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  • Photo: Photo/Sam Janicki

    Photo: Photo/Sam Janicki

    Best match to watch in every weight class this weekend

    Michigan State's Cameron Caffey is expected to face Michigan's Myles Amine on Friday (Photo/Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com)

    As the postseason gets closer and closer many of the top wrestlers who had been out of action are returning to the lineup. Recently Daton Fix (Oklahoma State), Myles Amine (Michigan), Robert Howard (Penn State) and Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) returned to action. They should all be back on the mats this weekend in top matches. The following previews those matches as well as the rest of the top matches in each weight.

    125: No. 10 Malik Heinselman (Ohio State) vs. Robert Howard (Penn State)

    After starting his career with back-to-back NCAA qualifying seasons, Heinselman appears to be having a breakout season as a junior. He has gone 6-1 to start this campaign with his only defeat coming against last year's Big Ten runner up No. 14 Devin Schroder (Purdue). Henselman already holds victories over Justin Cardani (Illinois), No. 12 Eric Barnett (Wisconsin) and No. 13 Rayvon Foley (Michigan), and he got back on track last weekend against Kurt McHenry (Michigan).

    Howard made his long-awaited collegiate debut last weekend and scored a 6-5 decision over Jack Medley (Michigan). The Penn State faithful is hopeful that the highly touted true freshman can finally bring some stability to the 125-pound spot for the Nittany Lions. Howard joined the squad after a strong high school career at Bergen Catholic. There he was a four-time New Jersey state finalist and two-time champion. He also represented the U.S. three times at the Cadet World Championships.

    This match will say a lot about Howard's prospects going forward this season. Heinselman has been very strong after seemingly growing into the weight. Howard showed flashes of what made him such a prized recruit last weekend, but this will be a tougher test. With that being said, his pedigree and scoring ability should be able to carry him to a signature victory here.

    Prediction: Howard over Heinselman

    133: No. 1 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) vs. Anthony Madrigal (Oklahoma)

    Fix missed the first Bedlam dual this season, but luckily for him, they are wrestling two this year. The NCAA finalist returned to action last weekend and won four matches on the way to a tournament title at the Cowboy Challenge. Fix went 35-2 as a redshirt freshman back in 2019 and dropped a controversial overtime match in the finals against Nick Suriano (Rutgers).

    Last season as a sophomore, Madrigal went 21-9 and qualified for the NCAA tournament through the Big 12. This year has proven tough as he has gone only 3-6 and dropped his last two matches against Paul Bianchi (Little Rock) and Reece Witcraft (Oklahoma State). His last victory came via fall over Trayton Anderson (South Dakota State) on Jan. 31.

    Fix should be a big favorite in this match. The two have met before with Fix taking a 20-5 technical fall. However, it should serve as a gauge for where Fix is as the postseason approaches. He got back into action last weekend, but Madrigal will be a tougher test for sure.

    Prediction: Fix major decision over Madrigal

    141: Anthony Echemendia/Dylan D'Emilio (Ohio State) vs. No. 2 Nick Lee (Penn State)

    It will be interesting to see who Ohio State sends to the mat here. Echemendia suffered the first loss of his collegiate career against No. 1 Jaydin Eierman (Iowa) via fall back on Feb. 7, and he has been out of the lineup since. D'Emilio started the last two matches and picked up victories over Parker Filius (Purdue) and Drew Mattin (Michigan). D'Emilio won the wrestle-off back in January. Whoever gets the start here will have a chance to make a statement against Lee.

    Making a statement against Lee is easier said than done. The Penn State senior has won all four of his matches so far this season with three of those victories coming via bonus points. Mattin was the only wrestler to escape without giving up bonus this year. While waiting for the collegiate season to start, Lee wrestled in a pair of freestyle matches on NLWC shows. He picked up a match-termination victory over Brandon Wright and a 14-10 win over No. 8 Tariq Wilson (NC State) in an all-action bout.

