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  • Photo: Photo/Juan Garcia

    Photo: Photo/Juan Garcia

    Ohio State at Penn State Preview & Predictions

    Zain Retherford (Photo/Juan Garcia)

    No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Ohio State have combined to win the last seven NCAA titles. On Saturday the Nittany Lions will welcome the Buckeyes to Rec Hall for a dual meet. While this is clearly an important dual, the loser is by no means eliminated from contending for a national title. In 2014, Penn State won the NCAA tournament after suffering a dual meet loss. The 2015 Ohio State national championship team dropped four duals that season before storming back to win the team title.

    Returning NCAA champion No. 1 Jason Nolf (Penn State) is not expected to compete in the match, but there are still plenty of intriguing bouts. The meet features 17 ranked wrestlers, five top-ten matchups and two members of the 2017 World Team. The following is a weight-by-weight preview of the dual meet. The lineups are a prediction of each team's best squad

    125: Devin Schnupp (Penn State) vs. No. 4 Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State)

    Schnupp was forced into action this season after No. 1 Nick Suriano (Rutgers) chose to transfer from Penn State in the offseason. Schnupp has gone 1-14 on the season with his only win coming over Mike Simonetti (Franklin & Marshall) at the Keystone Classic. Former Boise State wrestler Carson Kuhn recently joined the squad. There is hope he could fill in at this weight, but he has yet to make his season debut.

    Tomasello returned from injury with a pair of technical falls over Brandon Cray (Maryland) and No. 6 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota). The three-time All-American then ran into No. 3 Spencer Lee (Iowa) and dropped a close decision. Since the loss, Tomasello has bounced back with wins over Rayvon Foley (Michigan State) and No. 13 Luke Welch (Purdue).

    This will probably be the most one-sided match of the dual. Tomasello is the clear favorite in this match, and he will looking to put his team out in front with bonus points.

    Prediction: Tomasello (Ohio State) tech fall over Schnupp (Penn State)

    133: Corey Keener (Penn State) vs. No. 2 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State)

    After transferring from Central Michigan over the summer, Kenner has stepped into the starting 133-pound spot for Nittany Lions. He has gone 12-5 on the season. However, he has not bested a ranked wrestler yet, and he is coming off back-to-back losses against No. 12 Mitchell McKee (Minnesota) and No. 20 Scott DelVecchio (Rutgers)

    After dropping down to 133 pounds for this season, Pletcher has passed every test put in front of him and built an undefeated 21-0 record. While he has consistently won, he has not been a bonus point threat this season as he has put up bonus points in less than 20 percent of his matches. Pletcher has picked up wins over Delvecchio, No 17 Korbin Myers (Edinboro), No. 16 Ali Naser (Arizona State), No. 10 Josh Terao (American), No. 8 Montorie Bridges (Wyoming) and No. 5 Stevan Micic (Michigan)

    These two wrestled last season at 133 before Pletcher moved into the starting lineup at 141. As he is accustomed, the Ohio State wrestler took the match in a close decision. This bout should play out in much the same way. While Pletcher has been dominant, he is hardly a bonus point machine.

    Prediction: Pletcher (Ohio State) dec. Keener (Penn State)

    141: No. 6 Nick Lee (Penn State) vs. No. 11 Joey McKenna (Ohio State)

    Cael Sanderson pulled Lee out of redshirt after his second-place finish at the Southern Scuffle. Since joining the lineup, he has gone 6-0 in Big Ten duals. During that stretch, Lee picked up a win over No. 10 Tommy Thorn (Minnesota). While competing under redshirt, he also knocked off No. 8 Josh Alber (Northern Iowa).

    McKenna's ranking is a bit conceiving. He missed some action at the start of the season while he was competing and winning a bronze medal at the U23 World Championships. His only loss only the season came against Thorn. Other than that, he has won all nine of his matches with five bonus-point wins.

    Both wrestlers have wrestled Thorn this season with wildly different results. Lee defeated the Minnesota representative via major decision, while McKenna fell by major. Lee is at his best when he is able to move forward and persistently go for leg attacks. McKenna will likely try to thwart this with control ties and slow down the match. The veteran should be able to turn this into a one-move match, which would most likely mean trouble for Lee. However, if Lee can pull this out, it means he is a real threat to end the season as a high All-American.

