photo courtesy of Cam Kramer
Another week, another list of the best individual matches to watch this weekend. Last week’s matches provided us with plenty of entertainment, although some of the most anticipated matches ended up not happening. Binghamton didn’t send Louie DePrez out to wrestle Hunter Bolen, and Minnesota didn’t send Gable Steveson to the mat to compete against Mason Parris.
Let’s hope that this week’s can’t-miss matches take place as there are some good ones on deck, starting as always at 125 pounds.
125: No. 4 Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State) vs. No. 11 Alex Mackall (Iowa State)
Piccininni has won 10 consecutive matches at this point, bringing his overall season record to 16-1. His only loss on the season came in early December against Princeton’s Pat Glory. Since then, he’s been one of the hottest wrestlers in his weight class, picking up his second-straight Southern Scuffle title.
This week he’ll take on Iowa State’s Alex Mackall, who moved up one spot from No. 12 in last week’s rankings. He’s 13-4 on the season, coming off a win by fall against South Dakota State’s Danny Vega last weekend in Brookings. He could pick up a major resume builder with an upset against Piccininni this Sunday.
133: No. 6 Montorie Bridges (Wyoming) vs. No. 19 Taylor LaMont (Utah Valley)
Bridges is having a great season for the Cowboys, coming in as the highest-ranked Big 12 wrestler in his weight class. He’s 23-3 on the year and riding a seven-match win streak. He picked up wins against South Dakota State and North Dakota State last weekend, including a decision over No. 10 Cameron Sykora.
LaMont finds himself in the top 20 of the 133-pound weight class with a 7-5 record for Utah Valley. His most recent action was against Iowa State on Jan. 9, a dual that saw him drop a decision against No. 15 Todd Small. Before that match, however, he picked up back-to-back wins against wrestlers from Fresno State and Northern Iowa. Bridges has had a strong season so far, but this Wyoming Cowboy could have his hands full against the Wolverines.
141: No. 1 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) vs. No. 6 Max Murin (Iowa)
Our first match featuring a top-ranked wrestler comes at 141 pounds in a highly-anticipated dual. The No. 1 Hawkeyes host the No. 4 Buckeyes in a Big Ten showdown. The 141-pound will likely be the highlight of the night as it features undefeated Pletcher (18-0) vs. one-loss Murin (10-1).
Both wrestlers have seen plenty of success this year, with Pletcher winning the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational and Murin taking first place at the Midlands Championships. Murin’s only loss of the season was just last weekend in a 6-2 decision against Nebraska’s Chad Red. He’ll look to rebound on tonight as he tries to pull off the upset against Pletcher.
149: No. 10 Kanen Storr (Michigan) vs. No. No. 14 Yayha Thomas (Northwestern)
We’re kind of heavy on the Big Ten duals this week, but that’s what happens when they have five teams in the top 10 and 10 in the top 25. The 149-pound match between Michigan and Northwestern features a couple of guys who are lower in the rankings, but still having impressive years. Storr is 13-3 on the season and has won four-straight matches, including a 2-0 weekend last week against Maryland and Minnesota.
He’ll take on Yayha Thomas tonight in Evanston. Thomas is 9-5 on the year, and while he has struggled at times, he placed third at the CKLV earlier this season, showing that he can compete with the top guys in his weight class. He has a chance to pick up a big win tonight against Storr.
157: No. 1 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern) vs. No. 17 Will Lewan (Michigan)
We stay in Evanston for the 157-pound match between Deakin and Lewan. Deakin is arguably one of the best wrestlers in the country this year, regardless of weight. His 11-0 record includes a CKLV championship and wins over ranked wrestlers from Virginia Tech and Purdue.
He’ll take the mat against Lewan tonight in Welsh-Ryan Arena. The freshman from Michigan has gone 13-3 to this point. Lewan has won four-straight and will look to keep his momentum going when he takes on the No. 1 wrestler in the country tonight.
165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (Penn State) vs. No. 6 Isaiah White (Nebraska)
If you read this article every week, you might be getting tired of seeing Isaiah White listed as the match to watch at 165 pounds. He’s been there for the past two weeks now, but it’s because of the matchups he’s had. His conference slate started with bouts against Evan Wick and Alex Marinelli. While he lost both, he kept them close, and he’s still just 12-2 on the year, good enough to stay steady in the rankings.
He’s got another tough test ahead of him, though, as he faces No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph. Joseph is 6-0 this year, with big wins coming against ranked wrestlers Tanner Skidgel and Josh Shields. He hasn’t shown any signs of slowing down as he picked up a fall against Rutgers last weekend, so White will have his hands full in his third-straight match against a top-five opponent. \
174: No. 3 Michael Kemerer (Iowa) vs. No. 8 Kaleb Romero (Ohio State)
If the 141-pound match isn’t the highlight of tonight’s dual in Iowa City, this one sure is. Kemerer is a perfect 7-0 on the year, and he’s coming off a couple of great performances. His most recent outings resulted in wins over the No. 4 and No. 6 wrestlers in the country, so he’s proven he can compete with the best.
Romero brings a 13-2 record into tonight’s dual, winning four-straight matches. His only losses this year came at the CKLV, and he’s bounced back nicely since then. He picked up two wins last weekend, including a decision against No. 16 Joey Gunther of Illinois.
184: No. 8 Taylor Venz (Nebraska) vs. No. 19 Cameron Caffey (Michigan State)
After Nebraska takes on Penn State tonight, the Huskers host Michigan State on Sunday afternoon. Venz will take the mat looking to rebound after his 6-4 loss to Iowa’s Abe Assad last weekend. He’s 11-5 on the year and has had some big wins, including a tech fall against Wisconsin’s Tyler Dow to open Big Ten competition two weeks ago.
Caffey has gone 17-6 to this point and is 3-1 in Big Ten duals, including one win over a ranked opponent and two bonus-point victories. He’ll give Venz a tough match on Sunday, but he’ll have to bring his best if he wants to win.
197: No. 9 Jake Woodley (Oklahoma) vs. No. 19 Tanner Sloan (South Dakota State)
This might be our first match of the year featuring an Oklahoma wrestler, but it should be a good one. Woodley is 12-6 on the year, but coming off a loss against West Virginia’s Noah Adams.
He’ll take on a talented freshman from South Dakota State when he faces Sloan tonight.
Sloan is 13-4 and has won seven-straight matches. His most recent victory was a major decision against Iowa State’s Joel Shapiro last weekend. He’s got a chance to pull off a big upset Sunday when the Jackrabbits host the Sooners.
285: No. 7 Tate Orndorff (Utah Valley) vs. No. 18 Brian Andrews (Wyoming)
Our final match to keep an eye on this weekend comes from the Wyoming-Utah Valley dual on Sunday afternoon. Orndorff is one of the top heavyweights in the country with a 12-2 record and a three-match win streak. He placed third at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational in December and has dominated in Big 12 duals so far.
Andrews has been pretty impressive himself. The junior heavyweight is 20-6 on the year and picked up a fall against No. 21 Brandon Metz of North Dakota State last weekend. This match will be quite the contest and a great way to end the dual in Wyoming this weekend.