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  • Photo: Photo/Mark Lundy

    Photo: Photo/Mark Lundy

    Iowa at Oklahoma State Preview & Predictions

    Spencer Lee defeated Nick Piccininni 10-5 in last season's dual meet (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)

    No. 3 Iowa travels to Stillwater to face No. 2 Oklahoma State on Sunday in the latest chapter of one of the best rivalries in college sports. The dual could potentially feature 18 ranked wrestlers across the 10 bouts. The Cowboys are the favorites, but Iowa certainly has a squad that can pull the upset and pick up their first undefeated dual season since 2010. The following is a weight-by-weight preview of the dual.

    125: No. 2 Spender Lee (Iowa) vs. No. 4 Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State)

    There seems to be a new sense of vulnerability around Lee recently. Since his loss against No. 1 Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern) in the Midlands finals, it seems like everyone is a live underdog versus the once unstoppable force. However, since that loss, Lee has won seven straight matches and picked up five falls. Of course, he did not compete when he had the chance to rematch Rivera, and rumors have swirled that he is dealing with an extended illness.

    Piccininni is having the best season his career. He has won 27 straight matches to start the year. Along the way, he has bested the likes of No. 10 Patrick Glory (Princeton), No. 7 Rayvon Foley (Michigan State) and No. 6 Sean Russell (Minnesota).

    These two wrestled twice last season. In their first meeting, Lee got out to a big lead and absorbed a comeback bid from Piccininni to win a 10-5 decision. They rematched at the NCAA tournament, and Lee picked up a second-period fall. Given how the season has progressed, this match will probably resemble their first meeting more than the second. If Lee is unable to get on the board early, it might be a long night for him. However, that has only happened in a few matches of his career.

    If Iowa chooses to not send Lee out for this match, then it is certainly time to worry for Hawkeye fans. If he is not ready this close to tournament time, then there is justifiable cause for concern.

    Prediction: Lee (Iowa) dec. Piccininni (Oklahoma State)

    133: No. 3 Austin DeSanto (Iowa) vs. No. 2 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State)

    DeSanto has been earning himself plenty of negative attention with his antics. However, that has somewhat obscured how strong his recent run has been. He seemed to get on track with a first-place finish at the Midlands. Even though it was not the strongest field, he has used the momentum in the second half of the season. Since that tournament, he has gone 6-0 with victories over No. 8 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) and No. 4 Nick Suriano (Rutgers).

    Fix came into this season as one of the favorites at this weight, and very little has happened to dispel that notion. He has gone 26-1 with his only loss being a 3-1 decision against Micky Phillippi (Pittsburgh). Like DeSanto, he holds a signature victory over Suriano, but it was hard fought and controversial.

    Not only is this an interesting match between two of the top three wrestlers in the country, but it is also an intriguing style contest. DeSanto likes to come forward and shoot with a lot of volume. However, Fix is normally able to neutralize those attacks with his underhook. He will need to find a way to get his offense from the hook, which might prove difficult with DeSanto constantly on the attack. In the end, Fix should be able to get it done in a closer than expected bout.

    Prediction: Fix (Oklahoma State) dec. DeSanto (Iowa)

    141: No. 16 Max Murin/Vince Turk (Iowa) vs. No. 12 Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State)

    Murin was expected to put an end to Iowa's revolving door at 141. However, he has struggled recently and allowed Turk to get some meaningful time. Murin is 12-5 on the season, but he was upset and pinned by Kyle Luigs (Illinois) in his last match. Turk has gone 14-4 on the season, but he has gotten the nod in only two duals. He lost against No. 20 Chad Red (Nebraska) and defeated Michael Cullen (Wisconsin) in Iowa's last dual.

    Brock's struggles at 141 continued this past weekend. He was a heavy underdog against No. 4 Jaydin Eierman (Missouri) and ended up giving up a second-period fall. With the loss, he has now set a new high for losses in a season with six. The two-time All-American still has some of the slickest offense in the game, but he has struggled at times this year.

    Iowa's plan to pull the dual upset likely includes a win here at 141. While Brock is vulnerable, neither Murin or Turk has been exceedingly sharp in their recent outings. Expect this match to be contentious, but the home crowd should push Brock over the finish line.

