Zain Retherford has owned the series against Brandon Sorensen (Photo/John Sachs, Tech-Fall.com)
No. 1 Penn State is still riding high off their win over No. 2 Ohio State. On Saturday, they welcome No. 7 Iowa to the Bryce Jordan Center for a dual. The Nittany Lions are a clear favorite to win the dual, but last weekend showed that anything can happen. The match features four top-ten matches and 13 ranked wrestlers. The following is a weight-by-weight preview of the dual meet. The lineups are a prediction of each team's best squad
125: No. 3 Spencer Lee (Iowa) vs. Carson Kuhn (Penn State)
Lee continued his strong true freshman campaign with a pair of wins over ranked opponents last weekend. On Friday, he scored a 15-0 technical fall over No. 6 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota), and then on Sunday, he bested No. 10 Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern) via 7-4 decision. The win over Rivera was somewhat concerning for Hawkeye fans. Lee built a 6-0 lead in the first period before allowing Rivera back in the match. Since coming out of redshirt in January, Lee has gone 6-0 and also defeated No. 4 Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State), No. 7 Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State) and No. 9 Drew Mattin (Michigan).
Kuhn transferred in for the second semester and finally made his Penn State debut against Ohio State. He put an early scare into Tomasello but ended up falling via major decision. Kuhn previously competed for Boise State. In 2015, he was the Pac 12 runner-up at 133 falling to Joey Palmer (Oregon State) in the finals.
Since coming out of redshirt, Lee's matches have mostly gone one of two ways. He either blows his opponent out of the water early or gets a big lead and sits on it for a decision win. Kuhn showed he was game against Tomasello, but he will struggle under Lee and likely give up bonus.
Prediction: Lee (Iowa) tech. fall over Kuhn (Penn State)
133: Paul Glynn (Iowa) vs. Corey Keener (Penn State)
Considering Iowa chose to sit senior Phil Laux on senior day last Sunday, it appears as if Glynn has finally locked down the starting spot at 133. Against Northwestern, he stopped a three-match losing streak with a 3-2 victory over Colin Valdiviez. For the most part, this season has been a struggle for Glynn. He has gone 6-8 and dropped all five of his matches against ranked competition.
Keener will be looking to stop a three-match losing streak. The Central Michigan transfer has dropped his last three matches against No. 2 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State), No. 12 Mitchell McKee (Minnesota) and No. 20 Scott Delvecchio (Rutgers). Keener holds a 12-6 record on the season, but he has not defeated a ranked wrestler on the season.
Neither wrestler is coming into this match with a lot of momentum. Glynn is aggressive on the feet and goes for a lot of leg attacks. However, he has trouble getting through the hand fight and struggles to finish. This could be a close match, but if Keener scores some points early in the match, Glynn will struggle to catch up.
Prediction: Keener (Penn State) dec. Glynn (Iowa)
141: Carter Happel (Iowa) vs. No. 8 Nick Lee (Penn State)
Iowa is still platonning Happel and Vince Turk at this weight. Last weekend, the coaching staff announced ahead of time that Happel would wrestle on Friday and Turk would go on Sunday. Happel took full advantage of the opportunity and picked up a come-from-behind fall over No. 14 Tommy Thorn (Minnesota). This is the biggest win picked up by either Happel or Turk this season and should be enough for him to earn the starting spot moving forward.
Penn State pulled Lee out of redshirt last month. He won his first six matches in the Nittany Lion singlet including wins over No. 16 Nate Limmex (Purdue) and Thorn. However, in his last match, Lee dropped a one-point decision against No. 7 Joey McKenna (Ohio State). While redshirting, the freshman placed second at the Southern Scuffle and picked up a victory over No. 9 Josh Alber (Northern Iowa).
Lee should be a clear favorite here. Happel is coming off his biggest win of the year, but he does not shine when his opponent leads. Lee is a hyper offensive wrestler. He will continually attack the legs and force Happel to be defensive. That should be enough to run up the score.
Prediction: Lee (Penn State) maj. dec. Happel (Iowa)
149: No. 2 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) vs. No. 1 Zain Retherford (Penn State)
Sorensen has started his senior season off strong. He has gone 18-0 and took first place at the Midlands. During his run, he has already knocked off No. 4 Justin Oliver (Central Michigan), No. 5 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern), No. 6 Ke-Shawn Hayes (Ohio State), No. 8 Jason Tsirtsis (Arizona State) and No. 11 Eleazar Deluca (Rutgers). Last Sunday, Sorensen picked up a second win over Deakin when the referee called Deakin for a headgear grab in sudden victory.
