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Shannon Scovel | NCAA.com | February 23, 2022

Top-5 college wrestling teams hold steady in rankings as postseason nears

Miraculous turnaround ends with stunning pin in 2002 NCAA wrestling title match

While the final week of the college wrestling dual season produced a number of notable results and shakeups in the bottom half of the rankings, the top four teams (No. 1 Penn State, No. 2 Iowa, No. 3 Michigan and No. 4 NC State) held down their respective rankings following weekend wins. 

Penn State officially ended their 2021-22 dual season undefeated after a dominant 45-0 victory against Rider on Sunday afternoon in Rec Hall, but they’ll be pushed at the NCAA tournament by the Hawkeyes, a team that fell to Penn State 19-13 earlier this semester. Iowa finished out the year with a close 20-15 win over No. 11 Nebraska, and the return of Drake Ayala at 125 pounds brought even more hope to the Iowa fanbase as they look ahead to the postseason. 

PENN STATE VS. IOWA: Here's how the Nittany Lions topped the defending champs

Michigan and NC State will also battle for team glory in March, and both programs earned key victories this weekend as well, with NC State topping ACC rivals North Carolina and  Virginia Tech by scores of 25-12 and 21-10 and Michigan notching a victory against Central Michigan to end the dual season 12-1. These results caused Virginia Tech to drop one spot in the rankings, while Central Michigan remained at at No. 21, despite a loss to Michigan State as well. Though there’s certainly a difference between how a team performs in a dual meet structure compared to a tournament structure, the latest NWCA dual are still notable and this week’s rankings changes offer some insight into which teams have the most momentum leading into the conference and national tournaments. 

First, the rankings: 

RANK

TEAM (FIRST)

RECORD

POINTS

CONFERENCE

PREVIOUS

1 Penn State (17) (17-0) 350 Big Ten 1
2 Iowa (14-1) 335 Big Ten 2
3 Michigan (12-1) 317 Big Ten 3
4 NC State (13-1) 314 ACC 4
5 Iowa State (15-1) 293 Big 12 5
6 Ohio State (9-3) 278 Big Ten 6
7 Wisconsin (12-2) 257 Big Ten 8
8 Virginia Tech (9-5) 254 ACC 7
9 Missouri (11-4) 234 Big 12 9
10 Cornell (12-3) 213 EIWA 11
11 Nebraska (6-5) 209 Big Ten 10
12 Arizona State (9-4) 192 Pac-12 13
13 Oklahoma State (13-4) 191 Big 12 12
14 Rutgers (16-5) 158 Big Ten 14
15 Michigan State (10-4) 155 Big Ten 16
16 Purdue (10-5) 127 Big Ten 15
17 Northern Iowa (7-7) 120 Big 12 17
18 Penn (8-2) 92 EIWA 19
19 Minnesota (4-6) 86 Big Ten 18
20 Northwestern (7-4) 73 Big Ten 23
21 Central Michigan (12-4) 70 MAC 21
22 Princeton (6-5) 57 EIWA 20
23 North Carolina (8-6) 53 ACC 22
24 Oklahoma (8-6) 33 Big 12 24
25 South Dakota State (13-4) 19 Big 12 25

Wildcats continue to rise after win over Purdue 20-15, Big Ten talent pool remains deep

After breaking into the top 25 last week again after a win over Michigan State, Northwestern added another impressive win to their resume by topping then-No. 15 Purdue 20-15 behind wins from Frankie Tal-Shahar, Yahya Thomas, Ryan Deakin and Troy Fisher. Deakin and Lucas Davison won their bouts by bonus, with Deakin earning a fall and Davison adding a tech fall at the end for five team points. The win boosted Northwestern from No. 23 to No. 20, helping the team end its 7-4 dual season. The Wildcats will now move forward into the postseason with six wrestlers ranked in the Top 33, led by No. 2 Deakin who will be one of the top contenders for the Big Ten title in two weeks.

WILDCAT WATCH: Here's how Northwestern broke into the Top 25 last week

Purdue, on the other hand, dropped in the national rankings one spot following the loss, moving from No. 15 to No. 16, but the Boilermakers' deep roster of stars could still also make an impact at the Big Ten tournament. This team is one of 11 Big Ten programs in the top 25. The Nittany Lions, Hawkeyes and Wolverines, of course, pace this group, but Wisconsin continues to rise as well, moving from No. 8 to No. 7 this week after a 24-10 win over Northern Iowa and a 19-16 win over No. 10 Cornell. The Big Red actually also rose as a product of this result as well, and they’ll be the top team heading into the EIWA championship where they'll look to upset Lehigh and end the Mountain Hawks' four-year title streak.

