This week brings us a veritable buffet of college wrestling action including the Iowa/Oklahoma State dual and the Virginia Duals. Those two events will receive the full preview treatment later this week so I decided to omit them from this week’s matches to watch. As you can see below, even without them, there is a lot going on around the country.
#9 Patricio Lugo (Edinboro) vs. #12 Sam Speno (NC State) – 149, Saturday, Jan. 14th, 10:30 am, at Pittsburgh
This one pits a pair of wrestlers hoping to become All-Americans for the first time against each other. Speno, a senior, has yet to pick-off a top-10 opponent, though he does have four wins over wrestlers currently ranked in the top-20. Lugo made it to the round of 12 as a freshman last season and knocked-off seventh-ranked Solomon Chishko in early December.
Pick: Lugo by Decision
#2 Connor Medbery (Wisconsin) vs. #8 Michael Kroells (Minnesota) – 285, Sunday, Jan. 15th, 2:00 pm, at Minnesota
Medbery has been perfect against the toughest schedule in the country. Kroells has been upset a couple of times and has dropped a pair of matches to Medbery this season already. This looks like it could be pretty one-sided for a top-10 battle.
Pick: Medbery by Decision
5) #10 Myles Martin (Ohio State) vs. #13 Emery Parker (Illinois) – 184, Sunday, Jan. 15th, 2:00 pm, at Ohio State
Last season’s 174-pound national champion seems stuck in limbo at 184. Martin hasn’t been bad, he is 18-3 on the year with a couple of ranked wins, but he hasn’t been able to prove himself against top-level competition. An eighth-place finish at Midlands was more of the same as Martin fell to 2014 All-American Jack Dechow (Old Dominion) and 2016 All-American Pete Renda (NC State) before forfeiting his final bout. There is no shame in losing to either of those excellent opponents, but it raises questions about Martin finishing on the podium this season. This match, against the surprising sophomore from Illinois, would be the best win this season for Martin if he can get it. It won’t be easy, though, as Parker has picked off a few wrestlers ranked right around where Martin is now. The Buckeye needs this win to prove he is still a top-10 guy at 184. Parker will be out to prove he is an All-American threat as well.
Pick: Martin by Decision
4) #7 Ethan Ramos (North Carolina) vs. #12 Lelund Weatherspoon (Iowa State) – 174, Saturday, Jan. 14th, 7:00 pm, at North Carolina
The 2016 NCAA tournament could not have more different for these two. Ramos came in as the four seed after having claimed All-American honors in 2015. Weatherspoon was unseeded and faced the number two seed, Brian Realbuto (Cornell), in the opening round. Ramos then proceeded to go a shocking 0-2 while Weatherspoon upset Realbuto, made his way to the semi-finals and finished sixth. This year, Ramos has once again looked strong, setting out to prove that tournament was a fluke. Weatherspoon has had to navigate a brutal early schedule which has included three losses to top-ranked Zahid Valencia (Arizona State). These are two men squarely in the All-American conversation at 174 pounds this season. This could be an important match when it comes time to seed this weight at nationals.
Pick: Ramos by Decision
3) #3 Eric Montoya (Nebraska) vs. #8 Stevan Micic (Michigan) – 133, Sunday, Jan. 15th, 2:15 pm, at Nebraska
Montoya surprised a few people when he took out fifth-ranked Zane Richards (Illinois) to win Midlands. That win suggests that Montoya is a legitimate title contender instead of a step behind Richards, Cory Clark (Iowa), and Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State), as was the previous conventional wisdom. Micic has done well so far this season but fell to both Tomasello and Clark. He appears to be behind the top-tier at 133, but there is a lot of season left. If Montoya is truly a title contender, he should win here. If Micic wants to put himself in that conversation, an upset could do it. The Cornhusker is the clear favorite, but keep an eye on this one.
Pick: Montoya by Decision
2) #3 Matt Kolodzik (Princeton) vs. #5 Joey Mckenna (Stanford) – 141, Saturday, Jan. 14th, 1:00 pm, at New York Athletic Club
The only two top-10 wrestlers at 141 pounds that are not either juniors or seniors will square off at the New York Athletic Club in New York City. The freshman Kolodzik recently took his first college loss, falling to second-ranked Kevin Jack (NC State) in the Midlands finals. Mckenna, a sophomore, was upset by fourth-ranked Joey Ward (North Carolina) in the Southern Scuffle semi-finals, derailing a potential show down with number one Dean Heil (Oklahoma State) in the finals. While Heil, as the only ranked, undefeated wrestler left at the weight, is the man to beat, these two could well match-up on Friday or Saturday at NCAAs. Mckenna may need this win more as his resume lacks a win over another top-six wrestler and this will likely be his last chance to get one. Kolodzik has a win over sixth-ranked Anthony Ashnault (Rutgers) and should control his own destiny for a top three seed with a win on Saturday.
Pick: Mckenna by Decision
1) #2 Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State) vs. #5 Zane Richards (Illinois) – 133, Sunday, Jan. 15th, 2:00 pm, at Ohio State
Richards looks to rebound from his loss to Montoya, the only blemish on his record so far, and remind everyone that he is as tough as they come. Tomasello, the 2015 national champion at 125 pounds, has not yet lost up at 133. This is the sort of match many fans speculated about when the Buckeye junior announced his move up in weight. There is no doubt Tomasello is a great wrestler, but this will be his first clash with another title contender. Can he be as effective at 133 as he used to be at 125? Even if he is, Richards is good enough that getting his hand raised is not a given. This could be a classic.
Pick: Tomasello by Decision