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  • Photo: Photo/Mark Lundy

    Photo: Photo/Mark Lundy

    Previewing featured match in every weight class this weekend

    Iowa's Austin DeSanto enters the match against Nick Suriano of Rutgers with a record of 11-1 (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)

    The NCAA wrestling dual meet season returns yet again with a series of top matches. This week's preview of the top matches includes eight wrestlers ranked in the top ten, as well as multiple interesting matches with a lot on the line. The following is a preview of the most interesting match in each weight.

    125: No. 7 RayVon Foley (Michigan State) vs. No. 16 Drew Mattin (Michigan)
    Where/When: Michigan at Michigan State, Friday, Jan. 18

    Foley and Mattin are both true sophomores, but they already developed a rivalry. Last year, Mattin handed Foley his second collegiate loss via fall at the Cliff Keen Invitational. However, since that defeat, Foley has won three-straight matches against the Wolverine. The two wrestled earlier this year at the Michigan State Open, and Foley walked away with a 12-3 major decision.

    The Michigan State wrestler has had a strong start to his season. So far, he is 21-1, and he is riding a six-match winning streak. In his last match, he scored a 19-6 major over Malik Heinselman (Ohio State). Mattin has gone 10-5 with his only ranked victories coming over No. 15 Travis Piotrowski (Illinois) and No. 13 Zeke Moisey (Nebraska)

    Foley has proven himself to be too strong and too physical for Mattin in their previous matches. Although, his penchant to want to go upperbody can give any opponent openings. In the end, Foley could be able to control this bout and take a one-sided victory, but strange things happen in rivalry matches.

    Prediction: Foley (Michigan State) maj. dec. Mattin (Michigan)

    133: No. 3 Nick Suriano (Rutgers) vs. No. 8 Austin DeSanto (Iowa)
    Where/When: Rutgers at Iowa, Friday, Jan. 18

    Earlier this week, Iowa coach Tom Brands suggested that the Big Ten Network "stop at 133, pay-per-view for DeSanto-Suriano and then get the free TV going again." Last season, DeSanto made a name for himself as both as exciting wrestler and a bit of a lightning rod in the community. This year, he has built an 11-1 record and mostly kept his emotions in check until a little bit of extracurricular activity following a win over No. 9 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) last weekend.

    Suriano was clearly one of the top contenders at this weight coming into the year after making the 125-pound finals a season ago. Last weekend, he suffered his first loss since that final against No. 2 Daton Fix (Oklahoma State). After a lot of hype, the match was ultimately uneventful, and Suriano lost in overtime due a penalty point.

    The Rutgers representative will be looking to get back on track here against DeSanto, but the styles could make this an interesting match. Both wrestlers rely on a lot of forward motion in order to set up their leg attacks. Whoever is able to set the pace and push forward should be able to win. Suriano should be the favorite since he likely has the cleaner attacks. However, it would be unwise to count out DeSanto and his motor.

    Prediction: Suriano (Rutgers) dec. DeSanto (iowa)

    141: No. 6 Nick Lee (Penn State) vs. No. 19 Chad Red (Nebraska)
    Where/When: Nebraska at Penn State, Sunday, Jan. 20

    On Sunday these two will meet for the first time in college. However, they do have a history, which dates back to high school. They both came into the Indiana state final at 132 pounds undefeated, but in the end Red finished his high school career with a 183-0 record.

    In the match, Lee got off to a 4-0 lead after going feet-to-back on a fireman's carry. However, Red was able to battle back with a takedown and back points of his own in the second period. He then held onto win for the championship.

    Despite that win, Lee might have had the better college career so far. Red became an All-American last year with a seventh-place finish at 141 pounds, while Lee finished fifth as a true freshman.

    So far this season, Red has gone 11-6 against a tough schedule and has nearly fallen out of the rankings. On the other hand, Lee spent most of the year ranked in the top five before being upset by No. 16 Tristan Moran (Wisconsin) last weekend and losing for the first time on the year.

    In their high school match, Lee was able to get to shots, but he had trouble finishing after the first period. He has worked hard to improve in that area. If Red tries to scramble this time, he should be able to rely on his technique and finish the takedowns.

    Prediction: Lee (Penn State) dec. Red (Nebraska)

    149: No. 6 Mitch Finesilver (Duke) vs. No. 20 Jared Prince (Navy)
    Where/When: Duke at Navy, Sunday, Jan. 20

    Finesilver has worked his way up the rankings with an 18-3 record. All three of his losses have come against wrestlers ranked in the top five, and two of those losses were close matches. Duke has shown itself to be a sleeper program at times, and Finesilver is clearly improving on the job.

    Prince had a strong season last year, but he needed to overcome some internal turmoil to qualify for the NCAA tournament. In the end, he received a tough draw and dropped both of his matches. Even with those losses, he finished with a 21-6 record. However, this season, he has really struggled at times and only has a 9-8 record.

    Prince has the talent to compete, but he will need to get back to his old form. The season is nearing the end, and he has not looked like himself. On the other hand, this is clearly the best iteration of Finesilver, and he should be dominant.

