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  • Photo: Photo/Mark Lundy

    Photo: Photo/Mark Lundy

    Previewing featured match in every weight class this weekend

    Sebastian Rivera knocked off Spencer Lee in the finals of the Midlands Championships (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)

    The college wrestling season rolls on. This week, there are a variety of traditional rivalry matches as well as some duals that will create the opportunity for anticipated rematches. The biggest rematch features the bout between No. 1 Sebastian Rivera and No. 2 Spencer Lee, but there are plenty other matches to look forward to across the 10 weight classes.

    125: No. 1 Sebastian Rivera (Northwestern) vs. No. 2 Spencer Lee (Iowa)
    Where/When: Iowa at Northwestern, Sunday, Jan. 27

    Lee has lost three matches so far in his collegiate career. In his most recent loss, he fell against Rivera in the finals of the Midlands Championships. In that match, which was the tournament final, Rivera was able to score three takedowns in the first two periods and hang on in the third. Lee was able to ride a bit from the top position in the third, but he was not able to get to his vaunted tilt series. The final score came down 7-3 in favor of Rivera.

    The two Big Ten rivals met twice last season, and Lee handily won both matches. In their first meeting, Lee won 7-4. He then scored a 12-0 major decision in the Big Ten Championships.

    At points this season, Lee has not looked like himself. There were some rumors coming out of the Hawkeye camp that he was dealing with an injury. With that being said, his health might not matter if Rivera is able to get to his low-leg offense early in the match. Lee thrives on being a front runner, and Rivera took that away from him last month.

    With all that being said, Lee has to be the favorite in this match. He has more ways to score, and he has shown that he has been able to widen the gap in rematches during his collegiate career. A Lee victory here does not discount Rivera's victory at the Midlands, but it is still the most likely outcome.

    Prediction: Lee (Iowa) dec. Rivera (Northwestern)

    133: No. 1 Stevan Micic (Michigan) vs. No. 6 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State)
    Where/When: Michigan at Ohio State, Friday, Jan. 25

    The rivalry match between Michigan and Ohio State will feature a bout between two of the best wrestlers in what is turning out to be the year's most wild weight class. Pletcher won the first meeting between the two last season via a 7-5 score. However, since then, Micic has won three straight matches over the Buckeye. In their last meeting at the Big Ten Championships, Micic won 8-4.

    Micic has won all of his matches this season. When returning champion Seth Gross (South Dakota State) announced that he was not returning this season, he ascended to the No. 1 ranking. Pletcher has gone 16-1 on the year. His only loss came at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational against No. 2 Micky Phillippi (Pittsburgh), who has since emerged as a legitimate contender.

    In their past matches, Micic has distinguished himself with his ability to score in the neutral position. Pletcher is a hard fighter in the tie ups, but the result will likely not change. At multiple points in this match, Micic will get enough room to fire off a leg attack and take control of the bout.

    Prediction: Micic (Michigan) dec. Pletcher (Ohio State)

    141: No. 2 Joey McKenna (Ohio State) vs. No. 5 Kanen Storr (Michigan)
    Where/When: Michigan at Ohio State, Friday, Jan. 25

    The Michigan-Ohio State dual meet will feature another match between top-10 ranked wrestlers. However, unlike Micic and Pletcher, McKenna and Storr have never met in college.

    With an undefeated 13-0 record, McKenna has established himself as one of the top wrestlers at this weight in the country. He currently sits only behind returning champion No. 1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell). While McKenna has a reputation for close matches, he has picked up eight bonus-point victories in his 13 wins this year. Also, he is currently riding a four-match bonus streak since the Cliff Keen Invitational.

    Storr has built a 17-2 record in his first season at Michigan. He previously spent two seasons at Iowa State before transferring. His lone two losses on the season have come against No. 3 Jaydin Eierman (Missouri) and No. 4 Mike Carr (Illinois).

    This match might end up being closer than the experts predict, but in the end, McKenna will walk off the mat as the winner. He is simply too strong in terms of position, and Storr will struggle to score. Then again, strange things can happen in rivalry matches.

    Prediction: McKenna (Ohio State) dec. Storr (Michigan)

    149: No. 5 Kaden Gfeller (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 12 Jarrett Degen (Iowa State)
    Where/When: Iowa State at Oklahoma State, Sunday, Jan. 27

    Gfeller began this season on the bench, but he has made the most of his opportunities in the starting lineup. He has slowly but surely worked his way up the rankings at 149 and holds victories over No. 6 Mitch Finesilver (Duke), Jarod Verkleeren (Penn State) and No. 16 Christian Monserrat (West Virginia).

    Degen emerged as a surprisingly steady hand for the Cyclones last season, and he has only improved this year. He holds an 18-3 record highlighted by wins over Monserrat and No. 13 Pat Lugo (Iowa). While he has looked sharp at points this season, he may struggle to keep up pace with Gfeller. The Oklahoma State wrestler creates a lot of action of his offense, and Degen likes to control the pace.

    Prediction: Gfeller (Oklahoma State) dec. Degen (Iowa State)

    157: No. 3 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) vs. No. 5 Kaleb Young (Iowa)
    Where/When: Iowa at Northwestern, Sunday, Jan. 27

    Deakin seems to have established himself as a clear No. 3 at this weight. His only two losses have come against No. 1 Jason Nolf (Penn State) and No. 2 Tyler Berger (Nebraska). Outside of those matches, he has looked dominant. This includes a 6-2 victory over Young at the Midlands.

