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  • Photo: Tony Rotundo

    Photo: Tony Rotundo

    InterMat's 2022 Hypothetical Dual Bowl Series

    2021 NCAA finals between Trent Hidlay (left) and Aaron Brooks (photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)

    Almost five years ago, to the day, was the last time that the NWCA National Duals were held in some form or fashion. That most recent iteration of the event was a "Bowl" series, where schools were paired up with one another in a stand-alone dual. That year non-Big Ten schools hosted, while Big Ten teams hosted the previous year.

    So before we get focused on the postseason, let's have some fun and look at how this type of event could happen in 2021-22.

    We've put together 19 duals that would comprise this hypothetical dual series. How were they put together? Pretty simply. Starting at #1, we paired off Penn State with the next highest-ranked non-Big Ten schools. That practice continued down the rankings; however, we did not match teams that wrestled each other in duals already. For instance, Iowa and Iowa State should have been paired together, but they are on each other's schedule. So, Iowa gets the next non-Big Ten school, not on their schedule.

    Along with a brief summary of interesting matchups and facts about each dual, we also ran these dual meets through the dual comparison feature on WrestleStat, to get a good gauge on how these matches would play out.

    Army West Point vs. Stanford

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:

    Whoa! Right off the bat, we have a barnburner that WrestleStat expects to head to criteria. We know despite Army West Point's dual record, they're down to face anyone/anywhere. How about a Stanford team that is probably better in a tournament-style, but still formidable in duals? The headline bout between these two teams comes at 149 lbs with returning conference champions Jaden Abas (Stanford) and PJ Ogunsanya (Army West Point). The two met in the consolation round of 16 at the 2021 NCAA Championships and Abas eliminated Ogunsaya, 9-2.

    Cal Poly vs. Wyoming

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    17-16 Wyoming

    It's a second-straight matchup between a team that's made for tournaments (Cal Poly) against one that's relatively balanced in Wyoming. The best part about this prospect pairing is the middle-to-back half of their weights. 2021 Big 12 runner-up Cole Moody (Wyoming) would have his hands full with the nation's top-ranked a165 lber, Evan Wick (Cal Poly). After that, you have back-to-back bouts featuring top-15 ranked wrestlers for both teams. #13 Adam Kemp (Cal Poly) and #15 Hayden Hastings (Wyoming) at 174 and #5 Bernie Truax (Cal Poly) versus #15 Tate Samuelson (Wyoming) up at 184 lbs. Kemp and Hastings were in the same Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational weight class this year, with Kemp taking sixth and Hastings seventh; though they didn't meet.

    Navy vs. Virginia

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    19-12 Virginia

    This could be a nice regional rivalry, though the schools are separated by about 150 miles; Navy and Virginia haven't met in dual action since 2009 (at the Virginia Duals). The last time these schools were scheduled for a match, UVA head coach Steve Garland was a senior! Up-and-down the line, both school's lineups really match up well and could make for an entertaining dual. After returning NCAA qualifiers kick off the dual at 125 (Patrick McCormick - UVA and Jacob Allen - Navy), At 133 is a pair of probable, first-time qualifiers at 133 with #19 Brian Courtney (Virginia) and #22 Josh Koderhandt (Navy). More fire at 157 lbs, when #23 Andrew Cerniglia (Navy) faces off with the guy directly behind him in the rankings, Jake Keating (Virginia). 184 and 197 both feature ranked wrestlers for both squads with #25 Michael Battista (Virginia) and #30 David Key (Navy), then #16 Jay Aiello (Virginia) and #25 Jake Koser (Navy). Basically, there are lots of toss-up matches, which could make this bout swing towards Navy under the right circumstances.

    Lehigh vs. North Dakota State

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    18-17 North Dakota State

    Lehigh has faced one of the most challenging out-of-conference schedule's in the nation this year, so don't let a 9-9 dual record deceive you of their true potential. Without a doubt, this dual would be one to watch if, for nothing else, the 157 lb contest. #5 Jared Franek (North Dakota State) and #6 Josh Humphreys (Lehigh). The two have combined to go 36-4 this year and are worthy of such lofty rankings. Both have made it to the NCAA Round of 12 and are still seeking their first NCAA All-American honor in 2022. This is the type of match you could see in the national quarterfinals or perhaps even the bloodround. A low-key bout to watch would take place at 165 lbs with 2021 Big 12 champion #17 Luke Weber (North Dakota State) against #25 Brian Meyer (Lehigh). The Mountain Hawk is fresh off a win over All-American Anthony Valencia and also has beaten national runner-up Jake Wentzel this year.