    Lee should be favored regardless of who Ohio State sends to the mat. Echemendia should be an interesting challenge. He has struggled to adapt to some of the ground work associated in folkstyle. However, Lee likes to do a lot of his scoring from the neutral position. Would he modify his approach to take advantage of Echemendia weaknesses or try to match strengths against the freestyle specialist.

    Prediction: Lee major decision over Echemendia

    149: Peyton Omania (Michigan State) vs. No. 5 Kanen Storr (Michigan)

    After redshirting and going 19-6 in the 2019 season, Omania took an Olympic redshirt last year to focus on Greco. He won a bronze medal at the 2019 Junior World Championships and won a title at the 2020 U23 Nationals. He returned to folkstyle for this season. The results have not always been there, but he has shown flashes of potential. Omania held a lead against No. 2 Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) before the Buckeye snuck away with a 7-6 victory.

    Storr has gone 4-1 with his only defeat coming against Sasso. However, despite the winning record, he has certainly been keeping it close. His largest margin of victory is only four points. Last weekend, he defeated Penn State's No. 20 Terrell Barraclough by a 4-3 score. Since transferring to Michigan from Iowa State for the 2019 season, Storr has gone 47-14 and qualified for a pair of NCAA tournaments.

    Storr should come into this match as the favorite. He will likely be able to ride and keep the match close. However, Omania has the ability to hit a big throw, and that one big move might be enough to take the match. Look for Storr to control the majority of the match, but Omania will remain dangerous throughout the contest.

    Prediction: Omania decision over Storr

    157: No. 6 Brayton Lee (Minnesota) vs. No. 1 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern)

    Last week, Deakin returned to action for the first time this season. He picked up a pair of victories over Wisconsin wrestlers. He scored a technical fall over Garrett Model in the dual, and then won a decision over Devin Bahr in an extra match. Last year, Deakin went 21-0 and won the Big Ten championship at this weight. He is ranked No. 1, but the competition will start to get tougher right away.

    Lee moved up from 149 pounds this year, and he has had a strong season so far. He holds a 7-1 record with his only defeat coming against No. 5 Kaleb Young (Iowa) in overtime. Since that loss, he bounced back with four straight victories including a 3-2 decision over No. 7 Kendall Coleman (Purdue).

    Deakin has held the No. 1 ranking despite not wrestling for most of the season. He was dominant last year and had a legit shot at a national title if the NCAA tournament occurred last year. However, he will be up against it here. Lee has had a strong year and certainly has the momentum in this match. Look for Deakin to get it done, but this will be anything but easy.

    Prediction: Deakin decision over Lee

    165: No. 8 Danny Braunagel (Illinois) vs. No. 18 Peyton Robb (Nebraska)

    Braunagel qualified for the NCAA tournament last year as a redshirt freshman. This year, he has started the season with an undefeated 5-0 record. His signature win came during his second event of the season. He upset No. 10 Ethan Smith (Ohio State) in a match that was a key element of Illinois' upset over the Buckeyes. Braunagel gets another chance to add another big victory to his resume if this match happens.

    Robb had a tough start to this season as he dropped his first two matches against No. 17 Andrew Sparks (Minnesota) and No. 1 Alex Marinelli (Iowa). However, since then, he has gotten back on track with six straight victories. However, this will be his toughest match since those early season meetings.

    Braunagel has taken a step forward this season, so he should be able to take care of business here against Robb. Look for Braungael to control the standing portions of this match and win the takedown battle on the way to a decision victory.

    Prediction: Braunagel decision over Robb

    174: No. 3 Kaleb Romero (Ohio State) vs. No. 5 Carter Starocci (Penn State)

    Romero started this season by winning five straight matches. During the run, he won matches over the likes of Joe Grello (Rutgers) and Jared Krattiger (Wisconsin). Romero then ran into No. 1 Michael Kemerer (Iowa). The Ohio State representative wrestled tough and ultimately dropped a 3-1 decision. He then missed his next match. It will be interesting to see if he returns to the lineup for this bout or if he is dealing with an injury.

