Penn's 157 lber Doug Zapf (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Oftentimes after big events, we'll single out some breakout performances for individuals whose stock rose by their performances. This time we'll do something similar, but with a twist. Rather than focus on individuals, we'll focus on some teams who have recently had impressive showings and could either jump into the national rankings, or improve their standing in those rankings.
Here are the five teams to watch:
Let's face it, jumping levels (teamwise) in the Big Ten is no easy task. The conference has mainstays like Iowa, Penn State, Michigan, and Ohio State that contend for the league crown on a yearly basis. Minnesota has won multiple NCAA titles over the last two decades and can't be overlooked. Nebraska's always in the mix. Rutgers has emerged as a legitimate power. Before you've realized it, we've named half of the team's in the Big Ten. And that didn't include growing programs like Purdue and Wisconsin.
The fact is breaking into the top half of the Big Ten probably means you're a top-ten or top-15 program. Quietly, Michigan State has moved closer and closer to that status under head coach Roger Chandler. This shouldn't be totally unexpected. The Spartans were eighth at the 2021 Big Ten Championships, directly ahead of Ohio State, Rutgers, Illinois, and Wisconsin, and only a half-point behind Northwestern. Truthfully, most people probably forgot about that placement because only one of MSU's eight national qualifiers advanced as far as the Round of 12 in St. Louis. On the dual front, the Spartans were 2-5 wrestling a Big Ten-only schedule.
This year, it was hard to know exactly what to think of Chandler's squad. The team won the Navy Classic and claimed wins in their first five duals, though non was against B1G competition. On New Year's, the team went to Chattanooga and finished third at the Southern Scuffle. Some may not have put too much stock into that finish because the tournament was not as loaded as normal.
Last Saturday, Michigan State forced the league and the rest of the country to take notice as they put together a 17-16 win over Purdue. The dual was tied at 16; however, the Spartans were declared the winner based on a 50-49 edge on total match points. In what will become a recurring theme, 197 lber Cam Caffey was a standout, taking out then #13 Thomas Penola, 8-1.
If a win over a ranked team like Purdue (who had recently defeated Nebraska) wasn't enough, the Spartans also upended #15 Rutgers on Friday. Once again, Caffey played a key role as he majored seventh-ranked Greg Bulsak, 12-4. A match before, Layne Malczewski put MSU in great position for the upset when he pulled one himself. Malczewski countered a reversal attempt from #5 John Poznanski and pinned the 2021 All-American to push his team ahead 20-14.
Life in the Big Ten affords teams little time for celebration or sit back and appreciate their accomplishments. Just two days later, the Spartans hosted top-ranked Penn State. As you would expect, the Nittany Lions put on a dominant performance and won 28-9. The dual wasn't without a bright spot as Caffey pulled another top-ten upset and handed #2 Max Dean his first loss of the year.
Michigan State now has an 8-2 dual record with four duals left on the slate. They will certainly jump into InterMat's Dual rankings, once they are released tomorrow.
South Dakota State
After two one-sided wins at the Virginia Duals, South Dakota State found themselves in InterMat's Dual rankings for the first time all year, checking in at #24. Damion Hahn's team won by 25 over Chattanooga and took down a resurgent Big Ten opponent, in Maryland, 28-6. Pretty good for a team that decided to travel across the country to enter the Virginia Duals on less than 48 hours' notice.
With a dual record of 6-1, the Jackrabbits hit the road again for three duals this weekend. The first is the one that turned heads, as SDSU tangled with #12 Missouri. In just his third match in South Dakota State colors, Gabe Tagg provided a boost for his new squad when he pinned former SDSU national qualifier, Connor Brown, at 133 lbs. But, at the halfway point, things were looking grim for Hahn's squad, who trailed 12-6, while appearing to hit the meat of the Tiger lineup.
That's when the Jackrabbits reeled off five straight wins to close out the dual and stunned the Tigers. Tanner Cook and Cade DeVos held serve as favorites in their respective matches, while Cade King took out #14 Jeremiah Kent in sudden victory. Tanner Sloan continued his hot streak at 197 lbs and downed #5 Rocky Elam, 5-2. Barring a miraculous finish at 285 lbs, SDSU had pulled the upset. Just for good measure, #24 AJ Nevills pulled a slight upset, when he knocked off #15 Zach Elam, 1-0.
The next day, South Dakota State crushed SIU Edwardsville before losing 21-17 toâ€¦..
Just a day after knocking off #12 Missouri, South Dakota State fell victim to an upset themselves, by losing to Central Michigan. Before beating the Jackrabbits, CMU also logged wins over MAC rivals Northern Illinois (Friday; 33-6) and SIU Edwardsville (34-3).
