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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | February 16, 2022

College wrestling rankings: Northwestern breaks into Top 25, Penn continues to rise

Dan Gable vs. Larry Owings: FULL 1970 NCAA title match at 142 pounds

While No. 2 Iowa and No. 12 Oklahoma State’s Bout at the Ballpark may have stolen some of the spotlight this weekend in college wrestling because of the unique nature of the event and the historic rivalry, a number of other teams around the country made headlines with conference wins and upset victories. Here’s what you need to know about the Top 25 NWCA rankings this week and what they suggest about who to watch in the coming weeks. 

First, the rankings, through Feb. 14: 

1 Penn State (14) (16-0) 350 Big Ten 1
2 Iowa (13-1) 336 Big Ten 2
3 Michigan (11-1) 320 Big Ten 3
4 NC State (11-1) 310 ACC 4
5 Iowa State (14-1) 289 Big 12 5
6 Ohio State (9-3) 280 Big Ten 6
7 Virginia Tech (8-4) 260 ACC 7
8 Wisconsin (10-2) 233 Big Ten 9
9 Missouri (11-3) 232 Big 12 10
10 Nebraska (6-4) 231 Big Ten 8
11 Cornell (12-2) 214 EIWA 11
12 Oklahoma State (11-4) 194 Big 12 12
13 Arizona State (8-4) 176 Pac-12 13
14 Rutgers (14-5) 144 Big Ten 15
15 Purdue (10-4) 139 Big Ten 16
16 Michigan State (9-4) 136 Big Ten 14
17 Northern Iowa (7-6) 131 Big 12 18
18 Minnesota (4-6) 108 Big Ten 17
19 Penn (7-2) 94 EIWA 22
20 Princeton (6-4) 81 EIWA 19
21 Central Michigan (12-2) 79 MAC 20
22 North Carolina (8-5) 62 ACC 21
23 Northwestern (6-4) 35 Big Ten NR
24 Oklahoma (8-5) 29 Big 12 24
25 South Dakota State (12-4) 25 Big 12 25

The Penn Quakers catapulted into last weeks's Top 25 for the first time since 2013 after their 24-7 win over Lehigh, and they continued that success again over the past weekend. Following a 35-8 victory over Drexel and a 20-13 Ivy League win against Princeton, Penn once again rose in the rankings, moving from No. 22 to No. 18, becoming the second-highest ranking Ivy League team in the country. Three Quakers went undefeated over the weekend, led by heavyweight Ben Goldin who earned a decision win against Princeton and then made a statement with his first-period pin against Liam Dietrich of Drexel. Teammates CJ Composto and Lucas Recano also earned two victories, with Composto earning two bonus point wins by way of a major decision and a forfeit and Recano adding a decision and a major of his own against Drexel and Princeton, respectively.

LAST WEEK OUT: Here's how Penn cracked the Top 25 last week for the first time in nearly ten years

Cornell still holds down the top spot in the conference at No. 11 after a win over Binghamton 28-12, while Princeton dropped a spot from No. 19 to No. 20 after the loss to Penn and despite a big win over Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks, as a result of the loss and despite a win over Bucknell, dropped out of the Top 25 and moved from No. 23 to the “receiving votes” category, but they’ll have a chance to rebound in a big dual against Arizona State this coming weekend. This program has had an up-and-down year with losses Penn State, Iowa, Missouri, Princeton, Campbell, Oklahoma State, Penn and Army, but notable wins over Cornell, Pittsburgh and Central Michigan, so it’s hard to predict how the team will perform next month as they chase their fifth consecutive EIWA conference title, but they’ll need a different kind of performance than they displayed over the weekend. 

Northwestern rises into Top 25, adding more depth to the Big Ten

Lehigh’s shift out of the rankings opened the door for Northwestern, a team that is 6-4 on the year but busted into the Top 25 after topping No. 16 Michigan State, 24-16, behind bonus-point wins from Ryan Deakin, Troy Fisher and Lucas Davison. Deakin, the No. 2-ranked wrestler in the country at 157 pounds, was particularly impressive, pinning Michigan State’s  No. 17 Chase Saldate in the first period to put up six team points for the Wildcats. Northwestern also took down Northern Illinois over the weekend in dominant fashion, topping the Huskies 22-12 with 133-pounder Chris Cannon leading the way in this dual with a second-period pin. The Wildcats will have their hands full next weekend against the No. 15 Purdue Boilermakers, but the team is on the right track and peaking at an important time. 

Purdue, however, is also on a roll, rising one spot in this week’s rankings from No. 16 to No. 15, despite not competing over the weekend. Michigan State took over the No. 16 spot from the Boilermakers after dropping from No. 14 following the loss to Northwestern and a 24-13 loss to No. 3 Michigan. The Spartans end their dual season with a dual against competitive in-state foe Central Michigan, who dropped one spot to No. 21 in the national rankings despite beating Buffalo 28-10 over the weekend. All of these duals, though, are ideal preparation for the Big Ten tournament, the deepest wrestling tournament in the country. 

