Duke 285 lber Jonah Niesenbaum (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Duke: The Blue Devils open their home slate this weekend, hosting three duals in Durham. Initially, it was scheduled to be The Citadel and Bloomsburg, but Presbyterian was added last week. Duke has had a very busy dual schedule to start the year; they are currently 3-4 but have been in a position to win almost every dual. Three of their four losses are by less than six points. The Finesilver brothers have been the unquestioned leaders of the Blue Devil squad and have put up impressive performances to start the season. At 149, Josh Finesilver is currently ranked #9 and is 13-1 on the season. His only loss is to All-American Jonathan Millner of App State, who also beat him in the bloodround at NCAAs last year. Finesilver has eight bonus-point wins, including three by pin. At 174, Matt Finesilver is ranked #8 and at 14-0, there is currently only one ranked wrestler in the country with more wins--Anthony Noto of Lock Haven is 15-1. He has seven bonus-point wins, including three pins--two of which were under 2:00 minutes.
The other standout for the Blue Devils so far this year has been heavyweight Jonah Neisenbaum. He has been an anchor at the top of the lineup and has shown incredible growth this year. He is currently 10-5 and on the cusp of being ranked. Three of his losses are by two points, and two of those were in sudden victory. For the duals on Sunday, there aren't a lot of individual matches that stand out to me--though I am interested to see how they perform against The Citadel's 157 Dazjon Castro. He is ranked #31 and has been very impressive in the matches I've seen this year.
The biggest thing I am watching for on Sunday is seeing the team's response. The Blue Devils had a tough weekend their last time out, going 1-3 with a win over Drexel. The losses were to Maryland, American and Hofstra; all three losses were by 6 points or fewer, and on day two, they were without a 165 pounder. This is the first time in Cameron Indoor for the Blue Devils this year and I think they'll have some big wins in their home gym. I think Duke bounces back and is able to get their dual record to 6-4 going into the second half of the season.
North Carolina: The #20 Tar Heels return to the mat and will travel to Boone for an in-state dual against Appalachian State. App State welcomes the second ACC team in a row to Boone after facing NC State last weekend. North Carolina has had a very tough dual schedule to start the season facing #7 Ohio State, #8 Nebraska, #12 Rutgers, #16 Wisconsin, and #25 Campbell. There will be a couple of spicy matchups to watch for in this dual as well. Starting at 125, freshman Spencer Moore will face a scrappy #31 Caleb Smith, who is 6-2 on the year. At 133, Joe Heilmann will meet #23 Codi Russell; Heilmann is 8-3 on the season and has been splitting some dual reps with Jaime Hernandez. #2 Austin O'Connor will face NCAA qualifier Cody Bond at 157, while at 165, Sonny Santiago will face #25 Will Formato. The biggest match of the night will be at 149, where we have an All-American battle. #17 Zach Sherman will take on #7 Jonathan Millner. Sherman has had an incredible run of opponents to start the season; he has faced the #2, #10, #13 and #14 wrestlers to open the year and now will add #7 Millner to the list. This could be a great chance for Sherman to get back on track going into the second half of the season, but he will need to be in top form to be able to dispatch Millner. The Tar Heels and Mountaineers will clash Friday night at 7pm in Boone.
North Carolina State: The #5 Wolfpack travel south to Destin, Florida, for the Collegiate Duals starting on Monday, December 20. They will have two duals on day one against #10 Missouri and Binghamton. On day two, they will crossover to face Central Michigan, #21 Lehigh, or #1 Iowa.
Pittsburgh: The Panthers are off this week and will return to action at The Midlands at the end of December.
Virginia: The Cavaliers are off this week and will return to action at The Midlands at the end of December.
Virginia Tech: The #9 Hokies also travel to Florida for the Collegiate Duals next week. On day one they will face Hofstra and #6 Arizona State. On day two they will cross over to face Northern Iowa, #11 Cornell or #2 Penn State.