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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    27 Key Matches to Watch This Weekend (Starting Tonight)

    The new “weekend” of wrestling begins tonight as the University of Michigan travels to South Dakota State to face off with the Jackrabbits for the first time. As I was getting this week’s Live Streaming Guide together, I noticed it was an incredible week for duals. Though there aren’t a lot of them as some teams are licking their wounds from Midlands/Salute/Scuffle; what they lack in numbers is made up for in quality.

    Not only are good teams tangling, but there are some awesome individual matchups on the docket. Sometimes you can have good teams wrestling, but none of their top guys hit. Not this week. There’s a lot of them. About 27 of them. Maybe more; hopefully not less. Here’s a little bit about 27 prospective matches on tap for the next four days. 

    125 lbs - #3 Caleb Smith (Nebraska) vs. #8 Jore Volk (Wyoming)

    Appalachian State transfer Caleb Smith has been an excellent fit in a loaded Nebraska lineup. He is 13-1 with the Big Red, with his only loss coming against Jore Volk at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. Smith has a chance to avenge that loss and solidify himself as a bona fide contender at 125 lbs. Volk has built on an impressive freshman campaign, by winning the Reno Tournament of Champions, finishing fifth in Vegas and making the Soldier Salute finals. 

    125 lbs - #9 Cooper Flynn (Virginia Tech) vs. #14 Brett Ungar (Cornell)

    An injury to 2023 All-American Eddie Ventresca has led to Cooper Flynn getting pulled out of Olympic redshirt for the Hokies. Flynn’s debut saw him knock off CKLV champion Nico Provo (Stanford) and since then he’s defeated then-#2 Noah Surtin (Missouri) and finished fourth at the Midlands. Ungar made the Vegas finals opposite Provo. During the 2023 version of this dual, Ungar edged Ventresca in tiebreakers. He’d later finish his freshman year in the NCAA Round of 12. 

    125 lbs - #23 Kysen Terukina (Iowa State) vs. #27 Eli Griffin (California Baptist)

    This match doesn’t have the rankings cache that most others on this list, but it has the potential for some fun. Kysen Terukina has been hard to read. He started the season with a dominating major decision victory over two-time All-American Eric Barnett (Wisconsin). Since then, he’s gone 2-5 albeit against a difficult schedule. Can he get things back on track against the surprise Midlands finalist Eli Griffin? Griffin posted four bonus point wins on his way to the Midlands finals. Since both schools compete out of the Big 12, this match also has conference-seeding implications. 

    125 lbs - Braeden Davis (Penn State) vs. #15 Brandon Kaylor (Oregon State)

    True freshman Braeden Davis appears to be getting the call for Penn State as the national favorites attempt to lock down a starter at 125 lbs. Davis has passed every test thus far with an 8-0 record and two wins over past national qualifiers. The competition gets much stiffer with 2022 All-American Brandon Kaylor. Kaylor was fourth in Vegas and is a good benchmark for whether or not Davis should be kept in redshirt. 

    133 lbs - #2 Vito Arujau (Cornell) vs. #12 Sam Latona (Virginia Tech)

    The only wrestler to defeat Vito Arujau during his national championship-winning 2022-23 season was Virginia Tech’s Sam Latona. The pair met three times during the season and Latona grabbed the victory in dual competition. Though Arujau prevailed in Vegas and Tulsa, Latona pushed him as much as anyone else in the country. They say “styles make fights” and the length of Latona could be an issue for Arujau, who tends to have that advantage against most other competitors. 

    133 lbs - #2 Vito Arujau (Cornell) vs. #13 Nic Bouzakis (Ohio State)

    Before getting to Latona, Vito Arujau will have stud redshirt freshman Nic Bouzakis on Friday night. Bouzakis has had an interesting first half of the season, to say the least. He suffered a pair of losses in his Clarion Open debut and was upset in the first round of the CKLV. Bouzakis then stormed back through the consolation bracket with seven straight wins to take third place. At the Collegiate Duals, Bouzakis was edged by Northern Iowa’s Julian Farber, then pinned All-American Kai Orine to help spark Ohio State’s upset of NC State. 

