Nick Piccininni and Spencer Lee are expected to square off at 125 pounds (Photos/Mark Lundy)
College wrestling's best rivalry returns for yet another match. Last year, No. 3 Oklahoma State snapped a three-match losing streak against No. 5 Iowa in Stillwater. This year, the Cowboys head north to take on the Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The dual meet is always a contentious match, and this one will be no different. 15 of the 20 wrestlers scheduled to compete are currently ranked in the InterMat rankings. 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. 9 Spencer Lee (Iowa) vs. No. 6 Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State)
Iowa finally pulled Lee's redshirt last weekend. In his official debut, he needed only 46 seconds to score a fall over Rayvon Foley (Michigan State). Lee previously wrestled at the UNI Open and the Midlands Championships. At the Midlands, he reached the semifinals with victories over Killian Cardinale (Old Dominion), No. 18 Travis Piotrowski (Illinois) and No. 11 Sean Russell (Edinboro). However, in the semifinals, he dropped a controversial match against No. 8 Ronnie Bresser (Oregon State).
It would be wrong to say that Piccininni is having an up-and-down year. After finishing fourth at last year's NCAA tournament, many expected the Cowboy wrestler to take another step forward. In many ways, he has. He has gone 11-2 on the year. However, Piccininni has lost both of his matches against ranked opposition. He lost a 10-9 decision against No. 4 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) early in the season. Last weekend in Italy, he fell once again to No. 5 Sean Fausz (NC State).
It is easy to say that Piccininni has struggled on the bottom. However, his struggles on the bottom came against Lizak who rides pretty much everyone. Also, Lee has the reputation of a dominant top wrestler, but it is mostly due to his high school and international career. Regardless of the result, fans and pundits will learn a lot about both wrestlers after this match.
Prediction: Lee (Iowa) dec. Piccininni (Oklahoma State)
133: Paul Glynn (Iowa) vs. No. 4 Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State)
It appears as if Glynn has finally nailed down the starting 133-pound spot for the Hawkeyes, but the team could still send out senior Phillip Laux. At the Midlands, Glynn failed to place, but he did knock off a pair of seeded wrestlers: Ben Thornton (Purdue) and Alijah Jeffery (Northern Illinois). In his last match, Glynn scored a fall over Matt Santos (Michigan State).
In Italy, Brock bounced back from a tough loss and picked up a technical fall over Tariq Wilson (NC State). In his previous match, he dropped a one-point decision against No. 9 Montorie Bridges (Wyoming). For the season, Brock has gone 14-2 with bonus points in 56 percent of his matches. Last season, he placed fifth at the NCAA tournament to become an All-American for the first time.
Even if Glynn has done enough to win the Iowa job, he has not had the result that give the impression that he could pull the upset here. Brock has looked vulnerable this year, but his struggles have come in shootout matches. Glynn is a much more fundamental wrestler. Brock should be able to put up enough points to win.
Prediction: Brock (Oklahoma State) maj. dec. Glynn (Iowa)
141: Carter Happel (Iowa) vs. No. 5 Dean Heil (Oklahoma State)
Happel appeared to have taken over the starting spot at 141 after finishing sixth at the Midlands. However, in his first match following the tournament, he gave up a second period fall against No. 20 Javier Gasca (Michigan State).
Heil had his 55-match win streak come to an end against No. 1 Bryce Meredith (Wyoming). The returning champion tried to get back on track against No. 2 Kevin Jack (NC State) but ended up dropping his second-straight match. Despite the recent losses, Heil has scored some signature wins this season. He has defeated No. 17 A.C. Headlee (North Carolina), No. 11 Tommy Thorn (Minnesota), No. 12 Luke Karam (Lehigh) and teammate Kaden Gfeller.
Despite the two match skid, Heil has been in both of those matches. He should be able to control the pace and action against Happel. For the sake of the dual, the Hawkeye would like to avoid bonus points. That might turn out to be a tough task.
Prediction: Heil (Oklahoma State) dec. Happel (Iowa)
149: No. 2 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) vs. No. 14 Boo Lewallen (Oklahoma State)
For the past few season, Sorensen has been steady and dependable in the middle of the Hawkeye lineup. This year is no different. He has gone undefeated with 13 victories. Perhaps surprisingly, he has picked up bonus points in 69 percent of those matches. The list of those 13 victories includes wins over No. 3 Justin Oliver (Central Michigan), No. 12 Eleazar DeLuca (Rutgers) and former champion Jason Tsirtsis (Arizona State).
Lewallen made his dual meet debut in Italy after competing exclusively in open tournaments to start the year. In his first official match, he lost in sudden victory against No. 13 Beau Donahue (NC State). In his only other match against a ranked opponent this season, he took home a 7-4 victory over No. 10 Grant Leeth (Missouri). Lewallen's season record stands at 17-2.
Lewallen has shown flashes of greatness during the freestyle season and during his redshirt year. However, taking a step up in competition against Sorensen is another story entirely. This bout will likely be close due to Sorensen's style, but he should be in the driver's seat the whole way.
Prediction: Sorensen (Iowa) dec. Lewallen (Oklahoma State)
157: No. 2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa) vs. Jonce Blaylock (Oklahoma State)
Kemerer has started this season like a man on a mission. He has won all 14 of his matches and picked up bonus in 86 percent of those matches. That represents a 25 percent increase in bonus rate over last season. So far this season, he has picked up wins over No. 9 Clayton Ream (North Dakota State), No. 15 B.J. Clagon (Rider) and No. 7 Josh Shields (Arizona State).