    Illinois vs. South Dakota State

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    20-12 South Dakota State

    I don't know if you'd call it an upset, but it's interesting seeing WrestleStat projection the Big Ten team falling at the hands of South Dakota State. The Illini's top and most consistent wrestler this season has been 133 lber Lucas Byrd. Though his sixth ranking is significantly higher than #25 Gabe Tagg, the Jackrabbit has improved as he's been given more mat time and this bout could be closer than you'd guess. A rematch between two returning AA's looms at 141 lbs. Last year, Dylan Duncan (Illinois) edged Clay Carlson (South Dakota State) 3-2 at the NCAA Tournament; however, Duncan missed most of the regular season and hasn't been at that form, just yet. On the other hand, Carlson is 27-3 and won the CKLV Invitational. A fun contrast of styles could be in store at 165 as you have the brawler in #27 Danny Braunagel (Illinois) and the #33 wide-open Tanner Cook (South Dakota State), who's always looking for a pin. The match could be still hanging in the balance with ranked heavyweight #17 Luke Luffman (Illinois) and #22 AJ Nevills (South Dakota State) waiting in the wings.

    Appalachian State vs. Oklahoma

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    23-9 Oklahoma

    It looks as if WrestleStat has projected some of the toss-up matches to lean the Sooners direction, because I wouldn't necessarily imagine such a one-sided dual between these two programs. These teams actually met twice, relatively recently, in 2017 and 2018. The most recent meeting actually had a pair of bouts that still could happen in 2022, with #28 Tony Madrigal (Oklahoma) and #30 Codi Russell (Appalachian State) at 133 and #17 Anthony Mantanona (Oklahoma) and #28 Thomas Flitz (Appalachian State). The Mantanona/Flitz bout ended with a 17-12 score, so anytime there's a possibility of 30 points on the board, you've gotta run it back, right? The middle of a 2022 dual between these teams is loaded with action, highlighted by #4 Jonathan Millner (Appalachian State) and #19 Willie McDougald (Oklahoma).

    #25 Princeton vs. Campbell

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    19-18 Campbell

    Early in the 2021-22 season, Campbell defeated Lehigh and battled tough against #20 Oregon State, so seeing WS pick a Campbell upset isn't too shocking. The Camels are probably better suited for duals opposed the Princeton, at this point. While this dual, looks like it would be fun to watch and exciting, there aren't too many battles between ranked foes as a possibility. The 184 lb bout between #24 Travis Stefanik (Princeton) and #26 Caleb Hopkins (Campbell) is the only one on tap. Even so, the last two bouts between #19 Luke Stout (Princeton) and Levi Hopkins/Chris Kober (Campbell) at 197 and #25 Taye Ghadiali (Campbell) and Matt Cover (Princeton), could go either way.

    #21 Michigan State vs. #24 Pittsburgh

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    19-13 Michigan State

    You might not think so at first glance, but this dual could have some GIANT matches with big-time rankings implications on the lineup. First and foremost is at 133 lbs. #7 Rayvon Foley (Michigan State) against #10 Micky Phillippi (Pittsburgh). The two-time ACC champion, Philippi, is so defensively sound and a good scrambler, so he'll be a difficult matchup for anyone. Foley can put points on the board and is wrestling as well as any time in his career. Sign me up for this one. 157 lbs has a top-15 matchup with #16 Chase Saldate (Michigan State) and #18 Elijah Cleary (Pittsburgh). Since moving to Pitt, Cleary has thrived and won the MatMen Open, while Saldate has excelled despite not having redshirted for the Spartans. These two met in dual competition last year, while Cleary was at Ohio State, and Saldate pitched a 4-0 shutout. At 197 lbs, we have the type of bout you could see in the NCAA quarters with returning runner-up #9 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pittsburgh) and former Big Ten champion #5 Cameron Caffey (Michigan State). Despite a slow start, Caffey has righted the ship and looks like a possible title contender for MSU.

