Roman Bravo-Young gets in on a shot on Austin DeSanto in the Big Ten semifinals (Photo/Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com)
The Big Ten Conference got a late start to the season and kept everything inside the confines of the conference. In many ways this limited the possible competition, but one positive is it also made stats easier to collect. Thanks to the Big Ten Network, I was able to collect scorebook information for all Big Ten duals this season. The following looks back on the regular season of Big Ten duals and previews the upcoming conference tournament this week.
Note: the following information does not include the so-called "extra matches." Even though those matches are included on records, they were not always recorded or broadcast. Also, due to video issues, three other matches (Lucas Byrd vs. Nate Cummings, Rayvon Foley vs. Liam Cronin and Jordan Hamdan vs. Tucker Sjomeling) were not included.
Top takedown artists
As a team, Minnesota scored the most takedowns of any team in the conference. They collectively scored 192 takedowns across their nine duals. The biggest contributor was heavyweight No. 1 Gable Steveson, who scored 46 takedowns all by himself. That was the most of any wrestler in the conference. The total is actually more than the combined total of three entire Big Ten teams.
With that being said, Minnesota wrestled nine matches. This year, that was a privilege not enjoyed by all teams. If you divide the number of takedowns by the number of matches, Steveson ends up with 5.11 takedowns per match. That rate is only the fourth highest in the conference.
Steveson's takedown rate trails Aaron Brooks (Penn State), Austin DeSanto (Iowa) and the conference leader Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State). The 133-pound wrestler had six matches during the season and notched 40 takedowns. Despite wrestling three fewer matches than Steveson, he finished second in the conference with 40 total takedowns.
The fact that both Bravo-Young (6.67 takedowns per match) and DeSanto (6.60 takedowns per match) had the two highest takedown rates in the conference sets up a very interesting potential final. They secured the top two seeds and have quite the history. DeSanto won their first two meetings during the 2019 season. However, Bravo-Young had the advantage in both of their encounters last season. He won the dual match via injury default and took a 3-2 decision at the 2020 Big Ten tournament.
Generating points on top
Many think the advent of the four-point near fall has changed college wrestling. Competitors with a slick tilt game can have a huge impact on their matches from the top position. Whether you think that is a positive or not, the ability to score from the top is embodied by No. 1 Spencer Lee (Iowa).
Lee wrestled only four matches this season and scored falls in all four matches. Despite spending fewer than eight minutes on the mat, he scored seven four-point near falls. This was the second highest total in the conference, behind only No. 17 Devin Schroder (Purdue), who finished with nine. However, it was tops on a per match basis. His 1.75 four-point near falls per match was the highest. No. 19 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) and No. 1 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) tied for the second highest rate with 1.5, but both of them wrestled only two matches.
The "No Twos Club"
During the Big Ten regular season, 12 wrestlers did not surrender a single two-point score the entire season. Of these 12 competitors, four wrestled two or fewer matches. The list of those who wrestled at least three matches without allowing a single two-point score are No. 1 Gable Steveson (Minnesota), No. 2 Mason Parris (Michigan), No. 2 Nick Lee (Penn State), No. 3 Austin DeSanto (Iowa), No. 1 Spencer Lee (Iowa), No. 1 Michael Kemerer (Iowa), Kaleb Young (Iowa) and No 14 Griffin Parriott (Purdue).
Obviously, the potential heavyweight final really stands out. Steveson and Parris captured the top two seeds after dominating the field. They also put up strong freestyle results during the extensive offseason. They met last year at the Big Ten tournament, and Steveson took an 8-6 decision.
Another wild card in the heavyweight division is No. 6 Greg Kervliet (Penn State). He wrestled in only one dual match this season, a quick win over Maryland's Garrett Kappes. The former Minnesota prep added another quick victory over Kappes' teammate Connor Bowes in an extra match. Steveson and Parris remain the favorites to make the finals, but Kerkvliet has the pedigree to make it interesting.
Iowa's Lee found his way onto this list, but he probably should have an honor on his own. While 12 wrestlers did not allow any two-point scores, Lee did not allow a score of any kind this season. In his four matches, his opponents failed to register a single point. He is the only wrestler to accomplish that during this season in the Big Ten.
The toughest to ride reside at 133
Coaches hate reversals. If you go to any youth tournament throughout the country, you will likely hear at least one coach yelling, "one, not two!" while his/her charge is riding. Despite this some wrestlers excel at turning the bottom position into two points.
In the regular season, Indiana's starter at 133 pounds, Kyle Luigs led the conference with seven reversals. Scoring from the bottom was an essential part of his offense as he managed only six takedowns throughout the season. Luigs wrestled seven dual matches on the year, so his average per match was an even 1. The only wrestler with a higher reversals per match rate was Rutgers' No. 6 Sammy Alvarez who scored four reversals through three matches also at 133 pounds.
Luigs pulled the 13th seed, while Alvarez enters the tournament as the third seed. If these two happen to meet in the field, it could easily turn into a scramble-fest with both wrestlers doing solid work in the bottom position.