Retherford's hunt for a third straight national title has gotten off to a good start. He is undefeated at 21-0 and has scored bonus points in all of those victories. Against Ohio State, he gave up two early takedowns but still managed to put up a technical fall over No. 6 Ke-Shawn Hayes. The bonus points ended up being key in Penn State's upset. During the season, Retherford has also defeated Deakin, Deluca and No. 18 Malik Amine (Michigan).
These two have met four times during their college careers. Retherford has won all four of the matches. Their last meeting came at the NCAA tournament with Retherford picking up a first-period fall. However, Sorensen has shown the ability to make it a match as their previous encounter went to overtime. Retherford should be a clear favorite in this match, but stranger things have happened in college wrestling.
Prediction: Retherford (Penn State) maj. dec. Sorensen (Iowa)
157: No. 2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa) vs. Bo Pipher (Penn State)
After missing the Michigan dual, Kemerer has gotten back in the lineup with a pair of wins. He bested No. 17 Jake Short (Minnesota) on Friday before scoring a technical fall over Shayne Oster (Northwestern) on Sunday. For the season, Kemerer has gone 18-0 and defeated No. 5 Micah Jordan (Ohio State), No. 6 Josh Shields (Arizona State) and No. 9 Clayton Ream (North Dakota State).
Pipher has received the call to fill in for No. 1 Jason Nolf while he sits out with an injury. The replacement job got off to a tough start against Ohio State as Pipher gave up a technical fall in the second period. The loss dropped the sophomore's season record to 5-10.
Kemerer has been dealing with what coaches call a "knee tweak." Even with that being the case, he should be able to pick up bonus points in this match. Pipher gave up bonus points against Jordan, who does not have the same level of top game as Kemerer.
Prediction: Kemerer (Iowa) fall over Pipher (Penn State)
165: No. 7 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) vs. No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State)
The 165-pound weight class in the Big Ten this year is absurdly deep. Marinelli missed the early part of the season with an injury and thus had to jump into the deep end right away. He has passed all tests so far this season. He holds an undefeated record and wins over No. 8 Nick Wanzek (Minnesota), No. 9 Logan Massa (Michigan), No. 10 Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State), No. 11 Richie Lewis (Rutgers) and No. 14 Te'Shan Campbell.
Joseph has put to bed the notion that his freshman year national title win was a fluke. This season, he has been downright dominant. He has gone 16-0 and defeated multiple ranked wrestlers. He holds victories over Massa, Wanzek, Lewis and Campbell. Of his 16 wins this season only three have not been via bonus.
This is where this dual gets really interesting. Marinelli has not allowed a takedown since Lewis took him down in his season debut. He is incredibly stingy and makes every match a grind. Joseph is normally up for that kind of contest. Expect this one to be a close contest for years to come. Joseph should be the favorite since he has the better finishing ability, but Marinelli certainly has a shot. If the Iowa wrestler is able to pull the upset, he will have moved himself into the title picture at 165.
Prediction: Joseph (Penn State) dec. Marinelli (Iowa)
174: Joey Gunther (Iowa) vs. No. 2 Mark Hall (Penn State)
While Kaleb Young has gotten some matches recently at this weight, Gunther appears to be the pick for the postseason. Since the Midlands, Gunther has gone 2-1 with wins over Gary Ritchie (Michigan State) and Chris Pfarr (Minnesota). So far this season, he has faced only one ranked opponent, No. 13 Jacobe Smith (Oklahoma State), and dropped a 3-1 decision.
Since suffering an exhibition loss at the All-Star Classic against No. 1 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State), Hall has been perfect on the season. In his last match, he duplicated his NCAA finals performance from last year and bested No. 3 Bo Jordan (Ohio State). During the year, Hall has also defeated No. 20 Devin Skatzka (Indiana), No. 19 Johnny Sebastian (Northwestern), No. 8 Jadaen Bernstein (Navy), No. 6 Myles Amine (Michigan) and No. 5 Jordan Kutler (Lehigh).
