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  • Photo: Photo/Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Photo/Tony Rotundo

    Best match to watch in every weight class this weekend

    Seth Gross, ranked No. 1, is expected to meet No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young on Friday night (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    Last weekend's wild match between No. 1 Iowa and No. 3 Penn State showed off just how great the college wrestling dual season can be. This weekend there are several more top duals including No. 2 North Carolina State versus No. 9 North Carolina and No. 3 Penn State versus No. 8 Wisconsin. The following previews some of the top individual matches from this weekend.

    125: No. 20 Nic Aguilar (Rutgers) vs. Jonathon Tropea (Rider)

    Aguilar is currently sitting right on the edge of the InterMat rankings. He has managed to hold on despite a three-match losing streak in the Big Ten. Even though he has struggled recently, he has had a solid redshirt freshman season. He has defeated the likes of Malik Heinselman (Ohio State), Joey Prata (Virginia Tech) and Gage Curry (American).

    Tropea got off to a hot start to the season. He won five of his first six matches and picked up a signature win over No. 13 Patrick McKee (Minnesota). Tropea has cooled off a little bit as the season has gone on. However, the redshirt junior still holds a 15-9 record and has been in and out of the rankings.

    A match like this could have an impact on qualification and allocations. Both wrestlers have shown that they have the potential to knock off top opposition, but they have struggled with consistency. The dual between Rutgers and Rider should be an interesting in-state clash, and this match is one of the many strong individual contests. Look for Tropea to get it done thanks to his experience.

    Prediction: Tropea (Rutgers) decision over Aguilar (Rutgers)

    133: No. 1 Seth Gross (Wisconsin) vs. No. 2 Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State)

    After a December loss against No. 3 Austin DeSanto (Iowa), Gross has gotten back on track and gone on an extensive winning streak. At the Midlands, he got revenge over DeSanto and also knocked off No. 5 Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern). Since that tournament Gross has won all five of his matches with bonus points. In his last outing the Wisconsin wrestler needed only 1:12 to pin Travis Ford-Melton (Purdue).

    Bravo-Young defeated DeSanto last weekend via injury default. Regardless of how one feels about that victory, he has had a very impressive season. He holds a 15-0 record and has picked up bonus points in nine of those matches. Bravo-Young has also defeated the likes of No. 9 Sammny Alvarez (Rutgers) and No. 14 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska).

    In terms of traditional neutral wrestling, Bravo-Young may have the advantage. He has solid leg attacks and gets to them frequently. However, finishing against Gross is not an easy task. On top of that, Gross always has the opportunity to make a difference from the top position. This will be an interesting match that could have an impact on seeding at the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments.

    Prediction: Gross (Wisconsin) decision over Bravo-Young (Penn State)

    141: No. 5 Dom Demas (Oklahoma) vs. No. 6 Ian Parker (Iowa State)

    Demas started the season as the No. 1-ranked wrestler at this weight class. He has dropped a few matches and now finds himself fifth. Two of his losses have come against No. 1 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) and No. 4 Mitch McKee (Minnesota). His only real surprising loss came against unranked Caleb Rea (West Virginia) a few weeks back. Despite the losses Demas has gone 19-3 with wins over No. 20 Michael Blockhus (Northern Iowa), No. 19 Mitch Moore (Virginia Tech) and No. 8 Chad Red (Nebraska).

    Parker has held his own most of this season and built an impressive 15-2 record. Since the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, he has won eight straight matches. During the run, he has knocked off Moore, Dusty Hone (Oklahoma State) and No. 12 Josh Heil (Campbell).

    These two met back in December at the Cliff Keen Invitational. Demas surprisingly won the bout via technical fall. It was the third meeting between the two wrestlers and the previous matches were both decisions. Parker won the first in sudden victory. Demas won the second at the Big 12 tournament, 8-4. Was the technical fall victory a sign of the growing gap between the wrestlers or just an odd occurrence? Parker has the chance to answer that question here.

