Fifth-ranked Brayton Lee of Minnesota is expected to face No. 6 Kaleb Young of Iowa Friday (Photo/Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com)
It took a while for the collegiate wrestling season to return, and some teams are still not in action. However, the slate of dual meets this week offers several potential top matches. The following previews some of the best potential matches in each weight class.
125: Theorius Robinson (Northern Colorado) vs. No. 13 Trevor Mastrogiovanni (Oklahoma State)
After a strong redshirt year at 133 pounds, Robinson has dropped down to 125 pounds for this season. During his redshirt year, he finished with a 9-3 and picked up a key victory over Montorie Bridges (Wyoming) on his way to the tournament title at the season-opening Cowboy Invitational. The former three-time Colorado state champion has lost his only match of the season against Taylor LaMont (Utah Valley), but he might still be primed to make a run at All-America status this season.
Mastrogiovanni is a true freshman, but he has started all the way at 125 pounds for the Cowboys. He has been perfect so far on the way to a 4-0 record. His best win to date was a 7-4 decision over Oregon State's Brandon Kaylor. Mastrogiovanni wrestled on the high school level for Blair Academy where he was a three-time National Prep champion and finished with a 96-4 record.
This is an early season match between two young wrestlers who could be facing off for years to come in the Big 12 Conference. Mastrogiovanni is probably the more complete wrestler at this point, so he should be the favorite in this match. However, Robinson is a dangerous wrestler in the neutral position, so he might make it interesting.
Prediction: Mastrogiovanni decision over Robinson
133: No. 17 Matt Schmitt (Missouri) vs. Bryce West (Northern Illinois)
Missouri has been perhaps the most active team so far this season, and Schmitt has benefitted from that schedule. He has already built a 5-1 record with victories over Devan Turner (Oregon State), Job Greenwood (Wyoming) and Kyle Biscoglia (Northern Iowa). After qualifying for the NCAA tournament during the 2019 season, Schmitt took a redshirt season last year.
West qualified for the NCAA tournament as a redshirt freshman in 2019. Last season he went 23-11 yet missed out on qualification. So far this season, West has been on the edge of the rankings and is coming into this match after a victory over Drew Marten (Central Michigan).
This battle of MAC rivals could be a preview of the conference tournament. West always seems to end up in high-scoring matches with his three matches so far this season averaging 13.33 total points scored. Schmitt has done a good job controlling the pace of his matches this season, so he should be able to take this decision, but this could be a wild match.
Prediction: Schmitt decision over West
141: No. 12 Dylan Duncan (Illinois) vs. No. 20 Parker Filius (Purdue)
Duncan did not compete in Illinois' successful action this past weekend, but the three-time NCAA qualifier picked up a fall in his only action so far this season as he bested Paul Konrath (Indiana) in 6:18. Last year, Duncan went 19-10 and qualified for the NCAA tournament through the Big Ten. During the season, he picked up key victories over Gabe Tagg (North Carolina) and No. 15 Dresden Simon (Central Michigan).
Filius has yet to make his season debut for Purdue. He qualified for the NCAA tournament last season with a 19-10 record. At the Big Ten tournament, Filius picked up victories over Cole Mattin (Michigan) and Alec McKenna (Northwestern).
These two are developing a bit of a rivalry. They met twice last season with Filius taking their first meeting via an 8-7 score. The rematch came at the Big Ten tournament. This time Duncan controlled the match and kept the scoring to a minimum. In the end, he took home a 3-1 decision. If this match happens, expect a similar result to their last meeting.
Prediction: Duncan decision over Filius
149: No. 1 Austin O'Connor (North Carolina) vs. No. 19 Josh Finesilver (Duke)
O'Connor enters this season as the favorite to win the 149-pound weight class. He went 25-1 last season with his only defeat coming against Iowa's Pat Lugo who would finish the season ranked No. 1 at the weight. In early December, O'Connor picked up a dominant freestyle victory over former NCAA champion Dean Heil. In his only action this season, he scored a 47-second fall over Jacson Muldrew (Gardner Webb).
After qualifying for the NCAA tournament in back-to-back years, Finesilver took a redshirt year last season. During the year, he went 11-4 with key victories over No. 16 Tanner Smith (Chattanooga) and No. 12 Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech). In his season debut, Finesilver scored a 9-5 victory over Luke Kemerer (Pittsburgh).
If this match materializes, it will be the first meeting between the two. However, O'Connor does have an extensive history against Finesilver's brother Mitch. O'Connor holds a 3-2 record over that Finesilver with their last meeting coming at the 2019 NCAA tournament. O'Connor will likely be the favorite in all the matches he wrestles this season, but the family and Duke-North Carolina rivalries make this a hard match to miss.
Prediction: O'Connor major decision over Finesilver
157: No. 5 Brayton Lee (Minnesota) vs. No. 6 Kaleb Young (Iowa)
Lee moved up to 157 pounds after qualifying for the NCAAs last year at 149 pounds. He went 25-6 as a redshirt freshman and picked up key victories over Griffin Parriott (Purdue), Jarod Verkleeren (Penn State) and Sammy Sasso (Ohio State). So far this year, Lee has picked up three victories over Caleb Licking (Nebraska), Lucas Cordio (Maryland) and Chase Saldate (Michigan State).
Young qualified for the NCAA tournament last year with a 15-5 record, but he had a tough Big Ten tournament that saw him go two and out. However, Young got back on track in his debut to this season. He scored a 17-5 victory over Licking. It was Young's first time scoring over seven points in his last 11 collegiate matches.
