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  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    B1G Takeaways from Week Six of Conference Dual Season

    Nebraska All-American Mikey Labriola against Ohio State (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)

    This week marked the end of the 2022-23 Big Ten dual schedule and the close of the regular season for some, while a few teams still have one more nonconference dual remaining. Penn State was named the Big Ten regular season champs, Maryland earned its first conference win since 2016 and wrestlers made final pushes to position themselves for Big Ten seeding.

    Here are our takeaways, and BIG Awards at the bottom!

    Hawkeyes beat up the Wolverines

    Iowa has been an interesting dual meet team this season. It's been pretty clear that they are the second-best team in the country since the start, but like most teams, injuries and some surprising results at times have had them wrestle some close duals at times this season. Wisconsin and Illinois were both closer than anyone would have guessed; however, this past Friday night in Carver Hawkeye arena we saw a team that is going to be dangerous in March. The Michigan Wolverines traveled to town in what was expected to be a fun dual to round out the B1G schedule for both teams. Sadly for Michigan, the season has taken out a lot of their wrestlers, leaving them without many of their starters. I expected we wouldn't get Mattin at 141, and Amine at 165, but not having Ragusin out there at 133 was a surprise, and the less-than-pleasant kind. Last I'd seen of Ragusin, he was being pinned by Daton Fix, so not sure if his missing the Iowa match was rest related, or if this is some injury concern. Ragusin did wrestle against Indiana, where he pinned his opponent, so I suspect this was just some preventative maintenance. On the flip side though, it was a pleasant kind of surprise seeing Chance Lamer back in the lineup for the Wolverines. He had a tough match against Max Murin at 149, but he remained competitive against a bruising veteran in the sixth-ranked Murin.

    The Hawkeyes looked really good though, taking out the Wolverine backups at 133, 141, and 165. What was very impressive though was Cobe Siebrecht's win over Will Lewan at 157. As expected in many Lewan matches, this match went to OT. Lewan was wrestling through a scramble, and just as you would expect him to secure the takedown for the win, Siebrecht essentially cartwheeled out of it, flipping Lewan briefly onto his back before having to bail on the position and losing the match. It was reminiscent of when Kendall Coleman of Purdue did a similar move to beat Lewan at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas tournament earlier this season. This is a loss that will likely put Lewan in a bad spot for B1G seeding, seeing as he now has losses to four B1G opponents. Lewan did pick up a win over Indiana's Derek Gilcher on Sunday, but that match also was decided in overtime. Not a lot of room for error if you're Will Lewan.

    Michigan did close out the dual with a win as Mason Parris beat Tony Cassioppi. If you're an Iowa fan though, there was a silver lining in the loss. This was the best Cassioppi has looked against Parris, getting a takedown, and being very much in the match and having momentum in the third period before giving up the deciding takedown. However, this loss essentially guarantees that Cassioppi will be on the same side of the B1G bracket as Penn State's Greg Kerkvliet. Maybe that's good, since he's beaten Kerkvliet in the past, but this season has been a bit of a different story.

    Michigan finishes up its season with a dual against Central Michigan this Sunday, and Iowa finishes their regular season with a dual against Oklahoma State Sunday as well. Iowa and Oklahoma State will be on B1G Network.

    Maryland gets first B1G win since 2016

    Let's go back in time. In the year 2016, Justin Bieber's "Love Yourself" was the number 1 song, Finding Dory was the number 1 movie, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the 73 win Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals, and the NCAA Wrestling Championships were held in Madison Square Garden. That was the last time that Maryland had won a B1G dual, with a 26-10 victory over Michigan State. Okay, back to reality.

    I had figured Maryland and Purdue could be a close and exciting dual, but I didn't think it would be quite as close and exciting as it ended up being. I figured that Maryland matched up well with some of the tougher weights that Purdue would throw at them, and that the other matches were largely toss-ups. With the exception of 157, that's basically how the dual unfolded. At 125, Braxton Brown, coming off of a nice win over Dean Petersen of Rutgers, wrestled well against the third-ranked Matt Ramos of the Boilermakers. In the end, Ramos is still too dynamic, and ended up getting the regular decision (this will prove to be important later). In fact, the first three matches for Purdue were regular decision wins. Maryland got their first win of the dual at 149, where Ethen Miller got a major decision over Jaden Reynolds. The match was close at first, and had a lot of exciting scrambles, but Miller was able to break open the match in the third with several turns. Any momentum that win was supposed to generate was quickly extinguished as Purdue's sixth-ranked Kendall Coleman got a pin to extend the lead going into the break.