    Since coming down in weight this year, Young has gone 13-1. He recently picked up one of his biggest wins of the year when he scored a last-minute throw against No. 7 Steve Bleise (Minnesota). Young was considered a question mark for Iowa going into the year, but he has wrestled like a top-10 guy.

    Prior to the late throw against Bleise, Young was locked into a match without very much offense. It was 1-1 after over six minutes of wrestling. That is not going to cut it against Deakin. In their first match, he showed he could keep it close, but he simply does not have the offense to pull out the win.

    Prediction: Deakin (Northwestern) dec. Young (Iowa)

    165: No. 4 Chance Marsteller (Lock Haven) vs. No. 5 Josh Shields (Arizona State)
    Where/When: Arizona State vs. Lock Haven at Red Lion High School, Friday, Jan. 25

    Marsteller is in the middle of another stellar season. After going 44-4 last year, he has started off this year with a 13-1 record. His only loss so far this year was a one-point match against No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) at the Southern Scuffle. Along the way, he has bested the likes of Mason Manville (Penn State), No. 9 Branson Ashworth (Wyoming) and former teammate No. 10 Chandler Rogers (Oklahoma State.

    Shields has improved every season he has wrestled for the Sun Devils. This season, he has built a 20-3 record and fallen only to the top-three competitors at the weight class. However, that seems to tell the story for him in his career. He will win the vast majority of his matches, and struggle to break through against top guys. Marsteller has certainly gotten his career back on track at Lock Haven, and he should be the favorite here.

    Prediction: Marsteller (Lock Haven) dec. Shields (Arizona State)

    174: No. 2 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) vs. No. 7 Jordan Kutler (Lehigh)
    Where/When: Arizona State at Lehigh, Saturday, Jan. 26

    Outside of a pair of matches against No. 1 Mark Hall (Penn State), Valencia has gone undefeated for the past three seasons. However, he should certainly not be looking past Kutler. Yes, Valencia defeated the Lehigh wrestler 11-4 last season, but Kutler is a dangerous test when healthy.

    He has gone 12-3 this season, and he has not lost since running into No. 4 Daniel Lewis (Missouri) back in December. Valencia is a huge favorite in this bout due to his ability to stay on his offense from the outside. Kutler's path to victory is clear. He needs to slow the ties, slow the match down and impact the match on the floor. That is easier said than done.

    Prediction: Valencia (Arizona State) maj. dec. Kutler (Lehigh)

    184: No. 2 Emery Parker (Illinois) vs. No. 5 Taylor Venz (Nebraska)
    Where/When: Illinois at Nebraska, Sunday, Jan. 27

    Parker has somehow flown under the radar despite being the second-ranked wrestler all season. He has wrestled a very minimal schedule, which includes only one tournament and five dual matches. However, he has been much more active this month with three straight wins.

    Parker and Venz have a history. The Illinois wrestler holds the edge 2-1 in their series, and he won their most recent match at the NCAA tournament.

    Venz had a tough weekend in North Carolina, dropping matches against No. 14 Chip Ness (North Carolina) and No. 4 Nick Reenan (NC State). However, since returning to action, he has won all four of his match including victories over Mason Manville (Penn State) and No. 6 Drew Foster (Northern Iowa).

    With such limited action this season for Parker, it is hard to imagine he is wrestling his best matches at this moment. Venz has proven he could beat him before, and he has a strong chance of scoring the upset. If he is able to have an impact from the top position, his path to a victory is there.

    Prediction: Venz (Nebraska) dec. Parker (Illinois)

    197: No. 6 Willie Miklus (Iowa State) vs. No. 10 Dakota Geer (Oklahoma State)
    Where/When: Iowa State at Oklahoma State, Sunday, Jan. 27

    Miklus moved on to Iowa State for his sixth year of eligibility. For his final campaign, he has started 12-2. While the record is impressive, he has not faced the toughest competition. However, the veteran has proven over and over during his career he can rise to the occasion.

    Geer began the season at 184, but he has been pressed into service for the often injured Preston Weigel. Since the Southern Scuffle, he has gone 3-1 with the lone loss coming against Patrick Brucki (Princeton). In his last match, he scored a one-sided decision over Pittsburgh's Kellan Stout.

    Geer has been surprisingly effective at 197 so far. However, he will have some trouble with Miklus. As previously stated, he has not faced many tests this season, but he is a crafty veteran. He should be able to sneak in a few takedowns and take the match.

    Prediction: Miklus (Iowa State) dec. Geer (Oklahoma State)

    285: No. 1 Gable Steveson (Minnesota) vs. No. 11 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin)
    Where/When: Minnesota at Wisconsin, Friday, Jan. 25

    After missing out on a shot at No. 3 Sam Stoll (Iowa) two weeks ago, Steveson took out both Deuce Rachal (Illinois) and No. 15 Conan Jennings (Northwestern) last weekend. He has gone undefeated so far this season at 23-0, and looks to be the favorite come tournament time.

    He will also be the favorite here against Hillger. The Wisconsin wrestler had a strong start to the season, but he has recently run into trouble in the Big Ten dual meet schedule. He comes into this match on the back on back-to-back losses against No. 4 Anthony Cassar (Penn State) and Jennings.

    Even though Steveson should be able to take care of business in this match, adjusting to the grind is part of college wrestling. He clearly has the talent, but in the bigger conferences it is a new test each and every week.

    Prediction: Steveson (Minnesota) maj. dec. Hillger (Wisconsin)

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