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    Best match to watch in every weight class this weekend

    Mark Hall has three wins over Jordan Kutler over the last two seasons (Photo/Lehigh Athletics)

    After many teams took a bit of a holiday break last weekend, the season is back in full force this weekend. There are several top duals as well as the annual Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. The following are some of the best potential matches at each weight.

    125: No. 1 Spencer Lee (Iowa) vs No. 4 Patrick Glory (Princeton)
    When/Where: Sunday, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. ET: Iowa at Princeton (ESPN+)

    The series between Lee and Glory has been rather interesting so far. Last year, during Glory's true freshman season, the two faced off twice. In the first meeting, Lee got out to a big lead as he is want to do, and he ended up finishing the match in the second period via 18-2 technical fall. The rematch was much more interesting. Once again Lee got out to a big lead, and he had the advantage 12-0 after the first. However, Glory rode him well in the latter two periods and put up six straight points. Lee still took the bout via a 12-6 score, but he looked extremely vulnerable at points.

    Despite the tough second and third periods against Glory, Lee got back on track and ended up picking up his second NCAA title last season. This year he has gotten off to yet another hot start. He has won all three of his match by a combined score of 49-7.

    Glory went on to finish sixth at the NCAA tournament to become an All-American in his first season of collegiate wrestling. This season he has defeated all five of his opponents. Glory ran through the field at the Princeton Open with three technical falls and a pin. In his last outing, he went to sudden victory against No. 11 Brandon Paetzell (Lehigh) but still pulled out the win.

    Considering that Lee holds two wins over Glory, it is not a stretch to call him the favorite in this bout. However, Glory gave him fits in their second meeting, which makes the rematch interesting. The competitive level of this match should serve as a barometer to see where both of these wrestlers are at this point in the season.

    Prediction: Lee (Iowa) major decision over Glory (Princeton)

    133: No. 7 Chas Tucker (Cornell) vs. No. 8 Montorie Bridges (Wyoming)
    When/Where: Friday/Saturday, Dec. 6-7: Cliff Keen Las Vegas (FloWrestling)

    Tucker got a bit of a late start to the season as he was representing the U.S. at the U23 World Championships. However, he has certainly made up for lost time with seven straight victories to start the year. Tucker knocked off Ohio State' Dylan Koontz last weekend.

    Bridges quest to get back on the podium this year hit a bit of a speed bump early in the season. He dropped a one-point match against true freshman Theorius Robinson (Northern Colorado). However, other than that he has been perfect. In his last action, he scored a major decision victory over Zak Hensley (Nebraska) to improve to 6-1 on the year.

    These two met last year. It was a close bout, and Bridges ended up taking the 2-1 victory in tie breakers. Neither wrestler has really faced that toughest competition this year, so if they meet at CKLV it will be a really good test. Bridges has always been hard to score on, and that should help him pull out another close victory over Tucker.

    Prediction: Bridges (Wyoming) decision over Tucker (Cornell)

    141: No. 1 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) vs. No. 2 Dom Demas (Oklahoma)
    When/Where: Friday/Saturday, Dec. 6-7: Cliff Keen Las Vegas (FloWrestling)

    One of the biggest results of the early part of the season was Pletcher's upset over Demas at the Michigan State Open. At the time, Demas was the No. 1-ranked wrestler at the weight. After defeating him in tie breakers, Pletcher took over that spot and has held onto it since.

    Pletcher not only won that match, but he has dispatched all nine of his opponents so far this year. Another highlight of the young season for the Buckeye was his sudden victory win over No. 14 Real Woods (Stanford). After back-to-back fourth-place finishes at the NCAA tournament at 133 pounds, Pletcher is a clear title contender this year at 141.

    Demas burst onto the scene last year with his throwing and pinning ability. He ended up finishing fourth at this weight to become an All-American for the first time. Demas began the year ranked No. 1, but he has had some head-scratching results. He already went to overtime with two unranked wrestlers, including Ohio's Kyran Hagan, who is 1-4 on the season. On the other hand, he remains overly dangerous and pinned No. 6 Chad Red (Nebraska) in a little over a minute last month.

    This match really represents a contrast in styles. Demas will go for the big move and occasionally makes quick work of solid wrestlers. On the other hand, Pletcher chooses to slow down the match and win close against top competitions. The first round went to Pletcher, and that will likely happen again here. However, one big move from Demas could result in a change at the top of the rankings.

