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  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    Five Things We Learned About the Big Ten This Week (12/23/22)

    Roman Bravo-Young (right) and Ramazan Attasauov in the Collegiate Duals finals (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)

    The first half of the collegiate wrestling season is typically highlighted by big tournaments such as CKLV, Reno Tournament of Champions and Midlands, and a few non-conference duals. The dual season really starts to kick into gear in the new year.

    This week, however, wrestling fans were treated to a full slate of exciting dual meets – highlighted by the Collegiate Duals in New Orleans. The Nittany Lions came out on top in the Blur Pool for the second consecutive year – but not without taking some key individual losses – while the Buckeyes were third in the Red Pool.

    In the Midwest, Purdue hosted a quad and went 1-2, while Nebraska earned a key dual win over South Dakota State. A couple Big Ten teams were also involved in tournament action, as Indiana and Michigan State were competing at Reno.

    Here are five things we learned – and the reasons why we love duals!

    Duals are fun: Penn State vs. Iowa State edition

    Penn State started its Collegiate Duals campaign hot, racking up a record-tying seven pins en route to a 50-3 victory over Central Michigan. It took the gas off the pedal a little bit in the second dual, against the University of North Carolina, which ended in a similarly lopsided final score – 37-3 – but with tighter individual bouts.

    The top-ranked Nittany Lions then survived an upset bid from No. 5 Iowa State, 22-12, during which Penn State took six of 10 bouts (including a forfeit) and had three wrestlers – Shayne Van Ness, Alex Facundo and Aaron Brooks – see their unbeaten streaks end.

    Here are five highlights from the Blue Pool championship between Penn State and Iowa State:

    184: Top-ranked Brooks goes down. Brooks isn't the first top-ranked defending national champ to lose this season. In fact, he's not even the first on his team, as teammate Max Dean lost twice two weeks ago. But Brooks' 9-7 loss to Marcus Coleman was nothing short of shocking – and that's not an indictment of Coleman. It's just that, Brooks doesn't really lose. The fourth-year junior had lost just twice prior to Tuesday since his redshirt was pulled in 2020, racking up a 51-2 overall record. But more notable than the loss itself was how it happened. Coleman had Brooks seemingly flat on his back after countering a single-leg attempt. A fall wasn't called, but Coleman was awarded six, which proved to be too much for Brooks to come back from. The Nittany Lion narrowly avoided the same fate as the second-ranked wrestler at 184, N.C. State's Trent Hidlay, did earlier that day – suffering a fall to UNI's No. 3 Parker Keckeisen.

    197: Dean gets back on track. As previously mentioned, Dean had a rough weekend a couple weeks ago. This week, however, he came in clutch when his team needed him. After Brooks' upset loss, there was a tiny window where Iowa State could have taken the lead, although, since the Cyclones were forfeiting at heavyweight, it likely wouldn't have been enough to win. But Dean erased any possibility that Penn State could blemish its perfect season by dispatching No. 2 Yonger Bastida, 4-1. The single takedown in the bout came on a Dean reattack as the final seconds ticked down in the second period. He then characteristically went to work on top in the third, racking up over a minute of riding time and fending off a flurry of last-second shots from Bastida.

    133: RBY earns bonus points. Roman Bravo Young is so far 6/6 for bonus-point wins this season, so, his 10-2 major decision over No. 21 Ramazan Attasauov wasn't exactly shocking. However, the way Bravo Young went about it was. The pair battled evenly throughout the first period, with Bravo Young forcing the action but not being able to get in on Attasauov's legs. With that strategy not working, RBY went to work from the top in the second, riding Attasauov out and turning him for 2 nearfall at the end of the period. With his opponent tired out, RBY fired off three takedowns in the final period. In a dual that was destined to be close, these bonus points were crucial in giving the Nittany Lions some breathing room heading into a stretch of tough matches in the middleweights. RBY knew what needed to be done, and although Attasauov made it tough, he figured out a way to do it. That's what should be expected from a fifth-year senior, two-time national champ.

    149: Van Ness-Paniro sets up an exciting next four years. Penn State's Shayne Van Ness found himself on the wrong side of the battle of undefeated freshmen at 149 pounds, falling 3-2. But it seems unlikely this will be the last time this pair meets. Paniro was one of the biggest stories of the weekend. Not only did he earn this solid win over Van Ness, but he also took three-time national champ Yianni Diakomihalis to the brink of defeat, falling 3-1 in sudden victory. Van Ness didn't let that intimidate him, trying to push the action through most of the match, but not really being able to get in on any good shots. Paniro's patience paid off as he countered for the lone takedown in the dual in the third period. He almost did the same thing again, but Van Ness was able to clear it. Van Ness fired off a flurry of shots in the final 30 seconds, but was unable to convert. As long as they both stay healthy, it seems as though these two wrestlers are likely to meet a few more times over the next four years.

