National Duals Finals: Four Storylines

Iowa's Tony Ramos is one of eight undefeated wrestlers competing (Photo/Mark Beshey, The Guillotine)

Here is a look at four storylines to follow at this year's NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals finals, which take place Friday and Saturday in Minneapolis.

Undefeated wrestlers

The field includes eight wrestlers who are undefeated this season. Those wrestlers are Alan Waters of Missouri at 125 pounds, Logan Stieber of Ohio State at 133 pounds, Tony Ramos of Iowa at 133 pounds, Hunter Stieber of Ohio State at 141 pounds, Jordan Oliver of Oklahoma State at 149 pounds, Derek St. John of Iowa at 157 pounds, Kyle Dake of Cornell at 165 pounds, and Dom Bradley of Missouri at 285 pounds. Will all eight leave Minneapolis with their perfect records still intact? Stay tuned.

Intriguing first-round matches

There are several intriguing first-round matches to keep an eye on. Here is a sampling ...

  • Oklahoma State vs. Illinois (6 p.m.): Illinois associate head coach Mark Perry finds himself on the opposite side of his brother, Oklahoma State's Chris Perry, the nation's second-ranked 174-pounder, and his uncle John Smith, Oklahoma State's coach. Chris Perry will meet Jordan Blanton in a battle of returning All-Americans. Perry won all three of the meetings last season between the two wrestlers, including twice at the NCAAs.

  • Ohio State vs. Missouri (6 p.m.): There will be a matchup between two top five wrestlers at 133 pounds, No. 1 Logan Stieber vs. No. 5 Nathan McCormick. The two met in the finals of the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in early December, with Stieber winning that meeting 12-1.

  • Minnesota vs. Virginia Tech (8 p.m.): Two of the nation's top ten 149-pounders will square off, Dylan Ness vs. Nick Brascetta. Ness was an NCAA runner-up last season as a freshman. Brascetta claimed a Midlands title in late December.

  • Iowa vs. Cornell (8 p.m.): Top-ranked Matt McDonough will meet sixth-ranked Nahshon Garrett at 125 pounds. McDonough, a two-time NCAA champion and three-time NCAA finalist, has kept his No. 1 ranking at 125 pounds despite a recent loss to Jesse Delgado of Illinois. Garrett, a freshman who started wrestling in ninth grade, has not dropped a match since the Southern Scuffle.

    Dan Gable disciples

    Legendary Iowa wrestling coach Dan Gable's influence is still felt today in the college wrestling world. Of the eight head coaches with teams in the National Duals finals, four wrestled for Gable at Iowa and a fifth coached with him.

    Iowa coach Tom Brands was a four-time All-American and three-time NCAA champion wrestling for Gable. He finished with a career record of 158-7-2.

    Tom Ryan, Ohio State's head coach, was a two-time All-American (second in 1991, third in 1992) as a member of the Hawkeyes' 1991 and 1992 national and Big Ten championships teams. He was also a two-time Big Ten champion.

    Illinois coach Jim Heffernan was a four-time All-American wrestling for Gable at Iowa, finishing fourth, second, first, and second. He was named Iowa's Male Athlete of the Year in 1987 and was a four-time Big Ten champion. He led the Hawkeyes to three NCAA championships.

    Virginia Tech coach Kevin Dresser was a two-time All-American and NCAA champion in 1986 competing for Gable. He also coached under Gable several years after graduating from Iowa.

    Minnesota coach J Robinson was Dan Gable's assistant at Iowa from 1976 through 1984.

    Impact freshmen

    Several freshmen have been making an impact in Division I this season. Here is a look at five to watch during the finals of the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals.

  • Nahshon Garrett (Cornell, 125): The sixth-ranked Garrett has given Rob Koll's Big Red lineup a major boost this season. He finished runner-up at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and third at the Southern Scuffle.

  • Alex Dieringer (Oklahoma State, 157): Dieringer, currently ranked in the top ten at 157 pounds, looks to be a real threat to earn All-American honors as a freshman in Des Moines. He has a 23-2 record and has won his last seven matches in dual meets. Dieringer went 2-0 with two pins in the regional round.

  • Kenny Courts (Ohio State, 184/197): Courts was one of the nation's top recruits coming out of high school in Pennsylvania. He has picked up some key wins for the Buckeyes this season wrestling at both 184 pounds and 197 pounds.

  • Nathan Burak (Iowa, 197): Burak, who spent last year the Olympic Training Center, has shown steady improvement throughout his freshman season. His most notable win this season has come over Ohio State's Andrew Campolattano, a round of 12 finisher last season.

  • Caleb Ervin (Illinois, 149): Ervin, a Kentucky native, caught the attention of the college wrestling world when he won my major decision over NCAA runner-up Dylan Ness of Minnesota on Jan. 21. He has a 21-8 record.
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