    Prediction: Brock (Oklahoma State) dec. Murin (Iowa)

    149: No. 12 Pat Lugo (Iowa) vs. No. 6 Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State)

    Lugo had a tough start to the season as he won only one of his first four matches. However, he has been much better of late. Since the Midlands, he has gone 7-1 with his only loss coming against No. 1 Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) in sudden victory. Of his 20 matches on the year, he has gone into overtime five times. In those five matches, he is 2-3, but he has won his last two.

    Until last weekend, Gfeller could say that his only two losses on the year were to the top-two ranked wrestlers at this weight. However, against Missouri, he dropped a 10-4 decision against No. 5 Brock Mauller. On the year, he has knocked off the likes of No. 10 Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa), No. 16 Christian Monserrat (West Virginia), No. 7 Mitch Finesilver (Duke).

    Gfeller likes to move forward and shoot. That might get him into trouble here. Against Mauller, he left himself open for counters on multiple occasions. Lugo does his best work leg attacks, but he does a great job of shooting off of his opponents' attempts. This will be considered an upset due to the rankings, but Lugo's style matches up well here.

    Prediction: Lugo (Iowa) dec. Gfeller (Oklahoma State)

    157: No. 7 Kaleb Young (Iowa) vs. Wyatt Sheets (Oklahoma State)

    Young has gone 15-3 on the season including a decision loss against No. 3 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) and a sudden victory loss against No. 2 Tyler Berger (Nebraska). After suffering back-to-back losses to start this month, Young has bounced back with a pair of Big Ten wins over Ryan Diehl (Maryland) and Garrett Model (Wisconsin). His last second throw win over No. 8 Steve Bleise (Minnesota) remains his signature win.

    Sheets has been a pleasant surprise for the Cowboys. He has gone 15-10 on the season and defeated both No. 12 Josh Humphreys (Lehigh) and No. 10 Taleb Rahmani (Pittsburgh). However, his inconsistency has kept him out of the rankings. This past weekend, he dropped a match against No. 17 Jarrett Jacques (Missouri) before jetting off to the Last Chance Open hosted by Iowa State. Sheets won his first round match over Pat Schoenfelder (Northern Iowa) before defaulting out.

    Young seems to adapt to what his opponents give him. If an opponent opens up, he turns on his offense and counters. If his opponent plays it conservative, he will do the same and try to make it a one-score match. Sheets is regularly involved in some high scoring matches, so look for Young to score some takedowns on counters and take a close match.

    Prediction: Young (Iowa) dec. Sheets (Oklahoma State)

    165: No. 2 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) vs. No. 10 Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State)

    Marinelli duplicated his victory over No. 3 Evan Wick (Wisconsin) last weekend. This time it came via a 6-4 score in overtime. The win pushed his season record to 19-0. In addition to Wick, Marinelli also holds victories over No. 6 Isaiah White (Nebraska), No. 17 Jonathan Viruet (Brown) and No. 4 Josh Shields (Arizona State).

    Rogers is a returning two-time All-American, but he might find himself outside of the starting lineup at the end of his senior season. Recent weigh-in sheets indicate that the Cowboys are shifting the lineup, and Rogers might be the odd man out. On the season, he has gone 16-3. However, two of those three losses have come against wrestlers he has previously defeated, No. 9 Branson Ashworth (Wyoming) and former teammate No. 5 Chance Marsteller (Lock Haven). This past weekend, he won a 7-5 decision over No. 14 Connor Flynn (Missouri), who he had pinned last season.

    Last year Marinelli was able to score a 5-2 decision over Rogers, but the match was actually closer than that. This year, he has made improvements to his finishing, so he should likely be able to put together a commanding decision. Rogers' state of mind must also be considered since he might soon be out of the lineup.

    Prediction: Marinelli (Iowa) maj. dec. Rogers (Oklahoma State)

    174: Mitch Bowman (Iowa) vs. No. 6 Joe Smith (Oklahoma State)

    This has been a volatile season for Bowman. He ended last season as the starter at 184 and made the round of 16 at the NCAA tournament. Bowman began this year filling in for Jacob Warner at 197. He then dropped to 174 following an injury to All-American Michael Kemerer. Then he missed nearly a month of action with an injury. He returned to action two weeks ago and has won three straight matches, including a fall and a technical fall.

