photo courtesy of Richard Immel
Oh boy. Now that the new year has come, it’s time to get into the heart of the dual season. The tournaments over the past couple of weeks have been exciting and provided plenty of entertainment, but the conference duals that are coming up are about to be equally as exciting. This weekend gives us a full slate of Big 10 matches, some Big 12 matchups, and some great duals from other conferences as well.
Our matches to watch this weekend feature three No. 1 wrestlers, four No. 2 wrestlers and two No. 3 wrestlers, plus plenty of other top-10 athletes.
125: #1 Spencer Lee (Iowa) vs. #5 Devin Schroder (Purdue)
We’re starting things off with a bang as we get undefeated Spencer Lee against 17-2 Devin Schroder. Lee has gone 6-0 so far this year, winning every dual meet he’s participated in and making it to the semifinals of the Midlands Championships before withdrawing from the tournament. In between NCAA competitions, he also found time to win the U.S. Senior Nationals at 57 kg in Austin, TX, last month.
The two-time national champion will have one of his toughest tests of the year when he takes on Schroder on Sunday. Schroder’s only losses have come at the Michigan State Open and the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational, in which he finished third and second, respectively. He’s gone undefeated in duals so far this year, but he’ll have a tough weekend as he faces No. 8 Michael DeAugustino of Northwestern on Friday before taking on Lee on Sunday.
133: #1 Seth Gross (Wisconsin) vs. #14 Ridge Lovett (Nebraska)
Gross was the most-anticipated wrestler this year as he transferred to Wisconsin during the offseason. He’s fared well so far, with just one loss on the season against Iowa’s Austin DeSanto. Since then, he won the SIUE Cougar Clash, picked up a win over a ranked opponent at Kent State and got his revenge on DeSanto in the Midlands finals to climb back to No. 1 in the rankings. That’s quite the momentum going into this weekend’s dual against Nebraska.
As for Lovett, he’s 8-3 on the season but hasn’t wrestled since a 6-2 loss against Oregon State on Dec. 20. He placed third at the CKLV in December, so you know he can compete with the best in his weight class. He’ll have a chance to make a statement when he takes on Gross on Sunday.
141: #2 Nick Lee (Penn State) vs. #16 Dylan Duncan (Illinois)
Penn State is sitting at No. 3 in the rankings with a 3-1 dual record, but Nick Lee is at No. 2 with a perfect 8-0 season so far. He’s 4-0 in duals and picked up four wins on the way to a championship at the Army West Point Invite in November. The two-time All-American junior looks to keep his season perfect as the Nittany Lions host Illinois Friday night.
Duncan is 10-4 on the year and coming off a fourth-place finish at the Midlands. He picked up two wins over ranked wrestlers in the tournament as he went 6-2 over the two-day competition. Lee will be the highest-ranked wrestler he’s faced this season, providing him with a big challenge to begin the conference slate.
149: #4 Brock Mauller (Missouri) vs. #6 Max Thomsen (Northern Iowa)
The top three wrestlers at 149 pounds are all in action this week as well, but I went with this match because it’s the most evenly ranked of all the bouts we’ll see over the next few days. Mauller is 14-1, while Thomsen is 14-4. They’re each on two-match win streaks at the moment.
Mauller is coming off wins against Cornell and Lehigh while Thomsen most recently finished third at the Midlands. They’ll each have another match before Sunday’s dual as Missouri faces Ohio on Friday and Northern Iowa takes on South Dakota State, but you can bet they’ll be ready for Sunday’s match when it comes.
157: # 2 Hayden Hidlay (NC State) vs. #6 Quincy Monday (Princeton)
Hayden Hidlay has been one of the best wrestlers at 157 over the past two-plus years, coming just short of a national championship in each of his first two seasons at NC State. He’s tearing through his schedule this year, finishing second at the CKLV and winning the Southern Scuffle, while going undefeated in dual meets so far.