This might be a competitive yet low scoring match. Both wrestlers excel defensively, so the first takedown could end up being the difference. Young should be a slight favorite despite the rankings due to his experience. However, neither wrestler winning should surprise anyone.
Prediction: Young decision over Lee
165: No. 14 Andrew Sparks (Minnesota) vs. No. 2 Alex Marinelli (Iowa)
Sparks has earned the starting spot for Minnesota in his first year on campus. Last year, on the high school level, he was a California state champion, and he scored a 7-1 victory over Cael Valencia in the finals. This season, he has gotten off to a strong start with three wins over No. 19 Peyton Robb (Nebraska), Jon Spadafora (Maryland) and No. 18 Jacob Tucker (Michigan State).
Marinelli went 20-1 last year with his only defeat coming against rival Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) in a wild match. With the return of No. 1 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) from redshirt, Marinelli enters this season in the second spot. His senior season got off to a solid start with a 9-3 decision over Robb last weekend.
Sparks has looked the part since stepping on the mat as a true freshman. The level of competition takes a big step up here against Marinelli. The Iowa wrestler is a clear favorite in this match, but he does at times allow opponents to hang around. Look for Marinelli to dominate the ties, but Sparks might be able to keep it closer than expected.
Prediction: Marinelli decision over Sparks
174: No. 15 Hayden Hastings (Wyoming) vs. No. 16 Trey Munoz (Arizona State)
Hastings enters his junior season at Wyoming after qualifying as both a redshirt freshman and sophomore. Last year he went 23-10 and qualified through the Big 12 tournament with victories over Luke Weber (North Dakota State), Billy Higgins (Northern Colorado) and Scott Joll (West Virginia). This year, Hastings has started with four straight victories.
Munoz went 13-2 during a redshirt season last year, but many of those victories came over wrestlers from lower divisions. Despite that, Munoz announced his presence with an 8-3 victory over No. 11 Anthony Mantanona (Oklahoma) in his first official match in an Arizona State singlet.
If Munoz is able to pick up a second victory over a ranked wrestler in his second match, it will show that might be a true contender for All-America status at this weight. Hastings is certainly a tough out for most at this weight. Look for him to physically dominate this match, but Munoz might be able to excel in scrambles.
Prediction: Hastings decision over Munoz
184: John Poznanski (Rutgers) vs. No. 11 Rocky Jordan (Ohio State)
Poznanski comes to Rutgers after a successful high school career. He won a New Jersey state championship in 2020 and finished his career with 164 wins. Poznanski reached as high as third in the 182-pound high school rankings last year. In his first action this year he scored a 6-1 decision over Joseph Walker (Michigan) in Rutgers' dual meet.
Jordan became a somewhat surprising starter for Ohio State at 184 pounds last year. After starting the year at 174, he eventually moved up and assumed the starting role in mid-January. From there, he picked up victories over Zach Braunagel (Illinois), Tyler Dow (Wisconsin), Taylor Venz (Minnesota) and Max Lyon (Purdue). He then qualified for the NCAA tournament. So far this year, Jordan has dropped a rematch against Braunagel and defeated Chris Weiler (Wisconsin).
Poznanski should be a clear underdog in this match. The adjustment to college wrestling can be tougher at the higher weight classes. However, he showed in his lone match this year that he can score from all positions. Look for Jordan to take this decision, but Poznanski has a chance to make a big statement.
Prediction: Jordan decision over Poznanski
197: No. 2 Eric Schultz (Nebraska) vs. No. 11 Lucas Davison (Northwestern)
Schultz justified his ranking last weekend with yet another victory over No. 4 Jacob Warner (Iowa). Warner won their first two collegiate meetings, but Schultz won last year's match up as well as the most recent. The Nebraska wrestler went 23-4 last season and defeated the likes of Shakur Rasheed (Penn State), Greg Bulsak (Clarion) and Jordan Pagano (Rutgers).
Davison has not wrestled yet this season, but he should be a contender in the Big Ten when he finally joins the ranks this year. Last year, he made a strong run through the conference to qualify for the NCAA tournament. He finished with a 17-8 record and scored key victories over Christian Brunner (Purdue), Jackson Striggow (Michigan) and Cordell Eaton (North Dakota State).
Schutlz has made improvements since joining the Nebraska lineup, and he might be in serious contention for an NCAA title this season. Davison is certainly a challenge and has picked up some upsets in the past. However, Schultz's ability to control matches and score when he needs the points will be the difference here.
Prediction: Schutlz decision over Davison
285: No. 15 John Borst (Virginia Tech) vs. No. 20 Quinn Miller (Virginia)
Borst started his college career at 197 pounds, but he moved up to heavyweight after a redshirt year. In his second year at the weight, he broke through and qualified for the NCAA tournament. This year, he is back and looking for his first ACC title, and he is currently the highest ranked heavyweight in the conference. He started this season with three straight wins including back-to-back technical falls over Jacob Cover (Kent State) and Jacob Padilla (Ohio).
Miller also qualified last season for the NCAA tournament through the ACC. He went 19-7 and picked up bonus points in half of his matches. So far this year, he has built a 4-1 record. However, in his last match, he dropped a 2-0 decision against conference opponent Deonte Wilson (North Carolina State).
These two met last season in this rivalry dual. At the time, Borst was the favorite, but Miller ended up taking the 6-4 decision. Since then, Borst has continued to learn on the job. If he is able to stay out of trouble on his leg attacks and finish clean, he should be able to reverse that defeat and maintain his status as the favorite for the ACC title.
Prediction: Borst decision over Miller