    Prediction: Demas (Oklahoma) decision over Parker (Iowa State)

    149: No. 2 Pat Lugo (Iowa) vs. No. 9 Kanen Storr (Michigan)

    Lugo has bounced back from his first loss of the season with back-to-back decision victories over Jarod Verkleeren (Penn State) and Alex Hrisopoulos (Michigan State). While neither decision came with bonus points, neither match was particularly close either. Other than his lone loss against No. 1 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State), Lugo has been dominant and defeated the likes of No. 7 Jarrett Degen (Iowa State), No. 12 Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa) and No. 3 Austin O'Connor (North Carolina).

    Storr was originally set to redshirt this season, but he returned to the starting lineup following the first semester. Since the Midlands, he has gone on a six-match winning streak with his last three wins coming with bonus points. In his last match, Storr picked up a 17-1 technical fall over Gerard Angelo (Rutgers).

    The knock on Lugo is that he can be a bit too conservative at times. However, he has done a lot better working on top this year and riding. He may not be getting turns, but his riding ability has helped him build and hold leads. Storr is a tough out, but he will likely struggle to score against Lugo's noted defense.

    Prediction: Lugo (Iowa) decision over Storr (Michigan)

    157: Jacori Teemer (Arizona State) vs. N0. 12 Jarrett Jacques (Missouri)

    Teemer had a tough start to his redshirt freshman season. He went 4-4 through his first eight bouts. However, Teemer has settled things down recently and won five of his last six matches. His only loss during the stretch came against No. 3 David Carr (Iowa State). In his last match, he put up 19 points against Tyler Eischens (Stanford) and won via technical fall.

    Jacques dropped from 10th to 12th in the rankings this week following an overtime loss against formerly unranked No. 20 Wyatt Sheets (Oklahoma State). Despite the loss, Jacques has put together a 21-5 record that includes a signature win over No. 10 Larry Early (Old Dominion).

    Prediction: Jacques (Missouri) decision over Teemer (Arizona State)

    165: No. 16 Kennedy Monday (North Carolina) vs. No. 10 Thomas Bullard (NC State)

    The match between No. 9 North Carolina and No. 2 North Carolina State is perhaps the premier dual of the weekend. If North Carolina has any hope of pulling the upset, they will likely need points from Monday. The redshirt junior picked up his biggest win of the season two weeks ago when he scored a technical fall over No. 6 David McFadden (Virginia Tech). However, Monday then turned around and surrendered a fall against No. 15 Zach Hartman (Bucknell).

    Bullard has always been stout defensively and hard to score on. He had some impressive wins early this season over the likes of Ethan Smith (Ohio State) and Joe Lee (Penn State). However, he has wrestled only three times since the Southern Scuffle.

    Monday has the offense to get this victory. He will need to make sure to not give up points on counters. Bullard is tough to score on, but if Monday is intelligently persistent he can win the bout.

    Prediction: Monday (North Carolina) decision over Bullard (NC State)

    174: No. 6 Michael Labriola (Nebraska) vs. No. 4 Dylan Lydy (Purdue)

    The series between Labriola and Lydy has been extensive and competitive. The two first met at the Midlands during the 2017-2018 season. They faced off twice in the tournament with Lydy taking a pair of decisions. Their third match came at the 2019 Big Ten tournament. This time Labriola scored a 4-3 overtime victory. Larbiola repeated that feat with another 4-3 victory at the NCAA tournament. Lydy got back in the win column in the rivalry this year as he scored a 3-1 sudden victory decision over the Nebraska wrestler at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational.

    Labriola recently dropped a pair of matches against No. 1 Michael Kemerer (Iowa) and No. 2 Mark Hall (Penn State). However, he has gotten back on track with two victories. In his last match, he scored a 3-1 decision over No. 7 Kaleb Romero (Ohio State). Lydy has gone 26-1 on the season with his only loss coming against Kemerer. Since losing to the Iowa wrestler, he has won five straight matches.