    #18 Purdue vs. #23 Central Michigan

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    23-9 Purdue

    This potential dual seems to fit as both programs strike me as blue-collar, tough wrestlers that are products of good systems and coaching staffs. The bout-to-watch here is at 157 lbs with #12 Kendall Coleman (Purdue) and #17 Johnny Lovett (Central Michigan). Both are seeking their first podium berth; Coleman had his first chance wiped out in 2020 and was injured and defaulted out last year. Lovett had a relatively surprising run to the consi round of 16. This year, he's been much more consistent and just defeated a top-ten opponent in Will Lewan (Michigan). While CMU doesn't have anyone in the rankings from 165-197, those weights are all inhabited by experienced wrestlers that could make things rough for their counterparts from Purdue.

    #17 Northwestern vs. #22 Northern Iowa

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:

    So it's a tie and we must go to criteria for the right to wear black and purple! That checks out. Right off the bat, we have a good one at 125 lbs. It's a rematch of the 2021 NCAA Round of 16 between #12 Michael DeAugustino (Northwestern) and #15 Brody Teske (Northern Iowa). Interestingly enough, at that time, DeAugustino was still seeded 12th, but was the underdog to Teske, who prevailed, 2-0. #16 Kyle Biscoglia (Northern Iowa) has quietly moved up the 133 lb rankings and makes a prospective bout with #9 Chris Cannon (Northwestern) interesting. The same can be said for 165 and 174 lbs. Though the Panthers boast ranked wrestlers at both weights (#16 Austin Yant and #19 Lance Runyon, respectively), both of Northwestern's unranked grapplers have past NCAA experience (David Ferrante and Troy Fisher). For that matter, 141 lbs could also be good as Frankie Tal-Shahar (Northwestern) has the look of a young guy that could breakout out at the conference tournament. Here he could shock #24 Cael Happel (Northern Iowa).

    #15 Rutgers vs. #20 Oregon State

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    19-12 Rutgers

    So if you're playing along at home, you'll see that the WrestleStat dual comparison feature gave #15 Joey Olivieri (Rutgers) a major decision over #12 Devan Turner (Oregon State) at 133 and unranked Robert Kanniard (Rutgers) the win at 157 against #15 Hunter Willits (Oregon State).

    With both of these squads being a force in duals, they match up really well. #13 Grant Willits (Oregon State) is fresh off handing Real Woods his first loss of the year (via fall) and would be looking to do the same to #3 Sebastian Rivera (Rutgers). After this week's rankings, the 184 lb contest between John Poznanski (Rutgers) and Trey Munoz (Oregon State) would be considered a top-ten affair, with Poz at nine and Munoz ten. Other ranked wrestlers set to tangle would be #14 Brandon Kaylor (Oregon State) and #27 Dylan Shawver (Rutgers) at 125, along with#15 Mike Van Brill (Rutgers) and #25 Cory Crooks (Oregon State) at 149.

    #14 Minnesota vs. #19 North Carolina

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    19-15 North Carolina

    A late-season injury to Brayton Lee (Minnesota) would have prevented the best match in this dual from happening at 157 lbs. He would have been slated to meet Austin O'Connor (North Carolina), who sat just behind him in the national rankings. In Lee's absence, O'Connor bumps up to #4. Without Lee/O'Connor, the best potential match of this dual takes place at 174 lbs with #8 Clay Lautt (North Carolina) and #18 Bailee O'Reilly (Minnesota). Lautt ended his regular season by pinning four-time ACC champion Hayden Hidlay (NC State), while O'Reilly has assumed the starting role at this weight and been one of Minnesota's more consistent wrestlers. A pair of future stars could clash at 184 with Gavin Kane (North Carolina) and Isaiah Salazar (Minnesota). Kane recently defeated All-American Hunter Bolen (Virginia Tech), while Salazar is still looking for that first, big signature win.

    #13 Nebraska vs. #16 Penn

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    28-8 Nebraska

    The "Jordan Burroughs Bowl." JB's alma mater and former training spot against his new one in the Pennsylvania RTC. Despite the lopsided final score, Penn has a very strong lineup that could make for plenty of interesting individual matches. At 141 with multiple-time All-American CJ Red (Nebraska) and MatMen Open finalist CJ Composto (Penn). If anyone follows the high school scene closely, 149 lbs should grab your fancy. #6 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska) against #24 Anthony Artalona (Penn) is a Fargo-veteran's dream. Lovett is one of the most decorated wrestlers in "Fargo" history with ten total placings (3x Greco champ; two as a Junior). Artalona was a six-time placer and won a pair of Junior freestyle championships.

