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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | January 18, 2022

Penn State wrestling is No. 1 in new rankings before showdown with No. 3 Michigan

The top storylines to follow this college wrestling season

Penn State earned the No. 1 spot in the NWCA poll last week and the Nittany Lions backed up that ranking with authority by putting on a show for their home fans in Rec Hall on Sunday night, rolling past then-No. 14 Rutgers 27-11. The Nittany Lions further separated themselves from defending champions Iowa in this latest poll, earning 11 total first-place votes compared to the eight votes that they had last week.

 With all four of Penn State’s 2021 NCAA champions set to be in the lineup moving forward along with the addition of transfer All-Americans Drew Hildebrandt and Max Dean as well as the return of NCAA qualifier Brady Berge, Penn State is dangerous. The team race between No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Iowa, as well as No. 3 Michigan will continue to be worth following as the season continues, but, for now, these three teams once again hold down the top spots respectively. Here’s what else you need to know about the latest NWCA Top 25 rankings heading into another big week of college wrestling.

First, the poll:

RANK

TEAM (FIRST PLACE VOTES)

RECORD

POINTS

PREVIOUS

1 Penn State (11) (11-0) 344 1
2 Iowa (3) (10-0) 341 2
3 Michigan (5-0) 317 3
4 Oklahoma State (9-0) 310 4
5 NC State (6-1) 292 5
6 Ohio State (5-1) 279 7
7 Virginia Tech (5-3) 270 8
8 Wisconsin (7-0) 233 10
9 Missouri (6-2) 219 9
10 Iowa State (8-1) 206 11
11 Arizona State (3-3) 204 6
12 Cornell (4-2) 188 13
13 Nebraska (3-1) 185 15
14 Rutgers (12-2) 177 16
15 Lehigh (8-4) 169 17
16 Minnesota (2-3) 164 14
17 Purdue (7-3) 139 12
18 Pittsburgh (5-3) 99 19
19 Princeton (1-2) 71 22
20 Oklahoma (5-2) 66 18
21 Michigan State (7-1) 62 NR
22 North Carolina (4-4) 40 20
23 South Dakota State (7-1) 34 24
24 Northwestern (2-3) 29 23
25 Central Michigan (5-2) 28 NR

Michigan wins rivalry dual to set up epic Penn State battle

Michigan made a statement on Friday night when the Wolverines outpaced Ohio State 29-8 with wins at 125, 133, 141, 157, 174, 184, 197 and 285 pounds. The Buckeyes earned points from their stars Sammy Sasso — who beat Cole Mattin 9-4 — and Carson Kharchla — who secured a tech fall against Pat Nolan — and, to the Buckeyes credit, they battled at every weight. At 184 pounds, Ohio State’s Kaleb Romero fought until the bitter end in sudden victory against Myles Amine, ultimately giving up a takedown in a wild scramble but showing that he can truly compete with the Olympic bronze medalist.

Dylan D’Emilio, Ethan Smith and Gavin Hoffman also all wrestled to tough decision losees against their All-American competitors Stevan Micic, Logan Massa and Patrick Brucki.

Ohio State has two duals this weekend, one against Iowa on Friday and one against Maryland on Sunday, with the former presenting the bigger challenge. Iowa is currently 10-0 after securing dominant wins against Northwestern and Illinois, and the Hawkeyes will no doubt bring their A-game against Ohio State. Both Northwestern and Illinois dropped in the national polls after these losses to Iowa, with Northwestern slipping from No. 23 to No. 24 and Illinois falling out of the poll. The dual between the Hawkeyes and the Buckeyes will be expected to be more competitive than both of Iowa's last two duals though, especially if head coach Tom Brands holds out several starters again this week. 

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Michigan will also be taking on a tough opponent, as the Wolverines gear up for taking on No. 1 Penn State. On paper, the Wolverines are favored in five matches: 125 pounds, 149 pounds, 157 pounds, 165 pounds and 285 pounds. The biggest question going to this match will be which wrestlers are healthy enough to compete and healthy enough to score bonus points. Expect this dual to be tight, as seven of the matches included two wrestlers ranked in the top 10 of their weight class. Every point is going to matter in this dual, and Penn State’s ability to hold on to the top-ranked spot in the country depends on the Nittany Lions winning this dual.