    157: Hello, Levi Haines. Penn State has a new face in the lineup this week as true freshman Levi Haines slotted in at 157 pounds, where Terrell Barraclough has been holding down the starting position. With the NCAA's new redshirt rule, Haines can wrestle five “events” without burning his redshirt. While it's unknown whether Penn State will make that a more permanent lineup change this season, Haines made a solid case that he'd be ready should that opportunity present itself. The true freshman went 3-0 on the weekend, including an 8-3 win over Iowa State's Jason Kraisser and a fall in 1:38 of Central Michigan's No. 31 Corbyn Munson. Regardless of whether Haines is the starter at the end of the regular season, it's exciting to be able to see highly-touted true freshmen like him get to wrestle and contribute in dual settings.

    Duals are fun: Ohio State vs. UNI edition

    Penn State's Big Ten counterpart in the Red Pool didn't have as good of luck against a team from Iowa, falling 19-13 to the University of Northern Iowa, and going on to finish third in the pool with wins over Lock Haven and Lehigh.

    The Buckeyes were missing a few key pieces of their lineup, with Paddy Gallagher, Jesse Mendez and Carson Kharchla all out, but part of what makes duals fun is strategizing around injuries and weak lineup spots. This strategizing was on display in New Orleans with Iowa State coach Kevin Dresser bumping up three of his wrestlers to beat Cornell.

    But, back to Ohio State. The loss to UNI had a mix of highlights and lowlights. Here are five:

    133: Bouzakis knocks off a top-10 opponent. Injury woes aside, a high point of The Collegiate Duals for the Buckeyes was freshman Nic Bouzakis. Bouzakis has been slotting in at 133 for the Buckeyes for their past four duals since Mendez, who along with Bouzakis are key members of Ohio State's top-ranked 2022 recruiting class, has been out with an apparent injury. Regardless of what Mendez's status might be, Bouzakis made the most of his opportunity this week, going 3-0 including the 9-6 win over UNI's No. 6 Kyle Biscoglia. Things didn't look great for Bouzakis as he gave up the initial takedown as the clock wound down in the third period. The Buckeye got the reversal but then gave up one of his own to trail 5-3 with about 30 seconds to go. The freshman never stopped pursuing, locking up a cradle with about 15 seconds remaining for the six-point move to seal it.

    141: D'Emilio falls in sudden victory. Dylan D'Emilio, ranked No. 18 at the time, was the slight underdog on paper to No. 10 Cael Happel, but with starters out at 157 and 165 pounds, this was a bout the Buckeyes were hoping to steal to have a chance to win. D'Emilio took the early lead with a first-period takedown, but Happel hit a reversal to even the score. The pair were tied 3-3 heading into the third. A takedown for Happel and an escape and riding time for D'Emilio sent the bout into sudden victory, where Happel prevailed, 7-5, with a takedown. This loss put a damper on the momentum gained from Bouzakis' upset win.

    149: Sasso takes another loss. Sammy Sasso's 9-7 loss to Colin Realbuto made winning this dual a real uphill climb for the Buckeyes. This marked the second loss of the season for the three-time All-American, falling earlier to Virginia Tech's Caleb Henson. Sasso had the early lead with a first-period takedown, but Realbuto got a takedown of his own and turned Sasso for 4 near-fall points in the second to take a 5-2 lead. Sasso fired off two takedowns in the third but it wasn't enough.

    197: Hoffman wins by bonus. In addition to Bouzakis, Gavin Hoffman also had a strong showing in New Orleans, going 2-1, with his loss coming by way of a 5-3 decision to No. 4 Michael Beard, of Lehigh. He earned a pin against Lock Haven and an 18-8 major decision over UNI's Noah Glaser. Hoffman dominated the entire bout against UNI, racking up eight takedowns to give his team much-needed bonus points and a chance to win.

    285: Orndorff can't seal the win. Hoffman's major decision put Ohio State in a good position to at least tie the dual, but No. 9 Tate Orndorff couldn't close the deal, losing to No. 19 Tyrel Gordon for the second time this season, 3-2. This win handed UNI its second upset win – based on rankings – and the dual.

    Duals are fun: Nebraska vs. South Dakota State edition

    Nebraska was able to even its dual record Sunday with a 22-17 win over South Dakota State. The Cornhuskers won six of the 10 bouts, including two by way of bonus points.

    Liam Cronin took just 30 seconds to get the fall over No. 28 Tanner Jordan. That win set the tone for the Cornhuskers, as Boo Dryden and Brock Hardy both collected wins at 133 and 141, respectively. Hardy kept the momentum from his CKLV title run going with a solid 7-5 win over No. 13 Clay Carlson in sudden victory. The sophomore's strong showing throughout December has catapulted him into the top 10 of the InterMat rankings and into the national conversation.

    Nebraska's other bonus point win came at 184 pounds, where No. 12 Lenny Pinto got revenge on No. 11 Cade King, who had pinned him in the fifth-place bout at CKLV. Pinto came out on top this time, sticking King on his back for four nearfall points with three seconds left for the 12-2 major decision. This marked the first dual win for the redshirt freshman.

    The Cornhuskers' other wins came from No. 2 Peyton Robb over No. 22 Cael Swenson, 7-2, at 157 and No. 2 Mikey Labriola over No. 18 Cade DeVos, 4-0, at 174.

