With the Thanksgiving holiday in the middle of this wrestling week, many coaches elected to take the weekend off. A large portion of DI schools have the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational looming on their schedule, so that’s not a bad idea. Even with a tiny dual docket, there is still a huge match on the slate. It will take place Sunday evening as undefeated, fourth-ranked Wisconsin travels to hostile territory to take on number one Iowa.
In year number two under Chris Bono, Wisconsin has been busy on the dual front winning all six of their contests to date. The Badgers have been able to dodge the upset bug that has been biting teams in the top ten all year long. With all of the parody surrounding teams below the top-two, there’s a realistic chance for Wisconsin to bring home its first team trophy since the 2010 season when they were fourth.
Last year, the Iowa Hawkeyes snuck by rival Iowa State in a match that most expected to be a blowout. On Sunday, Tom Brands’ squad came into Ames as a heavy favorite and showed why they were so highly touted winning eight of ten matches and dominating 29-6. That win, coupled with a Penn State loss, elevated Iowa to number one in the dual rankings, to go along with their top billing as a tournament team, as well. Like Wisconsin, Brands is hoping to do something that his program has not done since 2010, either, and that is, win a team title.
Often times, duals between good teams end up falling flat due to non-competitive matches between their best wrestlers. This is not one of those duals. Six of the ten matches that are expected to be contested could feature ranked wrestlers clashing. Two of the six bouts will pit top-five wrestlers against each other. Will we see a breakout performance from the Badgers or just another step towards a team title for the Hawkeyes?
Here’s a breakdown of the probable matchups and TOM’s predictions, along with projections from WrestleStat.
125 lbs - Michael Cullen/Eric Barnett (Wisconsin) vs. #1 Spencer Lee (Iowa)
Will the Wisconsin staff go with the veteran or bring the kid out of redshirt? Michael Cullen is a fifth-year senior who has never been the full-time starter for the Badgers in his career. Before this season, he had seen action in six dual over three years. Cullen brings a 4-2 record into this match, which is highlighted by a win over national qualifier, Trey Chalifoux (Army West Point), in the first day of the season. That same day, Michael tallied bonus points for the only time this year when he majored Fresno State’s Robert Garcia. In his two losses, Cullen has not been able to generate any offense and was shut out 1-0. The other option for coach Bono and his staff is true freshman Eric Barnett. While competing unattached thus far, Barnett has compiled a 7-1 record with a championship at the Grand View Open. Though most of his wins have come against non-DI competition, Barnett has wins over both of Northern Iowa’s freshmen 125 lbs (Kyle Biscoglia and Kyle Gollhofer). I would expect to see Cullen on Sunday. Sending Barnett out in Carver-Hawkeye against Spencer Lee isn’t the ideal debut situation; however, if he can survive a situation like that, he’ll be able to handle anything.
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