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  • Photo: Photo/Mark Lundy

    Photo: Photo/Mark Lundy

    Previewing featured match in every weight class this weekend

    Ryan Deakin won a Midlands title (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)

    As we inch closer and closer into the postseason, the matches get tighter and tighter. This week there are several duals that feature close bouts in the rankings. The highlight of the weekend has to be the matchup between No. 3 Nick Suriano (Rutgers) and No. 4 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State). Both have been ripping it up this season and have a bit of history from their high school days. With that being said, there are multiple other important matches across the 10 weight classes. The following are previews and predictions for the best matches this weekend.

    125: No. 3 Ronnie Bresser (Oregon State) vs. No. 17 Rico Montoya (Northern Colorado)
    Where/When: Oregon State at Northern Colorado, Friday, Jan. 11

    Bresser is back for his senior campaign, and he might be having his best season to date. On the year, he is 12-1 with his only loss coming against No. 1 Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern), who recently knocked off the returning champion No. 2 Spencer Lee (Iowa). Last year, Bresser became the first person to defeat Lee in his collegiate career. So far this year, Bresser has already knocked off No. 6 Sean Russell (Minnesota), No. 18 Colby Smith (Missouri) and No. 9 Brent Fleetwood (North Dakota State).

    Montoya is down at 125 for his senior year after having spent his entire previous career at 133. At the new weight, he has gone 9-3. He recently made the finals of the Southern Scuffle with victories over Devin Schnupp (Penn State), Alonzo Allen (Chattanooga) and Alex Mackall (Iowa State). However, in the finals, Montoya dropped his second match of the season against No. 4 Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State).

    The Oregon State wrestler should clearly be the favorite in this match. He is a much more gifted athlete, and he has the offensive creativity to pull out a wild takedown. Montoya is an experience and technically sound wrestler, so this should be a battle. As previously stated Bresser is the favorite, but this could turn out to be a meaningful match come tournament time.

    Prediction: Bresser (Oregon State) dec. Montoya (Northern Colorado)

    133: No. 3 Nick Suriano (Rutgers) vs. No. 4 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State)
    Where/When: Oklahoma State at Rutgers, Sunday, Jan. 13

    This is easily the match of the weekend. Suriano is the returning national runner up at 125, and Fix is one of most heralded prospects in recent memory. On the season, both are undefeated.

    So far it is fair to say that Fix has faced the tougher competition this year. He won the Southern Scuffle and holds wins over No. 12 Montorie Bridges (Wyoming), No. 7 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) and No. 9 Austin Gomez (Iowa State). Suriano won the Cliff Keen Invitational with wins over No. 11 John Erneste (Missouri) and No. 5 Micky Phillippi (Pittsburgh). He recently missed out on a match against Lizak who was a late scratch from the Rutgers-Minnesota dual with a skin infection.

    The match in neutral is the most intriguing. Suriano is a relentless leg attacker, while Fix has seemingly always been able to unleash his trademark inside trip when he needs to. Despite the strength vs. strength match on the feet, this match might end up being decided on the mat. Despite wrestling a ton of freestyle coming up, Fix has shown an above average riding ability so far in his collegiate career, and that may end up playing a critical role in this match.

    Prediction: Fix (Oklahoma State) dec. Suriano (Rutgers)

    141: No. 9 Mike Carr (Illinois) vs. No. 5 Kanen Storr (Michigan)
    Where/When: Illinois at Michigan, Friday, Jan. 11

    Carr defaulted out of the Cliff Keen Invitational and has not been back in action since. He got off to a strong start in the tournament including a win over No. 18 Sam Turner (Wyoming). However, he ended falling against No. 3 Jaydin Eierman (Missouri) for the second time this season in the bracket. If he is healthy, he could be a difference maker at this weight. Last year, he entered the NCAA tournament as the 11th seed and fell in the round of 12.

    Storr is starting over this season as Michigan after a tough start to his collegiate career at Iowa State. He had a bit of a coming out party at the Cliff Keen Invitational. He defeated Turner, No. 20 Chad Red (Nebraska), No. 8 Josh Alber (Northern Iowa) and No. 7 Dom Demas (Oklahoma) on the way to finishing third. Following the tournament, he has won three-straight dual matches.

    Even if Carr is healthy enough to get back into the lineup, he will have a tough time against Storr. Not only does Storr have the momentum in his favor, but he has made visible improvements this season. His ability to ride tough on top and get out on bottom have made him look like a new wrestler at times this season and helped him turn things around.

    Prediction: Storr (Michigan) dec. Carr (Illinois)

    149: No. 1 Matthew Kolodzik (Princeton) vs. No. 5 Austin O'Connor (North Carolina)
    Where/When: North Carolina at Princeton, Friday, Jan. 11

    It seems like week after week this season 149 has been a crazy division. However, once the dust settles, Kolodzik is still at the top and still undefeated. In his last action, he won the Midlands, which included another victory over No. 12 Patricio Lugo (Iowa) as well as an overtime victory over Jacori Teemer (Arizona State). He will need to turn back yet another impressive challenge this week against O'Connor.

    After a strong redshirt season, many expected this Tar Heel to be a contender at this weight. So far this season, those folks have not been disappointed. He has gone 22-2, and he has already avenged his first loss against ACC opponent No. 7 Mitch Finesilver (Duke). North Carolina has been wrestling a lot of duals recently, and O'Connor has used the opportunity to rack up the wins and build an impressive record.

    It has not always been easy this season, but Kolodzik has proven himself to be a winner. Look for him to find a way to win yet again against a spirited challenge from O'Connor.