    Lydy's strong defensive ability has been key to his success in this series. He holds position well and is extremely hard to score on. However, this year he has also turned on his offense. This will be a close match, but look for Lydy to do just enough to edge Labriola in their sixth collegiate match.

    Prediction: Lydy (Purdue) decision over Labriola (Nebraska)

    184: No. 12 Billy Janzer (Rutgers) vs. No. 15 Zach Braunagel (Illinois)

    Janzer has gone 17-5 on the season and is currently riding a three-match winning streak. After falling against No. 7 Aaron Brooks (Penn State), Janzer defeated Jakob Hinz (Indiana), Max Lyon (Purdue) in over time and No. 20 Jelani Embree (Michigan).

    Braunagel has alternated wins and losses since the Midlands. He dropped a match against Brooks before recovering to tech Hinz. He then dropped a match against No. 14 Rocky Jordan (Ohio State) before bouncing back against Embree. Last weekend Braunagel lost to No. 8 Cam Caffey (Michigan State) on Friday and then beat Jack Jessen (Northwestern) on Sunday.

    While Braunagel has not been particularly consistent, he has shown that he can take out wrestlers at a certain level. When the competition has been overly tough he has struggled, but he should have enough offense to score a victory over Janzer. This match could have seeding and qualification implications come tournament time.

    Prediction: Braunagel (Illinois) decision over Janzer (Rutgers)

    197: No. 3 Patrick Brucki (Princeton) vs. No. 4 Ben Darmstadt (Cornell)

    Brucki has gone 14-2 to start his junior season. One of those losses came against No. 6 Jacob Warner (Iowa), which he avenged at the Midlands. Since the Midlands, where Brucki finished third, he has won four straight matches including a victory over No. 20 Nick Reenan (NC State).

    Darmstadt took some losses early in the season after missing the entire previous year with injury. Following the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, he has started looking more and more like himself. He has won seven of his last eight matches with his only defeat coming via injury default. During the stretch he has also scored two falls and a technical fall.

    These two wrestled once before. During the 2017-2018 the two met in a dual meet match, and Darmstadt scored a 9-6 victory. Since then Brucki has worked to build himself into more of an offensive threat. However, Darmstadt's reach and length will continue to be a problem. If he is healthy, he should be able to take this one.

    Prediction: Darmstadt (Cornell) decision over Brucki (Princeton)

    285: No. 2 Mason Parris (Michigan) vs. No. 3 Anthony Cassioppi (Iowa)

    For those that consider No. 1 Gable Steveson (Minnesota) to be the clear favorite at this weight, the match between Parris and Cassioppi is the battle for the clear No. 2. Both are undefeated and have picked up multiple ranked wins over the course of the season.

    Parris has started this season with a perfect 22-0 record. It includes eight victories via fall. He has already defeated No. 8 Demetrius Thomas (Pittsburgh), No. 4 Matt Stencel (Central Michigan) and No. 6 Tanner Hall (Arizona State).

    Cassioppi recently shut the door on Penn State with a match sealing win over No. 15 Seth Nevills (Penn State). Like Parris he holds an undefeated record, which currently stands at 15-0 with five falls. In addition to his win over Nevills, he has also bested Stencel, No. 14 Gannon Gremmel (Iowa State) and No. 5 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin).

    These two met in a match at Fargo in the summer of 2018. In the freestyle match, Cassioppi got off to a hot start with a takedown and two quick turns to take a 6-0 lead. Parris then got on the board with a sweep takedown. Cassioppi then scored another six points with a head pinch to win 12-2. On one hand, it was a first-period tech under freestyle rules. On the other hand, each wrestler only scored one takedown. Parris has clearly been developing and learning on the job. However, Cassioppi's ability to ride and scramble should help him pull off a slight upset.

    Prediction: Cassioppi (Iowa) decision over Parris (Michigan)

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