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  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    32 Key Matches to Watch This Weekend (Starting Tonight)

    Just a few short hours from now, the weekend begins, at least from a wrestling fan standpoint. Across a large chunk of the country, the weather is poor so it’s the perfect time to stay in Friday night and take advantage of a Big Ten Network Tripleheader. There are also some other great duals on over the next three days outside of the B1G, so fire up those alternate devices and get those extra TV’s ready. 

    The entire weekend is littered with entertaining duals and individual matchups, but we’ve specifically noted 32 matches to watch out for between now and Sunday. 

    A handful of these matches are in the Penn State/Michigan dual. We’ve already posted a preview for that entire dual, so if you want to read about that matchup in more detail, do so here. Those matches have been posted below and are in italics; however, we did not comment on them further. 

    Enjoy. 

    125 lbs

    #1 Drake Ayala (Iowa) vs. #2 Matt Ramos (Purdue)

    The last time we saw Matt Ramos against an Iowa wrestler it was rather memorable. This one is rather important as Drake Ayala has assumed the top spot in the country at 125 lbs in this week's rankings update. We’ve come to expect the unexpected at 125 lbs, so does that mean we’re expecting an upset or would the top guy prevailing now be more rare?

    #2 Matt Ramos (Purdue) vs. #7 Caleb Smith (Nebraska)

    Caleb Smith has been excellent since coming to Nebraska from Appalachian State. Smith showed he could be an All-American contender by downing Ramos at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational on his way to a third-place finish. Smith comes in losing two of his last three duals. How will he hold up during the rigors of the Big Ten schedule?

    #5 Michael DeAugustino (Michigan) vs. #13 Dean Peterson (Rutgers)

    After a big match with true freshman Braeden Davis on Friday, veteran Michael DeAugustino has another against Dean Peterson on Sunday. Last year, Peterson dropped a tight 3-2 match to DeAugustino, then at Northwestern. Peterson is also looking to return to his winning ways after dropping two of three. 

    #5 Michael DeAugustino (Michigan) vs. #14 Braeden Davis (Penn State)

    #7 Caleb Smith (Nebraska) vs. #18 Patrick McKee (Minnesota)

    An early season loss to Tanner Jordan caused Patrick McKee to tumble down the rankings. Even though these two are separated by 11 spots, rankings-wise, this is probably a toss-up. It’ll be the first of two matches against returning All-American’s for Smith this weekend. 

    #16 Brandon Kaylor (Oregon State) vs. #19 Troy Spratley (Oklahoma State)

    With the crazy nature of the 125 lb weight class, Brandon Kaylor is the only wrestler to defeat top-ranked Drake Ayala this year. Kaylor also has four losses on the year himself. Troy Spratley has some excellent wins on his resume this year. Another one at Kaylor’s expense could prove that he should be ranked higher and should be thought of as a high All-American contender. 

    #17 Tanner Jordan (South Dakota State) vs. #20 Stevo Poulin (Northern Colorado)

    An important matchup for Big 12 seeding will take place on Friday as the returning conference champion Stevo Poulin takes on Tanner Jordan. In last year’s dual, Poulin prevailed to the tune of 9-2. Poulin is coming in after a weekend filled with mixed results. He started it off with a major decision over Dom Mendez (Cal Poly), but was upset by Eli Griffin (California Baptist). Both of Poulin’s losses this season have come to conference opponents, so another could be harmful to his potential conference seed. 

    133 lbs

    #1 Ryan Crookham (Lehigh) vs. #10 Michael Colaiocco (Penn)

    Top-ranked freshman Ryan Crookham’s next test comes against 2022 EIWA champion Michael Colaiocco. Crookham’s only non-bonus point wins of the year have come against All-American’s Vito Arujau and Aaron Nagao, so he’s taken care of business against everyone else. At the season-opening Journeymen Collegiate Classic, Colaiocco lost to Crookham’s teammate Connor McGonagle, 8-2, and was majored by Arujau. 

    #4 Aaron Nagao (Penn State) vs. #6 Dylan Ragusin (Michigan)

    #6 Dylan Ragusin (Michigan) vs. #8 Dylan Shawver (Rutgers)

    A couple weeks after the first round, we’ll have another battle of the Dylan’s between Ragusin and Shawver. In their Midlands final, Ragusin prevailed with a 4-1 decision. On Friday, Ragusin will have a huge test against Aaron Nagao and may or may not be undefeated. Shawver has been excellent in his first year at 133 lbs, losing only three times in 18 outings. 

    #16 Derrick Cardinal (South Dakota State) vs. #18 Dominick Serrano (Northern Colorado)

    After the top-tier of contenders at 133 lbs is pretty wide open. Derrick Cardinal and Dominick Serrano represent a new crop of possible threats at the weight. Cardinal was sixth at the CKLV, while Serrano made the finals of the Southern Scuffle. Serrano also won the Cougar Clash and has won 15 of 18 matches in his first year as a starter.  