    Prediction: Pletcher (Ohio State) decision over Demas (Oklahoma)

    149: No. 5 Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa) vs. No. 12 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State)
    When/Where: Friday/Saturday, Dec. 6-7: Cliff Keen Las Vegas (FloWrestling)

    After becoming an All-American in his first year in the lineup for UNI, Thomsen has seen his last two seasons end in the round of 12. He returns this year as one of the favorites to reach the podium. Things looked great at the start of the year as he won the Cyclone Open and knocked off No. 6 Jarrett Degen (Iowa State) before defeating No. 19 Yahya Thomas (Northwestern). Thomsen then hit a bit of a snag and dropped a decision against No. 13 Collin Purinton (Nebraska) his last time out. Things do not get an easier here against Sasso.

    After a strong redshirt season last year, many are expecting a breakout performance from Sasso this year. Much like Thomsen he started the year with a lot of momentum. He won the Michigan State Open with wins over Nate Limmex (Purdue) and Kanen Storr (Michigan). The only blemish on his season was a surprising defeat via fall against Brent Moore (Virginia Tech).

    The expectations around Sasso are huge, and he gets a chance to prove the believers true at the CKLV Invitational. Thomsen will likely be his toughest opponent if they meet. Sasso has let some wrestlers stick around with him, but he should be the one getting his hand raised at the end of the day.

    Prediction: Sasso (Ohio State) decision over Thomsen (Northern Iowa)

    157: No. 1 Hayden Hidlay (NC State) vs. No. 3 David Carr (Iowa State)
    When/Where: Friday/Saturday, Dec. 6-7: Cliff Keen Las Vegas (FloWrestling)

    By all accounts, Hidlay appears to be the man to beat at 157 pounds this year. After a second and fourth-place finishes as well as the graduation of Jason Nolf, the junior could find himself at the very top of the podium at the end of the year. Hidlay has been perfect so far this year through eight matches, and he has picked up five bonus-point victories along the way. He has already bested No. 5 Larry Early (ODU), who holds a win over him.

    After a gold medal performance at the Junior World Championships in the offseason, it looked like the time was now for Carr. However, there were still some lingering concerns about the transferability of his freestyle success to the folkstyle mats. Carr answered those questions in his last outing as he scored a 6-1 victory over No. 4 Kaleb Young (Iowa). Young's noted defense held early, but Carr was persistent and pulled out the win with third-period scoring.

    If this match happens at CKLV Invitational it will likely draw the most eyeballs of any match this weekend. Carr is clearly one of the next big things in college wrestling. However, it is entirely possible that he will struggle to put points on the board against Hidlay. The NC State wrestler is extremely hard to move out of position and has shown he can get to his offense when needed.

    Prediction: Hidlay (NC State) decision over Carr (Iowa State)

    165: No. 6 David McFadden (Virginia Tech) vs. No. 12 Ethan Smith (Ohio State)
    When/Where: Friday/Saturday, Dec. 6-7: Cliff Keen Las Vegas (FloWrestling)

    Earlier this season Virginia Tech picked up an epic dual victory over Ohio state. However, in that match, Smith picked up one of his biggest wins to date as he knocked off McFadden. The match was somewhat controversial as Smith benefited from two penalty points, and there was a meaningful video review. The two could easily meet at the CKLV Invitational to settle the score.

    Outside of his loss against Smith, McFadden has been perfect on the season. He won the Navy Classic, and his run through the field included a win over No. 17 Zach Hartman (Bucknell). McFadden also knocked off former top prospect Peyton Mocco (Missouri).

    Last season Smith had 13 losses, but he still managed to reach the round of 16 at the NCAA tournament. The Ohio State faithfuls were looking for him to take a big step forward this year. The victory over McFadden was big for him, but his season record still stands at 7-3. Another win and a strong performance at the CKLV Invitational would do wonders for his confidence going forward.

    McFadden would have won the first match if the review went his way, but at the same time the referees probably got the call correct. This will likely be another close match. McFadden was the favorite in the first bout, and he remains the favorite here.

    Prediction: McFadden (Virginia Tech) decision over Smith (Ohio State)

    174: No. 1 Mark Hall (Penn State) vs. No. 2 Jordan Kutler (Lehigh)
    When/Where: Friday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. ET: Penn State at Lehigh (ESPN+)

    With Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) moving up to 184 pounds, Hall became the prohibitive favorite at 174 pounds. He has annihilated his competition so far this year. The three-time NCAA finalist has won all five of his matches with two major decisions and three falls.

