Sold-out Rec Hall for Penn State's dual with Oregon State
After a crazy week last week, this week was a little bit quieter for Big Ten teams. But Rutgers, Michigan State, Iowa, Penn State, Ohio State, Maryland, Wisconsin and Minnesota were all able to get duals in, while others had wrestlers competing at opens.
Here are five things we learned from Week 6:
Maryland beats Navy, again
The Maryland Terrapins defeated the Navy Midshipmen, making them the best D1 program in the state of Maryland for the second year in a row. The trend for Maryland this season has been winning. They are now 5-0 as a team for the first time since the 2011-2012 season. Additionally, this is back-to-back big wins over Pitt and Navy, both of which required some big-time performances from their big-time wrestlers. Specifically, as is usually the case in tightly contested duals, major decisions were the key to victory. It was a 5-5 match split between the Terrapins and Midshipmen, but major decisions from Jaxon Smith at 197, Braxton Brown at 125, and Ethen Miller at 149 made up the three points that won them the dual 18-15.
Coach Clemsen's thoughts on this season at this point are, "For a young group we are competing at a high level. We have wrestled some strong competition which is great because the B1G schedule only gives us another step up to gauge where we are as a program. I'm excited for these young kids and I know they will continue to do the work that is needed to have opportunities for more success this winter."
My follow-up question was if they can tangibly see or feel a difference in "buy in" or belief that things are working after having successes like this? To that, coach Clemsen replied, " I think our kids have more "faith" (that's a program word) in themselves and what we are doing. The level of work on a daily basis is just higher with this group. They are willing to "sacrifice" (another of our words) and suffer a lot in order to have these opportunities. It's been great that they have been able to capitalize so far.
Maryland is off now for finals, and not competing the remainder of the 2022 calendar year, but they will be jumping headfirst back into competition at the Southern Scuffle. Speaking of Chattanoogaâ€¦
Hawks > Mocs in the battle of the birds
This past Saturday night, Iowa traveled down to Chattanooga to take on the Mocs of Chattanooga. For those that don't know, "Moc" refers to their original nickname "Moccasins," as well as a reference to the Northern Mockingbird, the state bird of Tennessee. Jason Bryant would like that fact. Anyway, as we all know, Iowa has been using the "break glass in case of emergency" approach with many of their stud wrestlers. On this trip, they brought Real Woods, who took care of business at 141 (assuming you think a tech fall in the first period is TCOB), but they didn't wrestle Spencer Lee or Max Murin. The dual was close at first, with Chattanooga getting wins at three of the first four weights, but then the floodgates largely opened up for Iowa, winning five of the final six weights, many of which were with bonus points (165, 184, 197 and a pin at HWY).
When talking with Coach Tom Brands about the trip, he initially referred to them traveling to Carver-Hawkeye last season, but followed up by reflecting on a lot of the relationships that had been built with the Chattanooga program over the years. He cited training camps there, Terry's stint as head coach for the program, and their familiarity with Coach Ruschell. I didn't get a chance to ask in this interview with Tom Brands, but I intend to ask about the messaging to the young athletes who have a chance to compete in these duals before they are full-time starters in the lineup. Iowa has done this many times in the past, first thing that comes to mind is in the 2017-2018 season they had a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Kaleb Young competing for them at 174, splitting time with Joey Gunther for much of the year. I'm interested to know how much of that is wrestler specific or a general message to their athletes across the board. Stay tuned for more on that.
Every point matters
This isn't exactly a groundbreaking revelation, but there's nothing like a 17-16 win on criteria over an intrastate rival to remind you that, yes, every point matters.
It was heavyweight Boone McDermott who got his hand raised to deliver Rutgers the win over Princeton on total match points, 47-43, but it took a full team effort to get there in the 85th installment of the rivalry on Sunday.
On paper, this dual was always going to be close, but the battle for Rutgers to keep its title as New Jersey's best wrestling team for the second consecutive year became even tighter when Princeton sophomore Danny Coles handed No. 8 Sammy Alvarez his first loss of the season, 4-3, at 141 pounds.
Here are four key moments that helped set Rutgers up for the win with the heavyweight bout:
125: Dean Peterson limits Patrick Glory to three match points. On paper, 125 pounds was one of the most mismatched in Princeton's favor, with Peterson, who's been sharing time with Dylan Shawver at 125, taking on the No. 2 wrestler at the weight. However, Rutgers knew Peterson would be able to give Glory a battle because he already has. Peterson lost 6-5 to Glory earlier in the season at the Princeton Open, where Shawver also wrestled Glory close, falling 11-9. The coaching staff decided to go with Peterson on Sunday and it paid off with another close result. Peterson gave up just one takedown in the bout, and more importantly - just three match points.
174: Jackson Turley starts swinging momentum back in Rutgers' favor. Trailing 13-6, Rutgers was at risk of letting the dual get out of reach. But Turley didn't let that happen, winning with an 8-5 decision. The junior, who missed most of last season due to injury, entered this bout against Princeton's Kole Mulhauser with a 1-3 record. The pair were tied 4-4- going into the second period. Turley got an escape to take the lead and another takedown to give him the 7-4 advantage heading into the third. He was able to ride out most of the third period for the crucial win.
