Missouri's Daniel Lewis is currently ranked No. 2 at 174 pounds (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
On Saturday No. 2 Oklahoma State will travel to No. 5 Missouri to face their former Big 12 rival. Both teams are currently ranked in the top ten of both the tournament and dual rankings. The match could potentially feature 16 ranked wrestlers throughout the ten matches. The following is a weight-by-weight preview of the dual.
125: No. 4 Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State) vs. Dack Punke (Missouri)
In his junior season, Piccininni is off to the best start of his career. He has won his first 26 matches to start this year, and he is putting up bonus in nearly 81 percent of his matches. Last weekend, he scored a decision victory over Sidney Flores (Air Force), and he has also bested the likes of No. 10 Patrick Glory (Princeton), No. 7 Rayvon Foley (Michigan State) and No. 6 Sean Russell (Minnesota).
Punke has gone 9-6 on the season for the Tigers, but his record could easily be much better. Of his six losses, four have come in overtime including bouts against No. 8 Vitali Arujau (Cornell) and Brandon Courtney (Arizona State). Despite keeping it close against a top-ten wrestler, he has not really been able to break through for any ranked wins, and his best victory is likely over Jacob Schwarm (Northern Iowa).
Punke is a gritty wrestler who does not allow his opponents to put up a lot of points. However, Piccininni has shown this season that he can pick up the pace when his team needs him. He has also made strides in the top position, so the smart money would be on a bonus point victory here.
Prediction: Piccininni (Oklahoma State) maj. dec. Punke (Missouri)
133: No. 2 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 10 John Erneste (Missouri)
After a close victory over No. 4 Nick Suriano (Rutgers) and the announcement that returning champion Seth Gross (South Dakota State) is out for the season, Fix looked like he might be able to make a case to be the best wrestler at this weight. However, less than a week after his victory over Suriano, he unexpectedly dropped his first match of the year against No. 5 Micky Phillippi (Pittsburgh). Since then Fix has gotten back on track with four-straight wins including a decision over No. 9 Austin Gomez (Iowa State).
Since the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, Erneste has gone 8-1, and he has won his last three matches via fall. He also recently picked up a win over No. 13 Chas Tucker (Cornell). After back-to-back seasons as an NCAA qualifier, Erneste is looking to finally take a spot on the podium and become an All-American this year.
Unfortunately for Erneste, 133 is an extremely deep and difficult weight this year. Fix is just one example of a potential roadblock for him. Erneste hasn't given up bonus points since 2017, but he will need to capitalize on a mistake in order to beat Fix. Look for the Oklahoma State wrestler to score early and hold the lead throughout the match.
Prediction: Fix (Oklahoma State) dec. Erneste (Missouri)
141: No. 13 Kaid Brock (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 4 Jaydin Eierman (Missouri)
After back-to-back fifth-place finishes at 133, Brock was considered a contender at 141 in the preseason. However, the season has not entirely unfolded as expected. He has gone 15-5 on the season, which already matches his career high for losses in a season. After dropping back-to-back matches against No. 12 Ian Parker (Iowa State) and No. 7 Josh Alber (Northern Iowa), Brock recently got back on track with wins over Ryan Pomrinca (Lehigh) and Garrett O'Shea (Air Force).
Eierman has pretty much cemented himself as one of the top five wrestlers at this weight. Last year, he finished fourth and dropped matches at the NCAA tournament against No. 1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) and No. 3 Joey McKenna (Ohio State). Those same two opponents also account for two of his three losses this season. After being upset by Alber earlier this month, Eierman has picked up three straight falls.
Considering the trouble that Brock has had at this weight so far this year, it is probably a consensus that Eierman enters this match as the favorite. Last year, he picked up a huge victory in the dual against Oklahoma State as he knocked off returning champion Dean Heil via fall. This year, he will need to shock the world again to put up bonus points as Brock has only been majored twice in his entire collegiate career.
Prediction: Eierman (Missouri) dec. Brock (Oklahoma State)
149: No. 5 Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 7 Brock Mauller (Missouri)
Gfeller has certainly made the most of his unexpected role as a starter. He has gone 24-2 with his only two losses coming against Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) and Matt Kolodzik (Princeton). Since falling against Ashnault, Gfeller has gone 5-0 including wins over No. 16 Christian Monserrat (West Virginia) and No. 10 Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa).
Even though he is only a true freshman, Mauller joined the starting lineup in mid-December. Once starting, he took a step up in competition, but he has continued to win on the way to a 24-1 record. His recent victories over Thomsen and Josh Maruca (Arizona State) have pushed the former four-time Missouri state champion into the top ten in the rankings.
This one might turn out to be much closer than many think. Mauller has looked surprisingly comfortable in his first season in college, and he has not been shy about putting up points. In the end of the day, Gfeller should be able to get to legs and win scrambles, but a Missouri victory should not shock anyone at this point.
Prediction: Gfeller (Oklahoma State) dec. Mauller (Missouri)
157: Wyatt Sheets (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 17 Jarrett Jacques (Missouri)
Recently, it has been Sheets at this weight for the Cowboys. He has gone 5-1 in dual matches since the start of the second semester. During his run, he picked up a decision victory over No. 11 Taleb Rahmani (Pittsburgh) and pulled out a win over No. 15 Josh Humphreys (Lehigh) in sudden victory.
Jacques is another true freshman who has fought his way into the lineup for the Tigers. He has gone 22-6 on the season including signature wins over Fredy Stroker (Cornell) and Humphreys. In his last outing, he dropped a one-point decision against No. 16 Christian Pagdilao (Arizona State).
