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  • Photo: Photos/Sam Janicki

    Photo: Photos/Sam Janicki

    Best match to watch in every weight class this weekend

    Ohio State's Luke Pletcher and Stanford's Real Woods are expected to meet on Sunday (Photos/Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com)

    The first weekend of the NCAA season delivered some notable upsets and meaningful results. This week has more marquee matches and will almost certainly change the headlines through the college wrestling world. The following is a preview of some of the top projected matches this weekend.

    125: No. 2 Jack Mueller (Virginia) vs. No. 20 Brandon Courtney (Arizona State)
    When/Where: Saturday, Nov. 9 at 12 p.m. ET: Journeymen Northeast Duals (FloWrestling)

    Mueller started off his road back to the national title match with a first-period fall over Maryland backup Jarod Kosman last weekend. He went 21-1 last season with his only defeat coming against No. 1 Spencer Lee in the NCAA finals. Mueller holds a one-sided victory over Courtney, so he should be the favorite going into this match. However, a neutral-site match against a ranked opponent can always turn into a speed bump.

    After a redshirt year, Courtney started several matches for the Sun Devils last season. He finished the year 14-11, but looks to improve on that as the primary option this season. During his high school days, Courtney won three Arizona State titles and won Fargo. He has had some moments in his still nascent career, but this would be a big win for him.

    In their only career meeting Mueller scored a 16-1 technical fall over Courtney. His ability to score from the top position proved to be key in that match. On the feet, Courtney might be able to get to his offense and make some noise, but he really needs to find a way to stay off the bottom.

    Prediction: Mueller (Virginia) major decision over Courtney (Arizona State)

    133: Joey Silva (Michigan) vs. Jamie Hernandez (North Carolina)
    When/Where: Friday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. ET: North Carolina at Michigan (BTN+)

    Neither one of these wrestlers is currently ranked, but that could change in the near future. Silva joined Michigan as a top recruit after a storied prep career in Florida. He won five state titles and also won four different NHSCA national titles. Last year he redshirted for the Wolverines and went 7-1 with his only loss coming against Hernandez's teammate Zach Sherman.

    Hernandez was part of the Tar Heels' strong 2017 recruiting class. He took some lumps during his redshirt season and only finished 7-5. However, last year he put together a solid 10-4 record as a reserve. Hernandez kicked off his season last weekend at the Southeast Open where he went 3-1 and finished third.

    Silva has been the more impressive wrestler on the collegiate scene so far. However, this will be one of his toughest tests to date. He enters the match as the favorite, but Hernandez should be a nice early challenge.

    Prediction: Silva (Michigan) decision over Hernandez (North Carolina)

    141: No. 1 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) vs. No. 14 Real Woods (Stanford)
    When/Where: Sunday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. ET: Stanford at Ohio State (BTN+)

    Pletcher moved into the No. 1 spot at 141 pounds after knocking off No. 2 Dom Demas (Oklahoma) in overtime at the Michigan State Open. He finished the day by winning all five of his matched with two falls and two major decisions. Pletcher went 27-7 last year at 133 and finished fourth. It is still early in the season, but he looks like he could be one of the favorites at this weight.

    Woods was a top-30 recruit before joining Stanford last season. He redshirted and put together a 22-1 record. Woods' only loss came against No. 3 Nick Lee (Penn State) via decision at the Southern Scuffle. Also last season, he won the Princeton Open and scored victories over Corey Shie (Army) and Nate Limmez (Purdue). Woods got started this season with a strong showing at the Battle at the Citadel. He won the tournament with wins over No. 15 Sa'Derian Perry (Old Dominion) and Sal Profaci (American).

    The time appears to be now for Woods. He is a former blue chip recruit, who has shined in limited opportunities. However, he will certainly be up against it here. Pletcher enters this match after a huge win. Also, one of his strengths as a wrestler is his ability to control the pace and win close matches. Expect that experience to pay dividends here.

