174 lbers Cade Lautt (left) and Matt Finesilver (Photo/Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
Duke at North Carolina
The Blue Devils travel across town to face the Tar Heels in a rivalry as old as the schools. On paper, it is lopsided for UNC, but there are some great matchups in here, and some tossups that could definitely go in favor of Duke to make this a closer dual. UNC had a brutal early-season dual schedule and threw themselves into the fire of competition early and often--they took some lumps on the scoreboard, but I think they are better because of it. Duke is off to their best start in seven years and have bonus-point machines in the Finesilver brothers. Both brothers have great matchups in the is dual as #8 Josh faces #20 Zach Sherman at 149 and #13 Matt faces #16 Clay Lautt at 174. Not to get lost in the wildness of opening week for conference duals, UNC will also match up with Little Rock on Sunday at home.
125: Logan Agin vs. Spencer Moore
This could be a budding rivalry between freshmen in this bout. Agin is 10-7 coming in and Moore is 9-10. Both are very active wrestlers and don't mind initiating situations to score points. This will be an important gauge for us to see how much growth Spencer made during the non-conference season.
133: Drake Doolittle vs. #10 Jaime Hernandez
Hernandez has been out with an injury since mid-December but had been off to a hot start for the season. He comes in at 5-0 while Doolittle has a 4-14 record on the season.
141: Patrick Rowland vs. #7 Kizhan Clarke
Clarke is another Tar Heel who has had a great year at 12-0 and pulling in the #7 ranking. He has been dominant and has seemed to handle the weight cut very well.
149: #13 Josh Finesilver vs. #20 Zach Sherman
Coming into the season, this match was circled on a lot of schedules; Sherman was an All-American last year, while Finesilver fell in the blood round. Finesilver has looked excellent this season, bringing in a 21-2 record with his only losses to All-American #5 John Millner from App State. Sherman, however, has not had as great of a start. He comes in a 2-5 but has faced one of the toughest schedules in the nation in his first half of the season. His losses are to wrestlers ranked 2, 4, 6, 9 and 10 in the current rankings--not the nicest way to ease into a season. I still have faith that this will be a fantastic match. The UNC coaches feel good about the improvements Sherman has made and where he is at going into conference duals. I lean Finesilver here, but this match could go a long way to Sherman showing he still belongs in the upper echelon of 149.
157: Wade Ungar vs. #6 Austin O'Connor
Returning national champion Austin O'Connor brings in a 7-1 record, his one loss to #5 Peyton Robb of Nebraska in a close match. Ungar has had good moments for the Blue Devils; the sophomore brings in a 9-10 record. I expect a lot of offensive from O'Connor here and I don't think that Ungar will be able to do much to stop it.
165: Gabe Dinette vs. Sonny Santiago
This could be a great match with two pretty evenly matched wrestlers. Santiago is 6-7 while Dinette is 7-7, but has looked like he has found his groove lately.
174: #13 Matt Finesilver vs #16 Clay Lautt
Finesilver started the season off with a 20 win streak before taking a couple "not great" losses at the Southern Scuffle. He has rebounded to win his last two and is sitting at 22-2 on the year. Lautt wasn't initially the starter at 174, as Gavin Kane took the wrestle-off victory, but the team quickly balanced out to find the best lineup with Lautt at 174 and Kane at 184. Since taking the starting spot, he has gone 4-3 with close losses to Rocky Jordan, Mikey Labriola and Thomas Flitz--all ranked at the time of the loss. I give the edge to Finesilver in this match, but it should be a battle.
184: Vincent Baker vs. #22 Gavin Kane
Baker has looked better of late, but enters the match at .500 with a 10-10 record. Kane comes in with a 7-2 record; since moving back up to 184, he is 3-0 with quality wins over Caleb Hopkins and Chris Weiler.
197: Kaden Russell vs. #28 Max Shaw
Russell is someone I have been high on all year. He's had glimpses of great potential, especially in duals. He has eight dual wins and six of them are by bonus this year--he is 12-8 overall and has performed better in a dual setting. Shaw is 7-3 on the year and two of the three losses are to ranked wrestlers Greg Bulsak and Braxton Amos.
285: Jonah Niesenbaum vs. Brandon Whitman
I don't expect the team score to be in balance when we get to heavyweight, but this could be a sneaky good match to end on. Whitman is 6-7 but has a few close losses. Niesenbaum comes in at 13-6 with three of those losses in sudden victory. Niesenbaum has played a significant role in locking up some big team wins for Duke this year and has been on the bubble of the rankings. He's got a lot of potential and can be a bright spot for Duke this year.