    133 lbs - #3 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) vs. #5 Kai Orine (NC State)

    Daton Fix was a late-scratch in Vegas so we didn’t get to see this match in December. With Fix out of the picture, Orine went on to claim the CKLV title. In the colossal clash between OSU and NC State, this is the only potential matchup we’ve seen before. In the 2022 NCAA Round of 16, Fix downed Orine, 7-4. I’m not sure that result has much bearing on Friday's contest as Orine has improved significantly since then. 

    133 lbs - #9 Dylan Shawver (Rutgers) vs. #11 Michael Colaiocco (Penn)

    Both of these wrestlers had prominent finishes at the Midlands though they did not square off against each other. Dylan Shawver was a finalist, while Michael Colaiocco finished fourth. Both suffered losses to Michigan’s Dylan Ragusin along the way. They also had another common opponent in Zeth Romney (Cal Poly). Shawver earned his second win of the season over Romney, while Colaiocco was majored by the Mustang freshman for third place. 

    141 lbs - #4 Ryan Jack (NC State) vs. #7 Tagen Jamison (Oklahoma State)

    I’m not sure if we’ll see this one as Tagen Jamison hasn’t competed since the Bedlam Dual on December 10th. Just a week prior, he surprised the country with a fifth-place showing in Vegas. There he posted a win over a returning All-American and two other national qualifiers. Should he be unable to go, Sammy Alvarez is listed as a potential starter by Oklahoma State. Alvarez, originally an NC State recruit, was a national qualifier for Rutgers in 2020. The Vegas runner-up at 141 lbs was Ryan Jack, who did not meet Jamison on his way to the finals. Both of Jack’s 2023-24 losses have come to Ohio State’s Jesse Mendez.

    141 lbs - #6 Brock Hardy (Nebraska) vs. #8 Cael Happel (Northern Iowa)

    Last year, Brock Hardy defeated Cael Happel 6-1 in the finals of the CKLV. Hardy would later make the Big Ten finals and finished sixth in the national tournament. Happel sputtered at the Big 12 meet and went 2-2 at NCAA’s. The two met at this year’s CKLV and Happel turned the tables in a wild 15-13 affair. Overall, Hardy has been more consistent, which has led to their current rankings. Another win over Hardy should be enough to push Happel past the Cornhusker star. 

    141 lbs - #11 CJ Composto (Penn) vs. #13 Mitch Moore (Rutgers)

    This should represent the most significant test of the year for Mitch Moore, who had joined Rutgers as a graduate transfer in his final year of eligibility. In his last outing, Moore defeated 2023 NCAA Round of 12 finisher Malyke Hines to capture a title at the Sheridan Invitational. Moore has yet to lose while wearing Rutgers’ block R. Looking to clear the zero on Moore’s record is Midlands runner-up CJ Composto. Composto was Penn’s first All-American during Roger Reina’s second tenure at the helm for the Quakers in 2022. Earlier this year, Composto won the Keystone Classic after suffering a pair of losses during his season debut at the Journeymen Collegiate Classic. 

    149 lbs - #12 Nash Singleton (Oregon State) vs. Tyler Kasak (Penn State)

    Similar to the 125 lbs weight class, you have a wrestler with a good ranking for Oregon State against a true freshman from Penn State. In December, word trickled out of State College that 2023 NCAA third-place finisher Shayne Van Ness would miss the remainder of the year due to an injury. There was no clear-cut successor, but Tyler Kasak who started the year at 141, got the call against Lehigh and responded with a 7-5 win over Drew Munch. Nash Singleton put himself on the map with a sixth-place finish in Las Vegas. In Vegas, Singleton’s best victory came over Rider’s national qualifier Quinn Kinner. 

    157 lbs - #3 Peyton Robb (Nebraska) vs. #13 Ryder Downey (Northern Iowa)

    One of the best developments for Northern Iowa out in Vegas was Ryder Downey. Though he only went 2-2, Downey notched a pair of really solid wins in a loaded bracket. Since then, Downey’s proven he’s more than just a one-hit wonder. Winning that Vegas bracket was Peyton Robb who prevailed over the 157 lb weight class for a second straight year. Robb is undefeated and showing no ill effects from the gruesome post-NCAA inflection that almost cost him his leg.