    Prediction: Pletcher (Ohio State) decision over Woods (Stanford)

    149: No. 10 Matthew Findlay (Utah Valley) vs. No. 13 Griffin Parriott/Nate Limmex (Purdue)
    When/Where: Saturday, Nov. 9 at 12 p.m. ET: Journeymen Northeast Duals (FloWrestling)

    Findlay narrowly missed out on becoming an All-American at 141 pounds last season. He qualified for the NCAA tournament even after pulling out of the Big 12 tournament with an injury. He made it all the way to the blood round with wins over Corey Shie (Army), Sa'Derian Perry (Old Dominion) and Mike Carr (Illinois). However, Findlay could not get it done and finished his run in the round of 12. This match will be his season debut.

    Both Parriott and Limmex wrestled last weekend at the Michigan State Open. Parriott won his first match before medically forfeiting out. Limmex went 3-2 with one of those losses coming against No. 8 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State). Both Parriott and Limmex have experience, and it remains to be seen who will get the start against Utah Valley.

    Whoever goes for Purdue, this should be an interesting match. Parriott is currently ranked, and he will likely hold down this spot unless the injury is severe. Findlay holds a 10-3 victory over Limmex, but it should be a tougher match against Parriott.

    Prediction: Findlay (Utah Valley) decision over Parriott (Purdue)

    157: Justin McCoy (Virginia) vs. No. 17 Jacori Teemer (Arizona State)
    When/Where: Saturday, Nov. 9 at 12 p.m. ET: Journeymen Northeast Duals (FloWrestling)

    McCoy redshirted last season at Virginia after a high school career that saw him place at Fargo and score a Pennsylvania state title. During his redshirt campaign, he went 25-3 and won three open tournaments. McCoy got off to a strong start to this season last weekend with a quick fall over a Division III opponent and a decision victory over Jahi Jones (Maryland).

    Teemer was a top-10 recruit when he signed with the Sun Devils prior to last season. Like McCoy, he redshirted his first season in college. He entered only two tournaments during the season, but he made the most of that time. He knocked off Sammy Sasso (Ohio State), Brayton Lee (Minnesota) and Khristian Olivas (Fresno State) at the Midlands and then won the National Collegiate Open to close out the year.

    At the NCO, Temmer scored a 7-5 victory over McCoy. Back in their high school days, Teemer was seen as the better prospect, but their only meeting so far was tight. Look for Teemer to go for some big moves early to widen the gap. However, this could turn out to be close once again.

    Prediction: Teemer (Arizona State) decision over McCoy (Virginia)

    165: No. 8 Shane Griffith (Stanford) vs. No. 14 Ethan Smith (Ohio State)
    When/Where: Sunday, Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. ET: Stanford at Ohio State (BTN+)

    Griffith had a very strong redshirt season after coming to Stanford as a blue chip recruit. He went 24-2 and oddly enough only lost to the NCAA runner-up No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) and the NAIA runner-up Ryan Niven (Grand View). Last weekend he kicked off his season with a tournament title at the Battle at The Citadel.

    In his first season as a starter Smith made the NCAA tournament and fell in the round of 16. He is expected to play a bigger role for the Buckeyes this season. Things got off to an interesting start at the Michigan State Open. He lost his first match to Reece Hughes (Michigan), who came into the tournament with a 12-11 career record in college. However, Smith then turned things around and wrestled back for third.

    This could serve as a coming out party for Griffith. He has a chance to make some noise at this weight in his first season as a starter. However, he will have to get past Smith. The Ohio State wrestler is looking to make strides this year, but so far the results have been mixed.

    Prediction: Griffith (Stanford) major decision over Smith (Ohio State)

    174: No. 9 Dylan Lydy (Purdue) vs. No. 10 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State)
    When/Where: Saturday, Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. ET: Journeymen Northeast Duals (FloWrestling)

    After two-straight seasons of losing in the round of 12, Lydy is looking to become an All-American for the first time in his senior season. There has been a bit of an exodus at this weight this season, so he certainly has a realistic shot. Last weekend at the Michigan State Open, Lydy won two matches via major decision before defaulting out of the tournament.

    Both Valencia brothers moved up this season, and the new weight class could finally help Anthony get over the hump. He came to Arizona State as a big time recruit, but he has yet to become an All-American. Last season Valencia used a medical redshirt and only competed at the Midlands tournament. A victory here could signal a turnaround season.