Cornell's jump into the top 10 occurred partially because of the fight the team put up against Wisconsin but also because of Nebraska's loss to Iowa and subsequent dip down to No. 11 in the national rankings. The Huskers, despite the loss to the Hawkeyes and the drop in rankings, battled tough this weekend, and they have a number of wrestlers including Ridge Lovett, Mikey Labriola, Taylor Venz and Eric Schultz who could challenge for conference titles at Big Tens. All four of these athletes earned notable wins against Iowa — with Labriola in particular upsetting No. 2 Michael Kemerer — and each of these individuals have the experience and resume to suggest that they'll be dangerous for anyone in their bracket. 

The only other Big Ten teams to see to shift in standings were Michigan State and Minnesota, with the former rising one spot after a win over Central Michigan and the latter dropping a spot despite not competing over the weekend. All of these teams will be off next weekend as they prepare for conferences, but action will pick up again the following weekend in Lincoln, Nebraska at Big Tens. Legends are made in the postseason, and this intensity will be felt nationwide. 

Cowboys hold on after Bedlam battle, end regular season at No. 13 

Oklahoma State, a team ranked as high as No. 3 this season, finished its dual schedule ranked No. 13 in the NWCA poll following a weekend win over Bucknell 32-6 and a nail-bitter victory against rival Oklahoma 18-16. True freshman Carter Young secured the team win for the Cowboys in the second of those two duals, majoring Jacob Butler of Oklahoma in the final match of the night. His bonus points were critical to the team's success, but Oklahoma State also picked up key wins from Kaden Gfeller, Dustin Plott, Luke Surber and Daton Fix. Gfeller and Fix both won by major against Willie McDougald and Tony Madrigal respectively, and both will aim to continue this momentum heading into the conference tournament.

BEDLAM: Full recaps and scores from the Oklahoma State-Oklahoma rivalry

Fix has been undefeated so far on the season and is Oklahoma State's best chance for an individual national champion this year, but the Cowboys also have a former All-American in Dakota Geer who will need to score points at the national tournament if Oklahoma State wants to be competitive as a team. The Cowboys' win against the Sooners marks their 14th consecutive Bedlam win and helps them finish the year with a 13-4 record, yet they still dropped one spot in the rankings. 

Oklahoma State's Daton Fix reads heartfelt letter from his parents

The Big 12 tournament, set to be held March 5 at the BOK Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma is going to a wild one, as No. 5 Iowa State comes into the conference championship as the leading team and the regular season champions, but No. 9 Missouri, No. 13 Oklahoma State, No. 17 Northern Iowa and No. 24 Oklahoma are going to be fighting tough for top conference honors.

BEST MOMENTS OF 2021: AJ Ferrari's conference win was a highlight of last season

Oklahoma State head coach John Smith will be missing his star upperweight this year though after Ferrari withdrew from the season following a car accident. Defending that team title this year this year will be challenging without Ferrari, particularly given the success that the Cyclones have been having, but the Bedlam win was an important step for this team to get back on track, given the struggles they've had against the Cyclones and Northern Iowa earlier this year.

Iowa State, however, keeps winning, as the Cyclones knocked off the No. 9 Tigers 17-16 in a midweek thriller last week and looked primed to take over the Big 12 in a few weeks. This conference has it all: young talent, historic rivalries and legendary coaches, and these guys know how to perform in big duals. 

Penn, Arizona State jump up one spot while Princeton slips slightly

Penn, much like the Northwestern, has enjoyed a surge in the last few weeks as a result of notable wins and individual standout performances. Despite starting the season unranked, Penn's victories over Princeton and Lehigh this year have elevated the Quakers into the top 25, and they now end the year No. 18 following a dominant win over American University on Sunday.

STATE OF THE WEIGHT: Hear from some of the nation's top wrestlers at 125 pounds

Princeton, on the other hand, ends the year at No. 22 following a loss to Rutgers on Friday while Lehigh concludes the season just outside the rankings. The Mountain Hawks suffered a final loss of the year to No. 12 Arizona State after a back-and-forth bout that came down to heavyweight. Lehigh, Penn and Princeton, as well as the rest of their conference foes, will all meet again at the EIWA conference tournament in two weeks, but Penn's rise is one to pay attention to in particular as their performances have continued to elevate the entire Ivy League and add important depth. 

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