    Maryland won 4 of the next 5 weights, with a one-point win at 165 by John Martin Best and a last-second stall call and takedown to win by a point at 174 by sophomore Dominic Solis coming out of the break. Kevin Makosy's loss to Ben Vanadia of Purdue made it an eight-point dual headed into the last two matches. I'm not a genius, but I do know enough about arithmetic to know that nine points are tough to get in two college wrestling matches. Tough, but not impossible, as Jaxon Smith displayed so skillfully. It's really tough to pin someone in D1 college wrestling, and even more so when the opponent knows that their job is pretty much just to not get pinned. Didn't matter though, Jaxon's pin of Hayden Filipovich at the two-minute mark of the first period brought the score to 18-16 in favor of the Boilermakers, and put the pressure on Jaron Smith to get the win at home and snap the losing streak. As Babe Ruth said to Benny the Jet Rodriguez in the Sandlot, "Heroes get remembered, but Legends never die." This was a legendary win for Jaron, over a very tough Hayden Copass of Purdue, to get the 19-18 win for the Terrapins. Maryland's winning streak was short-lived as they took on top-ranked Penn State Sunday, but lots of teams lose to Penn State, so we are focusing on this win today. This ends their regular season B1G schedule, but they finish off their season with Binghamton at home this Friday, followed by Columbia on Sunday in New York.

    Border Brawl did not disappoint!

    Wisconsin and Minnesota was an awesome and intense dual, as expected. Gotta love it when the Twitter accounts of the programs are talking a little trash leading into the event. As is the case with many teams at this point in the season, there were some injury issues that caused both teams to substitute some of their starters, but it did not take away from the action. In fact, this one started off with a bang as Michael Blockhus got a takedown of backup Aiden Madora, stepping in for the recovering Austin Gomez. Dual meets come down to bonus points, and evidently, someone had told that to Michael Blockhus, who went out and got the pin for the Golden Gophers. In the end, Minnesota gets the dual victory, and it was well deserved and hard fought. Four of the matches were decided by one point, and another two came down to the last minute where a takedown sealed the deal.

    What stood out to me was the depth of Minnesota. They threw out freshman Drew Roberts in place of Brayton Lee at 157, who wrestled admirably against 18th-ranked Garrett Model. This was a back-and-forth match, with both wrestlers getting takedowns and reversals throughout the match. Roberts showed me that he's been developing very well and I expect him to be a consistent starter for Minnesota in the upcoming years. Additionally, they had Sam Skillings take the place of ninth-ranked Isaiah Salazar at 184. Skillings picked up a pivotal win over Tyler Dow of Wisconsin, who earlier this season had gotten a pin over Iowa's Abe Assad. Not throwing shade at Assad, just illustrating how this is an impressive win for a guy who isn't traditionally a starter for Minnesota.

    Arguably the biggest match of the dual came at 125 with Eric Barnett getting a win over Patrick McKee. This match was completely insane, with a variety of scrambles and a crazy situation with about 30 seconds left where McKee almost got the reversal, but Barnett held on and got the 5-4 win due to riding time. Barnett, who started the season off so strongly, has struggled a bit more of late, but this was a very nice victory to boost his confidence and to set himself up for the B1G tournament in Ann Arbor. McKee has shown that he will show up when the lights are brightest, so we've got another couple of weeks before he hits his stride. This dual came down to the last match as 14th-ranked Jake Bergeland of the Golden Gophers took on 28th-ranked Joey Zargo of the Badgers. Nothing but consistency from this dual, as this match, and ultimately the dual, was decided by 1 point. In fact, this one was a 1-0 win for Bergeland. This was one of those duals that you could show the average sports fan to illustrate what's great about wrestling. Great job by both programs. Wisconsin finishes their season with Northern Iowa this Saturday at 8pm CST on BTN+, and Minnesota is done competing until B1Gs in Ann Arbor.

    Penn State dominates its way to the Big Ten regular-season title

    Penn State put a pounding on its eastern Big Ten counterparts this past weekend, downing Rutgers and Maryland 38-8 and 44-3, respectively, for its third straight regular season conference title.

    This marked the ninth time the Nittany Lions have won, or shared, the Big Ten regular season title under head coach Cael Sanderson, and the eighth time they've gone without a loss or tie in the conference.

    While the feat was impressive, wrestlers Shayne Van Ness and Levi Haines were ready Sunday to move on to the next challenge.