    After an undefeated redshirt season, Starocci was expected to be one of the top competitors at 174 pounds this year. Things got off to a rough start as he dropped a 10-9 decision against No. 14 Donnell Washington (Indiana) in his first match of the season. However, since then, Starocci got it together. He has won his last four matches. In his last bout, the Penn State representative picked up his biggest victory to date as he scored a 7-1 victory over No. 6 Logan Massa (Michigan) in overtime.

    Both of these wrestlers are very hard to score against. If this match happens, it will almost certainly be a close one. Starocci showed that he is able to pull out this type of match, and he comes into this bout with a lot of momentum.

    Prediction: Starocci decision over Romero

    184: Kyle Cochran (Maryland) vs. No. 17 John Poznanski (Rutgers)

    Cochran was a New Jersey state champion and a three-time placer in high school. He chose to head a bit south and wrestler in college for Maryland. After starting his collegiate career at 157 pounds during the 2018 season, he has moved up to 184 pounds this year. The results have been mixed as he has built a 4-4 record. He nearly pulled off a pair of upsets over No. 16 Taylor Venz (Nebraska) and No. 20 Rocky Jordan (Ohio State), but he ultimately dropped both matches via 4-2 scores.

    Poznanski was also a New Jersey state champion, but he is much younger than Cochran. He is a true freshman, who has quickly made a name for himself with a 3-1 record. He won his first three matches including victories over Jordan and No. 18 Max Lyon (Purdue). However, in his last match, Poznanski dropped his first collegiate match against No. 10 Owen Webster (Minnesota).

    This Big Ten battle will be between a pair of New Jersey state champions from different generations. One of Cochran's biggest strengths is his ability to ride legs from the top, so the move up in weight was an interesting move. On the feet, this should be Poznanski's match. Look for this one to be closer than expected, but the younger one should be able to take it.

    Prediction: Poznanski decision over Cochran

    197: No. 8 Cameron Caffey (Michigan State) vs. No. 2 Myles Amine (Michigan)

    After three straight top-four finishes at the NCAA tournament, Amine took an Olympic redshirt last year. He wrestles internationally for San Marino, and he surprisingly won a silver medal at the 2020 European Championships. In the process, he punched his ticket to the upcoming Olympics. Amine did not return to the Michigan lineup until mid-February. He surprisingly moved up to 197 pounds and picked up victories over Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State) and No. 16 Michael Beard (Penn State).

    Caffey moved up from 184 pounds this season. He has gone 5-1 with his only defeat coming against No. 1 Eric Schultz (Nebraska). Already this year, he has picked up victories over Hoffman, Garrett Joles (Minnesota) and No. 17 Thomas Penola (Purdue).

    This should be an interesting match from a stylistic perspective. Amine has been mostly focusing on freestyle since the end of the 2019 season. That might get him into trouble here against Caffey. The Michigan State wrestler is extremely adept at scrambling, and he is able to turn an opponent's attacks into points. Amine remains the favorite, but Caffey might be able to surprise him in some positions.

    Prediction: Amine decision over Caffey

    285: No. 12 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin) vs. No. 3 Anthony Cassioppi (Iowa)

    No. 1 Gable Steveson (Minnesota) and No. 2 Mason Parris (Michigan) are clearly the class of the Big Ten and the nation at heavyweight. However, Cassioppi and Hillger are both contenders for the third spot behind those two.

    Hillger has taken a pair of somewhat surprising losses this season. He dropped overtime matches against No. 10 Luke Luffman (Illinois) and No. 11 Christian Lance (Nebraska). Last season, he went 23-6 as a sophomore and established himself as one of the best heavyweights in the country.

    Outside of a match against Steveson, Cassioppi has won all of his matches this season. He enters this match after picking up three-straight falls over Luffman, Dorian Keys (Purdue) and No. 16 Tate Orndorff (Ohio State).

    These two met twice last season with Cassioppi taking both matches via decision. Iowa has been out of action after shutting down team activity. This will be a good gauge on Cassioppi's status and momentum if the dual happens.

    Prediction: Cassioppi decision over Hillger

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