More big news in the Big Ten: Wisconsin, Michigan State pick up ranked wins

Minnesota, despite riding the momentum of topping No. 13 Nebraska on Friday night 19-13, took a competitive loss to the Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday 21-15, dropping the Gophers two spots in the poll. Wisconsin, on the other hand, went further into the top 10 after moving up two spots to No. 8. The Badgers are now 7-0 on the year after two back-to-back upset wins over the last two weeks with victories over Minnesota and Rutgers, and they’ll have the Huskers this weekend in Madison to continue their brutal Big Ten schedule. Nebraska benefited, rankings-wise, from this Big Ten shuffle, advancing two spots in the rankings, but their test against a Badger team with momentum will be a new challenge.

These Big Ten duals impacted the team rankings, but they also led to a shuffle in the individual rankings prompted by standout performances over the weekend at a number of weight classes. Minnesota’s Brayton Lee went 1-1 in his two duals this weekend at 157 pounds, shutting out No. 5 Peyton Robb 4-0 for the team and individual victory against the Huskers but dropping a 10-5 decision to Garrett Model of Wisconsin in a battle. Lee is tough, and he’ll be a podium contender once again, but Model’s win showed that he’s on that level, too, meaning that 157 will remain competitive and interesting for the next two months to come.

Wisconsin’s middleweights have been impressive all year, with Model making breakthroughs and 165-pounder Dean Hamiti continuing to impress. Hamiti’s first-period pin in the Minnesota dual gave his team a key six points and put him in the spotlight in another deep weight class that consists of returning NCAA champion Shane Griffith, three-time Big Ten champion Alex Marinelli, Cliff Keen Invitational Champion Evan Wick, All-American Keegan O’Toole and more. There’s no shortage of excitement in this weight.

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Speaking of interesting weights, though, 125 pounds is wild once again in the Big Ten as Eric Barnett outscored Pat McKee to move Barnett up in the individual rankings and shake up the standings. Barnett has had an impressive season so far, holding a 7-1 record with his only loss coming against Michael DeAugustino of Northwestern. McKee also has a loss to DeAugustino, as well as Barnett, of course, and Trevor Mastrogiovanni of Oklahoma State; the Gopher lightweight, however, has three wins over Iowa true freshman star Drake Ayala, who just beat DeAugustino 6-5 over the weekend. Intermat has these four ranked as the following: No. 6 Mastrogiovanni, No. 8 Eric Barnett, No. 9 Pat McKee and No. 10 Drake Ayala.
 
At heavyweight, on the other hand, the top-ranked wrestler is clear, as Olympic gold-medalist Gable Steveson continues to do Gable Steveson things and bonus his ranked opponents. Minnesota’s 285-pounder took down No. 11 Christian Lance of Nebraska 18-6 on Friday and then topped Wisconsin All-American No. 8 Trent Hillger 23-9. Steveson is a bonus-point machine, and he’s on a mission to win one more NCAA title in his college wrestling career.

 
Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin all generated exciting matchups and fielded elite wrestlers, but perhaps the most noteworthy results came from Michigan State. Led by All-American Rayvon Foley’s bonus points at 133 pounds, the Spartans topped then-No. 12 Purdue 17-16 as a result of a team score tie-breaker. Michigan State outscored Purdue 50-49 across the 10 matches, giving the Spartans the edge and helping them crack the top 25. Peyton Omania, Caleb Fish, Layne Malczewski and Cam Caffey all picked up victories in this team win, but this was just the beginning of a stellar weekend for the Spartans.

Michigan State went on to also top Indiana in similar fashion with a 17-15 win over the Hoosiers. Fish and Caffey added second wins during this dual, while Tristan Lujan, Chase Saldante and Brad Wilton also earned W for their performances at 125, 157 and 285 respectively. The Spartans have two challenging foes next as they take on No. 14 Rutgers on Friday and No. 1 Penn State on Sunday for a jam-packed weekend.

