Freshman Sammy Sasso is ranked No. 6 at 149 pounds (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
This wild dual meet season continues this weekend. No. 1 Iowa takes on No. 5 Ohio State, while No. 3 Penn State takes on No. 8 Nebraska. In addition to those top duals, there are a variety of intriguing individual matches. The following takes a look at 10 of the best matches going down this weekend.
125: No. 4 Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 12 Alex Mackall (Iowa State)
Since dropping a match against No. 3 Pat Glory (Princeton), Piccininni has rolled off 10 straight victories including a first-place finish at the Southern Scuffle. He will likely be the favorite in most of the matches remaining in the regular season, but he will need to make a hard charge in the NCAA tournament if he wants to challenge the likes of Glory, No. 2 Jack Mueller (Virginia) and No. 1 Spencer Lee (Iowa).
Two weeks ago, Mackall somewhat surprisingly dropped a match against No. 10 Brandon Courtney (Arizona State). However, he rebounded well with a second-period fall over former Iowa State wrestler No. 19 Danny Vega (South Dakota State). On the season Mackall has gone 13-4 with two falls and three technical falls.
Piccininni should be able to have an impact on this match with his ability to ride in the top position. The initial scrambles should be tough against Mackall, but if the Oklahoma State wrestler is able to breakthrough, he should be able to rack up the points.
Prediction: Piccininni (Oklahoma State) major decision over Mackall (Iowa State)
133: No. 3 Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) vs. No. 13 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska)
Bravo-Young brought an undefeated 11-0 record into Penn State's match against Rutgers last weekend, but he had not actually faced a ranked wrestler on the season. Last weekend he needed to go to sudden victory to knock off No. 9 Sammy Alvarez. After starting strong before somewhat fading last year, it looks like Bravo-Young might be rounding into form this year.
Lovett has found a spot in the lineup as a true freshman. He has gone 8-5, but he is currently riding a three-match losing streak. Last weekend he dropped a 7-4 decision against No. 2 Austin DeSanto (Iowa). Despite the current skid, Lovett holds quality wins over No. 15 Todd Small (Iowa State), No. 19 Louie Hayes (Virginia) and Taylor LaMont (Utah Valley).
Look for Bravo-Young to be the favorite in this match. Lovett has shown that he is a tough out, but he has not really been able to knock off opponents at this level. Despite this, the match could end up being closer than expected.
Prediction: Bravo-Young (Penn State) decision over Lovett (Nebraska)
141: No. 2 Nick Lee (Penn State) vs. No. 8 Chad Red (Nebraska)
Lee and Red have a long history that dates back to their high school days. However, they have only wrestled once last year. Lee came in as a big favorite and ended up taking a 5-4 decision. This year Lee has come out of the gates with a ton of momentum and put himself into position for a title run. He holds an 11-0 record, but Red will probably be the best opponent he has faced on the college mats this year.
Red has had some very impressive performances this year and dropped some head scratching decisions. That up-and-down pattern has been on full display in his last two matches. Two weeks ago, he dropped a decision against No. 7 Tristan Moran (Wisconsin) after building an early lead. However, last weekend he got it done over No. 9 Max Murin (Iowa) via decision.
Lee has been on absolute fire this season. As always, his pace is one of his best assets. Even if Red is able to keep the match close early, look for Lee to pull away in the latter periods and extend his winning streak.
Prediction: Lee (Penn State) decision over Red (Nebraska)
149: No. 1 Pat Lugo (Iowa) vs. No. 6 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State)
Over the last few weeks Lugo has really cemented himself as the top wrestler at this weight class. Then again, he will likely need to turn back a hard challenge here to hold his spot. Last season these two met at the Midlands, and Sasso escaped with a 6-4 sudden victory win. This year Lugo has been able to win all 13 of his matches, and he has knocked off No. 7 Jarrett Degen (Iowa State), No. 2 Austin O'Connor (North Carolina) and No. 12 Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa).
Sasso dropped a two-point match against fellow freshman No. 5 Brayton Lee (Minnesota) at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, but he has gone undefeated since that event. During his current win streak, he has picked up victories over veteran Josh Maruca (Arizona State) and No. 13 Cole Martin (Wisconsin).
Lugo has had some trouble in close matches over the last few seasons. However, he seems to have put those issues behind him this year. He will need to show that once again against Sasso if he wants to change the result from last season.
Prediction: Lugo (Iowa) decision over Sasso (Ohio State)
157: No. 1 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) vs. No. 12 Will Lewan (Michigan)
After a tough end to college season last March, Deakin picked up some surprising upsets on the senior freestyle circuit. He has continued that momentum so far this year. Not only has he won all 11 of his matches so far, but he has also already defeated some of the best wrestlers at this weight class. At the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational he was able to defeat both No. 3 David Carr (Iowa State) and No. 2 Hayden Hidlay (North Carolina State).
After going 9-2 in limited action last year as a redshirt, Lewan has put himself in the starting lineup for Michigan this year. He has gone 11-2, but he has not lost since November. He has won his last three matches in Big Ten competition including an overtime victory over No. 20 Jake Tucker (Michigan State).
