Three weeks in and we’re getting deep into the dual season. We’ve got an excellent match to preview this week, between a pair of top-ten teams, as #9 Oklahoma State travels east to take on #6 Lehigh. Saturday’s match will be the first dual of the year for Lehigh, while Oklahoma State will take on Drexel on Friday. As was the case in 2018-19, it difficult to project what lineup head coach John Smith will throw out for the Cowboys. A few freshmen are anticipated and there’s a chance that a couple of notable veterans will be held out, as they were last week at the Oklahoma City Open.
Last year Lehigh appeared to have an imposing team, but they were bitten badly by the injury bug, at least early on in the season. The team ended up coming together towards the end of the year and eight Mountain Hawk wrestlers qualified for nationals, with three finishing as All-Americans for head coach Pat Santoro. In conference action, the team also won the EIWA for a second consecutive year. Two AA’s return for Lehigh and they will start this match with four wrestlers ranked in the top-ten at their respective weights.
Oklahoma State could send out four All-Americans for this meet and they currently have five wrestlers ranked in the top ten. If their three freshman progress as expected, the Cowboys could exceed their current dual ranking of #9. For OSU to win, they will need to bank some points early. They are still sorting out their upperweights and may have to rely on big points from the beginning of the lineup for the entire season.
Here’s a breakdown of the probable matchups and TOM’s predictions, along with projections from WrestleStat.
125 lbs - #4 Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State) vs. #10 Brandon Paetzell (Lehigh)
The fireworks will start right away, provided we start this dual at 125 lbs, with a top-ten matchup. Nick Piccinnini made his season debut last week with three bonus-point wins at the Oklahoma City Open. A nine-point major decision over Central Oklahoma’s Cody Karstetter was his closest bout of the tournament. Nick turned into a bonus-point machine in 2018-19, as a junior, when he did so in over 75% of his matches. Previously, his best total was just over 48%. Last year, in the Lehigh dual, Piccininni racked up a major decision, 16-5 against Luke Resnick. The two-time All-American carried an undefeated record into the NCAA Championships last season and received the number two seed. One of the high points of his career came in the Cowboys late-season dual with Iowa, where he pinned NCAA champion Spencer Lee. Nick is one of only two active collegiate wrestlers that has defeated Lee and has to be mentioned on any shortlist of NCAA title contenders.
Brandon Paetzell spent his first year of college at Rutgers, where he was the starting 125 lber. Once Paetzell transferred to Lehigh, he spent a year redshirting and bumped up to 133 lbs. 2018-19 was his first official season competing for the Mountain Hawks and he finished third in the EIWA and qualified for nationals. When these two schools met last season, Paetzell was held in check by NCAA runner-up, Daton Fix, 7-1. Now back down to what looks like a more natural weight, Paetzell enters Saturday’s dual with a 3-0 record after going undefeated at the Journeymen Collegiate Classic. Brandon easily handled Piccinnini’s Big 12-rival Christian Moody (Oklahoma) 17-2 before stopping freshman Alex Thomsen (Nebraska), 7-2. For the title, he got by Old Dominion’s upstart Killian Cardinale (Old Dominion), 5-3. With a ton of uncertainty plaguing the rankings at 125 lbs after the top seven, there is plenty of room for someone like Paetzell to take advantage.
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