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Article:College Wrestling: Division I National Duals Preview

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Rankings are reflective of the Jan. 9 Division I rankings

Most fans have already figured this much out – throw the rankings out the window this weekend. With the parity in collegiate wrestling, nothing is certain and the theory of “any given day” seems to be more evident this year than most in recent memory. After Iowa fell to Oklahoma State last weekend, the team rankings were thrown into disarray and Penn State emerged as the fifth team ranked #1 this season, and as a result, Troy Sunderland’s Nittany Lions are the top seed. Fifteen of the 16 teams in the field are ranked and the only one that isn’t – West Virginia – is receiving votes in the USA Today/InterMat/Division I Coaches Poll. Nearly half of the ranked wrestlers in Division I will be wrestling in Cedar Falls (98 out of 200, if you were wondering). Want more numbers? Thirty-three All-Americans are wrestling including three NCAA champions -- Paul Donahoe (Nebraska, 125), Mark Perry (Iowa, 165), and 2006 champ Dustin Schlatter (Minnesota, 149). Division I dual meets are so tight; it only takes one upset to disrupt the balance of a dual meet. The phrase, “it’s all about matchups,” is becoming a mantra of sorts this season. What should you expect this weekend on the Division I mats in Cedar Falls? The best wrestling short of the NCAA tournament.  This could be the most exciting National Duals in history. Want one more number? In the first round, 30 of the 80 bouts that will be contested will be between ranked wrestlers. Nice.

First Round Previews
(Seed) National Rank, Team

(1) #1 Penn State vs. #17 UT-Chattanooga

Penn State’s the heavy favorite, but if you’re looking for ranked wrestlers clashing, this dual is one of three where at least half of the matches will pit two ranked wrestlers against each other. Right off the bat, #7 Mark McKnight of Penn State will face 9th-ranked Javier Maldonado. At 141, Jake Strayer of Penn State will take on newly-anointed #20 Steve Hromada. Bubba Jenkins, ranked fourth at 149, takes on #20 Joey Knox, who has a win over Ohio State’s Lance Palmer this year. Seth Garvin, another #20 for the 17th-ranked Mocs will face 10th-ranked Dan Vallimont at 157. Chattanooga’s only matchup where it has the higher-ranked wrestler comes at 174 as #12 Lloyd Rogers will face #17 Dave Erwin. Second-ranked Phil Davis will take on Matt Koz, ranked 13th, at 197 pounds. Penn State is favored in five of the six matches. 184-pounder Josh Edmondson might be a problem matchup for #14 Phil Bomberger; Edmondson did pick up a win over Rider’s Doug Umbehauer at The Midlands and is capable.

(8) #9 Northwestern vs. #10 Nebraska
You want dangerous? Nebraska’s dangerous. The Huskers come in ranked 10th in the nation and match up very well with the teams in the top bracket. All five Northwestern wrestlers will match up with ranked wrestlers, giving Nebraska the on-paper advantage in the four weights where the Huskers put ranked wrestlers on the mat. Right off the bat things get fun with returning NCAA champion Paul Donahoe of Nebraska taking on fourth-ranked Brandon Precin of Northwestern. One of the best matchups fans are looking forward to will be high-octane Jordan Burroughs, ranked sixth, wrestling fifth-ranked Ryan Lang, last year’s NCAA runner-up at 141 pounds. Lang’s been limited in action this year, while Burroughs has picked up wins over two All-Americans this season. Brandon Browne’s having a great season at 174 pounds, but has a scrappy test in Nick Hayes of Northwestern. Another top-five match pits #3 Mike Tamillow against #4 Craig Brester at 197 pounds. Both are aggressive wrestlers that like to go for the fall. Top-ranked Dustin Fox is the only pronounced favorite, as he’s #1 in the nation facing #19 Jon May. Northwestern’s unranked wrestlers do have the ability to pick up quality wins, like 133-pounder Eric Metzler, who faces Kenny Jordan and 20-match winner Dominic Marella at 165 facing Stephen Dwyer.

(5) #6 Minnesota vs. West Virginia
West Virginia gets one of the toughest draws, picking up Minnesota in the opening round. The one matchup that really brings some attention comes at 141 pounds with returning All-American Brandon Rader facing fourth-ranked Manny Rivera. Rader might not be 100 percent, as he was just returning from minor surgery before injury defaulting against Cal Poly’s Chad Mendes, who coincidentally is Rivera’s only loss this year. C.P. Schlatter and Zac Fryling square off at 157 pounds in the only other match between ranked wrestlers.

(4) #5 Central Michigan vs. #11 Ohio State
This one could get interesting, real interesting. The Chippewas match up with the nation’s top teams very well, but this is a draw that Coach Tom Borrelli couldn’t have been too happy to see. The teams only meet up in three weights where both wrestlers are ranked – 141, 184 and 285. Ohio State 184-pounder Mike Pucillo is a returning All-American, but is ranked fifth behind third-seeded Christian Sinnott. That might be the best match of the dual, with J.D. Bergman, undefeated and ranked #2, meeting Bubba Gritter being the second. Central brings seven ranked wrestlers compared to Ohio State’s five, but x-factors could be 125-pounder Nikko Triggas and 165-pounder Colt Sponseller for the Buckeyes. Sponseller burst into the lineup and knocked off Kent State’s Kurt Gross. Sponseller’s opponent -- #11 Trevor Stewart. For Ohio State to pull the upset, the two true freshmen need to wrestle above their rank (which is unranked) and J Jaggers and Lance Palmer need resounding victories at 141 and 149.