    It is impossible to know how much the weight cut hurt Valencia in his first two seasons as a starter, but the rumors persisted that it was an issue. This will be his first big test at 174 pounds and his first action of the season. Even though it is only one match, it could say a lot about his prospects for the year.

    Prediction: Valencia (Arizona State) decision over Lydy (Purdue)

    184: No. 10 Hunter Bolen (Virginia Tech) vs. Jack Jessen (Northwestern)
    When/Where: Sunday, Nov. 10 at 1 p.m. ET: Mat on the Mound (ACCNX)

    After qualifying for the NCAA tournament as a true freshman in 2018, Bolen used his redshirt season last year. During open competitions, he went 12-1 and picked up wins over Chip Ness (North Carolina), No. 11 Louie DePrez (Binghamton) and Jacobe Smith (Oklahoma State). His only defeat came against No. 3 Shakur Rasheed (Penn State). Bolen kicked off this season with a high scoring 10-9 decision over No. 19 Dylan Wisman (Missouri) last weekend.

    Jessen stayed in state and signed with Northwestern after spending his prep career in Illinois. He finished high school with a 149-7 record and was an eight-time Fargo placer. He redshirted last season and went 12-7 against a tough schedule. He finished the season with a first-place performance at The Last Chance Open.

    Jessen struggled when facing ranked opposition during his redshirt year. He will get a chance to change that early in the season against Bolen. The Virginia Tech wrestler picked up some impressive wins during his redshirt year a season ago, and it looks like he could have an impact on the 184-pound landscape.

    Prediction: Bolen (Virginia Tech) decision over Jessen (Northwestern)

    197: No. 3 Kyle Conel (Penn State) vs. No. 13 Joshua Roetman (Navy)
    When/Where: Sunday, Nov. 10 at 2 p.m. ET: Navy at Penn State (BTN+)

    Conel has wrestled only two matches since his unlikely run to a third-place finish at the 2018 NCAA tournament. He returned to Kent State for what was supposed to be his redshirt season. However, he bowed out with a shoulder injury after only two bouts. After receiving another year and transferring to Penn State, he is expected to make his Nittany Lion debut here.

    Prior to last season, Roetman had a career record of 16-13. However, he put it together last year and finished 26-12 while qualifying for the NCAA tournament. He failed to place, but he did knock off Sawyer Root (Citadel) in the bracket. Root had majored Roetman earlier in the season, so he is clearly making strides and learning on the job.

    On one hand, Conel might be a bit rusty after wrestling only two matches over the last 17 months. On the other hand, he has clearly improved his training situation and may benefit from being in the Penn State room. Either way, he should be the favorite over Roetman, but it will be a good gauge to see where the former Kent State wrestler is that the moment.

    Prediction: Conel (Penn State) major decision over Roetman (Navy)

    285: No. 7 Jere Heino (Campbell) vs. No. 8 Demetrius Thomas (Pittsburgh)
    When/Where: Saturday, Nov. 8 at 2 p.m. ET: Campbell at Pittsburgh (ACCNX)

    Heino has twice made the NCAA tournament. He took a redshirt season last year and only competed at the Midlands where he placed sixth. In that tournament, he defeated Ian Butterbrodt (Brown) and No. 11 Anthony Cassioppi (Iowa). Heino recently represented Finland at the 2019 World Championships.

    Thomas transferred to Pittsburgh from NAIA Williams Baptist prior to last season. In his first year at the Division I level, he went 27-6 and qualified for the NCAA tournament. He went only 1-2 at the tournament with a victory over No. 16 Gannon Gremmel (Iowa State). Thomas started this year off with a 4-1 performance at the Michigan State Open, which saw his only loss coming against No. 5 Mason Parris (Michigan).

    This might turn out to be one of the closer matches on the weekend. Heino has shown an ability score from the neutral position, which could go a long way in a heavyweight match. Of course, Thomas could instead slow the match down and make it a low scoring affair.

    Prediction: Heino (Campbell) decision over Thomas (Pittsburgh)

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