Deakin has been running through people this year. There has been some concern since he went on a bit of a slide around this time last year. However, with his ability to maintain position and pace, it is hard to see Lewan pulling the upset here.
Prediction: Deakin (Northwestern) major decision over Lewan (Michigan)
165: No. 3 David McFadden (Virginia Tech) vs. No. 17 Kennedy Monday (North Carolina)
Since an early season slip against Ethan Smith (Ohio State), McFadden has looked the part of one of the top wrestlers at 165 pounds. He had an impressive run at the Midlands where he knocked off No. 4 Evan Wick (Wisconsin) and No. 14 Danny Braunagel (Illinois) before eventually falling against No. 2 Alex Marinelli (Iowa). Since that tournament he has won four straight matches and picked up bonus in three.
After finishing in the round of 12 as a redshirt freshman two seasons ago, Monday missed a large portion of last year with an injury. He has returned this year, and he will likely once again be on the cusp to become an All-American. Monday has gone 16-4 on the season, and he has also won four straight matches since the Midlands.
It is hard to see anyone besides the very best at 165 pounds defeating McFadden this year. He has solid offense and enough scrambling ability to make it a tough day for opponents. Monday has reliable offense, but he does struggle to completely put matches together at times.
Prediction: McFadden (Virginia Tech) decision over Monday (North Carolina)
174: No. 7 Devin Skatzka (Minnesota) vs. No. 8 Kaleb Romero (Ohio State)
After transferring to Minnesota for his junior season last year, Skatzka became an All-American for the first time with an eighth-place finish. This year he has already built a 23-4 record. He is currently riding a six-match winning streak, which includes five bonus-point victories.
Romero had a tough showing at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational that saw him go 1-2 and fail to place. However, other than that event, he has been perfect on the season. In early January, he picked up an impressive 7-3 decision win over No. 10 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State) in what turned out to be the swing match of the dual. Last weekend he defeated No. 9 Joey Gunther (Illinois) via a 6-3 score.
These two wrestled earlier this year, and it was about as close as possible When the dust settled, it was Skatzka who walked away with the 1-0 decision victory. It is hard to imagine this match following that same course, but Skatzka showed that he is willing to employ any strategy to win the match.
Prediction: Skatzka (Minnesota) decision over Romero (Ohio State)
184: No. 8 Taylor Venz (Nebraska) vs. No. 17 Cameron Caffey (Michigan State)
Venz will be looking to get back on track this week after being upset by true freshman Abe Assad (Iowa) last weekend. Prior to that, Venz had appeared to be one of the many contenders for high placement at this weight despite already picking up five losses on the season.
Caffey certainly has a style all to himself. He is able to score highlight reel throws and pick up falls, but he will also drop some matches that you might not expect. The Michigan State product has gone 17-6 on the year, and he has already scored eight falls on the year.
This should be a very interesting match. Caffey can seemingly score on anyone. However, he will likely struggle on the bottom against Venz. The Nebraska wrestler lost some scrambles last week, so do not be surprised if he comes out a bit more conservative and tries to work from the top position.
Prediction: Venz (Nebraska) decision over Caffey (Michigan State)
197: No. 1 Kollin Moore (Ohio State) vs. No. 6 Jacob Warner (Iowa)
Moore seems to be the favorite to run away with the title at this weight. He has started his senior season with an 18-0 record, and he has already knocked off the likes of No. 14 Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State), No. 20 Jordan Pagano (Rutgers). No. 12 Thomas Lane (Cal Poly) and No. 5 Nathan Traxler (Stanford).
Iowa fans likely keep thinking that Warner has turned the corner. However, every breakthrough win seems to come with a loss that brings him back down to earth. After pulling away late and scoring an 8-2 decision over No. 7 Christian Brunner (Purdue), Warner returned the following week to drop a match against No. 8 Eric Schultz (Nebraska). The loss to Schultz was extra surprising considering he bested him twice last season.
These two met last year in the Big Ten tournament, and Moore took a 5-2 victory. While that lead is nowhere near insurmountable, Warner really struggles to create his own offense against high level wrestlers. If Moore is smart and conservative with his attacks, that should deprive Warner of offense and hold onto the victory.
Prediction: Moore (Ohio State) decision over Warner (Iowa)
285: No. 13 Jere Heino (Campbell) vs. Jamarcus Grant (Oregon State)
Both Campbell and Heino are having solid seasons that are somewhat under the radar. The heavyweight has gone 15-4 on the year and defeated the likes of No. 14 Gannon Gremmel (Iowa State) and No. 17 John Borst (Virginia Tech). All four of his losses have come against wrestlers currently ranked in the top 12.
Grant has not been able to wrestle his way into the heavyweight rankings, and his record only stands at 13-13. However, he has had some very impressive showings despite being somewhat undersized. With the right kind of draw, Grant is someone who could find a way to qualify through the Pac 12 and make the NCAA tournament.
Obviously Heino should be the favorite here, but Grant is certainly an underrated guy at this point, and an upset is not entirely out of the question.
Prediction: Heino (Campbell) major decision over Grant (Oregon State)