Penn State freshman Jason Nolf defeated returning NCAA champion Isaiah Martinez of Illinois earlier this season (Photo/Darrell Hoemann, Fighting Illini Athletics)This Sunday, No. 1 Penn State and No. 5 Oklahoma State will face off in the NWCA National Duals Championship Series main event. The dual meet can be seen live on the Big Ten Network Sunday at 5 p.m. ET.
The following is a weight-by-weight preview of the dual meet. The lineups are a prediction of each team's best squad.
The predicted outcomes are based on a proprietary statistical model developed by StrikeScoreMMA.com called Wrestler's Pythagorean Expectation (WPE). The model has been previously used to predict the finals of the Midlands Championships, Oklahoma State vs. Missouri and Penn State vs. Ohio State. In those three instances, the model correctly predicted the winner in 92 percent of matches. The WPE for each competitor is list below in parentheses.
125: No. 4 Nico Megaludis, Penn State (90.15) vs. No. 6 Eddie Kilmara, Oklahoma State (90.10)
Per the WPE, this should be one of the closer matches of the dual. However, the two met earlier this season in the finals of the Southern Scuffle. Megaludis took that bout via seven-point margin. He should be able to repeat that feat here. However, Oklahoma State will need Kilmara to pull the upset here to have a shot to win the dual
Prediction: Megaludis (Penn State) dec. Kilmara (Oklahoma State)
133: No. 5 Jordan Conaway, Penn State (88.07) vs. Gary Wayne Harding, Oklahoma State (26.33)
Harding has had a wild season. He began the year as the starter. He then lost the job when coach John Smith pulled the redshirt from Kaid Brock. After an injury to Brock, Harding got back in the lineup. He has performed better than his WPE would indicate as he has picked up recent victories over ranked wrestlers No. 17 Dom Forys (Pittsburgh) and No. 15 Zach Synon (Missouri).
With that being said, Conaway will most likely put up some bonus points here. His only two losses this season have come against the No. 1 and No. 2-ranked wrestlers. This month alone he has picked up three wins, including an 8-2 decision over two-time All-American Mason Beckman.
Prediction: Conaway (Penn State) maj. dec. Harding (Oklahoma State)
141: Jimmy Gulibon, Penn State (59.02) vs. No. 1 Dean Heil, Oklahoma State (92.74)
The struggle has continued for Gulibon at the new weight class as he now finds himself unranked. Heil has evolved into the most consistent wrestler at 141 pounds. Heil should be able to take this one. Cowboy fans will be looking for bonus here, but Heil has only scored bonus points in four dual matches this season.
Prediction: Heil (Oklahoma State) dec. Gulibon (Penn State)
149: No. 1 Zain Retherford, Penn State (98.60) vs. No. 12 Anthony Collica, Oklahoma State (86.47)
This dual features two of the frontrunners for the Dan Hodge Trophy and Retherford is one. His dominance is reflected in his 98.60 WPE, which is one of the best scores in the nation. On top of that, he has been a bonus point machine for the Nittany Lions. Collica has had a solid season, but he will struggle to stay off his back against Retherford.
Prediction: Retherford (Penn State) tech. fall Collica (Oklahoma State)
157: No. 1 Jason Nolf, Penn State (96.33) vs. Hester Lamons or Ryan Blees, Oklahoma State
It looks like No. 8 Joe Smith has been ruled out for the dual meet, which takes away one of the more intriguing matches. Nolf and Smith faced off earlier this season in the finals of the Southern Scuffle with Nolf taking a 7-3 decision. In the bout, Smith appeared to pick up the pace late, but it was too little too late.
Now, it will be either Lamons or Blees filling in for Smith. For the season, Nolf is still undefeated with 13 falls and 8 technical falls. This will be an uphill battle for either Cowboy wrestler.
Prediction: Nolf (Penn State) tech. fall Lamons (Oklahoma State)
165: No. 17 Shakur Rasheed, Penn State (85.92) vs. No. 1 Alex Dieringer, Oklahoma State (98.62)
Dieringer is the other frontrunner for the Hodge featured in this dual. Rasheed has surprised a lot of people and been ranked for much of the season. However, Dieringer is on another level. Look for bonus here from the returning NCAA champion.
Prediction: Dieringer (Oklahoma State) tech. fall Rasheed (Penn State)
174: No. 1 Bo Nickal, Penn State (94.00) vs. Chandler Rogers, Oklahoma State (71.00)
The Cowboy starter for most of the season No. 8 Kyle Crutchmer has been ruled out for this match. Rogers has stepped in as the replacement. He has had a solid season and even beat Crutchmer in the Southern Scuffle. In his last match, he scored a technical fall over Dylan Morris (Stanford).
Since dropping his only match of the season to No. 11 Nate Jackson (Indiana), Nickal has won seven straight and picked up bonus in five of those bouts. During that stretch, he has defeated four ranked wrestlers.
Prediction: Nickal (Penn State) tech. fall Rogers (Oklahoma State)
184: No. 6 Matt McCutcheon, Penn State (93.12) vs. No. 13 Nolan Boyd, Oklahoma State (84.17)
Boyd might be a popular upset pick here. Since the Southern Scuffle he has put together an eight-match winning streak and picked up signature victories over No. 14 Willie Miklus (Missouri) and No. 1 Gabe Dean (Cornell). Boyd has actually defeated McCutcheon twice over the past two seasons. On top of that, this will be only McCutcheon's fourth match since injury defaulting against Illinois.
The WPE numbers listed above are for the entire season. There is drastic difference if we include only matches following the Scuffle. McCutcheon falls to 57.11 while Boyd improves to 89.48. Boyd's current streak, McCutcheon's injury situation and their head-to-head history is too much to ignore.
Prediction: Boyd (Oklahoma State) dec. McCutcheon (Penn State)
197: No. 1 Morgan McIntosh, Penn State (97.74) vs. Andrew Marsden (46.30) or Preston Weigel (50.93)
Weigel has performed marginally better than Marsden this season and should get the nod here. However, it should not make much of a difference. McIntosh is undefeated on the season and comes into this bout after two technical falls and a fall in his last three bouts.
Prediction: McIntosh (Penn State) maj. dec. Weigel (Oklahoma State)
285: No. 16 Nick Nevills, Penn State (62.31) vs. No. 5 Austin Marsden, Oklahoma State (93.11)
Nevills returned last week from what was thought to be a season ending injuries. In his return bout, he fell to No. 14 Max Wessell (Lehigh). Nevills then defeated Dimitrus Renfroe (Michigan State).
For the season, Marsden has only had trouble with two opponents. He lost to No. 1 Nick Gwiazdowski (NC State) by decision and picked up a pair of overtime victories over Nathan Butler (Stanford). Marsden should still be the favorite here, but with the return of Nevills the bout goes from almost sure bonus points to a likely decision.
Prediction: Marsden (Oklahoma State) dec. Nevills (Penn State)
Predicted Dual Meet Score: Penn State 26, Oklahoma State 14
Richard Mann currently runs the data-driven MMA blog StrikeScoreMMA.com.