    Prediction: Finesilver (Duke) maj. dec. Prince (Navy)

    157: No. 1 Jason Nolf (Penn State) vs. No. 2 Tyler Berger (Nebraska)
    Where/When: Nebraska at Penn State, Sunday, Jan. 20

    At this point, the 157-pound weight class belongs to Nolf. He is still undefeated at 15-0, and he has scored bonus points in all 15 matches he has wrestled this season. Berger has established himself as the clear number two in this weight with No. 4 Hayden Hidlay (North Carolina State) and No. 3 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern). He should be a test for the returning champion, but at this point it is hard to see Nolf not once again scoring bonus points. They have met three times, and Nolf has won all three. In their last match, he scored a 13-5 major decision over Berger.

    Prediction: Nolf (Penn State) maj. dec. Berger (Nebraska)

    165: No. 12 Bryce Steiert (Northern Iowa) vs. No. 13 Connor Flynn (Missouri)
    Where/When: Northern Iowa at Missouri, Thursday, Jan. 17

    Steiert has had a quality season highlighted by a fourth-place finish at the Midlands tournament. Since then, he has split a pair of matches. He scored a technical fall over Logan Peterson (South Dakota State) but then dropped a 2-1 match against No. 6 Isaiah White (Nebraska)

    Since the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, Flynn has gone on a seven-match winning streak. Along the way, he has scored a technical fall and a pair of major decisions. In his last match, he scored a one-point victory over Colt Yinger (Ohio).

    Before going on his current run, Flynn dropped a three-point match against Steiert in Las Vegas. The Northern Iowa wrestler should be the favorite in this match. Flynn has shown that he can compete with some of the best, but he has struggled to break through and pick up wins.

    Prediction: Steiert (Northern Iowa) dec. Flynn (Missouri)

    174: No. 11 Devin Skatzka (Minnesota) vs. Johnny Sebastian (Northwestern)
    Where/When: Minnesota at Northwestern, Sunday, Jan. 20

    This is an opportunity for both wrestlers to prove something. Skatzka has looked good since transferring over to Minnesota from Indiana. However, he needed to hang on and avoid giving up a comeback against Mitch Bowman (Iowa) last week. On the other hand, Sebastian has not really looked like himself this season and missed a lot of time.

    In their only ever meeting, Sebastian pulled off a major decision against Skatza. However, the Minnesota wrestler is certainly having the better season. If Sebastian is able to get himself back into top form, he should be able to take this win. However, that seems somewhat unlikely considering his recent performances.

    Prediction: Skatzka (Minnesota) dec. Sebastian (Northwestern)

    184: No. 11 Jasobe Smith (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 12 Nino Bonaccorsi (Pittsburgh)
    Where/When: Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh, Saturday, Jan. 19

    Smith began the season at 174, and he won his first 10 matches. However, he then moved up in weight to make room for the return of Joe Smith. At the new weight, he has gone 6-2 with his losses coming against Hunter Bolen (Virginia Tech) and No. 9 Louie DePrez (Binghamton). In his last match, he scored a major decision over Willie Scott (Rutgers).

    Bonaccorsi is riding a six-match winning streak since the Cliff Keen Invitational. Overall on the season, he has gone 12-3, and all three of his losses have come against wrestlers ranked in the top eight.

    Pittsburgh as a team is having a strong season, and Bonaccorsi has been part of that. He has not been able to break through against highly ranked competition, but he is getting the shot here. Smith is probably undersized for 184, but his ability to control the pace of the match will likely help him here. Look for Smith to pull out a close match.

    Prediction: Smith (Oklahoma State) dec. Bonaccorsi (Pittsburgh)

    197: No. 13 Tanner Orndorff (Utah Valley) vs. Josh Hokit (Fresno State)
    Where/When: Fresno State at Utah Valley, Friday, Jan. 18

    Orndorff holds a pair of victories over Hokit from last season. He defeated him last January 9-4 and then again in March 11-4. However, Hokit remains one of the best stories in college wrestling as he competes at both wrestling and football. He will likely struggle to score with Orndorff as he has in the past. However, it is always intriguing to see a guy compete at a high level in two sports at once.

    Prediction: Orndorff (Utah Valley) dec. Hokit (Fresno State)

    285: No. 2 Derek White (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 13 Demetrius Thomas (Pittsburgh)
    Where/When: Oklahoma State at Pittsburgh, Saturday, Jan. 19

    As previously mentioned, Pittsburgh is having a comeback season this year. The transfer of Thomas has certainly helped. The former NAIA champion has gone 20-2 on the year, but he has not really gotten a shot at top ranked talent. He will certainly get that chance here.

    Outside of a tough match against No. 1 Gable Steveson (Minnesota), White has looked virtually unstoppable this season. He won the Southern Scuffle and along the way he bested No. 11 Thomas Haines (Lock Haven), No. 4 Anthony Cassar (Penn State) and Nick Nevills (Penn State).

    White should be able to use his footwork and takedown ability to take this match. However, Thomas is not a walkthrough and has a legitimate shot at an upset in this contest.

    Prediction: White (Oklahoma State) dec. Thomas (Pittsburgh)

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