    At heavyweight, Cale Davidson lost in sudden victory to No. 14 A.J. Nevills. Silas Allred suffered his second straight loss, falling by way of a 12-0 major decision to No. 12 Tanner Sloan, Bubba Wilson suffered a pin and Dayne Morton lost by major decision.

    This win marked the first win for the Cornhuskers over a ranked team this season and should put them in a good spot heading into the new year.

    Duals are fun: Up and Down Purdue Duals

    The Boilermakers hosted Campbell, Utah Valley, and Drexel for a quad dual to finish off their 2022 competition schedule. It did not go as they had hoped. They started off the day with a loss to Drexel, dropping four of their final five matches. They weren't favored in two of those matches, but up-and-comer Stoney Buell at 165, Macartney Parkinson at 174, and Ben Vanadia at 184 are guys that you would expect to be ready to go at home in those matches. On a positive note, Matt Ramos (125), Parker Fillius (141), and Kendall Coleman (157) wrestled very well in this dual. This was the final action for Fillius for the day though as they went into the next two duals.

    They bounced back with a win over Utah Valley, thanks to a pin by Stoney Buell at 165. Those bonus points were key in the 20-18 victory, along with the major decisions by Coleman and Vanadia. The competitive flames were quickly extinguished though, as Campbell started off their dual with the Boilermakers in dramatic fashion, upsetting Matt Ramos. Anthony Molton is a very good wrestler, but Ramos has looked great so far at 125. Interestingly enough, these two wrestled in High School together, and had met in the US Open finals earlier this year, with Ramos getting that win. The sudden victory loss is something we can expect Ramos to bounce back from, but these are both guys we can expect to see in Tulsa come March. Trey Kruse and Kendall Coleman got wins at 149 and 157 respectively, but those were the remaining two wins on the day for Purdue.

    Not the way I'm sure they envisioned ending 2022, but they will take a short break before getting back after it in Chattanooga Tennessee at the Southern Scuffle on January 1st and 2nd.

    And, we like tournaments, too: MSU Champions of the Tournament of Champions; Indiana crowns 2 champs

    Michigan State has been on a tear so far this season. They are 6-0 in dual competition so far, and just walked away with a first-place team finish in Reno. You could make the argument, which I guess is what I'm doing, that they didn't even wrestle their best and still took away the title. 10th ranked Layne Malczewski dropped a match in the semi's eventually taking home third place, and Rayvon Foley dropped a match to the eventual champ Aden Valencia, but they had some other wrestlers really step up.

    Tristan Lujan had a great tournament making the finals, eventually dropping that match 5-2 to Trevor Mastrogiovanni, the 13th-ranked 125-pound wrestler in the country. That was Lujan's first loss of the year, and is a big reason why this team has been able to start off strong in all of their duals so far. An additional finalist who dropped his final match was Ryan Vasbinder at Heavyweight. Vasbinder transferred in from McKendree where he was the D2 National Champion at 197 pounds. He has been transitioning well to Heavyweight at the D1 level, and is an exciting guy to keep an eye on as the season continues. Gotta love big athletic heavyweights.

    Champions for the Spartans were Jordan Hamden at 141, Caleb Fish at 165, and Cameron Caffey at 197. Hamden has had a solid season so far, and looks to be establishing himself as a long-term solution for the Spartans. Caleb Fish has shown flashes of greatness in his early career for Michigan State, but this level of consistency is a really encouraging thing to see. He's enormously athletic, so him putting this together is a big deal for what he can do in the B1G as duals get going. Caffey, who jokingly referenced to me that he doesn't pin anybody, pinned 3 of his first 4 opponents. The fourth was a tech fall. Caffey was the favorite, but it's encouraging to see him put it on the field this weekend, and ended it with a major decision over a B1G opponent.

    The Spartans take a break here, with their next matches on January 6th against Bucknell, followed by a dual with in-state rival Michigan to start off their B1G dual schedule.

    Indiana also traveled to Reno and ended up with two champions and 7 placewinners. Graham Rooks at 149 and Jacob Bullock at Heavyweight walked away with gold. Other notable accomplishments for the Hoosiers include Derek Gilcher at 157 getting a win over Chase Saldate to place third at 157. His only loss of the tournament was to eventual champion, Jacob Wright, of Wyoming 2-1. Getting a B1G win like that is huge for Gilcher who has a lot of talent. Also placing 3rd was DJ Washington who has looked solid since dropping back down to 174. He also finishes the day with a win over a Spartan, Cesar Garza, in the third-place match.

    Jacob Bullock, also ending the day with a B1G win over a Spartan, has now won 12 matches in a row after starting the year off with a loss to Colton McKiernan of SIUE. Bullock is another one of the B1G's huge and athletic heavyweights that will keep us entertained through March. His efforts even got him B1G Wrestler of the Week honors, which was last done by a Hoosier when DJ Washington won in February of 2021. Bullock has now won the only two tournaments he's competed in this season, Reno and earlier this year at the Cleveland State Open.

    Speaking of tournaments, Indiana competes next in Evanston, Illinois as they finish off 2022 at the Midlands on December 29th and 30th.

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