(3) #4 Iowa State vs. #12t Hofstra
Three matches with ranked wrestlers take place in the opener here, but 133 and 141 will draw the most interest. Lou Ruggirello was ranked as high at #1 in the early going before falling off the pace with fifth-place finishes in Las Vegas and Greensboro. Ruggirello will face fourth-ranked Nick Fanthorpe, who is off to a great start this season. Charles Griffin, ranked fifth at 141, will face Cyclone sophomore Nick Gallick, who comes in ranked 18th. Hofstra’s Joe Rovelli’s the favorite at 197 pounds in his match against David Bertolino. Mitch Smith of Hofstra and Mitch Mueller of Iowa State should provide an entertaining match despite neither wrestler being ranked in the Top 20.

(6) #7 Michigan vs. #24 Northern Iowa
Northern Iowa is fresh off an upset win over UT-Chattanooga on the road and coach Brad Penrith’s team might be hitting its stride right at the proper time. While there are only two matches between ranked wrestlers – Moza Fay vs. Eric Tannenbaum at 165 and Andrew Anderson vs. Anthony Biondo at 197. Those two matches aren’t the key to the dual, it’s matches like Caleb Flores vs. Mike Watts at 125 and Josh Baldridge, a former NJCAA champion and Michigan’s Chris Diehl. C.J. Ettelson’s start to the season has been one to forget, but a solid performance against top-ranked Kellen Russell of Michigan could turn things around. If it comes down to heavyweight, it might as well be a crap-shoot between Dustin Bauman of UNI and either Matt Guhn or Chad Bleske, who’s been getting time recently.

(7) #8 Missouri vs. #15 Indiana
Four matches of note, but only one between returning All-Americans, and that’s at 133 with Andrae Hernandez of Indiana facing a struggling Tyler McCormick. After placing the last two years, McCormick is reeling after a loss to Bucknell’s Dave Marble and Hernandez has the opportunity to pick him off and maybe improve the seeding picture come nationals. Veteran Michael Chandler, ranked 12th, will take on two-time All-American Brandon Becker. The New Jersey native Becker is looking to get back on the podium after falling just short last year.  Two key matchups come at 165 and 125, where Missouri has two quality, but still somewhat unproven ranked wrestlers. Nick Marable, ranked fourth at 165, was a great roleplayer for Brian Smith’s Tigers last year and has been steady, while Matt Coughlin is ranked seventh and fairing well two weights over his seventh-place finish at 149 last year. Missouri’s depth at the upper weight should give them enough of a push to move on into the quarterfinals.

(2) #2 Iowa vs. #19 Cornell
If talked about in the preseason, this dual would have likely been something people would have loved to see later on in the tournament, but with injuries to All-Americans Troy Nickerson and Josh Arnone, Cornell’s lost both its duals this year and has dropped to 19th in the polls. What the Big Red to have is five ranked wrestlers to Iowa’s nine. The premier match of the dual comes at 165 where defending national champion Mark Perry taking on Cornell freshman Mack Lewnes, who comes in 24-1 and with a lofty #3 ranking. Perry got stung in Iowa’s loss to Oklahoma State last Sunday, giving him his second defeat of the season. Lewnes has been on a roll of late and could be catching Perry at the right time – or the wrong time. At 133, second-ranked Joey Slaton’s only been dealt one loss this year and will take on another Cornell freshman – Mike Grey. Expect this one to be close and pretty exciting as both can get after it. If looking at the rankings, two other matches find wrestlers close at their respective weights. Steve Anceravage is ranked #8 at 174 and he’ll take on Jay Borschel, a sophomore ranked #11. Heavyweight will have Matt Fields of Iowa and Zach Hammond. This could be closer than expected, but Iowa has too much where Cornell isn’t considered strong.

Looking ahead ...
Nebraska could be playing spoiler, scratch that, Nebraska is playing contender. Should the Huskers get past Northwestern, it would create a dynamite dual with top-seeded Penn State. If that plays out, six of the 10 matches will be between ranked wrestlers with a Bubba Jenkins-Jordan Burroughs match at 149 being the most anticipated. It’s a grind of a weight and both sophomores are ready to contend. Phil Davis and Craig Brester could be fun there as well. If Northwestern gets past the Huskers, you’ll see four ranked matchups. ... If Central Michigan moves on past Ohio State and Minnesota tops West Virginia, then the worst-case scenario unfolds for CMU. The Gophers match up better than any team in the nation against the Chippewas and are favored at the first five weights and again at 184, making it extremely difficult to knock them off. ... Iowa State, provided they beat Hofstra, facing Michigan is somewhat intriguing, with the potential for four matches to bring ranked wrestlers together. The two biggest of those would be at 165, with Jon Reader facing Eric Tannenbaum and at 184 with Tyrel Todd facing Jake Varner in a battle of All-Americans. ... Should Missouri and Iowa both reach the quarters, it would provide the only dual in the first two rounds that would have seven matches between ranked wrestlers – 125, 133, 149, 157, 165, 174, 184 and 285. Yikes! Best match from that bunch? Tough to say, but try leaning towards 165 where #2 Mark Perry could see #4 Nick Marable. Both have tough openers on the day. That’s the match most will be drawn to there.

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