The opening bout set the tone for the rest of the dual as 125 lber Brock Bergelin pinned Tanner Jordan in just :32 seconds into the middle stanza. After a major in SDSU's favor came the headline match of the dual. #12 Dresden Simon prevailed 11-5 over the wrestler just a spot ahead of him in the rankings, Clay Carlson. It was only the third loss all year for Carlson and the first by a wrestler not named Allan Hart (Missouri).
At 174 lbs, the Chippewas pulled the biggest upset of the match when Bret Fedewa took out #10 Cade DeVos in sudden victory. After Fedewa's win, South Dakota State struck again with wins at 184 and 197 lbs, to pull within a point heading into 285 lbs. As has been the case many times during his decorated career at CMU, All-American Matt Stencel came up big for his team. Stencel's 6-3 win over AJ Nevills to clinch the Chips win.
With the three dual meet victories, Central Michigan's record now moves to 8-2 overall. Last weekend, legendary head coach Tom Borrelli picked up three wins versus his former pupils (including his son) at the Chippewa Challenge. CMU's only losses this year have come against second-ranked Iowa and #16 Lehigh, who has proven to be a high-quality team.
While the remainder of the MAC conference lies ahead dual-wise for Borrelli's team, they also hit in-state rivals Michigan State and Michigan during the final week of the season. This version of CMU is starting to resemble others during Borrelli's tenure, ones that lacked big-name recruits but displayed plenty of grit and toughness.
After the MatMen Open, the Penn Quakers found their way into the top-25 of InterMat's dual rankings. We received a few questions about just how Penn deserved to be ranked as a dual team with a 0-1 record. Well, with a lineup that features eight of ten wrestlers ranked within the top-33, they'll be a formidable matchup for almost anyone in the nation.
Since the Ivy League was unable to compete last year, we weren't sure exactly what to expect from Roger Reina's squad. Especially since the Quaker program has been tearing up the recruiting trail and some of the key components had little to no collegiate experience.
The Quakers only dual during the first half of the season came against the team now ranked #1 in the nation, Penn State. Though PSU's lineup didn't resemble the same one they can send out today, Penn was surprisingly close, losing 20-16.
Sunday, Penn was back on the mat for the first time since the MatMen Open in late December. They were paired with Ivy League rival Columbia. Just a week ago, Columbia pushed #16 Lehigh to the brink in a 20-16 loss. The Penn/Columbia dual started at 174 lbs and #25 Nick Incontrara got the Quakers on the board with a 10-6 win over Nick Fine, an opponent that was pushing for a spot among the top-33. The back end of the Columbia lineup was one that could be exposed by Penn and that ended up being the case, as the Quakers held a 12-0 lead wrapping around to 125 lbs.
At 125 was one of Columbia's top grapplers, #19 Joe Manchio. Manchio's 4-3 win over Jaret Lane (Lehigh), helped contribute to the Lion's near-upset of Lehigh. Momentum from his previous four teammates helped carry Ryan Miller to a 4-2 win over Manchio. Michael Colaiocco, CJ Composto, Anthony Artalona, and Doug Zapf followed with wins and gave the Quakers a 32-0 lead headed into the final match. #21 Josh Ogunsanya's 3-2 win over #25 Lucas Revano kept Columbia from getting blanked at 165 lbs.
After winning their first dual of the year, Reina's team has eight duals ahead of them, three of which come against #16 Lehigh, #10 Cornell and 2020 Ivy League champs, Princeton.
An 0-4 start for Northern Iowa helped nudge the Panthers out of the top-25 earlier this year. While the record was unsightly, it probably could use another look. Doug Schwab's team lost duals against Penn State, Cornell, Virginia Tech, and Missouri. All four were ranked in the top ten when they met UNI.
While the strength of schedule was difficult for Northern Iowa, they also were without some key pieces along the way. 174 lb national qualifier Lance Runyon did not compete until yesterday. It took some time to sort out the 149 lb class, but it appears that Colin Realbuto has grabbed a hold of that role.
Sunday, UNI was in action against Big 12 foe North Dakota State, a team that just found its way into the national rankings, at #25, after downing Wyoming 22-14.
Northern Iowa made short work of the Bison with a 29-13 dismantling of NSDU. Not only did Kyle Biscoglia pull a slight upset at 133 lbs, but he was also able to tally a bonus point with his 8-0 major decision.
The biggest upset of the dual came at 165 lbs when #19 Austin Yant downed the reigning Big 12 champion at the weight, Luke Weber. Yant prevailed with an 8-6 win. A match later, teammate Runyon got his first taste of competition for the 2021-22 and knocked off #23 Austin Brenner, 5-3.
UNI took seven of ten matches from North Dakota State and was able to rack up bonus points at five weights. They will be battle-tested headed into the conference tournament as duals against Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and Wisconsin lie ahead.