    Along with ranked matchups at 174, 184, and 285, there's a top-20 clash at 157 lbs between #11 Peyton Robb (Nebraska) and #19 Doug Zapf (Penn).

    #11 Arizona State vs. #12 Oklahoma State

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    18-16 Oklahoma State

    Despite the Cowboys being besieged with injuries down the stretch, WrestleStat still has Oklahoma State eeking out a win over Arizona State. While AJ Ferrari wasn't considered, it's likely that they couldn't take into consideration some of the OSU wrestlers that are banged up.

    Aside from those concerns, these two teams match up well. There would be three bouts between returning All-Americans in this dual. Fix/McGee at 133, Teemer/Sheets at 157, and Wittlake/Valencia at 165. Any or all of these are probably previews of the NCAA Tournament, at some point.

    Along with those All-Americans meeting, second-year #12 Trevor Mastrogiovanni (Oklahoma State) gets NCAA runner-up #4 Brandon Courtney (Arizona State) at 125 and some exciting 149 lbers do battle with #7 Kyle Parco (Arizona State) and #13 Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State).

    #7 Wisconsin vs. #9 Virginia Tech

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    16-15 Wisconsin

    This would have been the first meeting between these schools since 2012-13 and what a missed opportunity. The 149 lb bout could have been one of the best of the year. #5 Austin Gomez (Wisconsin) and #8 Bryce Andonian (Virginia Tech) are two of the most electric wrestlers in the nation. Getting them on the same mat would be incredible. Either a 25-point shootout or the most exciting :25 second fall you've ever seen.

    If that isn't enough, returning All-Americans at 125 lbs with #6 Eric Barnett (Wisconsin) and #18 Sam Latona (Virginia Tech). The two did not meet in St. Louis last season, but Latona outplaced the Badger. This year, Barnett is having an all-around better year, while Latona has come on of late.

    Virginia Tech's All-Americans at 174 and 184 lbs, #6 Mekhi Lewis and #14 Hunter Bolen, would be tasked with a pair of past NCAA Round of 12 finishers in #30 Andrew McNally and #27 Chris Weiler.

    The closing match is one that could use professional wrestling "Hair Match" stipulations. Both heavyweights, #12 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin) and #14 Nathan Traxler (Virginia Tech), have glorious locks that can be fashioned into man-buns. The winner likely propels his team to victory, while avoiding a haircut.

    #6 Ohio State vs. #10 Missouri

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    24-7 Missouri

    Wait, what? 24-7 in favor of Missouri. That's an interesting prognostication, to say the least. This dual is loaded with potential fun matchups, but it would be crazy to think that either team wins in a blowout. Look no further than 165 lbs for your marquee matchup. #2 Keegan O'Toole (Missouri) and #4 Carson Kharchla (Ohio State) are a combined 36-1 this year and are among the key title contenders at 165. It's not a stretch to think the pair could represent a possible NCAA finals match or maybe a semifinal.

    In most duals, we've highlighted the potential bouts between ranked wrestlers. Here, it's easier to pick out the ones without them. 133 lbs is the only of the dual to have neither combatant ranked, while Ohio State's 157 lber is currently not in the top-33. Everyone else in the dual is!

    125, 174, and 285 look like the most competitive. The leadoff weight features #9 Malik Heinselman (Ohio State) and #17 Noah Surtin (Missouri) in a bout between two 125 lbers that have really stepped up their game this year. Although WS has projected a win by #11 Peyton Mocco (Missouri), #7 Ethan Smith (Ohio State) is the returning AA of the pair and hasn't lost to a non-All-American this year. Somehow heavyweight veterans #13 Tate Orndorff (Ohio State) and #19 Zach Elam (Missouri) have never met. They have a ton of common opponents and have each qualified for nationals multiple times at this weight class.

