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    Best match to watch in every weight class this weekend

    Hunter Bolen defeated Trent Hidlay twice last season, including in the ACC finals (Photo/Virginia Tech Athletics)

    The shortened college wrestling season is really kicking into high gear. This weekend there are a variety of top duals across the active conferences. The following is the top potential match for each weight class this weekend.

    125: No. 1 Spencer Lee (Iowa) vs. No. 12 Devin Schroder (Purdue)

    These two were the top wrestlers at 125 pounds last season. They both made the finals of the Big Ten tournament. However, Lee had the advantage in the two-match series. He won their first match via 15-0 first-period technical fall and then won the Big Ten title with a 16-2 major decision. Lee's winning ways have continued this season. He has won all three of his matches in under six minutes combined. He has yet to allow an opponent to score a single point and won all matches via first-period fall.

    While Schroder was clearly the best 125-pound wrestler in the Big Ten a season ago, he has started this season with a few issues. He won his first two matches to start the year but then suffered an upset at the hands of Eric Barnett (Wisconsin). Schroder had a 2-0 lead and was building riding time before allowing a reversal, getting caught on his back and dropping the fall. He then dropped a tight 5-3 match against No. 11 Patrick McKee (Minnesota) before getting back on track with a pin over Nic Aguilar (Rutgers) last weekend.

    Lee will be a huge favorite in this match. Despite that, his performance here will go a long way to show just how dominant he will be on the year. If he is able to score a fall or technical fall against Schroder, he might be able to make it through the whole season with bonus points in all matches.

    Prediction: Lee technical fall over Schroder

    133: No. 17 Lucas Byrd (Illinois) vs. Boo Dryden (Minnesota)

    Byrd, a one-time Maryland commit, ended up at Illinois last year after a coaching change. He went 11-4 last year during a redshirt year, and his first year in the lineup has gotten off to a hot start. Byrd won his first four matches over Cayden Rooks (Indiana), Jordan Decatur (Ohio State), Kyle Burwick (Wisconsin) and Nathan Cumings (Purdue). He came back down to earth a bit last week as he dropped a major decision against No. 5 Austin DeSanto (Iowa). However, Byrd looks to be an interesting player at 133 pounds in the Big Ten.

    Dryden transferred to Minnesota from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M prior to last season. At his previous spot, he was a junior college national champion. In his first year in the lineup for the Golden Gophers, he went 11-7 and failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament. However, this year, Dryden has looked ready to qualify. He has gone 3-2 so far including an impressive 9-2 victory over Alex Thomsen (Nebraska) and a fall over Jackson Cokrell (Maryland).

    Dryden's size and length will give a lot of 133-pound wrestlers trouble. This will be Byrd's first look at him, which makes Dryden the favorite. The Minnesota representative should be able to avoid the leg attacks and score from his unorthodox ties. However, this is a result that could be switched around tournament time.

    Prediction: Dryden decision over Byrd

    141: No. 8 Dom Demas (Oklahoma) vs. No. 5 Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State)

    The Bedlam rivalry may be the next chapter in another individual rivalry. As a redshirt freshman, Demas announced himself as a contender at 141 pounds with a 7-6 decision victory in the Bedlam dual. He then topped that victory with a 54-second fall over Brock at the Big 12 tournament. Following that victory, Demas went on to finish fourth at the NCAA tournament. Last year, he held a 26-4 record going into the NCAA tournament that never materialized. So far this year, he has built a 7-1 record with his only defeat coming by a point against No. 7 Ian Parker (Iowa State).

    After finishing fifth at his first two NCAA tournaments, Brock fell in the blood round after losing to Demas at the Big 12 tournament. The Cowboy then missed all of last season with an injury. Brock has returned this year and won all four of his matches, a forfeit and three decisions. However, he missed some action last weekend, and the injury bug reportedly might be back in the picture.