    141 lbs

    #3 Jesse Mendez (Ohio State) vs. #14 Kal Miller (Maryland)

    After earning All-American honors as a true freshman in 2023, Jesse Mendez moved up to 141 lbs and has been as good as ever. Maybe better. His signature performance came at the CKLV where he took home the title in a weight class that featured six other wrestlers currently ranked in the top ten. He’ll represent the toughest test of the year for Kal Miller. Miller only has one loss on the year and boasts a pair of wins over past AA Cole Matthews (Pittsburgh). 

    #8 Brock Hardy (Nebraska) vs. #19 Vance VomBaur (Minnesota)

    Last season, Brock Hardy was a CKLV champion, a Big Ten runner-up, and an NCAA semifinalist. For the year, he only had eight losses. This year he already has five. He certainly hasn’t been bad, just not as sharp as his first year in the Nebraska lineup. Vance Vombaur is a first-year starter for the Gophers that has been very solid. Both wrestlers fell to top-ranked Real Woods last weekend; VomBaur had a chance to tie the match with the Hawkeye superstar had he been able to finish a takedown at the buzzer. Should he put out a similar performance, he might notch the biggest win of his career. 

    #11 Mitch Moore (Rutgers) vs. #25 Sergio Lemley (Michigan)

    Graduate transfer Mitch Moore will put his perfect record to the test on Sunday against star true freshman Sergio Lemley. Moore has missed some time but has still managed to rack up ten wins and a title at the Sheridan Invitation. Lemley brings a three-match winning streak into Friday’s dual with Penn State, a streak started by an upset win over two-time All-American Clay Carlson (South Dakota State). 

    149 lbs

    #1 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) vs. #13 Drew Roberts (Minnesota)

    We saw last Friday, in Nebraska’s dual with Iowa, that number one gets everyone’s best shot, especially in rivalry duals. Ridge Lovett got his hand raised but had some difficulty racking up points against Caleb Rathjen. Now he has another similarly ranked opponent in Drew Roberts. Depending on dual strategy/scoring, does Roberts try to keep it close or go after the Cornhusker star. 

    #5 Chance Lamer (Cal Poly) vs. #15 Nash Singleton (Oregon State)

    The dual between Cal Poly and Oregon State is a special one as the Mustang lineup features three Lamer brothers, all from Crescent Valley High School, near the Oregon State campus. Oregon State’s lineup should include at least one (Gabe Whisenhunt) of their teammates, which is a remarkable feat for a single high school (and not even a prep school). 

    In front of family and friends, Chance Lamer will surely be looking to put on a show. Last weekend, he totaled 61 points across three matches. Nash Singleton has put together a solid freshman campaign and would probably love to spoil the homecoming, of sorts. 

    #6 Austin Gomez (Michigan) vs. #16 Tyler Kasak (Penn State)

    #9 Dylan D’Emilio (Ohio State) vs. #17 Ethen Miller (Maryland)

    Last weekend saw returning All-American Dylan D’Emilio get shocked by true freshman Kannon Webster. He’ll look to return to the winner’s circle against Maryland’s Ethen Miller. Last year, at 141 lbs, D’Emilio downed Ethen’s younger brother Kal, 6-3. Ethen is coming off a 1-1 weekend, where he fell to Austin Gomez but put up a tech fall against Northwestern. Miller has been solid thus far but is looking for a big signature win and D’Emilio would qualify as one. 

    157 lbs

    #2 Jared Franek (Iowa) vs. #16 Joey Blaze (Purdue)

    It’ll be one of those weeks that makes or breaks you as a true freshman. Joey Blaze has a Friday/Saturday tilt that includes bouts with the second and third-ranked wrestlers in the nation. But, is this the best time for him to meet Jared Franek; if there is one? Franek was just knocked off by Michael Blockhus Monday night, so either he’s vulnerable or ready to bounce back in a big way. 

    #3 Peyton Robb (Nebraska) vs. #10 Michael Blockhus (Minnesota)

    This leads us to Blockhus against Peyton Robb. Both, he and Peyton Robb, are sixth-year seniors who made the Big Ten finals in 2023 and subsequently, the NCAA podium. This will be the final opportunity for Minnesota native Peyton Robb to wrestle in front of fans from his home state, so I’m sure he’ll elicit a few cheers from the Gopher faithful. After defeating Franek on Monday, a win by Blockhus might elevate him into the national title discussion. 

    #3 Peyton Robb (Nebraska) vs. #16 Joey Blaze (Purdue)

    The second half of the weekend challenge for Blaze includes a matchup with Robb in Nebraska. With some of the excellent freshmen at this weight, Blaze has been overlooked a bit. In just his second collegiate event, Blaze upset All-American Ed Scott (NC State), so as of now, Blaze has a perfect record against returning AA’s. 