    157 lbs - #4 Jacori Teemer (Arizona State) vs. #20 Cody Chittum (Iowa State) 

    In two 2023-24 tournaments, Jacori Teemer has placed second (CKLV) and first (Midlands). Teemer missed last season due to an injury, but has not shown any rust during the first half of this campaign. His challenger from Iowa State is freshman Cody Chittum. Chittum has been good thus far, but is still looking for a first signature win. Beating the two-time All-American would definitely qualify as one. This should be a good style clash with Teemer typically looking for explosive attacks, while Chittum is more of a grinder. 

    157 lbs - #8 Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech) vs. #15 Meyer Shapiro (Cornell)

    Everyone had this match circled as “must-watch” in the Round of 16 at the CKLV Invitational. True freshman sensation, Meyer Shapiro, prevailed via major decision; however, he did not get on the podium and went 2-2. Bryce Andonian rebounded to finish fourth. Andonian was recently in dual action against Missouri’s three-time All-American Brock Mauller and managed to win a 13-10 shootout. 

    157 lbs - #9 Will Lewan (Michigan) vs. #16 Cael Swensen (South Dakota State)

    I’m sure this match has been circled on Cael Swensen’s calendar since the 2023-24 schedule was released. Swensen was knocked out of the 2023 NCAA Tournament in the bloodround by Michigan’s Will Lewan, to the tune of, 7-4. Swensen has had a ridiculously tough schedule thus far. His record is a pedestrian 5-5; however, those five losses have come to #2 Jared Franek (Iowa), #3 Peyton Robb (x2), #8 Andonian, and #11 Michael Blockhus (Minnesota). It doesn’t get any easier tonight with Lewan. Typically, Lewan wrestles close bouts, so this could come down to the final buzzer. 

    157 lbs - #12 Paddy Gallagher (Ohio State) vs. #15 Meyer Shapiro (Cornell)

    Shapiro’s busy weekend starts with Paddy Gallagher on Friday night. It’s a match between two wrestlers who were ranked #1 overall in their respective recruiting classes, 2023 (Shapiro) and 2021 (Gallagher). Gallagher had an up-and-down redshirt freshman season last year, but has been much more consistent this time around. When we last saw Gallagher, at the Collegiate Duals, he avenged a CKLV loss to Ryder Downey. 

    165 lbs - #9 Garrett Thompson (Ohio) vs. #14 Caleb Fish (Michigan State)

    I’m not sure there’s another wrestler that’s had a breakout campaign like Garrett Thompson has had in 2023-24. After going 11-9 as a part-time starter at 157 lbs last season, Thompson has moved up to 165 and has won 16 of 20 matches. He finished fifth in Vegas amidst a loaded field. Thompson’s next challenge is 2023 NCAA Round of 12 finisher Caleb Fish. Fish is coming off a fifth-place showing at the Midlands and has dropped a couple of slots in the rankings. Bouncing back by beating Thompson, could put him back in the top ten. 

    165 lbs - #10 Matthew Olguin (Oregon State) vs. #12 Mitchell Mesenbrink (Penn State)

    Once again, we have a freshman from Penn State using an opponent from Oregon State as a measuring stick. Mitchell Mesenbrink has been utterly dominant with seven bonus-point wins among his nine 2023-24 matches. Just by the way things have broken, Mesenbrink has only faced one ranked opponent. Now, he’ll have 2023 Pac-12 champion, Matthew Olguin, a seventh-place finisher at the CKLV. Last year, when these two teams tangled in State College, Olguin fell by a 3-2 decision to Alex Facundo. 

    174 lbs - #4 Cade DeVos (South Dakota State) vs. #5 Shane Griffith (Michigan)

    What a massive potential matchup between two top-five 174 lbers. Cade DeVos appears to have taken the next step and has gone from a possible medal threat to a high All-American finisher. He did so by winning the CKLV Invitational. 2021 NCAA champion Shane Griffith was the top seed at that tournament, but he was upset in the early going and defaulted out of the tournament. If SDSU has hopes of an upset, they’ll probably need to get this one. 

