Michigan 141 lber Cole Mattin (photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com)
This week in Big Ten wrestling action was highlighted by upsets. Maryland and Indiana - two teams that have perennially been at the bottom of the conference in recent years - both earned wins over ranked opponents in Pittsburgh and Princeton, respectively.
And Wisconsin junior Austin Gomez pulled off the biggest individual upset of the season so far, handing Cornell senior Yianni Diakomihalis just the second loss of his career.
Here are five things we learned from Week 3:
Maryland: Road Warriors
I tried to tell everyone that they were for real. Just last week, we recapped their success at the Tiger Style invite and touched on their wins over Bloomsburg, Duke, and American, but Pittsburgh was going to be a completely different challenge. This was going to be a measuring stick to see where this young team was early in the year, and boy did we.
Pittsburgh came into this dual ranked 16th in the country, and for good reason. Most of their roster is ranked, including No. 1-ranked Cole Matthews who was going up against true freshman Kal Miller. Dual upsets require a lot, but one of those things is your true freshman going up against a top-ranked dude can't get destroyed, and that's what Kal did. He lost, but a regular decision with Matthews winning 5-1. What else do you need in upset dual wins? You need upsets, obviously. We got that with Michael North beating 11th-ranked Dazjon Casto in overtime 10-8. Another necessary ingredient for an upset win, is bonus points. You can't score more bonus points than you do with a pin, and that's what you got from Braxton Brown at 125 to get this thing rolling.
This was the first ranked win for Maryland since 2013. This turnaround didn't happen overnight and it didn't come without the necessary effort and belief from the athletes and coaches.
"To see our kids battle all night on the road in a hostile environment says a lot about who they are and what our program is made of," Coach Alex Clemsen said after the dual. "Friday night was a great step for our program to show the country what we are capable of. I know our kids and staff are hungry for more nights like that and for more opportunities to showcase our work and growth."
Having followed Maryland very closely since Clemsen took over, I know every word of this to be true. Expect big things from these guys. This might be their first ranked win in a while, but there will be many more to come. Next up they'll have Navy in Annapolis on 12/11, followed by a trip to the Southern Scuffle, before getting their Big Ten Schedule started with Indiana on 1/9.
I know I wrote about both Maryland and Wisconsin last week, but they have wasted no time this season with getting into some big moments. If you're reading this, then you for sure know that Austin Gomez beat 3x defending NCAA Champion, and World Silver Medalist, Yianni Diakamaholis. It was as impressive an upset as I've ever seen. Gomez is comfortable in absolutely any position, and is ready and willing to get there. If someone was going to beat Yianni, it had to be someone who could score points in bunches and keep him from getting comfortable. Gomez had to be the guy, and I'll be damned, he did it.
As it turns out, though, nine other matches were wrestled that day. Two weeks ago, I said that I wasn't worried about Wisconsin, despite being beaten by Iowa State. They had everything go wrong in that dual, which can happen sometimes. Other times, you can have everything go right, which is what happened this week. This week they showed up in Ithaca ready to throw fists. Cornell was ranked 6th going into the dual, and at home, I'm sure fully expected their first win of a promising season.
Just like with Maryland, Wisconsin got some upset wins to come away with this one on the road. Zargo was upset at 141, but other than that they took all the matches that were toss-ups. Hamiti got bonus points in what was supposed to be a close match with him and Julian Ramirez at 165, then you had freshman James Rowley keep the match close with #9 Foca at 174. Tied 13-13 going into the final two matches, you had #21 Braxton Amos get the decision over 20th-ranked Jacob Cardenas, followed by another upset at HWY with #12 Trent Hilger beating #9 Lewis Fernandez to seal the dual at 19-13.
This is why you schedule tough early-season duals. Wisconsin has been on both ends of some tough competition over the first three weeks, but they will be as battle tested as anyone going into the Big Ten schedule. Up next for them they head to Ames, Iowa for the Harold Nichols Cyclone Open this weekend before heading to New Jersey for the Garden State Grapple with Princeton and Penn.
Scared money don't make money.
