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  • Photo: Photo/Mark Lundy

    Photo: Photo/Mark Lundy

    Matchups to watch this weekend in college wrestling

    After a long wait, the NCAA wrestling season is back this weekend. This year in particular there are many strong dual matches to start off the new year. This year's Battle on the Midway will feature dual meets between No. 7 Wisconsin, Navy, Army West Point and Fresno State. The matchups from those duals would be enough for most fans, but there are several other key matches going down this week. The following looks at some of the top individual matchups, which are scheduled to take place this weekend.

    125: No. 2 Jack Mueller (Virginia) vs. Brandon Cray (Maryland)
    When/Where: Saturday, Nov. 2 at 2 p.m. ET: Maryland at Virginia (ACCNX)

    Mueller's journey back to the NCAA finals gets started this weekend. Last year he knocked off then No. 1 wrestler Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern) in the semifinals before coming up short against No. 1 Spencer Lee (Iowa) in the finals. Prior to that loss, Mueller had gone undefeated and won the ACC Championships.

    Cray came to Maryland in 2016 as a two-time New Jersey state champion. In his redshirt season, he showed flashes with a 26-7 record. However, since then he has struggled to a 19-32 record over the last two seasons. He will be looking to get a fresh start under first-year head coach Alex Clemsen.

    Mueller's ability to ride will almost certainly carry him to a victory here. However, this match could set the tone for the season for both wrestlers. Mueller is definitely not sneaking up on anybody this year, and Cray has a chance at a comeback season if he hang tough.

    Prediction: Mueller (Virginia) major decision over Cray (Maryland)

    133: No. 10 Cam Sykora (North Dakota State) vs. Chance Rich (CSU Bakersfield)
    When/Where: Sunday, Nov. 3 at 2 p.m. ET: Cal State Bakersfield at North Dakota State (FloWrestling)

    Sykora is a three-time NCAA qualifier who is still looking to become an All-American. Going into this year, it looked like it would be a tough task, but some Olympic redshirts have cleared a bit of the path in front of him. Last season he picked up big wins over Tim Rooney (Kent State), Gary Wayne Harding (North Carolina) and No. 14 Noah Gonser (Campbell).

    Rich redshirted last season for the Road Runners. He took his lumps at times, but he hung in some matches against tough competition. In the second half of the season, he went 5-3 and did not surrender bonus points against No. 5 Austin Gomez (Iowa State).

    The last person to score bonus points against Rich last season was Sykora. If this is going to be the breakthrough year, he will need to get off to a solid start. He will be a favorite here against Rich, but it should still be a good early season gauge for the senior.

    Prediction: Sykora (North Dakota) major decision over Chane Rich (CSU Bakersfield)

    141: No. 9 Tristan Moran (Wisconsin) vs. Corey Shie (Army)

    When/Where: Friday, Nov. 1 at 1 p.m. ET: Wisconsin vs. Army at the 2019 Battle on the Midway (FloWrestling)

    After transferring from Oklahoma State, Moran got the start at 141 for Wisconsin last year. He made the NCAA tournament and ended up falling in the round of 12. During the year, he knocked off the likes of No. 11 Mike Carr (Illinois), No. 4 Mitch McKee (Minnesota) and Josh Alber (Northern Iowa). The highlight of his season was perhaps his overtime victory over No. 2 Nick Lee (Penn State) in a wild 12-10 match.

    After a year at the U.S. Military Academy Prep School, Shie joined the Black Knights last year. In his freshman season, he finished 27-16 and qualified for the NCAA tournament. He scored an overtime victory over No. 16 Sam Turner (Wyoming) and pinned Arizona State's Navonte Demison in a little over a minute.

    These two have a history. They met early last season at the SEIU invitational, and Moran won a 12-7 decision. The rematch came at the Midlands tournament, and in that bout Shie scored the first-period fall. It was a headlock, but it still proved that Shie can pull the upset. Look for Moran to score some points and cause some separation. However, he often gets himself into trouble in his matches, and Shie is a finisher.