    "I think it's a good accomplishment but at 12 o'clock tonight, that's over and we're on to the next day and we're looking forward to the next match," Van Ness said.

    Added Haines: "It's definitely a step in the right direction and an accomplishment, getting the first checkbox marked off and moving onto the next."

    But before we move on to the next thing, let's take a look at some stats that stand out from the Nittany Lions' dominant season:

  • Penn State won by double digits in all but one dual, with the 9-point win over Iowa the exception
  • Penn State's biggest margin of victory was by 41 points over Maryland
  • Penn State earned pins in all duals except against Wisconsin and Rutgers
  • Penn State's biggest pin total was three against Maryland
  • Penn State earned bonus-point wins in all of its duals; its most (7) came against Maryland and Rutgers and Iowa limited the Nittany Lions to two
  • Penn State had overtime matches in four duals, including two each against Michigan and Michigan State
  • Penn State won its most amount of matches, 9, against Maryland and its least, 6, against Iowa
  • Penn State racked up 38 takedowns each against Rutgers and Maryland; its least amount of takedowns was 16 against Iowa
  • Penn State gave up the most amount of takedowns to Rutgers, 14, and the least to Iowa, 2
  • Penn State's largest takedown margin was 37 against Maryland, and its slimmest was 14 against Iowa
  • Penn State's total takedown margin was 220-51

    While these last two duals weren't the most competitive, there were still a few things that stood out, such as Roman Bravo-Young's eye-popping 14 takedowns against Maryland's King Sandoval. RBY leads his teammates 81-2 (12 matches) in takedowns, followed by Carter Starocci at 77-2 (15 matches).

    Also of note was Rutgers selling out Jersey Mike's Arena for the second time in program history. The 7,848 fans also marked the second-highest attendance in program history and increased the Scarlet Knights' average fan total to 5,018 this season, also its second-highest mark.

    Rutgers closed its regular season with a 27-10 loss to Nebraska, while Penn State has one final dual remaining, against Clarion on Sunday.

    "These dual meets are a big deal to us and our program, when you're going head-to-head with some rival schools. It's definitely a big deal to us," Sanderson said. "We want to compete well and we want to wrestle as well as we can in a dual. So, it's special. But like Shayne said, this is great but now we move on to the next one."

    Nebraska vs. Ohio State lives up to the hype

    We circled this dual as one to watch at the beginning of the season. And while the Buckeyes may have been down a few starters, the teams still delivered. The Cornhuskers were able to come away with a 25-16 win, but shorthanded Ohio State made them work for it.

    One of those Buckeyes was No. 20 Dylan D'Emilio at 141. Down 6-4 with 1:45 left in the third period, D'Emilio was looking to score. First, he spun out of a single-leg attempt in a 360 to come out on the other side of No. 5 Brock Hardy. While coach Tom Ryan hopped onto the mat with two fingers in the air, Hardy was able to roll out. D'Emilio wasn't done. "Twoooo" echoed throughout the Covelli Center as the sophomore had a takedown attempt near the edge with just over 30 seconds remaining. But again, he was denied by Hardy. Then as the final seconds ticked off the clock, D'Emilio got the takedown to send the bout into sudden victory.

    The sudden victory period was just as action-packed but Hardy eventually prevailed, 8-6. Despite the loss, D'Emilio showed he didn't have an ounce of quit.

    The Huskers found themselves in battles to fend off feisty Buckeyes at other weights, as well. Top-ranked Peyton Robb fired right out of the gate against No. 25 Paddy Gallagher at 157 with a takedown in the opening minute. But the freshman battled back and evened things up at 4 to start the third period. Like D'Emilio before him, Gallagher kept relentlessly pushing to get a takedown and nearly did as time expired, throwing Robb toward his back on a go-behind. But unlike D'Emilio, Gallagher didn't quite get the points, falling 5-4 as Robb remained unbeaten.

    Nebraska also took the most-anticipated match of the night - No. 2 Mikey Labriola vs. No. 6 Ethan Smith. But, again, Ohio State made them work for it. Tied 4-4 with just seconds remaining, this time it was Nebraska with the last-second takedown, as Labriola took the 6-4 win. This match was especially important with seedings for Big Tens right around the corner. A Smith win could have put him opposite Starocci with one conference loss and a head-to-head win.

    Liam Cronin also had a big win for the Huskers, a 3-1 decision in a top-10 battle against Malik Heinselman. Highlights for the Buckeyes were a pin from Sammy Sasso and true freshman Jesse Mendez hanging 22 points on Kyle Burwick.

