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TOM’s 2022 Big Ten Championships Takeaways

Pictured: Minnesota’s Gable Steven receives applause from the crowd during his 2022 Big Ten Championships finals forfeit victory over Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi. Photo courtesy of Sam Janicki / @SJanickiPhoto.

As anticipated, Division I Wrestling’s “Championship Weekend” (March 4-6) did not disappoint. There were many noteworthy headlines during the first weekend of postseason wrestling. The Big Ten certainly had its fair share of developments in Lincoln, both positive and negative. 

 Here are 11 takeaways (in no particular order) from the 2022 Big Ten Championships in Lincoln last weekend. 

Team 100 makes history for Michigan, upstaging defending champions Iowa and Penn State 

Michigan wrestling brought its first Big Ten title since 1973. As if that weren’t impressive enough, the Maize and Blue added a pair of titles from graduate students Nick Suriano (125) and Myles Anime (184). The Wolverines’ two champions, plus three finalists: Will Lewan (157), Cam Amine (165), and Logan Massa (174), all helped Michigan best top-ranked Penn State 143-141.5 to claim the crown. No. 2 Iowa placed third with 129.5 points.

Iowa qualified all 10 starters for the 2022 NCAAs before leaving Pinnacle Bank Arena

The headline says it all. The Hawkeyes saw all 10 starters place top-8 at their respective weights. With that, the Hawks will not need to rely on any NCAA at-large bids to compete next week in Detroit. Fellow title contenders Penn State and Michigan hoped for at-large bids to qualify every weight. The Lions needed help at 165 (Creighton Edsell), while the Wolverines needed assistance via an at-large bid at 149 pounds (Kanen Storr). Neither was awarded an at-large qualification.

Wildcats shine in Lincoln

After storming to a top-10 team finish at the 2021 NCAAs in Minnesota, Matt Sorniolo and company appear to be well on their way to another stellar postseason this year in 2022. After Big Tens, the ‘Cats punched nine tickets Detroit. Only 2021 NCAA All-American Yahya Thomas (149) did not automatically qualify for The Dance. That said, Thomas did qualify via an NCAA at-large bid. 

Forfeits tarnish the 2022 Big Ten Championships

Unfortunately, the biggest talking point regarding the 2022 Big Ten Championships was a large number of medical forfeits. FloWrestling’s Jon Kozak pointed out that an astronomical 9% of Big Ten Championships matches were forfeits, including marquee semifinal and final rounds at 141 pounds. Only two of 10 weights had zero forfeits from start to finish in Lincoln.  

TOM has said it all season. NCAAs is what matters most to college coaches and athletes. With that, coaches will do all they can to put their athletes in the best chance to find the podium Saturday night in March. I get that. 

That said, given the number of forfeits in Lincoln (19), many have started to refer to Big Tens as an NCAA qualifying event rather than a championship event. Hopefully, this trend won’t continue, but, for now, it is 100% legal. 

Gable gets another standing ovation

Unfortunately, Gable’s final Big Ten title as a Golden Gopher came from a medical forfeit by Iowa’s Tony Cassioppi. Not getting to compete is unfortunate, but the bright spot was that Steveson got a standing ovation from the entire Pinnacle Bank Arena crowd. I would have preferred to see a legit match, but I appreciate his recognition from the whole arena. It is great to see a generational talent like Gable recognized. And Gable wearing the rarely-seen gold singlet very cool. 

Notable names to need at-large bids to get to Detroit

A testament to the strength of the nation’s toughest conference in Division I, many top-notch, nationally-ranked superstars required an at-large bid to compete at the national tournament in Detroit next week. Some of the more prominent names nationally included: 

Kizhan Clarke, North Carolina, 141

Chad Red, Nebraska, 141

Dresden Simon, Central Michigan, 141

Parker Filius, Purdue, 141

Yahya Thomas, Northwestern, 149

Jaden Abas, Stanford, 149

Wyatt Sheets, Oklahoma State, 157

Anthony Valencia, Arizona State, 165

Chris Foca, Cornell, 174

Dakota Geer, Oklahoma State, 184

Donnell Washington, Indiana, 197

While the above isn’t an exhaustive list, it shows how deep the Big Ten is in 2022. Numerous 2021 NCAA All-Americans and former multiple-time national qualifiers needed at-large bids to make nationals. In fact, two-time All-American Travis Whitlake  won’t compete at NCAAs in 2022.Wow! What a list. Certainly, the COVID-19 year has created one of the deepest fields we have ever seen in college wrestling. 

Marinelli wins his fourth Big Ten title 

Alex “The Bull” Marinelli deserves a round of applause. Sunday, the veteran Hawkeye won his fourth Big Ten title. By my count, Marinelli is only the 14th person to accomplish this. Despite his success at the conference tournament, his national tournament showings have never gone his way. Maybe 2022 will be the year Marinelli will get it done and win gold.

The depth at 174 is insane

The 174-pound weight class has some serious depth. In the Big Ten, both 2021 finalists have returned. You also have additional All-Americans Logan Mass (Michigan) and Mikey Labriola (Nebraska). In the ACC, you have four-time All-American Hayden Hidlay (NC State) and 2019 NCAA champ Mekhi Lewis (Virginia Tech). It’ll be a fun weight!

Aaron Brooks vs. Myles Anime 2.0 was epic

Give Myles Anime some credit. The seventh-year Wolverine, who captured 2020 Olympic bronze, surprised some people (myself included) with his “upset” win over reigning NCAA champ Aaron Brooks of Penn State. This is undoubtedly a match I think every wrestling fan hopes to see again in Detroit. For me, two of the best matchups within the Big Ten this season were Starocci vs. Kemerer (174) and Brooks vs. Anime (184). I would love to see rematches in Detroit. At 141, Nick Lee (Penn State) vs. Jaydin Eierman (Iowa) is another match I could watch repeatedly. I also think Sabastian Rivera vs. either Lee or Eierman would be equally compelling.  

Jack Jessen qualifies 

Probably the biggest surprise within the 44 at-large qualifiers was Northwestern’s Jack Jessen. The Wildcat 184-pounder is headed to nationals after finishing the year at just 3-10 overall. Excluding forfeit wins, Jessen was 2-10 this season. However, he recorded a fall over Indiana’s Donnell Washington this past weekend. 

Austin Gomez is a Big Ten champion

What a comeback story Austin Gomez has been for the Wisconsin Badgers. Gomez lets it fly every single time he takes the mat. Well, he showed up large in his first Big Ten Championship taking out defending NCAA finalist Sammy Sasso of Ohio State. After years away from the mat due to concussion issues, Gomez has returned with authority. The Badger defiantly has momentum heading into NCAAs. I’m excited to see what he can do in Detroit. 

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