Joey McKenna is ranked No. 2 at 141 pounds (Photo/Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com)
For a second straight week, one of the best teams in the country will try to stop the run of a dynasty. No. 5 Ohio State welcomes No. 1 Penn State to Columbus. The dual meet features 11 top-five wrestlers and a pair of battles between No. 1 and No. 2. The following is a weight-by-weight preview of the dual.
125: Malik Heinselman (Ohio State) vs. Devin Schnupp (Penn State)
Despite still being somewhat undersized, Ohio State pulled the redshirt off Heinselman early last month. Since making his official dual meet debut, he has gone 6-2 with wins over Elijah Oliver (Indiana) and Patrick McKee (Minnesota). On the season, Heinselman has gone 19-5.
Schnupp was not expected back in the lineup this season, but he has nevertheless stepped forward. Since the Southern Scuffle, he has gone 1-5 with his lone win coming over Liam Cronin (Indiana). On the year, he has gone 6-11.
Heinselman has struggled at points this season despite being a blue-chip prospect. The coaches sent him to the Edinboro Open last weekend for some momentum. The plan worked out as he went 5-0 with a major decision and a fall. He likely won't breakthrough and become an All-American this year, but he should be able to handle Schnupp.
Prediction: Heinselman (Ohio State) dec. Schnupp (Penn State)
133: No. 6 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) vs No. 15 Roman Bravo-Young/Steve Stossel (Penn State)
Once again coach Cael Sanderson is playing coy about the status of Bravo-Young. Last week, he seemed to intimate that he might go against Michigan. However, Stossel was the one on the mat. Considering the injury, it is likely that Stossel will get the nod again. In that case, Pletcher becomes a big favorite.
Outside of a one-sided loss against No. 1 Stevan Micic (Michigan), Pletcher has gone undefeated in the new year. In his last match, he scored a 9-4 decision over Colin Valdiviez (Northwestern). He has scored bonus in 40 percent of his matches and has a shot to put up a technical fall over Stossel.
Prediction: Pletcher (Ohio State) tech. fall Stossel (Penn State)
141: No. 2 Joey McKenna (Ohio State) vs. No. 5 Nick Lee (Penn State)
McKenna sat out both of Ohio State's matches last weekend after assistant coach Tervel Dlagnev indicated that the medical staff said, "It wouldn't be in his best interest to wrestle this weekend" according to The Lantern. His status for this match is somewhat unknown, but many are proceeding as if he is going to wrestle.
These two wrestled only once previously. In the dual meet last February, McKenna scored a 7-6 victory over Lee. In the match, both wrestlers scored a pair of takedowns, but McKenna racked up the riding time. That turned out to be the difference in the match.
On the season, McKenna has won all 14 of his matches and is quickly becoming a popular pick to win the NCAA championship. Lee lost his undefeated season in sudden victory against No. 9 Tristan Moran (Wisconsin) last month. Since that match he has gotten back on track with four straight wins.
Prediction: McKenna (Ohio State) dec. Lee (Penn State)
149: No. 3 Micah Jordan (Ohio State) vs. No. 11 Brady Berge/Jarod Verkleeren (Penn State)
Jordan returned to 149 pounds this season after spending last season at 157 pounds. So far the results have been very positive. He has gone 18-1 with his only loss coming against No. 1 Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers). He hasn't faced the toughest schedule, but he has picked up wins over No. 4 Austin O'Connor (North Carolina) and No. 8 Justin Oliver (NC State).
Berge won the starting job in the early season, but Verkleeren has gotten the start in the last three duals. He won the first two over Parker Filius (Purdue) and Fernie Silva (Indiana). However, in his last match, he came up short against Malik Amine (Michigan). Whoever goes in this match likely will struggle to upset Jordan.
Prediction: Jordan (Ohio State) dec. Berge (Penn State)
157: No. 6 Ke-Shawn Hayes (Ohio State) vs. No. 1 Jason Nolf (Penn State)
Hayes has taken some losses against some of the best wrestlers at this weight class. Overall, he has gone 16-5 on the year. He recently avenged a loss against No. 10 Eric Barone (Illinois) who had bested him the Cliff Keen Invitational. However, he will certainly be up against it here.
The returning NCAA champion has gone 19-0. Nolf has scored bonus points in all but two of his victories this year. Hayes' mission will be to keep this close, but that might turn out to be too difficult of a task. Look for Nolf to put Penn State on the board with bonus points.
