(photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
It's the last Friday of the dual season! How time flies when you're not actually making weight and competing. While the Big Ten Network, specifically B1G+, is loaded with content again tonight, there's a slightly different look to the duals. None of them are interconference clashes; they all feature a Big Ten school hosting an out-of-conference opponent. In two cases, these B1G schools face in-state competition, which adds a different level of intensity to the match.
Below are the three dual on the B1G+ tonight, how to watch them, and what to look out for on this last Friday of the dual portion of the season.
(All times eastern)
#19 Central Michigan at #21 Michigan State - 6pm/How to watch: B1G+
#16 Johnny Lovett (Central Michigan) vs. #17 Chase Saldate (Michigan State)
While only one of the ten bouts in this dual features a pair of ranked wrestlers, there are a lot of quality contests on tap for this in-state battle. Both teams happen to be better in dual competition as opposed to tournaments.
At 149 lbs, Corbyn Munson just dropped out of the rankings this week, but has had a strong year for Central Michigan, amassing a 20-6 record. He'll face Peyton Omania, a 2021 national qualifier, who was a World Team member last season in Greco-Roman. Omania also has a Junior World bronze medal on his resume.
The headliner is a matchup at 157 lbs between a pair of returning national qualifiers that are currently ranked next to one another, with Lovett and Saldate. Lovett comes in with an 11-match winning streak, while Saldate is looking to get back on the winning path, having lost in his last two appearances. Neither loss could be classified as â€œbadâ€ since his opponents were both ranked in the top-eight.
From 165-197, most of Central Michigan's prospective starters were on the shortlist of wrestlers considered for the national rankings, but didn't make the cut this week. That should make for interesting matches at 165 and 197, both solid weights for the Spartans. A season-ending injury pushed Caleb Fish into MSU's starting lineup at 165; however, he has acquitted himself well and sports a 20-8 record. His bout with Tracy Hubbard should be considered a swing match in this dual.
At 197, #5 Cam Caffey will see Aaron Bolo of Central Michigan. A winner of seven of his last eight, Bolo has downed a pair of returning national qualifiers during his hot streak and is 11-5 overall. Caffey has risen to the level of his competition this year. He went through the Big Ten portion of his schedule unscathed, picked up wins over five ranked opponents in the process. With returning NCAA champion AJ Ferrari (Oklahoma State) out for the year, due to injury, Caffey's shot at a national title is just as good as anyone at this weight.
Columbia at Maryland - 7 pm/How to watch: B1G+
This is a dual between a pair of emerging programs that have been tearing up the recruiting trail, of late. Both Columbia and Maryland have seen their results on the mat pick up as well. Though there are no matches between ranked wrestlers in this meet, there are several intriguing ones.
Expect fireworks at 133 lbs, because that's what happens when King Sandoval takes the mat for the Terps. The NCAA leader in falls, with 12, Sandoval regularly puts together flashy moves that circulate on social media. He'll face a tough test in #23 Angelo Rini, who is a combined 43-16 during his almost two years competing for Columbia.
174 lbs has a pair of wrestlers on the cusp of a national ranking with Nick Fine (Columbia) and Dom Solis (Maryland). Fine is a true freshman that's hit a bit of a rough patch, losing three of his last six matches; however, he's still 18-10 on the year. Solis won his first three Big Ten duals of the year, culminating in a major decision victory over Rutgers' Connor O'Neill on Saturday.
Without a doubt, Maryland's best wrestler this year has been #10 Kyle Cochran at 184 lbs. Cochran won the Southern Scuffle and is 20-6 on the year. While he's a heavy favorite over Brian Bonino, the Lion 184 lber does have a pair of recent wins over returning national qualifiers (David Key - Navy and Gregg Harvey - Pittsburgh), so he's capable of an upset.
Princeton at Rutgers - 7 pm/How to watch: B1G+
#2 Patrick Glory (Princeton) vs. #27 Dylan Shawver (Rutgers)
#23 Travis Stefanik (Princeton) vs. #11 John Poznanski (Rutgers)
#19 Luke Stout (Princeton) vs. #11 Greg Bulsak (Rutgers)
It's always fun when these in-state rivals clash, especially with the emergence of both teams as national powers. Both are expected to feature a pair of returning All-Americans in their lineup, Rutgers with Sebastian Rivera at 141 and John Poznanski at 184 and Princeton with Patrick Glory at 125 and Quincy Monday at 157.
Glory has been excellent this year with a perfect 12-0 record and bonus points in 58% of his bouts. Ever the showman and team player, Glory will look to silence the Rutgers home crowd with another bonus-point win against a capable opponent in Dylan Shawver. The Scarlet Knight 125 lber took his lumps in the Big Ten (5-4), but is still 18-6 for the year.
Over the past few weeks, All-American John Poznanski has taken some uncharacteristic losses at 184 lbs. Does Travis Stefanik represent a chance to get back to his winning ways or another potential roadblock? Stefanik is best remembered for posting a huge win over Cornell in 2019-20 that allowed Princeton to snap Cornell's Ivy League stranglehold.
Perhaps the best match of the night, rankings-wise, is at 197 lbs between Clarion graduate-transfer Greg Bulsak and young Luke Stout. As eluded to earlier, 197 is wide open nationally. There looks to be little separating the top-ranked wrestlers from someone at #19, like Stout. A win for the Tiger could do wonders for his NCAA seeding. Bulsak holding server in his home gym will help him gain confidence needed to make the NCAA podium for the first time.