Sun Devils drop after losses to Pitt, Princeton

Arizona State came into the season as a strong contender for an NCAA team trophy in March after finishing fourth at last year’s tournament, and this goal is certainly still reasonable, despite some of these mid-season losses. The Sun Devils have depth, talent and skill, and, even though they took two Ls this weekend against Pitt and Princeton, there were some bright spots for head coach Zeke Jones and Co.
 
At 133 pounds, Michael McGee went 2-0 on the weekend, picking up a big ranked win against Micky Phillippi of Pitt and earning a dominant tech fall against Nicholas Masters of Princeton. McGee continues to be a real threat at the weight, after finishing sixth at last year’s NCAA tournament, and he’s accumulated a strong 12-2 record with those only losses coming against No. 1 Roman Bravo-Young and Job Greenwood.

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Arizona State’s All-Americans Kyle Parco, Jacori Teemer, Anthony Valencia and Cohlton Schultz also went 2-0 on the weekend with Schultz racking up bonus in both of his wins against Jake Slinger and Matthew Cover. Valencia and Teemer also earned statement wins in their bouts. The problem for the Sun Devils, though, in both duals, was bonus points. In the Pitt dual, Arizona State’s Julian Chlebove dropped his bout by fall to Cole Matthews, and Zane Coleman also took a loss to James Lledo by pin. A stalling DQ call at 184 pounds against Josh Nummer in his bout with Gregg Harvey didn’t help the Sun Devils, and Pitt’s Nino Bonaccorsi sealed the win, points-wise, for his team with a dominant pin over ASU’s Jake Oritz in the first period. ASU did secure bonus points at 149 pounds from Parco’s major decision, but the Pitt depth proved to be too much for the team, and the Panthers jumped one spot to No. 18 as a result of this win.
 
Princeton took a similar path in its victory over Arizona State, with Pat Glory setting the tone by way of his 12-6 decision over NCAA finalist Brandon Courtney. In his two duals this weekend, Courtney went 1-1 — beating NCAA qualifier Gage Curry but dropping to Glory — and he managed to hold on to his No. 4 spot in the weight class while Glory remained at No. 2. The Princeton Tigers took a loss at 133 but rebounded a decision win at 141 before dropping matches at 149, 157 and 165 by decision. An 8-4 win at 174 pounds by Nate Dugan put the Tigers back on track, and they then rolled through the next two weight classes, earning a decision, forfeit and tech win from Travis Stefanik and Luke Stout. ASU took over heavyweight by major decision, but Princeton’s gritty efforts throughout the lineup helped them notch the valuable top-10 win and move up to No. 19 in the rankings.

Ivy League rival Cornell also moved up a spot in the rankings following a 28-10 win over Army, and these two teams will finally meet for the first time this season on Feb. 5. In the meantime, Cornell will wrestle Harvard next week, while Princeton will take on a rising Columbia team. Columbia is currently unranked, though it did put up 16 points against No. 15 Lehigh behind wins from Joe Manchio, Matt Kazimir, Danny Fongaro, Joshua Ogunsanya and Nick Fine. The Mountain Hawks squeezed out the team win by four points, and they remain the second-highest ranked EIWA team at No. 15 behind Cornell, despite beating the Big Red on Jan. 8.

Central Michigan cracks top 25 while South Dakota State rises

The bottom five teams in the top 25 rankings always experience the most interesting rankings changes as new teams slot in and other teams fight to hold on. This week, Central Michigan emerged as a star, topping Campbell and American, 19-15 and 36-3, respectively. The loss moved Campbell out of the rankings, though the Camels did still pick up two wins on the weekend over CSU Bakersfield and American by scores of 31-6 and 28-9. With the Chippewas at No. 25, South Dakota State moved up to No. 23 after the Jackrabbits beat Maryland 28-6 and Chattanooga 35-10. The Terps also took a loss to Oklahoma, but the match didn’t help the Sooners' ranking as they dropped from No. 18 to No. 20 despite also beating Lock Haven and Kent State over the weekend. More than a dozen teams swapped spots this week, demonstrating just how exciting and wild this season has become.

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