    Prediction: McKenna (Ohio State) dec. Lee (Penn State)

    149: No.1 Zain Retherford (Penn State) vs. No. 7 Ke-Shawn Hayes (Ohio State)

    Even though he is coming off a Hodge Trophy winning season, it would not be hyperbole to say that Retherford is having his best season yet. He has won all 20 of his bouts so far this season and scored bonus points over everyone he has wrestled. Retherford has already defeated No. 18 Malik Amine (Michigan), No. 12 Eleazar Deluca (Rutgers) and No. 5 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) this season.

    Hayes had a tough two-week stretch in January where he lost a pair of matches against Deluca and No. 2 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa). Since then, he has gotten back on track with a pair of technical falls over Jwan Britton (Michigan State) and Austin Nash (Purdue). Hayes has picked up wins over multiple ranked opponents including No. 11 Colton McCrystal (Nebraska), No. 10 Matt Kolodzik (Princeton) and No. 8 Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa).

    So far this season, there have been only four people who have stepped on the mat against Retherford and avoided the fall. DeLuca and Deakin lost by major decision, while Jamal Morris (NC State) and Knox Fuller (Army) gave up a technical falls. If Hayes can avoid going to ground, he might be able to keep this one to a major, but the odds are not in his favor.

    Prediction: Retherford (Penn State) tech. fall over Hayes (Ohio State)

    157: Luke Gardner (Penn State) vs. No. 5 Micah Jordan (Ohio State)

    Returning national champion Jason Nolf suffered a knee injury against Rutgers. During an appearance on his weekly radio show, Sanderson said that he "probably won't even try to get him a dual meet," so he is not expected to wrestle. Penn State will likely send out one of two redshirt freshmen: Luke Gardner or Bo Pipher. Garder is 6-4 on the season, while Pipher has gone 5-9.

    Jordan has three losses on the season, but all three of those matches came against wrestlers currently ranked in the top six. Outside of those matches, he has gone undefeated in his first season at 157. Jordan has secured the fifth place ranking with signature wins over No. 19 Mike D'Angelo (Princeton), No. 18 Jake Short (Minnesota), No. 17 John Van Brill (Rutgers) and No. 6 Josh Shields (Arizona State).

    Whoever Penn State chooses to send out, their goal will be to avoid giving up bonus points. Gardner has only wrestled one ranked wrestler this season, and he gave up a technical fall against Deakin. That could happen again here, but with the dual meet in the balance he might take a more cautious approach to protect team points.

    Prediction: Jordan (Ohio State) maj. dec. Gardner (Penn State)

    165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) vs. No. 14 Te'Shan Campbell (Ohio State)

    After upsetting two-time champion No. 2 Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) in the NCAA finals last year, Joseph was not sneaking up on anybody this year. However, he has made improvements and has looked more dominant than ever. He has gone undefeated through 15 matches and picked up bonus in 73 percent of those bouts. Joseph holds victories over No. 8 Nick Wanzek (Minnesota), No. 9 Logan Massa (Michigan) and No. 11 Richie Lewis (Rutgers).

    Campbell is now riding a four-match losing streak. In his last match, he was disqualified due to stall calls against unranked Austin Hiles (Michigan State). The streak has dropped his season record 13-6, but he does hold wins over No. 15 Anthony Valencia (Arizona State) and No. 12 Isaiah White (Nebraska).

    Last season Joseph bested Campbell by decision. The returning champion has clearly made improvements this year, while Campbell has been on a slide. If Joseph is able to get his offense early, he should be able to win by major decision. Campbell is an underrated rider, and it has helped him avoid giving up bonus points in a few matches this year. Joseph might want to avoid taking bottom if given the choice.

    Prediction: Joseph (Penn State) maj. dec. Campbell (Ohio State)

    174: No. 2 Mark Hall (Penn State) vs. No. 3 Bo Jordan (Ohio State)

    Save for an exhibition loss against No. 1 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) in the NWCA All-Star Classic, Hall has gone undefeated on the year through 22 matches. While he has picked up bonus points in 77 percent of his matches, he has at times slowed matches down against higher ranked wrestlers. Hall has picked up wins over No. 17 Johnny Sebastian (Northwestern), No. 18 Matt Finesilver (Duke), No. 5 Jordan Kutler (Lehigh), No. 18 Devin Skatzka (Indiana), No. 8 Jadaen Bernstein (Navy) and No. 6 Myles Amine (Michigan).