Monday has had some tournament success of his own, finishing third at the Midlands last month. He’s also posted an undefeated record in dual meets at this point, with his signature win of the season coming against then-No. 4 Kaleb Young of Iowa. Hidlay will be his second match of the weekend as Princeton takes on UNC on Friday night before heading to Raleigh on Sunday afternoon.
165: #3 Isaiah White (Nebraska) vs. #5 Evan Wick (Wisconsin)
This Nebraska-Wisconsin dual is giving us some great matchups this weekend, continuing with White vs. Wick at 165 pounds. White is currently 12-0 on the season with a CKLV title under his belt. He’s had a great first half of the season, but the dual schedule is going to present him with some challenges as he’ll face Wick, No. 2 Alex Marinelli and No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph in the next three duals.
Wick has had a pretty good first half himself, going 15-2 and coming off a third-place finish at the Midlands. White will be his second match of the weekend as the Badgers take on Minnesota on Friday night, so Wick could have even more momentum going into the bout on Sunday afternoon.
174: #3 Michael Kemerer (Iowa) vs. #4 Dylan Lydy (Purdue)
The match at 174 pounds gives us No. 3 vs. No. 4. Both wrestlers undefeated, but with vastly different stories. Kemerer has only wrestled four matches this season, picking up wins in duals against Chattanooga, Iowa State, Wisconsin and Princeton. All of his matches have been bonus-point victories, racking up two tech falls, a major decision and a fall.
Lydy, on the other hand, has wrestled 20 matches this season, winning all of them. He’s the only wrestler in the country to win titles at both the CKLV and Midlands. He’s picked up wins against ranked wrestlers from Utah Valley and Arizona State in dual meets, and he’ll look to add another big win when he takes on Kemerer this Sunday.
184: #1 Zahid Valencia (Arizona State) vs. #14 Andrew Morgan (Campbell)
I want to preface this match by saying I love what Arizona State is doing this weekend. The Sun Devils are hosting Iowa State, Harvard, and Campbell in a quad meet at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Virginia Tech did something similar earlier this season, although on a smaller scale, when the Hokies hosted Northwestern in a match on the Virginia Tech baseball field. As a big fan of wrestling and baseball, I love these creative match venues.
Now, on to the actual matchup. Valencia is 14-0 on the year. He won the CKLV in December and just beat Ohio State’s Gavin Hoffman on Monday. Morgan has had some success of his own this year. He recently took fifth at the Midlands, which is the second time in the last two years he’s placed in the top-five at the event. There he defeated #15 Noah Stewart of Army West Point twice. So far this year, Morgan has won both duals he’s competed in, though Valencia represents a significant step up in talent.
197: #2 Christian Brunner (Purdue) vs. #6 Jacob Warner (Iowa)
Another match coming to us courtesy of the Boilermakers and Hawkeyes. Brunner has been tearing through the schedule in the first half of the season, going 20-2 and winning the Midlands Championships. He’ll take on Warner, who put together an 8-2 record that includes a fourth-place finish at the Midlands. He’s perfect in dual meets, taking down ranked wrestlers from Iowa State and Princeton, including a 5-4 decision over then-No. 2 Patrick Brucki.
285: #2 Gable Steveson (Minnesota) vs. #6 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin)
Steveson made his season debut on Dec. 20, defeating South Dakota State’s Blake Wolters in a 21-8 major decision. He’s 5-0 on the year, with all of his wins coming in bonus-point victories, including two falls.
Hillger put together a 14-2 first half of the season that saw him take third place at the Midlands and win the SIUE Cougar Clash. His only dual loss came against Iowa’s Anthony Cassioppi on Dec. 1, but he’s rebounded and gone 8-1 since then. He’ll start his weekend against Steveson before the Badgers host Nebraska on Sunday.
There you go, a full slate of dual matches to keep you busy on this second weekend of the new year. They should be exciting enough to keep you entertained for the next three days, but if you need more than these 10 matches, check out the live stream schedule for all of this weekend’s duals here.