Even before facing the No. 2 wrestler at 157, Blaylock had hit a rough part of his schedule. He has dropped his last two matches against No. 10 Archie Colgan (Wyoming) and No. 3 Hayden Hidlay (NC State). He has gone 11-5 overall this season, but against ranked wrestlers that record falls to 1-3 with his only win coming over No. 18 Jake Short (Minnesota) in sudden victory.
Kemerer has been phenomenal this season. All signs point to him running to table outside of his matches against No. 1 Jason Nolf (Penn State). He will be looking to help his team with some bonus points in this match. Blaylock has only given up bonus once this season, but Kemerer has been on another level.
Prediction: Kemerer (Iowa) maj. dec. Blaylock (Oklahoma State)
165: No. 11 Alex Marinelli (Iowa) vs. No. 8 Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State)
After missing the early part of the season with a knee injury, Marinelli returned for Iowa's dual meet against Rutgers. In his debut match, he defeated U23 world champion No. 12 Richie Lewis. Since then, he has picked up another win over Lewis on the way to winning the Midlands.
Rogers, a returning All-American, has split his four matches against ranked opponents this season. He holds victories over No. 9 Nick Wanzek (Minnesota) and No. 17 Andrew Fogarty (North Dakota State), and he has dropped matches against No. 4 David McFadden (Virginia Tech) and No. 14 Brandon Ashworth (Wyoming). On the season, Rogers has gone 11-2 with six falls.
This match will tell everyone a lot about Marinelli. He has passed every threat in front of him this season, but he has really only faced one potential All-American. Rogers has shown that he is a contender at this weight. He will need to get through Marinelli's tough hand fighting in order to score, but his offensive arsenal should be enough to pull out the win. On the other hand, if "The Bull" can win, then Iowa fans can really get excited about the former top recruit.
Prediction: Rogers (Oklahoma State) dec. Marinelli (Iowa)
174: Joey Gunther (Iowa) vs. No. 14 Jacobe Smith (Oklahoma State)
Gunther had an undefeated record going into the Midlands this year. He came back down to earth a bit with losses coming against Jordan Pagano (Rutgers) and Michael Labriola (Nebraska). Last season, he qualified for the NCAA tournament at 165 and went 2-2.
In his first season as a starter after transferring from Northeastern Oklahoma, Smith has gone 12-3. In his last match, he picked up a decision over No. 20 Daniel Bullard (NC State). During his redshirt season last year, he won all three tournaments he entered.
Smith has had the better season and deserves to be the favorite in this match. However, Gunther has proven himself to be a tough out in certain situations. His ability to control a match with an underhook allows him to keep match close and low scoring. Iowa will need to pull some upsets to take this dual, and this bout is a sure candidate.
Prediction: Smith (Oklahoma State) dec. Gunther (Iowa)
184: Mitch Bowman (Iowa) vs. No. 19 Keegan Moore (Oklahoma State)
Rumors have been swirling that this could be the debut of All-American and Iowa State transfer Pat Downey. However, at this point, it appears as if Bowman will get the nod. The Iowa native has gone 8-4 this season. He has kept it close against ranked competition but ultimately dropped decisions against No. 14 Jordan Ellingwood (Central Michigan), No. 10 Nick Gravina (Rutgers) and No. 6 Emery Parker (Illinois).
Moore has gone 10-4 this season, and he has picked up a win over No. 20 Owen Webster (Minnesota). In his last match, he dropped a 3-0 decision against No. 3 Pete Renda (NC State).
Bowman has shown that he can hang with ranked wrestlers, but he hasn't had that breakthrough match. Until he does, it is safe to pick against him when facing a guy on Moore's level.
Prediction: Moore (Oklahoma State) dec. Bowman (Iowa)
197: No. 5 Cash Wilcke (Iowa) vs. No. 3 Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State)
Last season, Wilcke had a surprisingly strong season and finished one match short of All-American status. He has continued his winning ways this season with an undefeated 13-0 record and a Midlands title. Against ranked wrestlers, he has defeated both No. 8 Frank Mattiace (Penn) and No. 18 Patrick Brucki (Princeton).
Weigel returned to the lineup in the middle of the December, and he has hit the ground running. He closed out 2017 with wins over Jacob Seely (Northern Colorado) and Cody Vigoren (Wyoming). In his last match, he knocked off No. 4 Mike Macchiavello (NC State) who had been undefeated so far this season.
In his last match, Weigel dispelled the idea that he might be rusty coming back from his injury. If he is back in top form, he should be able to take out Wilcke. The two wrestled last season and Weigel took home a 6-0 decision win. Wilcke has improved, but Weigel is very hard to score against. Look for the Cowboy to win the battle of undefeated wrestlers.
Prediction: Weigel (Oklahoma State) vs. Wilcke (Iowa)
285: No. 3 Sam Stoll (Iowa) vs. No. 10 Derek White (Oklahoma State)
Stoll has been an anchor at the backend of the Iowa lineup all season. He has gone undefeated in 12 bouts and picked up bonus points in all but three of those bouts. His fall in the final match against Illinois handed his team a one-point dual victory. Stoll's biggest win this season came in the finals of the Midlands where he took home a razor-thin decision over No. 4 Tanner Hall (Arizona State).
White has been a pleasant surprise for Oklahoma State after moving up from 197 this season He has gone 12-1 this season with a 69 percent bonus rate. His only defeat came against No. 9 Mike Hughes (Hofstra). White has defeated a pair of ranked wrestlers, No. 13 Thomas Haines (Lock Haven) and No. 11 Jordan Wood (Lehigh)
White has filled in at the new weight, but Stoll will still have a meaningful size advantage in this match. If the Iowa wrestler is able to ride, he should be able to hand White his second loss of the season.
Prediction: Stoll (Iowa) dec. White (Oklahoma State)
Dual Meet Prediction: Oklahoma State 19, Iowa 13