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  • Photo: Photo/Mark Lundy

    Photo: Photo/Mark Lundy

    Best first-semester dual meets in college wrestling

    The start of the collegiate wrestling season is less than one month away. As always things will get started in a hurry with some very interesting and intriguing early season matches. The following looks at some of the top dual meets in the first semester.


    This season there will be three new members competing at the NCAA Division I level. Presbyterian will join the SoCon with former Oklahoma and American coach Mark Cody at the helm. LIU Brooklyn and LIU Post will join forces to compete as the Sharks in the EIWA. In a geographical contradiction, Neil Erisman and Arkansas-Little Rock will join the Pac-12 as an affiliate member. The following are the debut duals for the newest members of the highest level of collegiate wrestling.

    Nov. 1: Presbyterian vs. Chattanooga

    The Blue Hose will kick off their schedule with a conference dual against UTC. As a new program, they will likely be up against it this season. However, expect the squad to led by Benny Gomez at 125 pounds. He was a Fargo double All-American in high school. Before transferring to Presbyterian, he was an NJCAA runner-up at Muskegon dropping a close 11-7 match against multiple-time Uzbek world team member Nodir Safarov in the finals. Against Chattanooga, he will face off against Fabian Guiterrez who went 17-4 last year with wins over Elijah Oliver (Indiana), Tommy Cox (NC State), Brandon Courtney (Arizona State) and Shakur Laney (Ohio).

    Nov. 2: LIU vs. Rutgers

    Last season LIU Post qualified only one wrestler for the NCAA Division II tournament. The good news is that Joe Calderone became an All-American for the third time. The bad news is that he graduated and left LIU without a returning qualifier. At 149 pounds, Chris Gomez placed fourth at the Super Region tournament and will be their highest returning placer. It will be a tough start to the season as LIU steps up to face a Rutgers squad, which finished last season with a pair of NCAA champions.

    Nov. 24: Little Rock vs. Ozarks

    Unlike the other two new Division I teams, Little Rock will get started with a slightly softer touch. Ozarks went 9-7 in duals last year and finished second in their conference tournament, but they qualified only one wrestler for the NCAA Division III tournament. Little Rock might be able to get started with a win as they have stocked their team with several transfers led by former NDSU wrestler Paul Bianchi who went 42-27 for the Bison and qualified for the 2018 NCAA tournament.

    Alex Marinelli after getting a pin against Iowa State (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)


    Two of the most storied rivalries in the history of college wrestling will take place during the first semester this year.

    Nov. 24: Iowa vs. Iowa State

    Last year, Iowa State was surprisingly game, but Iowa still pulled out the victory when heavyweight Sam Stoll demanded his spot in the lineup. This year the Cyclones return one of their best lineups in recent memory. Depending on how the lineups shake out, this dual could feature a rematch at 133 pounds between Austin Gomez and Austin DeSanto as well as an early season test for Junior world champion David Carr against returning All-American Kaleb Young.

    Dec. 15: Oklahoma vs. Oklahoma State

    Bedlam has been a one-sided contest for the last few years, but one could make the case that Oklahoma is moving in the right direction. The spotlight match of the dual will likely come at 141 pounds. Dom Demas unexpectedly dominated Cowboy Kaid Brock last year, but he will square off against Kaden Gfeller if all things play out right this year. This is an important match that could happen again at the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments.

    Big Ten vs. Field

    The Big Ten has been a dominant conference over the last decade. Before the conference schedule really gets going there will be several strong matches between Big Ten schools and some of the top schools from other conferences.

    Nov. 22: Penn State vs. Arizona State

    Last year, Penn State absolutely ran through the Sun Devils including a huge victory by Mark Hall over Zahid Valencia. This year the national champions will travel to Tempe. Valencia is expected to move up to 184 pounds, which sets up an interesting match with Shakur Rasheed. At 157 pounds, there is a showdown between former top prospects Jacori Teemer and Brady Berge.

    Nov. 24: Minnesota vs. Oklahoma State

    Last year's match had a great atmosphere, and this year's edition will almost certainly be the same. The Big Ten vs. Big 12 matchup will feature several key bouts including Gfeller against Mitch McKee and Nick Piccininni versus Patrick McKee.

    Dec. 1: Cornell vs. Ohio State

    A few of Cornell's wrestlers are taking Olympic redshirts, which has taken some of the star power out of this dual. However, there are still some interesting rematches and battles between prospects. Chas Tucker and Luke Pletcher split matches last season with Tucker taking a late season match in overtime. Ben Darmstadt should return to the lineup this season after sitting out with an injury. He could take on Gavin Hoffman, which could be a good early season indicator for both wrestlers.

    Nov. 24: Nebraska vs. Northern Iowa

    Last season, Drew Foster became the first UNI wrestler to claim an NCAA title since 2000. The Panthers will be looking to ride that momentum into another strong season. They will get an early challenge from a tough Nebraska squad. The headlining bout for this dual will likely come at 184 pounds where t hree-time NCAA qualifier Taylor Lujan is expected to take on All-American Taylor Venz.

    Best of the rest

    Outside of these first two categories, there are a variety of top duals in the first semester. The following highlights three other matches that require attention in the first half of the season.

    Nov. 1: Fresno State vs. Wisconsin

    Fresno State will host a quad-meet against Wisconsin, Army and Navy for the "Battle on the Midway." The matches will take place on the deck of the USS Midway in San Diego. In terms of Fresno State against Wisconsin, the heavyweight match could attract a lot of eyeballs. Trent Hillger broke through in his first year of competition for Wisconsin and became an All-American with an eighth-place finish. Across the mat will be A.J. Nevills who is now a two-time qualifier and still looking to become an All-American for the first time.

    Nov. 2: Missouri vs. Virginia Tech

    Missouri routinely has one of the toughest and busiest non-conference schedules. This year is no different as they travel to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. Both teams will have a fair share of new faces in the lineup, but Brian LaPrade and Jarrett Jacques will be back for a rematch. Last year the bout went to sudden victory before LaPrade walked away with a 9-3 victory for the Hokies.

    Nov. 15: Old Dominion vs. NC State

    Only a little over four hours separates the campuses of Old Dominion and NC State. However, the proximity is not the only attention-grabbing factor with this dual. Last year Larry Early walked into this dual and knocked off Hayden Hidlay. This year Hidlay is one of the favorites to win the 157-pound weight class, and he will get an early season test against an old rival.

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