The biggest dual of the last weekend between Penn State and Michigan reinforced one thing: Penn State is the best college wrestling team in the country.
The Nittany Lions continued their undefeated season by topping the Wolverines 29-6 in Ann Arbor on Friday night, winning eight of the ten matches including a high-profile No. 1 vs. No. 2 match at 184 pounds where top-ranked Aaron Brooks prevailed. Penn State has now held down the No. 1 spot in the NWCA poll for the last three weeks, but there’s another undefeated team that would like to change the order of these rankings.
PENN STATE BEATS MICHIGAN: Here's a full recap of every match from the Nittany Lion win
The No. 2 Iowa Hawkeyes are 11-0 on the season having just added a top-ten victory over Ohio State to their resume over the weekend, and they will have their shot at Penn State this Friday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The defending champ Hawks have wrestled solid this year, but they haven’t put up the bonus points that have typically been expected from Tom Brands’ squad. Their performance against the Nittany Lions will reveal a lot about what to expect come March, but, in the meantime, here’s what you need to know about the latest NWCA rankings in college wrestling:
|1||Penn State (12)||13-0||348||1|
|23||South Dakota State||9-2||63||23|
After taking losses to Purdue and Minnesota two weekends ago, the Cornhuskers put themselves back on track this weekend, beating Wisconsin 22-12 and topping Northwestern 23-12.
Chad Red, Mikey Labriola, Taylor Venz and Eric Schultz went 2-0 on the weekend for the Huskers, with Labriola earning bonus points in both of his matches against Ankhaa Enkmandakh and Andrew McNally by tech fall and major decision respectively. Venz added a major decision in his bout against Jack Jessen as well while Schultz notched a bonus in his 23-8 tech over Andrew Davison. These duals also produced several notable individual results, particularly at 149 pounds where Ridge Lovett topped Yahya Thomas in the Northwestern dual before falling to Austin Gomez against Wisconsin. The Big Ten individual rankings continue to scramble as teams gear up for the conference tournament in the first weekend in March.
149 | Ridge with the rideout to secure the 7-6 decision over Thomas. pic.twitter.com/EX6pavpiCI— Husker Wrestling (@HuskerWrestling) January 23, 2022
With regards to the team rankings, Wisconsin’s loss to Nebraska dropped them down two spots, from No. 8 to No.10, while Nebraska rose from No. 13 back into the top ten at No. 9. The Badgers avoided falling further behind by picking up a solid win against Purdue 23-12 two days after the Boilermakers topped Illinois 25-13. Wisconsin will meet Maryland next — a team that took losses to Indiana and Ohio State over the weekend — while the Boilermakers will wrestle the Hoosiers over the weekend. Nebraska will have the biggest test as they are set to compete against Michigan on Friday, February 4th at home.
The Wolverines did drop one spot in the rankings following their loss to Penn State, while Oklahoma State rose into that No. 3 spot after the Cowboys’ wins against Lehigh 26-9. The Mountain Hawks have had a solid season, and they actually rose in the rankings from No. 15 to No. 14 after their loss, but Oklahoma State handled them soundly to earn that bump in rankings.
TEAM RANKINGS: The complete list of the Top 25 NCAA wrestling teams
The Big 12 has two teams in the top ten this week with Oklahoma State and now No. 7 Iowa State which worked its way into this spot after beating North Dakota State 26-9. Oklahoma State and the Cyclones will wrestle each other this weekend on Sunday, one week before the Cowboys take on the No. 2 Hawkeyes in a marque dual that will test the depth of each team.
Rutgers drops after loss to Michigan State but Sebastian Rivera continues to shine
Few athletes have dominated their opponents this year quite like Sebastian Rivera. He’s taken the mat in every dual where he could have faced top-ranked competition, and he's racked up tech fall after tech fall against whoever is sent out to wrestle him. In a season where injuries and illnesses have been rampant and have impacted duals and team scores, Rivera has been an important constant for this Rutgers squad.
SEBASTIAN RIVERA: Meet the Rutgers star All-American
His relentlessness helped the Scarlet Knights jump out to a notable 11-0 start to the season, and while last weekend didn’t go as well for the Rutgers squad — they dropped to No. 4 Michigan and No. 18 Michigan State by 35-8 and 20-17 respectively — Rivera was a bright spot in the losses. He and 149-pound teammate Michael Van Brill were the only athletes to earn wins over the Wolverines, but their efforts were not enough, and the Scarlet Knights now start this week one spot lower than last week at No. 15.
Michael VanBrill has put together a strong resume heading into the final month of the regular season, which includes a 14-1 record and wins in his last four B1G matches.#RelentlessPursuit | #GoRU pic.twitter.com/QVCXWAHDQP— Rutgers Wrestling (@RUWrestling) January 25, 2022
Michigan’s win over Rutgers was expected, based on rankings, but the Michigan State Spartans victory against Rutgers led to more significant rankings shuffling. The Spartans jumped from No. 21 to No. 18, despite losing to Penn State 28-9. They have Maryland next, on Feb. 4 but they’ll get their shot at in-state rival Michigan on Feb. 13.
Central Michigan, South Dakota State, and Oregon State make headlines
The biggest upset of the weekend, however, happened outside of the Big Ten, as No. 23 South Dakota State took down then No. 9 Missouri 21-12 with wins at 133, 165, 174, 184, 197 and 285 pounds. Gabriel Tagg, a former North Carolina wrestler, led off the efforts for the Jackrabbits with a pin, while Tanner Cook, Cade DeVos, Cade King, Tanner Sloan, and AJ Nevills all recorded decisions in the win. Missouri was without several of its top-ranked wrestlers, particularly at 165 pounds, but the Jackrabbits picked up wins against ranked wrestlers in the weights where they competed, and they beat a solid Tiger squad.
South Dakota State had the potential to rise higher up the standings following this win, but a 21-17 loss to Central Michigan kept them firmly at No. 23 while the Chippewas rose three spots to No. 22. The team that suffered the biggest impact from these results was Mizzou, who dropped four spots to move outside the top ten and into No. 13, despite a weekend win over Oklahoma 23-14. The Sooners, as a result of that loss, dropped from No. 20 to No. 21. Looking at this group of teams, Central Michigan stands out as a squad that cannot be ignored as the postseason inches closer, and this team knows how to battle. Individually against the Jackrabbits, Brock Bregelin, Dresden Simon, Corbyn Munson, Johnny Lovett, Bret Fedewa and Matt Stencel picked up wins, with Bergelin securing his W with a bonus.
NCAA CHAMPS: The full history of national wrestling championship teams
Oregon State also made some news this week by working their way into the rankings following wins over Northern Colorado and Wyoming. Brandon Kaylor at 125 pounds for the Beavers picked up two bonus-point wins over the weekend with a forfeit against Northern Colorado and a major over Brendon Garcia, but he wasn’t the only Oregon State wrestler to make a statement. Devan Turner, Grant Willits, Cory Crooks, Hunter Willits and Trey Munoz also went undefeated on the weekend with Grant Willits receiving a forfeit against Northern Colorado and Munoz recording a fall against the Bears for a team bonus. The focus of these rankings often remains on the race between Penn State, Iowa, Oklahoma State and Michigan, but Oregon State, South Dakota State, and Central Michigan are sending a message that wrestling fans can’t ignore these programs and need to keep an eye out for breakout stars in the MAC and Pac-12 conferences.