    Brock would love nothing more than to get some revenge here against Demas. Despite Oklahoma State's historic dominance over Oklahoma in this series, Demas has had the edge over Brock. If this match does happen, look for Demas to be the favorite. However, both wrestlers are known to go for big throws so any finish is on the table.

    Prediction: Demas decision over Brock

    149: No. 12 Josh Heil (Campbell) vs. Tanner Smith (Chattanooga)

    After back-to-back seasons qualifying for the NCAA tournament, Heil is back this year and looking to finish as an All-American. His senior year got off to a rocky start as he dropped a 12-9 decision against No. 11 Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech) in his first match. However, Heil got back on track with victories over Chon Porter (The Citadel) and David Loniewski (Davidson).

    Smith also enters this season after qualifying for the NCAA tournament for the last two years. Last year, he went 25-9 with key victories over P.J. Ogunsanya (Army), Russel Rohlfing (CSU Bakersfield), No. 19 Graham Rooks (Indiana) and Morgan Fuenffinger (Navy). In his only match this season, Smith scored a 14-2 major decision over Dalton Flint (Emmanuel).

    149 pounds will likely be the strongest weight in the SoCon this year. Both Heil and Smith were ranked as well as No. 15 Jonathan Millner (Appalachian State). Heil should be the favorite here since he has slicker offense on the feet. However, Smith is certainly up to the challenge and could make this interesting.

    Prediction: Heil decision over Smith

    157: No. 20 Justin Ruffin (SIU-E) vs. No. 14 Jarrett Jacques (Missouri)

    Jacques does hold a 2-0 edge over Ruffin in their series, but both matches have been tight. Their first meeting came during the 2019 season in a dual meet. Jacques prevailed, but he needed to score a takedown in sudden victory. The rematch came the following season at the Lindenwood Open. The second match ended in regulation, but it was still a one-score match as the Missouri wrestler took a 3-1 victory.

    Ruffin has qualified for the NCAA tournament in both of his previous seasons. He has started this season with an 8-1 record that includes two falls, a technical fall and two major decisions. Ruffin's only defeat on the year came against Jalin Harper (Oklahoma State).

    Jacques has also gotten off to a solid start. The two-time NCAA qualifier holds a 7-1 record with his only defeat coming against No. 3 David Carr (Iowa State). Last weekend, Jacques picked up a pair of decision victories over Jordan Slivka (Ohio) and Anthony Gibson (Northern Illinois).

    The Missouri wrestler has had the edge in this series, and the smart money would expect him to pick up another win here. However, the tightness of the two previous contests and the growing familiarity makes this a hard match to miss this weekend.

    Prediction: Jacques decision over Ruffin

    165: No. 11 Jake Wentzel (Pittsburgh) vs. No. 9 Kennedy Monday (North Carolina)

    The ACC is having a very strong year with five teams currently ranked in the InterMat tournament rankings. Pittsburgh and North Carolina are two of those teams, and both of these wrestlers are a big part of that success. They met twice last season. Monday won the first meeting via an 8-5 score, while Wentzel reversed that result with a 3-2 victory at the ACC tournament. This year, the Pittsburgh wrestler has started his season with a 5-1 record. His only defeat came against No. 15 Thomas Bullard (North Carolina State).

    Monday was undefeated on the year before dropping a one-point match against former NCAA champion No. 1 Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech) last weekend. Unlike Wentzel, Monday has already picked up a victory over Bullard as he bested the NC State wrestler with a 4-2 victory.

    Throughout his career, Monday has had issues with consistency. He will pick up some shocking upsets and then end up on the other side of an upset. If he is at his best, he should be able to keep his distance and score from space against Wentzel. However, considering they split last year, Wentzel is certainly a live underdog. It should be a good gauge for both wrestlers as this is a stacked weight in the ACC.

    Prediction: Monday decision over Wentzel

    174: Joe Grello/Jackson Turley (Rutgers) vs. Drew Hughes (Michigan State)

    Grello has struggled through injuries during his career, and that might be the case again as he defaulted out of his last match. Even if he is not able to go, his replacement should present an interesting challenge for Hughes. Turley started both duals for Rutgers last weekend and picked up a pair of victories over Emil Soehnlen (Purdue) and Jake Allar (Minnesota). The Allar victory was particularly interesting since he came in as a bit of an underdog and won via 17-2 technical fall.