Hall is a clear favorite in this matchup. It will be interesting to see if Gunther can keep it close for the team score. While Hall has an impressive bonus rate, he does occasionally get a little too defensive.
Prediction: Hall (Penn State) maj. dec. Gunther (Iowa)
184: Mitch Bowman (Iowa) vs. No. 1 Bo Nickal (Penn State)
Bowman earned a spot in the InterMat rankings with a victory over Keegan Moore (Oklahoma State). However, after that win, he dropped three straight matches against No. 2 Myles Martin (Ohio State), Domenic Abounader (Michigan) and Brandon Krone (Minnesota). Even though Bowman stopped the losing streak with a major decision victory over Mitch Sliga (Northwestern), he fell out of the rankings.
Nickal has had a few close matches this year. He defeated No. 4 Ryan Preisch (Lehigh) and No. 12 Nicholas Gravina (Rutgers) in one-point matches and knocked off No. 5 Domenic Abounader (Michigan) via 5-2 decision. However, in his last match, Nickal put a stamp on rival No. 2 Myles Martin (Ohio State) and picked up a major decision. He is now 21-0 with an 86-percent bonus rate.
In a lot of ways, Bowman has been a nice surprise for Iowa this season. Pat Downey's transfer never worked out, and Bowman has picked up some solid wins at the weight. However, Nickal is a bridge too far. Against Martin, he showed that he is in top form, and he will be looking for bonus points here.
Prediction: Nickal (Penn State) maj. dec. Bowman (Iowa)
197: No. 7 Cash Wilcke (Iowa) vs. No. 8 Anthony Cassar (Penn State)
After starting the season undefeated, Wilcke dropped three matches in a row against No. 5 Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State), No. 1 Kollin Moore (Ohio State) and No. 12 Kevin Beazley (Michigan). The Iowa wrestler has gotten back on track with decision wins over Dylan Anderson (Minnesota) and Zack Chakonis (Northwestern). His biggest win remains a sudden victory decision over No. 9 Frank Mattiace (Penn).
The word is that Cassar lost a wrestle-off against teammate Shakur Rasheed for the spot. However, in that match Rasheed suffered an injury. Thus Cassar got the call against Moore for the Ohio State match. He went out, shocked the world and handed Moore his first loss of the season. It remains to be seen who will be the starter at this weight going forward for Penn State. In addition to Moore, Cassar has also bested Mattiace and No. 20 Stephen Loiseau (Drexel).
This is an interesting match that could have a big impact on the team score. Both wrestlers have exceeded expectations so far this season. Wilcke got off to a hot start and has since cooled down. On the other hand, Cassar appeared to lose his starting job before knocking off the top-ranked wrestler at the weight. It should be a close match with Cassar picking up a late takedown.
Prediction: Cassar (Penn State) dec. Wilcke (Iowa)
285: No. 3 Sam Stoll (Iowa) vs. No. 6 Nick Nevills (Penn State)
So far this season, Stoll has done his best to position himself as the third best heavyweight in the country. His lone loss came against No. 2 Adam Coon (Michigan). Since that loss, he has picked up back-to-back wins over Rylee Streifel (Minnesota) and Conan Jennings (Northwestern). Stoll holds signature wins over No. 20 Jake Gunning (Buffalo), No. 11 Derek White (Oklahoma State) and No. 9 Tanner Hall (Arizona State).
One of Nevills' best performances of the year was not even a win. Last weekend, he stepped on the mat against world and Olympic champion No. 1 Kyle Snyder (Ohio State) with his team winning by four points. He lost the match, but he did not give up bonus points, and Penn State escaped with the win. Nevills had a tough showing at the Southern Scuffle where he lost to both No. 5 Nathan Butler (Stanford) and No. 19 Michael Boykin (NC State). However, since that tournament he has gone 5-2 with his only losses coming against Snyder and Coon. During the stretch, he picked up a big win over No. 7 Youssif Hemida (Maryland).
Outside of Nevills' performance at the Southern Scuffle, these two have had very similar seasons. They both pretty much defeat everyone outside of Coon and Snyder. As is often the case, this match will likely come down to who can ride. Neither wrestler is likely to score on the feet, so riding time could be a huge factor. Stoll has had the better season so far and should be the favorite to win a close one.
Prediction: Stoll (Iowa) dec. Nevills (Penn State)
Dual Meet Prediction: Penn State 25, Iowa 14