    Prediction: Moran (Wisconsin) decision over Shie (Army)

    149: No. 16 Khristian Olivas (Fresno State) vs. No. 14 Cole Martin (Wisconsin)
    When/Where: Friday, Nov. 1 at 11 a.m. ET: Wisconsin vs. Fresno State at the 2019 Battle on the Midway (FloWrestling)

    Olivas has made two trips to the NCAAs as a Bulldog, but he is only 1-4 in those trips. He will look to reverse that trend in his senior season. Last year he picked up several strong wins during the Big 12 conference season including victories over No. 20 Henry Pohlmeyer (South Dakota State), Dante Rodriguez (Northern Colorado) and Chritsian Monserrat (West Virginia). Olivas also knocked off CSU Bakersfield's Russell Rohlfing.

    Martin is a three-time NCAA qualifier who appeared to make improvements on the job last season. He fought his way through the tough Big Ten scheduled and gave several top wrestlers a scare. He also picked up wins over Brady Berge (Penn State), Malik Amine (Michigan) and No. 15 Requir van der Merwe (Stanford).

    Olivas might have the better offense, but Martin has shown that he can win close matches. The two have never wrestled in college, so it will be interesting to see if Martin can keep the pace slow and win a close match.

    Prediction: Martin (Wisconsin) decision over Olivas (Fresno State)

    B.C. LaPrade defeated Jarrett Jacques in the dual meet last season (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)

    157: No. 17 B.C. LaPrade (Virginia Tech) vs. No. 16 Jarrett Jacques (Missouri)
    When/Where: Saturday, Nov. 2 at 12 p.m. ET: Missouri at Virginia Tech (ACCNX)

    LaPrade went 18-11 last season and qualified for the NCAAs. He made the semifinals of the ACC Championships but dropped an overtime match against No. 5 Taleb Rahmani (Pittsburgh). During the year he also knocked off No. 4 Larry Early (Old Dominion) and Quincy Monday (Princeton).

    Jacques joined Missouri as the 51st ranked recruit in his class. In his true freshman season, he qualified for the NCAA tournament. He locked down his spot in the lineup and finished the regular season on a 15-3 run and won a MAC title. Jacques also picked up wins over Chase Straw (Iowa State), Wyatt Sheets (Oklahoma State) and No. 7 Josh Humphreys (Lehigh).

    These two wrestled in an early season dual last year. The match went into overtime knotted at three points each. However, in the extra time, LaPrade hit a six-point move to take the bout 9-3. Since then Jacques has really matured and adapted to the college scene. Look for him to be the one pushing the pace in this rematch.

    Prediction: Jacques (Missouri) decision over LaPrade (Virginia Tech)

    165: No. 4 David McFadden (Virginia Tech) vs. Peyton Mocco (Missouri)
    When/Where: Saturday, Nov. 2 at 12 p.m. ET: Missouri at Virginia Tech (ACCNX)

    McFadden moved up in weight for the 2019 season, and he once again finished as an All-American. In his three seasons as a starter for the Hokies, he has finished sixth, fifth and fifth. In his first year at 174 pounds, he knocked off the likes of Michael Labriola (Nebraska), Taylor Lujan (Northern Iowa), Jordan Kutler (Lehigh) and Trent Hidlay (NC State).

    Mocco redshirted last season after joining the Tigers as a top recruit. During his redshirt season, he went 9-1 and knocked off fellow blue chip recruit David Carr (Iowa State). His only defeat came against Division II opponent Isaiah Luellen (Fort Hays State).

    McFadden should be the clear favorite in this match due to his experience. However, Missouri has had great and occasionally unexpected success with freshman wrestlers. If Mocco is able to pull off the upset, it could mean he is yet another Tiger newcomer who could make some noise this year around tournament time.