    Kutler has also benefited from Valencia's move out of the weight. He finds himself in the No. 2 spot. He has nearly been as dominant as Hall this year. The two-time All-American is riding a seven-match winning streak that includes three major decisions and two falls. Kutler also knocked off No. 5 Mikey Labriola (Nebraska) at the Journeyman Collegiate Classic earlier this year.

    On one hand, Hall owns three victories over Kutler over the last two seasons. On the other hand, none of the matches have been blowouts. Their first meeting was a one-point win and the other two each had a four-point differential. Obviously Hall is the favorite, but Kutler could almost certainly pull off the upset. Hall likes to play it close, and that almost always works out for him. Kutler would need to greatly increase his volume on the feet and that seems unlikely to happen.

    Prediction: Hall (Penn State) decision over Kutler (Lehigh)

    184: No. 1 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) vs. No. 4 Trent Hidlay (NC State)
    When/Where: Friday/Saturday, Dec. 6-7: Cliff Keen Las Vegas (FloWrestling)

    Valencia is probably itching to get back on the mats. Even though his squad stopped Penn State's long winning streak in their last dual, he did not get a chance to compete as the Nittany Lions forfeited to him. The two-time NCAA champion is 8-0 on the year with all of his wins coming with bonus points save for his one-point win over No. 6 Taylor Venz (Nebraska).

    Hidlay has started off his first season as a starter with a bang. He has won all six of his matches, and he has already picked up a pair of signature wins. First he bested No. 7 Ben Darmstadt (Cornell). Hidlay then returned in the same weekend and defeated No. 6 Lou DePrez (Binghamton).

    The competition gets much tougher for Hidlay here, but he has passed every test so far. Valencia is going to be the favorite in every match he wrestles this year, so he will almost certainly walk away as the champion of the CKLV Invitational. However, it is always interesting to see if the up and coming prospect can take out a returning champion.

    Prediction: Valencia (Arizona State) decision over Hidlay (NC State)

    197: No. 2 Patrick Brucki (Princeton) vs. No. 3 Jacob Warner (Iowa)
    When/Where: Sunday, Dec. 8 at 2 p.m. ET: Iowa at Princeton (ESPN+)

    Brucki finished third at the NCAA tournament last year and all three of his losses came against wrestlers who have since graduated. He starts the season as the second-ranked wrestler, and he could very easily make it to the NCAA finals. He defaulted out of his first competition of the season. However, he was back on the mat last weekend and picked up a 7-4 decision over No. 15 Jake Jakobsen (Lehigh).

    This season has been a bit of a mixed bag for Warner so far. He has won all three of his matches and climbed into the top three in the country. However, he has had some difficulty distancing himself from lesser competition. For example, in his last match he scored a 5-2 decision over Taylor Watkins (Wisconsin). Watkins came into the match with an 0-5 record and a 21-26 career record against Division I competition.

    If Brucki is healthy he should be able to control this match on the feet and do enough to win. Warner has struggled to get out on bottom against higher level competition and struggles to score too often in his matches. This match might happen against at tournament time, so it should provide some much needed experience for Warner.

    Prediction: Brucki (Princeton) decision over Warner (Iowa)

    285: No. 1 Anthony Cassar (Penn State) vs. No. 10 Jordan Wood (Lehigh)
    When/Where: Friday, Dec. 6 at 7 p.m. ET: Penn State at Lehigh (ESPN+)

    The returning NCAA champion has wrestled only two matches so far this season. He also did not compete in freestyle at the Bill Farrell like some of his Penn State teammates. Regardless, he is 2-0, and he knocked off All-American No. 6 Tanner Hall (Arizona State).

    Wood was one of the top returning placers at the start of this season. However, he has fallen somewhat down the rankings due to a pair of losses. He dropped a match against No. 5 Tate Orndorff (Utah Valley) and another against No. 9 Demetrius Thomas (Pittsburgh). Despite those losses he remains a top heavyweight and will likely return to the podium at the end of the season.

    Last year Cassar's heavyweight coming-out party really came against Wood. After moving up from 197 pounds, his first real heavyweight test was against Wood, and he passed it with a major decision. This could be an interesting match again this year. Wood really needs to get back his momentum, but that could be a tough task against the NCAA champion.

    Prediction: Cassar (Penn State) decision over Wood (Lehigh)

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