2021 NCAA All-Americans Brayton Lee (left) and Wyatt Sheets (Lee photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com/Sheets photo courtesy of OSU athletics)
InterMat's Big Ten Spotlight Matchup:
157 lbs: #5 Brayton Lee (Minnesota) vs. #14 Wyatt Sheets (Oklahoma State)
How to Watch: November 20th, Big Ten Network (8pm EST)
Tonight, on the Big Ten Network, a pair of traditional powers will renew acquaintances in non-conference action as the #2 Oklahoma State Cowboys will travel north to meet the #16 Minnesota Golden Gophers.
These two teams accounted for every NCAA team title between 2001 and 2007. Ever since, both squads have routinely been in the hunt for NCAA team trophies. Because of the Big Ten-only schedule in 2021, these two collegiate wrestling blue-bloods did not cross paths in dual meet competition. Luckily that won't be a problem as the Cowboys will return to Maturi Pavilion Saturday night.
A dual between Oklahoma State and Minnesota features two of the most marketable collegiate athletes (not just wrestlers) in NCAA champions, AJ Ferrari and Gable Steveson. While both are not expected to get seriously tested by their respective opponents, we've decided to focus on a bout that features a pair of returning All-Americans clashing at 157 lbs. #5 Brayton Lee of the hosting Gophers, and #14 Wyatt Sheets, a Cowboy veteran.
Brayton Lee was a blue-chip recruit out of Indiana that has been as good as advertised for Minnesota. From day one, as a redshirt freshman, Lee as asserted himself as one of the top contenders nationally. A little more than a month into his freshman year, Lee won the prestigious Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational over a veteran-laden field.
Lee went on to take fourth at his first Big Ten tournament in 2020 and earned the #7 seed at 149 lbs in the NCAA Tournament that didn't happen.
A year later, Lee moved up to 157 lbs. He continued to display a level of physicality that few could absorb and battered his way to third at the 2021 Big Ten Championships and a sixth-place finish at nationals in St. Louis.
In the early going this season, Lee has run out to a 4-0 record with a tournament title at North Dakota State's Bison Open.
The Gopher star will have to contend with Wyatt Sheets, who finished eighth at Lee's NCAA weight class last season, though the two have never met.
Sheets is the son of OSU legend Mike Sheets and has established himself as one of the team's tough guys. A knee injury appeared to end the younger Sheets' season in 2021; however, he pushed through and found his way onto the NCAA podium. Not only did Sheets have to contend with an injury, but he also wasn't even supposed to be wrestling in St. Louis. The Cowboy 157 lber did not initially qualify for the national tournament, but was given an at-large bid after another injured wrestler withdrew.
Over the course of his career, Sheets has qualified for the NCAA Championships on two occasions and has amassed a 64-35 record.
Sheets and Oklahoma State have only seen action in one dual meet thus far. He posted a 6-3 victory over Stanford's Charlie Darracott during his team's 29-7 romp over the Cardinal.
The rest of the dual:
125: Minnesota's Patrick McKee had an incredible NCAA tournament in 2021, placing third despite entering as the 15th seed. He'll face a much-improved Trevor Mastrogiovani, who was fifth in the Big 12 and won a pair of bouts at nationals, while competing as a true freshman.
133: The Gophers have some options at 133, but look for head coach Brandon Eggum to turn to Jake Gliva, who is coming off a title at the Bison Open. He defeated an NCAA qualifier in the process, along with a talented freshman teammate. Opposing Gliva will be two-time NCAA runner-up Daton Fix. In the fall, Fix claimed a silver medal in freestyle at the World Championships. He is 49-3 for OSU.
141: Eggum and the Gopher staff could either send out Jake Bergeland, Marcos Polanco, or Brent Jones. Polanco was a 2021 NCAA qualifier, but he and Jones both fell to Bergeland at the Bison Open. With NCAA qualifier Dusty Hone registered for an open tournament, OSU head coach John Smith is expected to unleash true freshman Carter Young. Young was third at the World Team Trials in freestyle this fall.
149: One of the toss-up bouts this evening will come here as Michael Blockhus and Kaden Gfeller are both currently ranked within a few spots of each other, with Gfeller at 22 and Blockhus at 26. Oklahoma State's Gfeller is looking to rebound after a major decision loss in his debut, while Blockhus will look to build off of a 4-0 showing at the Bison Open.
165: This is a match that might be closer than the rankings may indicate. While #6 Travis Wittlake of Oklahoma State is the real deal, #21 was limited due to injuries last year in his true freshman season. Both wrestlers will seek to get back on the winning track after suffering a loss last weekend.
174: After posting a 13-22 record in two seasons with Wisconsin, #23 Jared Krattiger has transferred to Minnesota and started to roll. He is undefeated at 5-0 in a Gopher singlet and picked up a win over a ranked foe from North Dakota State in his last outing. Oklahoma State's #15 Dustin Plott battled through an injury-plagued 2021 freshman season and is expected to make a leap this year.
184: Oklahoma State boasts a two-time All-American here in #7 Dakota Geer. Despite his two All-American accolades, Geer is looking to get over the hump in the Big 12, as he's a three-time third-place finisher in the conference. Minnesota has a potentially under-the-radar freshman at 184 in #27 Isaiah Salazar. Salazar was 4-1 last season, in limited action, and has yet to lose in 2021-22.
197: The Cowboys superstar, true freshman All-American AJ Ferrari, is back and ready to steal the show at 197 lbs. Ferrari and his opponent from Stanford exchanged words on social media leading into last weeks dual; however, he backed it up with a 16-3 major decision. Looking to slow down Ferrari is Garrett Joles or Michial Foy. Joles has yet to appear this season and was 4-8 last year, while Foy is 4-1 so far.
285: Olympic and NCAA champion Gable Steveson is the anchor on the back of the Gopher lineup and will make his season debut on Saturday night. Steveson is riding a 34-match collegiate winning streak. He is undefeated during dual competition and logged bonus points more than 82% of his 2021 bout. Steveson will make it difficult for Cowboy freshman Luke Surber, who currently has the starting role after unseating veteran Austin Harris.