    Prediction: McFadden (Virginia Tech) decision over Mocco (Missouri)

    174: Andrew McNally (Kent State) vs. Jacob Oliver (Edinboro)
    When/Where: Saturday, Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. ET: Edinboro at Kent State

    McNally was one of the refugees from the close program at Eastern Michigan. He found his way to Kent State where he became an NCAA qualifier for the first time. He finished the year 34-9 and score victories over the likes of Cameron Caffey (Michigan State), Jack Jessen (Northwestern) and Mason Reinhardt (Wisconsin).

    Oliver was also a qualifier for the Fighting Scots in 2019. He went 28-7 on the year but dropped both of his matches at the NCAA tournament. He got off to a strong start to the season last year as he won the Michigan State Open. Along the way, he knocked off No. 13 Ethan Smith (Ohio State).

    McNally clearly made strides in his first season wrestling for Kent State. It will be interesting to see if he continues to improve. He has the better wins than Oliver, so he should be able to take this match. However, Oliver has put up some major points and picked up some upsets in the past.

    Prediction: McNally (Kent State) decision over Oliver (Edinboro)

    184: Noah Stewart (Army) vs. Jackson Hemauer (Fresno State)
    When/Where: Friday, Nov. 1 at 9:30 p.m. ET: Army vs. Fresno State at the 2019 Battle on the Midway (FloWrestling)

    In his third year wrestling for Army, Stewart became an NCAA qualifier for the first time. He qualified through the EIWA Championships and went on the defeat Nick Gravina (Rutgers) in the NCAAs. He finished the year 20-12 with wins over No. 18 Tanner Harvey (American), Mason Reinhardt (Wisconsin), Kordell Norfleet (Arizona State), No. 11 Corey Hazel (Lock Haven) and Kayne MacCallum (Oklahoma).

    Hemauer qualified for the NCAAs in his redshirt freshman season. During the year, he scored signature wins over MacCallum, Tyler McNutt (North Dakota State), Christian LaFragola (Brown), Owen Webster (Minnesota) and No. 20 Tate Samuelson (Wyoming). His series with Samuelson was particularly interesting. The two wrestled three times including splitting a pair of matches at the Big 12 Championships.

    Even though they were both NCAA qualifiers a season ago, in terms of common opponents, Hemauer has a pretty significant edge. He holds a 7-5 record when facing common opponents compared to only 2-8 for Stewart.

    Prediction: Hemauer (Fresno State) decision over Stewart (Army)

    285: No. 6 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin) vs. AJ Nevills (Fresno State)
    When/Where: Friday, Nov. 1 at 11 a.m. ET: Wisconsin vs. Fresno State at the 2019 Battle on the Midway (FloWrestling)

    Hillger exceeded expectations during his redshirt freshman year, and he finished up eighth at the NCAAs to become an All-American. He finished 3-3 at the tournament with victories over Ian Butterbrodt (Brown), Youssif Hemida (Maryland) and No. 11 Zach Elam (Missouri). During the year, he also picked up signature wins over Sam Stoll (Iowa), No. 12 Chase Singletary (Ohio State) and No. 14 Tate Orndorff (Utah Valley).

    Nevills joined Fresno State when the program was restarted. In his two seasons with the Bulldogs, he has qualified for two NCAA tournaments. However, he is still looking to become an All-American for the first time. Last season his best wins were over Butterbrodt, Orndorff, No. 18 Gannon Gremmel (Iowa State) and Brandon Metz (North Dakota State).

    These two were actually supposed to meet in the Midlands last year. However, Hillger medically forfeited out of the bracket. Nevills has been on the cusp of being an All-American for two seasons now. If he wants to break through, these are the type of guys he should be beating. Hillger should be the favorite in this match. He is stingy on the feet and does not give up a lot of points. His ability to ride could also end up being the determining factor in this bout.

    Prediction: Hillger (Wisconsin) decision over Nevills (Fresno State)

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