    #3 Michigan vs. #5 Iowa State

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    23-9 Michigan

    We've got a red-hot Iowa State team facing a Michigan team that's one of the school's best in decades, perhaps ever. 141 lbs is interesting as predictions for this result may have shifted over the past few months. Three-time All-American and 2020 Olympian Stevan Micic (Michigan) is picked by WS and would have been considered an overwhelming favorite over Ian Parker (Iowa State) in the past. However, since his return, Micic has only gone 6-4. The Michigan native, Parker, hasn't been overly active this year, but does sport a record that includes wins in nine of ten matches.

    157 lbs has a pair of age-group world champions in Junior (and NCAA) champion #1 David Carr (Iowa State) versus #10 Will Lewan (Michigan). It would be an interesting clash of styles. Lewan is usually able to shutdown his opponent's offense, while Carr has racked up bonus points in more than 70% of his matches this year. The two met in the NCAA Round of 16 last year and Carr was still able to post a 10-2 major decision.

    One of the most improved wrestlers for the Cyclones draws perhaps the best for Michigan at 184 lbs with #2 Myles Amine (Michigan) and #7 Marcus Coleman (Iowa State). Amine is a close loss to NCAA champion Aaron Brooks (Penn State) away from being undefeated this year, while Coleman has found a consistency not previously reached and owns wins over a pair of returning AA's.

    Perhaps the best match, from a viewing standpoint, would be the 197 lb bout. #7 Yonger Bastida (Iowa State) and #11 Patrick Brucki (Michigan) could make for a fun match. Both have been in their own fair share of buzzer-beaters and late rallies.

    #2 Iowa vs. #8 Cornell

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    29-6 Iowa

    Back when the National Duals were "a thing," tensions ran high between these two schools as then-Cornell head coach took shots at Tom Brands when Iowa didn't compete one year. I'm sure with a Big Red alum at the helm in Mike Grey and the Brands' brothers still in Iowa City, there are some underlying tensions at play here.

    While Iowa is a clear-cut favorite here, there are still plenty of intriguing matches that could take place. First of all, at 125 lbs with All-American and Olympic Trials finalist, Vito Arujau, facing off with one of the nation's best freshmen in Drake Ayala. Plenty of action from both parties would be expected.

    At 165/174/197/285, Iowa has returning All-Americans (Alex Marinelli, Michael Kemerer, Jacob Warner, Tony Cassioppi), against talented Cornell wrestlers that haven't had the opportunity to wrestle at nationals yet (Julian Ramirez, Chris Foca, Jacob Cardenas, Lewis Fernandes). In the heat of a dual meet, you may see Cornell pull one of these upsets. WS has #13 Jonathan Loew (Cornell) falling to #20 Abe Assad (Iowa), so there's another possible win for Cornell, which was given in the prediction.

    Another quality, top-ten matchup in this dual is #1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) against #10 Max Murin (Iowa). Yianni has never wrestled an Iowa wrestler in collegiate competition. I'd expect a low-scoring bout between him and Murin.

    #1 Penn State vs. #4 NC State

    WrestleStat Dual Prediction:
    21-12 Penn State

    NC State wrestled Iowa to a barnburner at the Collegiate Duals in December. They have the potential to at least make things interesting with Penn State, if all goes their way.

    The two biggest matches for this dual would involve the Hidlay brothers and Penn State's returning national champions at 174 and 184. At 184, it would be an NCAA finals rematch between Aaron Brooks (Penn State) and Trent Hidlay. Brooks has generally been head-and-shoulders above most of his competition, but barely got by Hidlay. Trent's older brother, Hayden, has moved up two weight classes and proven he can be a title contender. On Sunday night, Hidlay got by 2019 national champion, Mekhi Lewis, in sudden victory.

    Breaking down the rest of this dual, NC State is a favorite, on paper, at 149 with Tariq Wilson (NC State) against Beau Bartlett (Penn State), 157 with Ed Scott (NC State) and Brady Berge (Penn State), and 165 Daniel Bullard (NC State) and Creighton Edsell (Penn State). We could consider Penn State slight favorites at 125 with Drew Hildebrandt (Penn State)/Jakob Camacho (NC State) and 197 Max Dean (Penn State)/Isaac Trumble (NC State). So, NC State could make it a dual with wins where they're favored, one of the headliners, and maybe one of the slight favorites.

    Not as has been the case with Penn State over the last decade; bonus points will be a factor. Roman Bravo Young, Nick Lee, and Greg Kerkvliet all have matches where at least a major decision is in play.

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