    #4 Vince Zerban (Northern Colorado) vs. #15 Cael Swensen (South Dakota State)

    Earlier this week, as we examined the remaining schedules for unbeaten wrestlers, we identified this as a key bout for Northern Colorado’s Vince Zerban. His clash with Cael Swensen will be the only potential bout against a ranked opponent before the Big 12 Championships. Last year, these two met in dual competition and it was Swensen who prevailed to the tune of 4-2. Despite receiving high seeds at nationals, (Swensen/20, Zerban/32), both navigated their way to the bloodround before getting eliminated. 

    #17 Peyten Kellar (Ohio) vs. #25 DJ McGee (George Mason)

    This week is very heavy on key contests between Big Ten and Big 12 rivals, so let’s break it up with an important match in the MAC. As of now, both Peyten Kellar and DJ McGee are the highest-ranked 157 lbers in the conference. The two have combined to amass a record of 32-5 thus far. McGee finished fourth at the Midlands, while Kellar won the season-opening Southeast Open. Another solid win for either could push Kellar toward the top-15 or McGee to the top-20. 

    165 lbs

    #7 Cam Amine (Michigan) vs. #9 Mitchell Mesenbrink (Penn State)

    174 lbs

    #1 Carter Starocci (Penn State) vs. #4 Shane Griffith (Michigan)

    #4 Shane Griffith (Michigan) vs. #19 Jackson Turley (Rutgers)

    Not only does Shane Griffith have his hands full with Carter Starocci on Friday, but also, a red-hot Jackson Turley on Sunday. Last weekend, Turley needed less than five minutes to tech then-number nine Donnell Washington (Indiana), then took less than :30 to pin Brody Baumann (Purdue). If healthy, he could be a factor at this weight class nationally. Griffith also is coming in after a strong performance last weekend. He tallied a pair of major decisions, though both were against unranked opposition. 

    184 lbs

    #2 Dustin Plott (Oklahoma State) vs. #4 Trey Munoz (Oregon State)

    This dual, in general, is filled with plenty of fun subplots. Oregon State head coach Chris Pendleton is an Oklahoma State grad and starred for John Smith, winning a pair of national titles in the early 2000s. His 184 lber, Trey Munoz, is the son of Cowboy national champion Mark Munoz. The former Oklahoma State stars will be in a familiar venue, the legendary Gallagher-Iba Arena. 

    As for this match itself, it’ll have huge ramifications on the upper portion of the 184 lb rankings and NCAA bracket. Dustin Plott is putting together the finest season of his two-time All-American career with only one loss in 16 matches. He was third at the CKLV Invitational. The 2023 NCAA semifinalist, Munoz, did not place in Vegas, but has rebounded to defeat Bernie Truax in the Beavers dual with Penn State. 

    In last year's dual between these schools, Oregon State’s Aaron Olmos knocked off Plott at 174 lbs, so the Beaver staff may have a gameplan for Munoz. 

    #3 Lenny Pinto (Nebraska) vs. #10 Isaiah Salazar (Minnesota)

    After top-ranked Parker Keckeisen, the rest of the NCAA podium at 184 lbs is up-for-grabs. There’s a bunch of capable wrestlers that could fill in those spots if they have a good three days in March. One that hasn’t been discussed much yet is Isaiah Salazar, who was a ninth seed at the national tournament last year and a match away from placing. He’s currently 12-1; however, that lone loss came to a non-starter from Missouri. This year, he and Lenny Pinto, should be in a battle for the top spot in the conference. In last year’s dual, Pinto edged Salazar in an entertaining, 7-6 scrap. 

    #15 Jaden Bullock (Michigan) vs. #20 Brian Soldano (Rutgers)

    I wrote entertaining and suddenly Brian Soldano appears. The Scarlet Knight sophomore is one of the most dangerous wrestlers in the nation, the type that will give up seven near-fall points if it can put him in position for a fall of his own. He’ll take on Jaden Bullock who has been a very pleasant surprise for Michigan. He was sixth at a Vegas weight class where three past All-Americans missed the podium. I’d be surprised if this wasn’t a high-scoring affair. 

    285 lbs

    #1 Greg Kerkvliet (Penn State) vs. #4 Lucas Davison (Michigan)

    #5 Cohlton Schultz (Arizona State) vs. #12 Dayton Pitzer (Pittsburgh)

    Last season, true freshman Dayton Pitzer took the Midlands by storm defeating a pair of returning All-Americans to make the finals. One of those AA’s was Arizona State’s Cohlton Schultz. Pitt head coach Keith Gavin resisted the urge to deviate from the plan and kept Pitzer in redshirt in order to bulk up the youngster. Now, Schultz gets a chance at revenge. 

    #9 Konner Doucet (Oklahoma State) vs. #11 Boone McDermott (Oregon State)

    The All-OSU battle will finish with a really solid matchup between two veterans who are seeking All-American honors for the first time. Doucet comes into this matchup as a winner of his last five duals and shutout Pitzer and Michael Wolfgram (West Virginia) last weekend. Boone McDermott has been as consistent as he’s ever been and finished fourth at the CKLV. His first loss at that event came to Doucet in tiebreakers. Doucet ended up injury defaulting out in the following bout. 

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