    The Buckeyes showed a lot of fight and the Huskers showed resolve. Nebraska went on to take care of business against Rutgers on Sunday to finish its Big Ten slate 7-1 and solidly positioning itself as a trophy contender in March.


    Welcome to the fifth installment of our BIG Awards section, where we each hand out weekly honors for both of our picks for the biggest upset, win and consequential move of the teams we cover. Congrats to the winners!

    Kevin's picks

    B1Ggest Upset:
    No. 29 Henry Porter (IU) over No. 17 Rayvon Foley (MSU)

    Indiana traveled to East Lansing Friday night where Freshman Henry Porter picked up a 10-5 win over MSU's Rayvon Foley. Rayvon has had an up-and-down year, getting a win over Michigan's Dylan Ragusin earlier in the season, but also struggling at times in B1G competition. Nonetheless, getting a win like this for Porter, on the road, against a guy trying to get back onto the podium, is huge. A win like this should put Porter in a much better spot for the B1G tournament.

    B1Ggest Win: Jake Bergeland's decision over Joey Zargo to give Minnesota the win

    I value dual meets, so I'm going with Jake Bergeland's win over Joey Zargo to close out the dual on the road. A 1-0 win is tough to get at this level, but not for Jake Bergeland. His top game is so devastating that Zargo elected not to even try to get his escape point, and preferred to try to go on his feet to win the match. That's the sort of thing that will win matches in March, and to finish out a rivalry dual with such a gritty performance is B1G in my mind. Some would say, the B1Ggest.

    B1Ggest Move: Jaxon Smith's pin against Purdue

    Again, dual meets are valued here, so we are going with Jaxon Smith's pin in their dual against Purdue. At that point in the dual, the only way they would have a chance at winning was if Jaxon could secure six points in the second to last match. Sure, a tech could have done it possibly with some criteria stuff maybe, but having lost a dual to Indiana earlier this season on criteria, I'm sure the TerraPins (see what I did there) were not willing to take that risk. Jaxon was relentless, and you could see the energy explode out of him when he collected that fall. Jaxon set up the pins, and Jaron knocked them down.

    Lauren's picks

    B1Ggest upset:
    No. 19 Zac Braunagel (ILL) over No. 5 Yonger Bastida (ISU)

    As I wrote last week, every win at 197 is a big win. Being able to bounce back from two tough losses last week with a 4-3 win over No. 5 Yonger Bastida was especially big for Illinois' Zac Braunagel. With the win, Braunagel injects even more chaos into the weight class that's causing rankers across the country headaches. The pair traded takedowns, but not letting Bastinda escape after his takedown in the second and getting out with 11 seconds to go in the third was the difference-maker. Braunagel finished the regular season 20-5, including then-top-10 wins over Bastida and Jacob Warner. While it might not be easy to predict how this weight will get seeded in Big Tens and NCAAs, it is clear that Braunagel still belongs in the conversation.

    B1Ggest win(s): Nebraska's Liam Cronin over Malik Heinselman and Dean Peterson

    Liam Cronin had yet another strong weekend, adding a pair of top-20 wins to his resume with 3-1 decisions over No. 10 Malik Heinselman, of Ohio State, and No. 16 Dean Peterson, of Rutgers. With just Arizona State left on the schedule, Cronin finished the regular season with only one conference loss - to top-ranked Spencer Lee. Having taken care of business this past weekend, the Husker should be in a good position to avoid Lee's side of the bracket at Big Tens as the second or third seed. Cronin has really flourished this season, after missing most of last year due to injury. With one dual remaining, he sits at 17-3 overall, by far the best record in his fifth year of eligibility.

    B1Ggest move(s): Nebraska's Mikey Labriola late takedown against Ethan Smith and scramble against Jackson Turley

    Yes, I know, Labriola earned an honor last week but it was hard to not recognize him again this week. Not only did he fend off a hungry Ethan Smith with a last-second takedown (as detailed above), but he also earned a gritty 6-2 win over Rutgers' Jackson Turley, which included a crazy scramble near the end of the third period that Labriola somehow ended up on the top of. The thing about Labriola is that he's hard to take down, having given up just 6 this season. Another wrestler who's hard to take down is Penn State's Starocci, who's only given up two - also including one to Smith. The pair seem to be on a crash course toward each other in Ann Arbor, and I, for one, can't wait.
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