Prediction: Nolf (Penn State) maj. dec. Hayes (Ohio State)
165: No. 12 Te'Shan Campbell (Ohio State) vs. No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State)
After splitting time with Ethan Smith at 174 pounds for most of the season, Campbell made his way back down to 165 pounds for Ohio State's dual against Northwestern. In his first match back at the weight, he scored a 6-0 decision over Tyler Morland. He has wrestled Joseph twice in his career, and the margin grew from the first to the second. In their last meeting, Joseph took home a major decision over Campbell via a 12-3 score.
Joseph gone undefeated on the year at 17-0. However, the returning NCAA champion has still had some close matches. In his last bout, he needed to go to sudden victory to take out No. 7 Logan Massa (Michigan). He also edged No. 5 Chance Marsteller (Lock Haven) by a single point and took out No. 6 Isaiah White (Nebraska) via a 2-0 score.
Even though Joseph should be the clear favorite in this match, he may not be able to help the team out with bonus. Clearly, he has done it before, but he seems to be having close matches recently. If Campbell is still adjusting the weight drop, Joseph might get it done. However, it is more likely this will be a one-sided decision.
Prediction: Joseph (Penn State) dec. Campbell (Ohio State)
174: No. 18 Ethan Smith (Ohio State) vs. No. 1 Mark Hall (Penn State)
Smith does not really have a signature win on the year, but he was able to hold No. 3 Myle Amine (Michigan) and No. 4 Daniel Lewis (Missouri) to decisions. He will get the start for Ohio State for the rest of the way after Campbell moved down to 165 pounds. His task here will be to keep Hall from putting up bonus points.
Hall has gone undefeated through 19 matches this year. In his last match, he scored a one-point victory over Amine. He has also recently defeated No. 11 Dylan Lydy (Purdue) and No. 9 Michael Labriola (Nebraska). Despite his undefeated run, he has only put up bonus in 47 percent of his matches. He should be able to hang a major on Smith, but it might be tougher than expected.
Prediction: Hall (Penn State) maj. dec. Smith (Ohio State)
184: No. 1 Myles Martin (Ohio State) vs. No. 2 Shakur Rasheed (Penn State)
This is the marquee match of the dual meet. Martin has not lost since falling against Bo Nickal in the NCAA final last season. He has won all 13 of his matches and bonused everyone outside of No. 6 Taylor Venz (Minnesota), No. 3 Nick Reenan (NC State) and No. 7 Emery Parker (Illinois).
Rasheed is also undefeated, but he does not have the signature wins of Martin. Last weekend, he scored a 5-3 victory over Jelani Embree (Michigan). This will be a tough match for Rasheed. He likes to do work from the top position, but he will likely struggle to maintain the position against Martin.
On top of that, Martin has made strides in the neutral position this season. He is very stingy and has been able to come across scores whenever he needs. He should be able to take this match and cement himself as the best at 184 in the country.
Prediction: Martin (Ohio State) dec. Rasheed (Penn State)
197: No. 2 Kollin Moore (Ohio State) vs. No. 1 Bo Nickal (Penn State)
Last year, Moore came into the dual meet against Penn State with an undefeated record and the No. 1 ranking. He ended up facing Anthony Cassar, who at the time was the backup to Rasheed. Moore ended up suffering one of his four losses on the season and tanked the team's shot at the team victory. This year, he once again comes in undefeated, but this time Nickal is the one with the No. 1 ranking.
On the year, Moore has gone 13-0 on the season with three ranked wins, but he has only scored bonus in 69 percent of his matches. On the other hand, Nickal is also undefeated at 18-0, but he has scored bonus points in all but one of his matches. This might be a preview of this year's NCAA final. Nickal is the favorite, but he will be facing one of the largest and most skilled wrestlers at the weight class.
Prediction: Nickal (Penn State) dec. Moore (Ohio State)
285: No. 19 Chase Singletary (Ohio State) vs. No. 3 Anthony Cassar (Penn State)
Singletary has had some moments this season on the way to building a 15-4 record. However, he has yet to score a win that would make you think he could take out the likes of Cassar. In his last match, he dropped a decision against No. 6 Mason Parris (Michigan) with the dual match on the line. He had previously defeated Parris by six points.
Cassar has been a revelation for Penn State at heavyweight. He beat out an All-American to earn the spot, and he has gone 17-1 on the year. He majored Parris in his last match, and he has also knocked off No. 8 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin), No. 16 Conan Jennings (Northwestern) and No. 5 Jordan Wood (Lehigh). He has scored bonus points in 72 percent of his matches, and his pace will likely be too much for Singletary.
Prediction: Cassar (Penn State) maj. dec. Singletary (Ohio State)