In order for Missouri to have any shot in this dual, they will need to win matches like this. Sheets has been game and surprised people with his effectiveness in the lineup. However, Jacques has the ability to pull this one out. He is tough to score on, and he could be the one surprising people around tournament time.
Prediction: Jacques (Missouri) dec. Sheets (Oklahoma State)
165: No. 10 Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 14 Connor Flynn (Missouri)
These two wrestled last season, and Rogers pinned Flynn just 17 seconds into the second period. Despite the one-sided history, Flynn might be able to pull the upset. Rogers has only lost two matches on the year, but he has also not looked like himself at points. Last weekend, defeated Jacoby Ward (Air Force) via a 6-4 decision.
Flynn has been a solid hand in the Missouri lineup for years, but he has often struggled against the higher level of competition. On the season, he has picked up impressive wins over Joey Gunther (Illinois) and Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech).
In order to defeat Rogers, Flynn will need to avoid the big moves. Rogers has not shown as much explosive finishing ability as of late. However, at this point in his career, he has the veteran ability and gamesmanship to control the match and take the victory.
Prediction: Rogers (Oklahoma State) maj. dec. Flynn (Missouri)
174: No. 6 Joe Smith (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 2 Daniel Lewis (Missouri)
Smith did not jump into the starting lineup until the second semester. He won his first five matches of the season including a first-period fall over Marcus Coleman (Iowa State). However, he then dropped a pair of decisions against ranked wrestlers No. 8 Taylor Lujan (Northern Iowa) and No. 5 Jordan Kutler (Lehigh). The losses have quieted some of the excitement around him, but a win over Lewis would certainly stoke the hype train.
In his last match, Lewis picked up one of the biggest wins of his career and certainly the biggest win of this season. He scored a second-period fall over No. 3 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State). The victory could end up paying dividends as it not only moves him up in the rankings, but it puts him in prime ranking position during tournament time.
Smith's path to victory in this match is relatively clear. He needs to shoot clean takedowns, avoid scrambles and stay off the bottom. However, that will likely be easier said than done against Lewis. At this point in time, it is hard to see Smith being able to pull off that game plan here.
Prediction: Lewis (Missouri) dec. Smith (Oklahoma State)
184: No. 8 Jacobe Smith (Oklahoma State) vs. Taylor Watkins/No. 18 Dylan Wisman (Missouri)
These two have not wrestled in years, but they did have a close match back in 2016. In that encounter, Smith ended up taking the victory via an 5-3 decision.
This year Smith started the year at 174 before moving up for the Southern Scuffle. Since the Scuffle, he has gone 7-1 with his only loss coming against No. 4 Ryan Preisch (Lehigh). During the stretch, he picked up victories over No. 18 Sammy Colbray (Iowa State) and No. 9 Drew Foster (Northern Iowa).
Wisman has gone 13-5 on the year, but he has not competed since knocking off Max Dean (Cornell) back in December. Despite the absence, Missouri has listed him as the starter at this weight. He had picked up several impressive wins before hiatus, so it will be interesting to see where he is at against Smith.
There were some worries among the Oklahoma State fan base about Smith moving up in weight. However, he has looked much better than the doubters expected. He has been forced to be a tad bit more conservative at times, but he has shown he can handle wrestlers at this level. Wisman is a bit of a wildcard, but Smith has bested him before and improved his overall game since the last meeting.
Prediction: Smith (Oklahoma State) dec. Wisman (Missouri)
197: Dakota Geer/No. 6 Preston Weigel (Oklahoma State) vs. Wyatt Koelling (Missouri)
Geer filled in very well while Weigel was out with an injury. However, Weigel returned to action last weekend against Air Force. After starting the season at 184, Geer moved up to 197 for the Reno Tournament of Champions. At the higher weight, he went 14-4 with his losses only coming against wrestlers currently ranked in the top 12. Weigel has gone only 6-0 in his senior season. His match against Air Force was his first action since Dec. 9. He defeated Anthony McLaughlin by a 2-0 decision, so he may not have inspired very much confidence in the coaching staff.
Koelling has suffered seven losses this season, but he has not lost since the calendar moved to 2019. He looks much more comfortable down at 197 this year after competing at heavyweight last season. In his last match, he scored a decision victory over Austyn Harris (Arizona State).
No matter who goes for the Cowboys, they should probably be able to pick up the victory. It will be interesting to see who the squad decides to go with. On paper, Weigel probably has the higher ceiling, but Geer certainly has locked more than solid during his time representing the team this year.
Prediction: Geer (Oklahoma State) dec. Koelling (Missouri)
285: No. 2 Derek White (Oklahoma State) vs. Zach Elam (Missouri)
Last year White seemed to still be growing into his role as a heavyweight. So far this year, he has more than filled out the part. He has gone 22-1 with his only loss coming against freshman phenom No. 1 Gable Steveson (Minnesota). White has already knocked off a variety of ranked wrestlers including No. 5 Jordan Wood (Lehigh), No. 16 Demetrius Thomas (Pittsburgh), No. 11 Thomas Haines (Lock Haven) and No. 3 Anthony Cassar (Penn State).
Elam had a strong start to the season, which included wins over Joey Goodhart (Drexel), Chase Singletary (Ohio State), Jake Gunning (Buffalo) and Thomas. However, he has recently had some struggles. He has gone just 4-4 in his last eight matches, but he comes into this contest after back-to-back first-period falls.
Even in his losses this year, Elam has proved himself to be a tough out. White is clearly the favorite since he is the more dynamic scorer, and he certainly has momentum in his favor. However, it is rather unlikely that White will be able to push Elam into giving up bonus points.
Prediction: White (Oklahoma State) dec. Elam (Missouri)
Team Score: Oklahoma State 23, Missouri 9