Arizona State hosts Ohio State on Nov. 18 (Photo/Tony Rotundo, WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
School has just started, which means that the start of the NCAA wrestling season is basically around the corner. While titles are decided in March, there is plenty for fans to watch and enjoy during the first half of the season. The following are the top 10 dual meets of the first semester presented in chronological order.
Nov. 1: Wisconsin vs. Buffalo
This upcoming season will launch a new era for the Wisconsin wrestling program. Former South Dakota State coach Chris Bono has taken over the program and his debut match will come against Buffalo. The Bulls boast multiple NCAA qualifiers including Kyle Akins, Bryan Lantry and Jake Gunning. The Badgers have some solid talent the Wick brothers, along with transfers Tristan Moran and Connor Brown.
Nov. 3: Navy vs. Ohio State at McDonogh School
A few seasons ago, Ohio State wrestled Maryland at Kyle Snyder's high school alma mater, Good Counsel. This year, the Buckeyes will once again wrestle a dual at a Maryland high school. They will head to the McDonogh School where Myles Martin wrestled as a prep. The homecoming for Martin will likely lead to a victory for his squad. However, Nicholas Gil and Jared Prince both represented Navy at the NCAA tournament last season.
Nov. 16: North Carolina vs. Arizona State
In the fall, Arizona State will head to North Carolina with one of their better lineups in recent memory. Highlighted by returning NCAA champion Zahid Valencia, the squad will also feature Anthony Valencia, Ryan Milhof, Brandon Courtney, Mason Smith, Josh Shields and Tanner Hall. The Sun Devils have a much deeper team, but the Tar Heels feature some exciting young wrestlers including Kennedy Monday and Austin O'Connor. They also added Gary Wayne Harding via transfer from Oklahoma State. As the wrestling in the ACC and the Pac-12 continues to improve, fans will be treated to more interesting cross-country matches.
Nov. 16: Michigan vs. Lehigh
Last season, Lehigh scored an upset dual victory over Michigan in November. The Wolverines came in as the favorites, but Lehigh took the match 27-8. The bout should end up being competitive once again this year. At 125 pounds, Connor Schram will face Drew Mattin after transferring in from Stanford. The two met last season with Mattin taking the win in sudden victory. At 174, Jordan Kutler and Myles Amine split a pair of one-point matches last season.
Nov. 17: South Dakota State vs. Oklahoma State
The expansion of the Big XII in wrestling has led to interesting duals every season. This year, the perennial power Oklahoma State will head north to take on South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits will be in their first season under new head coach Damion Hahn, but the lineup will still feature returning NCAA champion Seth Gross. Depending on how the Cowboys put together their lineup, he will likely face either Nick Piccininni or Daton Fix. Either way, that will likely be the main event of the dual.
Nov. 18: Arizona State vs. Ohio State
The Buckeyes will likely take a step back this season after losing a strong trio of seniors. However, this will still be a very competitive dual. Depending on how the weights shake out, fans could be treated to a match of NCAA champions. Zahid Valencia is rumored to be moving up to 184 pounds this season. If that is the case, he will likely take on former champion Myles Martin. There is some history at 157 pounds as Josh Shields and Micah Jordan split a pair of matches last fall.
Nov. 18: Minnesota vs. Oklahoma State
These two teams are very familiar with one another. Due to some lineup shifting there will be some new matches as well as the continuation of some long running rivalries. Both Mitch McKee and Kaid Brock are expected to move up to 141. Brock has won the last four meetings in folkstyle, while McKee has done much better in freestyle. The match will also likely be one of the first tests for super prospect Gable Steveson as his opponent would likely be returning Big XII champion Derek White.
Nov. 20: Fresno State vs. Stanford "Battle on the Midway"
For the second straight year, Fresno State will host a dual on the deck of the USS Midway. Last year, the Bulldogs fell 24-12 against Air Force on the museum ship docked in San Diego. The unique environment can create some interesting outcomes. The level of moisture can cause a slippery mat similar to the most recent Beat the Streets event. On paper, Stanford is favored and led by Gabe Townsell, Nathan Traxler and All-American Paul Fox. However, the Bulldogs could make it interesting with some returning starters who had solid years during the program's return season including Khristian Olivas and AJ Nevills.
A statue of Dan Gable sits outside Carver-Hawkeye Arena where Iowa and Iowa State meet on Dec. 1 (Photo/Mark Lundy, Lutte-Lens.com)
Dec. 1: Iowa vs. Iowa State
This year the Cy-Hawk rivalry moves back to the first semester after it took place near the end of the season last year. Even though Iowa has won the last 13 duals, the annual match remains one of the highlights of the wrestling season. Iowa State is still in the midst of a rebuild under second-year head coach Kevin Dresser, while Iowa will have one of their strongest teams in the last few years. Last season, Iowa won the dual 35-6 with the Cyclones only earning points via forfeit. The Hawkeyes will almost certainly take home the win this year as well, but the match could possibly be much closer.
Dec. 16: NC State vs. Nebraska
Last year, the Wolfpack went into Lincoln and put it on the Cornhuskers. This year, Nebraska will travel to Raleigh to try to get the win back. However, it might end up being a bridge too far. NC State has become a perennial strong team and returns a solid core group. The big two bouts of this dual will likely be the matches at 157 pounds and 197 pounds. At 157, Hayden Hidlay knocked off Tyler Berger twice last year, but Berger closed the gap in their second meeting. At 197, Nick Reenan will return this season for NC State. In this meet, he will likely take on Taylor Venz who had a very strong freshman season.