    Jordan has gone 18-2 this season with both of his losses coming against Valencia. He has already wrestled as many matches this year as he did in his entire injured plagued junior season. Since losing to Valencia in the finals of the Cliff Keen Invitational, Jordan has won six straight matches including two major decisions and a fall.

    This bout with be a rubber match of sorts. Jordan defeated Hall in overtime to win the Big Ten Championship last season. However, Hall turned it around at the NCAA tournament and took home the title. In both matches, Jordan appeared to be aggressor, while Hall bided his time and waited for the opportunity to score. No matter what happens, this will almost certainly be a close match.

    Prediction: Hall (Penn State) dec. Jordan (Ohio State)

    184: No. 1 Bo Nickal (Penn State) vs. No. 2 Myles Martin (Ohio State)

    Nickal has gone undefeated through 20 matches this season and holds an 85 percent bonus rate. 12 of his bonus point wins have come via fall. The returning NCAA champion has defeated multiple ranked wrestlers on the season including No. 4 Ryan Preisch (Lehigh), No. 5 Domenic Abounader (Michigan) and No. 12 Nicholas Gravina (Rutgers).

    Martin had some ups and downs last season in his first year at 184. This year, he has gotten off to his best start so far of his career. He has gone undefeated through 22 matches with a 91 percent bonus rate. He has picked up ranked wins over No. 5 Domenic Abounader (Michigan), No. 7 Taylor Venz (Minnesota) and No. 16 Bryce Carr (Chattanooga).

    This has developed into one of the most interesting rivalries in all of college wrestling. In the past two seasons, Nickal has defeated Martin in the dual meet match before falling in the postseason. In 2016, Martin upset Nickal to win an NCAA title. Last season, Martin knocked Nickal out of winning a Big Ten title. If Nickal sticks to his leg attacks and avoids the clinch, he should have the advantage. Then again, that is always the story between these two.

    Prediction: Nickal (Penn State) dec. Martin (Ohio State)

    197: No. 10 Shakur Rasheed (Penn State) vs. No. 1 Kollin Moore (Ohio State)

    Rasheed seems to have locked down the starting spot at 197 for Penn State. However, Anthony Cassar has still been seeing semiregular time at this weight. Rasheed put his name on the map with a dominant performance at the Southern Scuffle. In the tournament, he won all five of his matches and picked up three first-period falls. Since then, he has won three straight dual meet matches including a win over No. 11 Kevin Beazley (Michigan).

    Moore was clearly the third best wrestler at 197 last season. With the graduation of Brett Pfarr (Minnesota) and J'den Cox (Missouri), he assumed the mantle at the top of the rankings. He has won his first 18 matches to start the year including signature wins over No. 17 Patrick Brucki (Princeton), No. 14 Scottie Boykin (Chattanooga), No. 12 Matt Williams (CSU Bakersfield), No. 7 Cash Wilcke (Iowa) and No. 2 Jared Haught (Virginia Tech).

    Rasheed is undersized for 197. While this seems like a disadvantage, it has allowed him to be quicker than most of his opponents this season. That will likely not be the case against Moore. The Ohio State wrestler has a very fast leg attacks for the weight, and he should be able to take this match handily.

    Prediction: Moore (Ohio State) dec. Rasheed (Penn State

    285: No. 6 Nick Nevills (Penn State) vs. No. 1 Kyle Snyder (Ohio State)

    Nevills started his second semester with a major decision loss against No. 2 Adam Coon (Michigan). However, since then, he has picked up five straight wins including decision victories over No. 7 Youssif Hemida (Maryland) and No. 15 Shawn Streck (Purdue). Over the course of the season, he has also defeated No. 10 Mike Hughes (Hofstra), No. 12 Jordan Wood (Lehigh), No 20 Gage Hutchison (Eastern Michigan) and No. 4 Jacob Kasper (Duke).

    Snyder recently took a brief hiatus from the college wrestling season in order to fly to Siberia and become the first-ever American male wrestler to win back-to-back titles at the Ivan Yarygin tournament. The Olympic champion has gone 6-0 during the college season and won all of those matches via fall or technical fall.

    Snyder will be a huge favorite in this match. If Nevills can avoid giving up back points, he will be able to keep this one to a major decision.

    Prediction: Snyder (Ohio State) maj. dec. Nevills (Penn State)

    Dual Meet Prediction: Ohio State 22, Penn State 15

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