Kaid Brock defeated Mitchell McKee at the NCAAs this past March (Photo/Mark Beshey, The Guillotine)
On Sunday, No. 4 Oklahoma State hosts No. 6 Minnesota. The Big 12-Big Ten match will feature ten wrestlers ranked inside the top ten. 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 Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 5 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota)
After finishing fourth at the NCAA tournament last season, Piccininni has had a great start to this season. At the NWCA All-Star Classic, he defeated returning NCAA champion No.4 Darian Cruz (Lehigh). Piccininni then picked up three victories at the Journeymen Classic.
Lizak was an unlikely NCAA finalist last year after coming in as the sixth seed. So far this year, he was dominant at the Daktronics Open. In the finals, he scored a first-period technical fall over high school standout and No. 45 recruit Patrick McKee. Lizak then dispatched Tony DeCesare (Air Force) in Minnesota's first dual meet.
Lizak defeated Piccininni via major decision in the semifinals of last year's Southern Scuffle. This was the only meeting between the two wrestlers. Lizak did a lot of damage from the top position in that match. If he can end up on top again, he should be able to put up points.
Prediction: Lizak (Minnesota) dec. Piccininni (Oklahoma State)
133: No.4 Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 6 Mitch McKee (Minnesota)
After taking fifth last year at the NCAA tournament, Brock is looking to move up the podium this year. He began his season with a two-point win over Zach Sherman (North Carolina). Then, at the Journeyman Classic, he went 2-1 with a loss coming against No. 3 Scotty Parker (Lehigh). While he was leading against Parker, he ended up giving up some late back points and dropping the match.
As a true freshman, McKee finished one match short of All-American status. Brock was a contributing factor as the Oklahoma State wrestler knocked him out of the front side of the bracket. McKee has begun this year as a man on a mission. He has won all five of his matches with four coming via fall.
Brock holds three victories over McKee from last season. After picking up a major in their first meeting, the next two matches were much closer. Brock won 10-7 at the Southern Scuffle and 3-1 at the NCAA tournament. While McKee has closed the gap and Brock has shown that he can be upset, Brock remains the favorite in this match.
Prediction: Brock (Oklahoma State) dec. McKee (Minnesota)
141: No. 1 Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 8 Tommy Thorn (Minnesota)
Heil is coming off his first undefeated season and his second NCAA title. Last year he improved his bonus percentage from 27 percent in 2016 to 41 percent. As expected, he has begun this season undefeated.
Thorn finished eighth at last year's NCAA tournament to become an All-American for the first time. During the regular season, he scored victories over multiple wrestlers currently ranked at 141 including No. 6 Joey McKenna (Ohio State), No. 12 Javier Gasca (Michigan State) and No. 15 Ryan Diehl (Maryland). In his only match against ranked competition so far this season, he dropped an overtime match against No. 7 Chad Red (Nebraska) in the finals of the Daktronics Open.
During his career for the Cowboys, Heil has picked up three decision wins over Thorn. In their most recent match at last year's Southern Scuffle, Heil held on for a 2-1 victory. This bout will certainly not be a blowout, but nobody is better in close matches than Heil.
Prediction: Heil (Oklahoma State) dec. Thorn (Minnesota)
149: No. 12 Geo Martinez (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 8 Steve Bleise (Minnesota)
Martinez has had an interesting season already. He redshirted last season after transferring from Boise State. At the OCU Open, he lost to teammate Boo Lewallen. He then dropped a one-point match against No. 11 Troy Heilmann (North Carolina) in the dual meet. However, he earned the nod at the Journeyman Classic and picked up a pair of wins over ranked wrestlers No. 7 Solomon Chishko (Virginia Tech) and No. 17 Ronnie Perry (Lock Haven).
Bleise was a two-time NCAA qualifier and made it to the round of 12 last year for Northern Illinois before transferring to Minnesota. So far this season, he made it to the finals of the Daktronics Open before falling to No. 6 Colton McCrystal (Nebraska).
Martinez has already been up and down this season. Bleise has had trouble in the past against ranked competition, but he does hold wins over No. 9 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) and No. 5 Justin Oliver (Central Michigan). In this toss up match, Bleise has to be given the slight edge.
Prediction: Bleise (Minnesota) dec. Martinez (Oklahoma State)
157: Jonce Blaylock (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 10 Jake Short (Minnesota)
Blaylock slid into the starting lineup this year with Joe Smith taking a redshirt year. Last year he went 20-6 overall and 4-0 in dual meets. He began this season with a win over Kennedy Monday in the Cowboy's win over North Carolina, but he had a tough time at the Journeyman Classic.
After finishing one match short of All-American status last year, Short is back for his senior year looking to break out. So far this year, he has won all of his matches save for a two-point loss against No. 4 Tyler Berger (Nebraska) at the Daktronics.
Short needs to be considered the favorite in this match. Blaylock has never really gotten the chance to hold down a weight class until now, so he is still somewhat of an unknown. With that being said, Short has faced the better competition and had the better results up until this point.