Ohio State and Michigan are on a crash course towards each other
These two teams will meet in Ann Arbor on Jan. 27 for what is always one of the more competitive and fun dual meets to watch. It often comes down to not only the final match, but a couple positions getting flipped around. Whether it's good, old-fashioned, high-intensity matches, or inexcusably bad calls (cough, Heflin v Zeerip, cough cough), something crazy always happens with these duals. Michigan has gotten the better of Ohio State the last couple of times, but not without some level of drama.
I don't remember this being the case in previous seasons, but to this point, three of each of these teams' four chances to compete this season were either at the same tournament (MSU Open), or against the same teams (UNC and Columbia). Regardless of how much can happen between now and Jan. 27, I thought it would be a fun exercise to compare how they've done against these common opponents. Here's the UNC results:
Ohio State 33 North Carolina 8
125 - Malik Heinselman (Ohio State) dec Jack Wagner (North Carolina) 3-1
133 - Jesse Mendez (Ohio State) fall Joey Melendez (North Carolina) 4:32
141 - Lachlan McNeil (North Carolina) dec Jordan Decatur (Ohio State) 9-7
149 - Sammy Sasso (Ohio State) fall Jayden Scott (North Carolina) 1:39
157 - Sincere Bailey (North Carolina) FFT
165 - Carson Kharchla (Ohio State) dec Nick Fea (North Carolina) 12-8
174 - Ethan Smith (Ohio State) dec Clay Lautt (North Carolina) 2-0
184 - Kaleb Romero (Ohio State) dec Gavin Kane (North Carolina) 5-4
197 - Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State) dec Max Shaw (North Carolina) 8-2
285 - Tate Orndorff (Ohio State) fall Brandon Whitman (North Carolina) 5:22
Michigan 23 North Carolina 12
125 - Jack Wagner (North Carolina) dec Jack Medley (Michigan) 5-4
133 - Dylan Ragusin (Michigan) tech Jaime Hernandez (North Carolina) 20-5
141 - Cole Mattin (Michigan) dec Lachlan McNeil (North Carolina) 9-3
149 - Chance Lamer (Michigan) dec Danny Nini (North Carolina) 6-3
157 - Will Lewan (Michigan) dec Sincere Bailey (North Carolina) 3-2
165 - Joey Mazzara (North Carolina) dec Zack Mattin (Michigan) 7-3
174 - Clay Lautt (North Carolina) dec Max Maylor (Michigan) 4-1
184 - Matt Finesilver (Michigan) dec Gavin Kane (North Carolina) 4-0
197 - Max Shaw (North Carolina) dec Jaden Bullock (Michigan) 3-2
285 - Mason Parris (Michigan) fall Brandon Whitman (North Carolina) 2:30
Here are the results against Columbia as well:
Michigan 38 Columbia 6
125 - Kurt McHenry (Michigan) maj Nick Babin (Columbia) 15-7
133 - Dylan Ragusin (Michigan) tech Zack Witmer (Columbia) 22-5
141 - Cole Mattin (Michigan) fall Kai Owen (Columbia) 1:08
149 - Chance Lamer (Michigan) maj Richard Fedalen (Columbia) 12-1
157 - Will Lewan (Michigan) dec Andrew Garr (Columbia) 6-3
165 - Josh Ogunsanya (Columbia) fall Zack Mattin (Michigan) 4:13
174 - Joseph Walker (Michigan) dec Lenox Wolak (Columbia) 5-2
184 - Matt Finesilver (Michigan) maj Jack Wehmeyer (Columbia) 9-1
197 - Brendin Yatooma (Michigan) dec Javen Jovero (Columbia) 4-3
285 - Mason Parris (Michigan) fall Dan Conley (Columbia) 2:37
Ohio State 33 Columbia 6
125 - Malik Heinselman (Ohio State) maj Nick Babin (Columbia) 17-4
133 - Jesse Mendez (Ohio State) maj Angelo Rini (Columbia) 12-2
141 - Jordan Decatur (Ohio State) dec Matt Kazimir (Columbia) 3-1
149 - Danny Fongaro (Columbia) dec Klay Reeves (Ohio State) 7-4
157 - Paddy Gallagher (Ohio State) dec Andrew Garr (Columbia) 11-4
165 - Carson Kharchla (Ohio State) dec Josh Ogunsanya (Columbia) 6-3
174 - Lennox Wolak (Columbia) dec Ethan Smith (Ohio State) 8-6
184 - Kaleb Romero (Ohio State) tech Jack Wehmeyer (Columbia) 22-6
197 - Gavin Hoffman (Ohio State) tech Javen Jovero (Columbia) 27-8
285 - Tate Orndorff (Ohio State) fall Dan Conley (Columbia) 3:54
Both teams are figuring out some lineup pieces (125, 174, and 197 for Michigan, and 141 for Ohio State), and Cam Amine hasn't competed yet for the Wolverines, but both teams are strong where you would expect. All I know is that it's Nov. 21, and I am already getting excited for this dual. As should you. And guess what? Both of these teams' next competition, you guessed it, is at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas from Dec. 2-3. Did Sean Bormet and Tom Ryan sit down together to make these schedules? Seems like it a little bit, right?