    Hughes is a three-time NCAA qualified, but the Big Ten schedule can be rather harsh. He won his season debut with a 4-2 victory over Philip Spadafora (Maryland). However, since that victory, Hughes has dropped back-to-back matches via major decision against Allar and Kaleb Romero (Ohio State).

    This is the kind of match that could make the difference between qualifying and not inside the always competitive Big Ten. It could be Turley's spot to hold down for now, and he should be able to overwhelm Hughers with offense if the match happens.

    Prediction: Turley decision over Hughes

    184: No. 4 Trent Hidlay (North Carolina State) vs. No. 2 Hunter Bolen (Virginia Tech)

    Including his redshirt year, Hidlay has only lost six matches in his collegiate career. Two of those losses came against Bolen. Their first meeting came in mid-February last season where Bolen scored a 3-1 victory. The rematch came at the ACC tournament. Bolen won yet again, but it was even closer at 2-1. Hidlay has started this year with three straight victories. He has defeated Michael Battista (Virginia), Gegg Harvey (Pittsburgh) and No. 19 Clay Lautt (North Carolina) all by decision.

    Bolen will also enter this match with an undefeated record. He has won all six of his matches so far with one major decision and one technical fall. Last weekend, Bolen scored a dominant 8-3 decision over Lautt.

    Both of their previous meetings were very close, and this one should not be any different. Hidlay normally does a good job of controlling the pace and pulling out tight matches. However, he has not been able to overcome Bolen. Look for Bolen's slight physical edge to carry him again here. However, this should be an interesting rivalry for the rest of the season.

    Prediction: Bolen decision over Hidlay

    197: No. 6 Tanner Sloan (South Dakota State) vs. No. 20 Younger Bastida (Iowa State)

    As a redshirt freshman, Sloan finished second at the Big 12 tournament, qualified for the NCAA tournament and was given All-America honors following the season. At the Big 12 tournament, he won his first three matches over Jacob Seely (Northern Colorado), No. 12 Jake Woodley (Oklahoma) and Joel Shaprio (Iowa State) before falling against No. 1 Noah Adams (West Virginia) in the finals. He has started this season with an undefeated 10-0 record.

    Bastida came to Iowa State from Cuba where he was a junior world silver medalist and a U23 world bronze medalist in freestyle. He is making the transition to freestyle for the first time. He has gone 4-3 so far this year. The transition has been difficult, but last weekend, he showed that the hype is real as he had a back-and-forth match against No. 11 A.J. Ferrari (Oklahoma State).

    Bastida will likely be a work in progress throughout the season. The wrestler that shows up around tournament time might be a tougher challenge than the current edition. This match will be a very tough test. Not only does Sloan have the edge in folkstyle experience, but he also is especially strong riding from the top position. Bastida should struggle, but the experience could be huge for his future development.

    Prediction: Sloan major decision over Bastida

    285: No. 1 Gable Steveson (Minnesota) vs. No. 9 Luke Luffman (Illinois)

    Steveson has been extraordinarily dominant this season. He has won all six of his matches with bonus points including a major decision, four technical falls and a 13-second fall. Steveson is the clear favorite to make the NCAA finals this season.

    This match may have been a bit more intriguing before last week. Luffman won his first four matches on the season including a pair of wins over No. 12 Tate Orndorff (Ohio State) and No. 11 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin). However, last weekend, Luffman's momentum came to halt as he fell against No. 3 Anthony Cassioppi (Iowa) via second-period fall.

    This will be the first time Luffman gets a chance to face off against Steveson in college. It will certainly be a tough night for him as Steveson is a huge favorite. However, Luffman was an accomplished wrestler on the high school level and is rounding into form.

    Prediction: Steveson major decision over Luffman

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