Prediction: Short (Minnesota) dec. Blaylock (Oklahoma State)
165: No. 6 Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 10 Nick Wanzek (Minnesota)
Last year Rogers finished fifth at the NCAA tournament and became an All-American for the first time. He had a great start to the Journeyman Classic where he picked up a pair of falls. However, in the finals, he dropped a 4-3 decision against No. 5 David McFadden (Virginia Tech).
Wanzek began last season at 174 and picked up some impressive wins over No. 15 David Kocer (SDSU) and No. 4 Myles Amine before dropping down to 165. He ended up finishing one match short of All-American status at the lower weight.
Rogers is a much more active offensive wrestler. Occasionally this gets him into trouble, but in this match, it should allow him to get an early lead and hold on for the decision.
Prediction: Rogers (Oklahoma State) dec. Wanzek (Minnesota)
174: No. 12 Jacobe Smith (Oklahoma State) vs. Chris Pfarr (Minnesota)
Smith joined the Cowboys last season after winning a pair of NJCAA titles at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. In his redshirt season, he went 15-0 and won every open tournament that he entered. This season he has dropped a pair of matches against ranked competitors No.9 Jordan Kutler (Lehigh) and No.11 Ethan Ramos (North Carolina).
Pfarr began last season at 184 before dropping down to 174. At the lower weight, he ended up qualifying for the NCAA tournament out of the Big Ten. His signature wins was an upset over All-American Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State).
Oklahoma State coaches would probably like to pick up bonus points in this match. However, Pfarr is a seasoned veteran at this point, who has been through the ringer of the Big Ten schedule. He should be able to keep it close and maybe put a scare into Smith.
Prediction: Smith (Oklahoma State) dec. Pfarr (Minnesota)
184: Keegan Moore (Oklahoma State) vs. Owen Webster (Minnesota)
Moore went 2-1 at the Journeyman Classic with wins over Paul Dunn (Lehigh) and Jack Wedholm (Army). In his only match against a ranked opponent, Moore fell against No. 7 Zach Zavatsky (Virginia Tech) by an 8-5 decision.
In 2015, Webster won a bronze medal at the UWW Cadet World Championships in freestyle. He spent last season wrestling for No. 2 (Division III) Augsburg, and he ended up finishing third at 184 pounds at the NCAA Division III tournament after spending a good part of the season ranked number one.
Prior to this season, Webster only faced Division I opposition at open tournaments, so he remains a bit of a wild card. Then again, these two have a bit of a history. In the finals of the 2015 Cadet Nationals, Webster defeated Moore two matches to one to earn a spot on the world team.
Prediction: Webster (Minnesota) dec. Moore (Oklahoma State)
197: Andrew Marsden (Oklahoma State) vs. Bobby Steveson (Minnesota)
Regular Oklahoma State starter No. 5 Preston Weigel will likely miss this match with an injury. Marsden has been starting in place of Weigel so far this season. While Marsden always has a chance to be part of an exciting match, he has not picked up many positive results so far this season. He finished second at the OCU Open but then dropped both of his bouts against ranked opponents, No. 14 Danny Chaid (North Carolina) and No. 2 Jared Haught (Virginia Tech).
Steveson did not compete at the Daktronics Open, so his only action this year came in the dual against Air Force. He dropped a 7-4 decision against Anthony McLaughlin. While that result is not very inspiring, he did pick up wins over the likes of No. 10 (at 184) Nicholas Gravina (Rutgers) and No. 16 Hunter Ritter (Wisconsin) at last year's Big Ten Championships.
Marsden is a bit of a wildcard. His go-for-broke style gives him a chance in a lot of matches. However, Steveson has beaten the better competition, and he should be able to slow this match down and control the scoring.
Prediction: Steveson (Minnesota) dec. Marsden (Oklahoma State)
285: No. 11 Derek White (Oklahoma State) vs. Rylee Streifel (Minnesota)
White moved up to heavyweight for a pair of dual meets at the end of last season, but he dropped both bouts against Ross Larson (Oklahoma) and No. 3 Nick Nevills (Penn State). However, this season, he has already experienced some significant success. At the Journeyman Classic, he scored wins over No. 13 Jordan Wood (Lehigh) and No. 14 Thomas Haines (Lock Haven) to move all the way up to No. 11 in the InterMat rankings.
So far this year, Streifel's only loss came against future teammate and No. 1 recruit Gable Steveson in the finals of the Daktronics Open. Last season, he finished last year strong by winning the National Collegiate Open. Streifel's best result up to this point came in freestyle as he won the 2016 U.S. Junior National Championships at 120 kilograms.
This should be an interesting test for White. Streifel will have a size advantage, and he is more active than your typical heavyweight. However, White should be able to keep a higher pace and score on the feet in this match.
Prediction: White (Oklahoma State) dec. Streifel (Minnesota)
Dual Meet Prediction: Oklahoma State 15, Minnesota 15