Hoosiers are starting off on the right foot
Coach Angel Escobedo will be the first to admit that last year didn't live up to the standards that he, his wrestlers and Hoosier fans have for the program. But this year, he said, his team is looking for some redemption.
While the season is still very young, Indiana has so far done what it has needed to do to get started on the right foot. Led by two-time NCAA qualifier D.J. Washington, the Hoosiers are 2-0, with a win over No. 24 Princeton - their first ranked win since Jan. 30, 2021 - and a tied-for-second-place finish this weekend at the Black Knight Invitational.
Down at 174 pounds and healthy, Washington has been nothing but dominant so far. He cruised to the Black Knight title, outscoring his opponents 79-31, including a 16-9 win over Army West Point's No. 21 Ben Pasiuk in the final. Yes, it's early in the season and he doesn't yet have a signature win, but putting up big points against the opponents he should be dominating is setting the right tone for his young team.
The Hoosiers brought in an 11-member freshman class this year. Leading that class, so far, is 133-pounder Henry Porter. Following junior Jacob Moran at 125, the pair bring a jolt of energy to the beginning of the Hoosiers' lineup. Porter was on a 5-0 bonus-point win streak heading into the Black Knight invite, where he placed fourth.
Speaking of freshmen, Jacob Kaminski made a convincing argument this weekend for the starting spot at heavyweight, getting the win against Princeton and a fifth-place finish at the invite.
It's much too early in the season to make any grand predictions for the Hoosiers. But the best thing that any team coming off of a disappointing season can do is to win the matches it's supposed to win, dominate the opponents it's supposed to dominate and create the type of energy that Indiana did last Friday night at its basketball arena at Simon Skjodt Assembly Hall in front of its esteemed alumni.
And so far, the Hoosiers have done just that.
Beau Bartlett has shown improvement at 141 pounds
Beau Bartlett has greeted the media with a smile on his face and spring in his step this season - and it's for good reason. The Penn State junior says he's feeling more confident and prepared now that he's 8 pounds lighter and wrestling at 141.
Bartlett jokingly referred to himself as a "defensive specialist" at the team's preseason media day a few weeks ago, acknowledging his struggles on offense during his first two collegiate seasons, competing at 149 pounds.
It's been a different story so far this season. Bartlett hung 10 points on his Lock Haven opponent in his first match at 149 a week ago - his most points in a single bout since early February. He added to that number this past weekend at the Black Knight Invitational, racking up an 18-3 technical fall and a 20-7 major decision before closer bouts in the semis and finals en route to the title.
The junior still has some improvements to make - having graded himself a C after his 10-0 performance against Lock Haven - but looks quicker and stronger on the mat, with the ability to force the action and get takedowns late in the period.
"The guys are lighter. I feel like I can really move my opponents around a lot more efficiently," he said Tuesday at his team's weekly media availability. "So that, along with my mentality that I want to attack more and that I know I have the ability to - those two things together, it's unstoppable."
Bartlett attributes his physical improvements to the fact that he's eating healthier now and is able to jump rope and go on the long runs he enjoys without having to worry about losing weight. He says this has benefitted his mental preparedness, as well.
It's still early in the season, but if Bartlett continues to make improvements to his offense, it's reasonable to consider the 2022 NCAA qualifier a podium contender this season.
If Bartlett can achieve All-American status this season, it will go a long way in helping his team retain its NCAA crown.