individual championship from Elijah Clearly, while Missouri claimed the team crown at the Southern Scuffle with two champs in 165-pound Keegan O’Toole and 197-pounder Rocky Elam. Missouri also put three additional athletes in the finals at 141, 149 and 174, but those titles ultimately went to Real Woods of Stanford, Josh Finesilver of Duke and Cade Devos of South Dakota State. The overall team performance is a positive sign for Missouri as the Tigers look ahead to conference competition and the highly anticipated dual against No. 4 Oklahoma State on February 6th. 

While the Tigers claimed the team title because of their depth, several athletes also made headlines for their programs by earning individual titles and having breakout performances at the Scuffle, the most notable being the University of Maryland’s Kyle Cochran. Cochran, who came into the tournament ranked No. 32, beat Xavier Vasquez, Conor Becker, No. 15 Jeremiah Kent, No. 14 Hunter Bolen and No. 13 Jon Loew on his way to the 184-pound tournament title, earning co-Big Ten Wrestler of the Week and USA Wrestling Athlete of the Week honors for his performance. 

Pat McKee of Minnesota, Rayvon Foley of Michigan State, Jared Franek of North Dakota State and Wyatt Hendrickson of Air Force also claimed Scuffle titles at 125, 133, 157 and 285 pounds, improving their individual resumes and giving their teams a moment in the spotlight. Hendrickson earned Most Outstanding Wrestler honors as a result of his three pins and five total bonus-point wins. 

McKee’s win at 125 though, combined with a generally solid lineup and strong performances from the Gophers earlier in the year, kept Minnesota ranked comfortably at No. 14 in the national rankings, while Michigan State, South Dakota State, Stanford, Duke, North Dakota State, Air Force and Maryland remain unranked at the moment. All of these teams, however, will be looking for their stars to replicate these Scuffle performances at the national tournament and earn a spot on the podium for All-American honors. 

Shakeups near the bottom half of the rankings

Only six teams swapped rankings this week, with Purdue, Oklahoma and Northwestern all rising one spot, and Wisconsin, Princeton and Illinois all dropping a spot. Princeton and Purdue competed at the Matmen Open, finishing ninth and 18th respectively, and while the Boilermakers produced four place winners, neither team had a champ at the event. 

The Fighting Illini, despite moving from No. 23 to No. 24, put two athletes — Justin Cardani and Lucas Byrd — on the top of the podium at the Matmen Open, with Byrd, in particular, picking up a key ranked win over No. 6 Micky Philippi of Pittsburgh, the same athlete he beat in the Blood Round of the 2021 NCAA tournament to earn his first All-American honor. Matmen Open champ Edmond Ruth, who wrestled unattached at the event, also announced his commitment to wrestle for Illinois, so he and the Illini will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the years to come. 

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Wisconsin also had two champs at the Matmen Open, though just like Illinois, those two wins weren’t enough to keep the Badgers in their original ranking. Both Trent Hillger and Dean Hamiti represented the Red and White on the top of the podium as Hamiti used the tournament as a breakthrough showcase, and Hillger racked up wins to again prove that he’s a dangerous All-American heavyweight that is tough to contend with. Former Iowa State star and Round of 12 wrestler Austin Gomez, who has been with Wisconsin since the start of the year, also advanced to the finals at 149 pounds before ultimately dropping to Campbell’s Josh Heil 3-1 in sudden victory. The Badgers are an interesting team of young athletes, transfer and veteran stars, and while they come in at No. 16 this week, don’t underestimate this team. 

Oklahoma did not compete this week but rose up a spot anyway, while Northwestern was rewarded in the rankings by one spot for its two dual wins over SIUE and Virginia. The dual with the Cavaliers pushed Northwestern though, with the Wildcats squeaking out an 18-16 victory behind bonus points from All-American Yahya Thomas. No. 2-ranked 157-pounder Ryan Deakin of Northwestern also did not compete, suggesting that the team has even more strength than was on display against UVA, though credit to Trevor Chumbley for stepping in for NU and picking up two wins against SIUE’s Max Kristoff by fall and Virginia’s Denton Spencer 4-0. 

This week’s results clarified a few points about top athletes in each weight, but questions still remain as teams push towards conference competition and more competitive duals. The excitement is just beginning. 

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