    Prediction: Kolodzik (Princeton) dec. O'Connor (North Carolina)

    157: No. 1 Jason Nolf (Penn State) vs. No. 3 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern)
    Where/When: Penn State at Northwestern, Friday, Jan. 11

    Obviously most of the discussion begins and ends with Nolf at 157. He has lorded over the weight for years and is certainly the odds on favorite to repeat at this weight. However, someone has to challenge the champion. Until recently, Deakin appeared to be the best positioned to give Nolf a run. However, he recently dropped his first match of the season against No. 2 Tyler Berger (Nebraska). Either way, this is a match, which we could end up seeing around tournament time. Expect Nolf to win, but Deakin might have enough motivation, coming off a loss, to make it interesting.

    Prediction: Nolf (Penn State) maj. dec. Deakin (Northwestern)

    165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) vs. No. 3 Evan Wick (Wisconsin)
    Where/When: Wisconsin at Penn State, Sunday, Jan. 13

    Somehow Joseph and Wick managed to wrestle 64 combined match last season and compete in the same conference without running into each other. At the end of the year, Joseph ended up as the NCAA champion and Wick wound up finishing third. It is likely that the road to the title at 165 will run through one of these two men or No. 2 Alex Marinelli (Iowa), who holds a victory over both.

    In his recent victory over Wick, Marinelli showed a bit of a path to victory. Like Marinelli, Joseph likes to control the ties on the feet and hold the center of the mat. If he is able to use that game plan again here against Wick, he should be able to hold onto his number-one ranking.

    Prediction: Joseph (Penn State) dec. Wick (Wisconsin)

    174: No. 8 Taylor Lujan (Northern Iowa) vs. No. 9 Mikey Labriola (Nebraska)
    Where/When: Northern Iowa at Nebraska, Saturday, Jan. 12

    These two had been set to wrestle at the Cliff Keen Invitational, but Labriola bowed out of the contest via medical forfeit. The NCAA wrestling landscape is a small place, and it looks like these two will finally meet. In some ways, it is fitting that these wrestlers are ranked eighth and ninth respectively since this is the type of match that could happen in the bloodround of the NCAA tournament.

    Lujan has gone 14-2 this season with his only losses coming against No. 1 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) and No. 4 Daniel Lewis (Missouri). He has knocked off the likes of No. 15 Brandon Womack (Cornell), No. 10 Ryan Christensen (Wisconsin) and Marcus Coleman (Iowa State). Labriola also only has two losses on the year and is coming off back-to-back wins over Daniel Bullard (NC State) and Johnny Sebastian (Northwestern).

    On paper this looks like battle between veteran savvy and blue chip talent. In the end, Labriola will likely have the more accomplished career, but a guy like Lujan might prove to be too much at this point.

    Prediction: Lujan (Northern Iowa) dec. Labriola (Nebraska)

    184: No. 10 Max Dean (Cornell) vs. No. 7 Ryan Preisch (Lehigh)
    Where/When: Cornell at Lehigh, Saturday, Jan. 12

    This bout is a rematch of the EIWA final from last season. It was a close contest on the feet, but Preisch really pulled away from the top position. Late in the second period, the Lehigh wrestler was able to turn Dean with a power half from the double leg ride and score the fall.

    Dean was a bit of a surprise last season and finished with a 32-6 record. This year, he has already registered four losses to go with nine wins. Preisch has gone 11-1 with his only loss coming against No. 4 Nick Reenan (NC State).

    In terms of ranking and rivalry this should be a tough match. However, their first match was so one sided, it is hard to imagine it ending any other way.

    Prediction: Preisch (Lehigh) maj. dec. Dean (Cornell)

    197: No. 3 Patrick Brucki (Princeton) vs. No. 10 Dakota Geer (Oklahoma State)
    Where/When: Oklahoma State at Princeton, Saturday, Jan. 12

    Geer transferred to Oklahoma State from Edinboro in the offseason. He was not really expected to start at this weight since Preston Weigel is likely their best option. However, injuries have forced Geer into service, and he has looked solid including a first-place finish at the Reno Tournament of Champions and a fourth-place finish at the Southern Scuffle. He will get another chance against a top wrestler here.

    Brucki has passed every test placed in front of him so far this season, and he holds a 17-0 record. He faced a surprisingly tough schedule early as he had to defeat No. 8 Nathan Traxler (Stanford) and No. 5 Rocco Caywood (Army) to win the Princeton Open. He recently ran through the Midlands tournament where he won six matches with five victories coming with bonus points.

    The Princeton wrestler is having a more than solid season and wrestling at a high level. He should be able to get to leg early in this match and score. However, Geer has been more than adequate filling in at this weight and could make this a match.

    Prediction: Brucki (Princeton) maj. dec. Geer (Oklahoma State)

    285: No. 5 Amar Dhesi (Oregon State) vs. Brian Andrews (Wyoming)
    Where/When: Oregon State at Wyoming, Sunday, Jan. 13

    On paper, this match should be a blowout for Dhesi. He is the highest returning placer at this weight, and he has the skills to make a run at the finals this year. However, in his first and only match this season, he was upset by true freshman No. 8 Mason Parris (Michigan).

    Andrews placed third at the NJCAA national tournament last season. This season, he has certainly been active. He has already built a 23-6 record. He has defeated the likes of Brandon Metz (North Dakota State), Carter Isley (Northern Iowa) and Cory Daniel-Gilliland (North Carolina).

    This should be a good test to see if Dhesi is rounding back into form. He should be able to take it, but Andrew went to a four-point decision against No. 3 Derek White (Oklahoma State) earlier this year, so expect this one to be closer than some might think.

    Prediction: Dhesi (Oregon State) dec. Andrews (Wyoming)

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