184: Brian Soldano makes up ground with bonus points. Turley had narrowed Rutgers' deficit to 13-9, meaning Soldano needed to earn bonus points to at least tie. Up to this point, the only bonus points of the dual had come from Princeton's top-ranked Quincy Monday (13-3 major) at 157, and Soldano presented the Scarlet Knights' best opportunity to match that. The true freshman knew what was needed of him and delivered. After a scoreless first period, Soldano then racked up two takedowns and four nearfall points to give his team that critical 10-1 major decision to tie the dual.
197: Billy Janzer surrenders 1 match point. With the dual tied and just two bouts to go, Rutgers needed a win to avoid relying on bonus points at heavyweight or going to criteria. Unranked Janzer battled evenly with No. 16 Luke Stout throughout the first period. A quick escape gave Stout the 1-0 lead in the second. With Janzer trailing 1-0 heading into the third, Rutgers coach Scott Goodale motioned for Janzer to start neutral. This decision meant giving up the opportunity for an escape, but allowed Janzer to be able to finish the match out on his feet and avoid the possibility of getting turned and giving up those crucial match points. Stout's 1-0 win meant Rutgers needed a win to tie.
As we know, McDermott was able to get the win, and thanks to a point earned from Soldano here and a point not given up by Janzer there, so did Rutgers.
Sanderson isn't concerned about close matches
Penn State rolled to a 31-3 win over Oregon State in Rec Hall on Sunday, but a closer look at the box score reveals that the dual might have been a little closer than the final score indicates.
While Roman Bravo-Young, Carter Starocci and Greg Kerkvliet dispatched their opponents with bonus-point wins, others had to work a little harder.
Undefeated freshman No. 15 Alex Facundo held onto a 3-2 victory over No. 23 Matthew Olguin at 165 pounds; Beau Bartlett came out, 5-3, on top in another battle between ranked wrestlers at 141; No. 17 Shayne Van Ness led his opponent 2-1 heading into the third period before pulling a way for the 6-1 decision; No. 5 Max Dean bounced back from his rough weekend last week with a 6-3 win over No. 11 Tanner Harvey; and Terrell Barraclough and Donovan Ball (filling in for starter Aaron Brooks) both earned close decisions.
"Looking at the lineups going into the dual, we knew this had the potential to be a really good dual, but our guys were able to win some close matches and kind of separate the score a little bit," head coach Cael Sanderson said. "But the matches were tough. (Oregon State) came in here and wrestled well. Like I said earlier this week, they're definitely an up-and-coming program under (head coach Chris) Pendleton. I think we're still trying to keep getting better as we move along."
Overall, Sanderson said he wasn't too worried about his wrestlers finding themselves in close matches, especially this early in the season, saying "it's all preparation." The defending national champions are undefeated (4-0) heading into the Collegiate Wrestling duals on Dec. 19 in New Orleans.
Also undefeated are Penn State's pair of highly touted freshmen, Van Ness and Facundo, even if they did have to battle a little bit for those wins Sunday.
"Obviously we want to win these matches but it's about getting better, making progress and getting ready for the national tournament in March," Sanderson said. "And they are on a good path right now."
Sanderson clearly has a lot of confidence in the pair. Typically known for being more reserved, Sanderson jumped in on a question about Van Ness initially intended for Kerkvliet in the post-match press conference to convey his thoughts on the freshman's performance.
Even though Van Ness didn't get a pin this week - like he did last week against Lehigh - Sanderson wanted to make sure reporters knew that the little things a wrestler does in a match go a long way, too.
"Shayne's a beast. He wrestles hard, he moves forward. Even today, at the end of the first period where most wrestlers would have just cut their opponent, he chose to put in a little extra work to get a mat return, and the crowd really appreciated that," Sanderson said. "It took a lot out of his opponent. It's the little things like that - that effort and that fight and not giving easy points is what it takes to be a national champion.
"He's on a great path right now. We're glad he's on our team."
B1G in the World Cup
As you may have heard, the United States of America is definitively the greatest assembled group of male wrestlers from a given country on the planet Earth. At least at the moment. We earned that distinction by beating Iran in 6 of 10 matches Sunday night.
Of the wrestlers assembled on the roster, alumni from the B1G made up 12 of the 20 rostered athletes. More specifically, of the athletes who competed in the event, the B1G made up 11 of the 13 wrestlers who actually wrestled. Of those 11 who competed, 7 of them were undefeated in the event. The next closest conference to any of these numbers was the ACC with 3 rostered athletes, none of which competed. The 12 B1G rostered wrestlers represented Michigan twice (also Rutgers), Indiana, Penn State three times (also maybe four), Illinois, Wisconsin, Nebraska twice, and Ohio State twice. It's the most dominant conference in any sport in the United States, and evidently the World also.
We are the Champions, my friends.