    184 lbs - #1 Parker Keckeisen (Northern Iowa) vs. #4 Lenny Pinto (Nebraska)

    We should get another round of Keckeisen/Pinto in the UNI/Nebraska dual. The two met in Vegas and Keckeisen grabbed an 8-4 victory. That match was one of only two regular decisions for Keckeisen amongst his 13 matches this season. This pair always makes for a good matchup with the physicality and technique of Keckeisen, mixed with the wide-open attacks by Pinto. 

    184 lbs - #2 Bernie Truax (Penn State) vs. #6 Trey Munoz (Oregon State)

    We’ve just got a ridiculous amount of top-notch 184 lb bouts this week. An upset or two could shake up the entire upper tier at this weight class. This match is the renewal of a former Pac-12 rivalry as Bernie Truax, formerly of Cal Poly, takes on Trey Munoz. Truax took the first four matches in this series; however, Munoz pinned him in the 2022 Pac-12 finals. This series goes back to 2021 when Munoz was wrestling 174 lbs for Arizona State. 

    184 lbs - #3 Dustin Plott (Oklahoma State) vs. #5 Dylan Fishback (NC State)

    Another great potential matchup from the Oklahoma State/NC State dual has the third (Dustin Plott) and seventh place (Dylan Fishback) finishers from Vegas finally going toe-to-toe. The duo did not meet at the CKLV. Fishback has been one of the most impressive freshmen in the nation; while Plott has moved up from 174 lbs and looks as good as ever. Plott’s only loss at 184 lbs came to Pinto early in the CKLV. He’d later avenge the loss by wrestling for third place. 

    184 lbs - #8 Chris Foca (Cornell) vs. #14 Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State)

    Chris Foca and Gavin Hoffman were two of the four returning All-Americans who did not place at the CKLV meatgrinder that was 184 lbs. Though he didn’t crack the top eight, Gavin Hoffman did score a win over an opponent that did (Sam Fisher). Chris Foca used the Collegiate Duals to get back on track. He scored a win over CKLV finalist Will Feldkamp (Iowa State) and Reece Heller (Pittsburgh). A week before the Duals, Heller majored Hoffman. 

    197 lbs - #11 Silas Allred (Nebraska) vs. #21 Joey Novak (Wyoming)

    One of the better possible bouts in the Nebraska/Wyoming dual comes at 197 lbs where Big Ten champion Silas Allred is slated to meet the Cowboy's true freshman Joey Novak. The two met in Vegas and Allred prevailed with a second-period fall. Since then, Novak finished eighth (Allred was fifth) and had respectable showings at the Reno TOC and Soldier Salute. He’s proven to be one of the few true freshmen that can handle to rigors and physicality it takes to compete at 197 lbs. 

    285 lbs - #1 Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State) vs. #12 Boone McDermott (Oregon State)

    We haven’t seen top-ranked Greg Kerkvliet since he defeated the returning EIWA champion, Nathan Taylor, in a dual meet victory over Lehigh. Kerkvliet is listed among Penn State’s probable’s for Friday Night’s dual at Oregon State. There he’ll meet Boone McDermott. Though McDermott had spent the last three years at Rutgers, the two never crossed paths. McDermott appears to be on the verge of putting together his finest collegiate campaign. He finished fourth in Vegas and two of his three losses on the year have come to the same opponent (Taye Ghadiali - Campbell)

    285 lbs - #3 Yonger Bastida (Iowa State) vs. #5 Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State)

    Here’s one I really hope we get to see. As of right now, Cohlton Schultz has yet to compete during the 2023-24 campaign. The three-time All-American is number one on the Olympic Greco-Roman ladder and has turned his focus towards making the team. If he does make his season debut, it’s quite a tough opponent to do it against. Yonger Bastida has taken off after moving up from 197 lbs. Bastida is a perfect 12-0 with a Vegas title under his belt. Thus far, he’s been able to amass bonus points in 8 of his 12 wins. It’ll be interesting to see how Schultz is able to slow down the big man from Cuba. 

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