    Smith had a 14-1 record and was looking like a potential spoiler in the 174 division, but he had a tough stretch coming. The stretch turned out to be overly tough, and he dropped three straight matches against No. 8 Taylor Lujan (Northern Iowa), No. 5 Jordan Kutler (Lehigh) and No. 2 Daniel Lewis (Missouri). Despite those losses he is still a contender for All-American status at this weight or 165.

    Bowman has filled in admirably at various points of his collegiate career. However, this will be a bridge too far for him, and it will be a struggle to not give up bonus points.

    Prediction: Smith (Oklahoma State) maj. dec. Bowman (Iowa)

    184: No. 12 Cash Wilcke (Iowa) vs. No. 9 Jacobe Smith (Oklahoma State)

    After back-to-back seasons wrestling up at 197 that finished in the round of 12 at the NCAA tournament, Wilcke is down at a more fitting weight this season. He has gone 17-3 on the season. He is currently riding a five-match winning streak that dates back to a loss against Emery Parker (Illinois) in late January. During the streak, he picked up one of the biggest wins in his career as he knocked off Taylor Venz (Nebraska) via late-match surge.

    Smith started the year at 174 before moving up following the Reno Tournament of Champions. It took some time for him to adjust, and he took losses against Hunter Bolen (Virginia) and No. 13 Louie DePrez (Binghamton) at the Southern Scuffle. However, since that tournament, he has gone 8-1 with wins over No. 10 Drew Foster (Northern Iowa) and No. 11 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pittsburgh).

    Wilcke is at his best when he is moving forward and looking for his own offense. However, against better wrestlers he has a tendency to shut it down and slow the pace. That strategy likely will not work against Smith. He has a variety of ways to score, and if he scores early, Wilcke may not have the firepower to catch up.

    Prediction: Smith (Oklahoma State) dec. Wilcke (Iowa)

    197: No. 4 Jacob Warner (Iowa) vs. No. 6 Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State)

    Warner wrestled only one match before Christmas, which was a victory over No. 5 Willie Miklus (Iowa State). He then took a pair of unexpected losses at the Midlands. Since then he seems to have settled into a groove and gone undefeated. His best win during the stretch likely came over No. 13 Eric Schultz (Nebraska). This past weekend, Warner scored a 9-0 major decision over Beau Breske (Wisconsin). Their previous meeting was a 5-3 decision win for Warner at the Midlands.

    Weigel has also missed a lot of time this year. He won four matches at the Oklahoma City Open in November, and he has wrestled only three matches since. Last weekend, he picked up a 4-1 decision over Wyatt Koelling (Missouri). Injuries have made life hard for Weigel in the past. Hopefully they do not further derail his senior season.

    On paper Weigel presents a lot of problems for Warner. He is big and strong for the weight. His top game is a difference maker, and he might be one of the best wrestlers the Iowa prospect has faced in college. However, Weigel has not really looked like himself in his two matches this month. He is still hard to score against, but if Warner is able to string his attacks together, he should be able to take the match.

    Prediction: Warner (Iowa) dec. Weigel (Oklahoma State)

    285: No. 8 Sam Stoll (Iowa) vs. No. 2 Derek White (Oklahoma State)

    Stoll started this season ranked No. 1, but he has missed a lot of time with an offseason injury. He did not really begin competing regularly until late January. On the season, he has gone 8-2 with his best win likely coming over No. 9 Youssif Hemida (Maryland) who had bested him at the NCAA tournament the year before. Last weekend Stoll dropped a 1-0 match against No. 7 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin).

    White has evolved from a round of 12 finisher last year into a true contender this year. He has gone 23-1 with his only loss coming against No. 1 Gable Steveson (Minnesota). White has also picked up recent victories over No. 5 Jordan Wood (Lehigh), No. 17 Demetrious Thomas (Pittsburgh) and No. 3 Anthony Cassar (Penn State).

    Last season Stoll defeated White 6-4 in the second sudden victory period. Considering the recent results, it is hard to imagine him repeating that result. White has adjusted to wrestling bigger heavyweights, and he should be able to take this one. Stoll has had trouble getting off the bottom this year, and White may be able to rack up the riding time point.

    Prediction: White (Oklahoma State) dec. Stoll (Iowa)

    Team Score: Oklahoma State 16, Iowa 16

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