With Northwestern cracking the Top 25 and becoming yet another team to earn a ranked spot, the Big Ten now has 11 teams in the Top 25, led, of course, by 2019 NCAA champion Penn State, who had the weekend off of competing but will return to the mat Sunday against Rider to close out its regular season.  

TAKING OVER: Here's how Penn State claimed the top spot in the national rankings for the first time in 2022

The Nittany Lions took over the top spot in the national rankings after beating Maryland and Indiana in the first weekend of Big Ten competition, pushing defending champion Iowa down to No. 2. Penn State then affirmed this ranking after topping the Hawkeyes 19-13 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena at the end of January. Since then, the Nittany Lions have maintained their undefeated record and navigated a tough conference schedule that included No. 6 Ohio State and No. 10 Nebraska, winning with authority in both duals by scores of 32-7 and 21-13 respectively. 

Iowa is still in the title conversation though, as they put on a show against the No. 12 Oklahoma State Cowboys under the lights at Globe Life Field — home to MLB's Texas Rangers — on Saturday night, cruising to a 23-9 win behind bonus points from Jacob Warner and Tony Cassioppi and ranked wins from Jaydin Eierman, Max Murin, Kaleb Young, Alex Marinelli and Michael Kemerer. Iowa has one more in-season dual left as well, as the Hawks take on the Huskers in Lincoln, Nebraska for a fiery top-ten Big Ten battle. 

TOP TEAMS: Here's how No. 1 Penn State beat No. 2 Iowa in Carver-Hawkeye Arena 

Taking on Iowa is always a tough task, but Nebraska will come into this dual with momentum, fresh off a win against Illinois. That victory, however, didn’t help the Huskers hold down their ranking spot, as they slipped from No. 8 to No. 10 this week, largely as a result of the shuffle caused by Wisconsin and Missouri. The Badgers rose one spot, from No. 9 to No. 8 after a win of their own against Illinois 32-10, and Missouri also jumped a spot, from No. 10 to No. 9 after a notable win against No. 13 Arizona State. The Tigers are continuing to work themselves back into trophy contention, despite a loss to No. 25 South Dakota State a few weeks ago that caused a dip in their national ranking. The Jackrabbits, though, have continued to look tough and held down that national ranking after wins against Little Rock 43-3 and Northern Colorado 29 - 9. 

Top-ranked teams looking to peak for the postseason

The race to finish top-four at the national tournament and earn a trophy though, is a tough one, particularly this year with so much depth in the top ten. While Iowa and Penn State lead the country, Michigan is pushing hard to stay in the conversation, despite their tough 29-6 loss against the Nittany Lions earlier this year. The Wolverines, as previously mentioned, beat Michigan State over the weekend and also earned a win against Indiana 37-3. Within the Big Ten, Ohio State will also look to add to its trophy collection at the end of the season, as the Buckeyes are currently ranked No. 6 after a weekend of wins against Indiana 34-3 and Minnesota 24-14, and will only need to make some small improvements to compete for that top-four spot. Minnesota dropped down in the standings as a result of this loss, moving from No. 17 to No. 18, while Rutgers, another top-15 Big Ten team, moved up a spot to No. 14 following a one-sided win over Maryland. 

The depth of the college wrestling landscape right now, though, is not limited to one conference, as NC State and Iowa State also maintain top-five spots nationally and want to bring home hardware of their own. The Cyclones, in one of the best duals of the weekend, topped Northern Iowa 16-15 to stay ranked in the top-five, but credit does belong to the Panthers for creating such a wild atmosphere and fighting until the final whistle. This is a rivalry that brings out the best in both teams, and the same can be said for the ACC rivalry that will renew itself this weekend as NC State and Virginia Tech compete for conference glory and a higher national ranking. 

NC STATE VS. VT: Key things to know about the these two teams heading into their rescheduled bout

If NC State pulls off the win against the Hokies, the Pack, much like the Cyclones, likely won’t dip in the standings, but Virginia Tech is going to do everything in its power to stop the rising Wolfpack team and compete with the same gusto that helped them top the NC State in dual meet action in 2020. Both teams come into the match with big weekend wins, as NC State dominated Pittsburgh 26-9 and Virginia Tech beat North Carolina 23-11. The loss dropped the Tar Heels down a spot in the rankings, from No. 20 to No. 21, while the rest of the ACC held steady. 

The ACC is the best wrestling conference in the southeast, but the Southern Conference also deserves recognition this week as App State and Campbell — both unranked but receiving votes — showcased incredible wrestling and energy in their rivalry dual for the regular season conference title. The Mountaineers topped the Camels, 19-13, in a bout that came down to heavyweight, and credit to both of these programs for building up their fanbases and creating a wild spectacle of a dual. App State will wrestle Davidson and Presbyterian before meeting Campbell again at the conference tournament, but if this dual demonstrated anything, it’s that high-level wrestling is occurring nationwide, and these teams are worth watching. 

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