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Top 10 College Wrestling Performances of the Week – December 2nd, 2019

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photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com

The weekend after Thanksgiving was a light one as far as the dual schedule goes. Only six duals took place involving DI teams. Even so, there were still plenty of fireworks. The number one team in the land reasserted themselves against a top-five opponent, while two traditional powers squared off in a non-conference dual (Cornell at Ohio State). Oh, and our second number one ranked wrestler of the year was knocked off. Even with a small dual slate, we were still able to narrow down TOM’s Top Ten College Wrestling Performances of the Week.

10) Luke Pletcher (Ohio State)

The number one ranked 141 lber in the land maintained his top billing and undefeated record by gutting out a win over Cornell’s Noah Baughman, 8-6. Pletcher managed to get three takedowns, including one in the final stanza that extended his lead in a one-point match. Luke’s opponent was no slouch himself, coming into the match with a 9-1 record and a winner of Cornell’s open tournament last week. There is no rest for the weary, though, as Pletcher will take his 9-0 mark to Las Vegas for the Cliff Keen, where he’ll face a loaded field. 

9) Tanner Smith (Chattanooga)

On Sunday, Chattanooga played host to an Ohio squad that was coming off the Navy Classic a week prior and before that had split their duals with Edinboro and Long Island. The Mocs were able to prevail 19-15 with one of their biggest wins coming at 149 lbs. Both squads have strong wrestlers at that wait with Tanner Smith for Chattanooga and Alec Hagan for the Bobcats. Hagan had recently made the finals at the Navy Classic and carried a 12-2 record into the match. Smith was able to pull the slight-upset and shutout Hagan 3-0. That match proved to be pivotal as the final margin for the dual meet was only four points. Tanner has now won seven of his ten matches in 2019-20, with two of his losses coming to 2019 All-Americans and a third was to Duke’s Josh Finesilver, who is redshirting. 

8) Codi Russell (Appalachian State)

Though the Mountaineers of Appalachian State came up a bit short in their upset bid of in-state rival, North Carolina, ASU did get a strong showing out of their 133 lber, Codi Russell. The defending SoCon champion snapped a two-match losing skid that carried over from his sixth-place showing at the Keystone Classic. Russell was down early to his opponent from North Carolina, Jaime Hernandez, 4-1. He would battle back and tied the score at seven with about 11 seconds remaining in the match. Hernadez took a half shot, which provided some space for which Codi to use to hit a picturesque ankle-pick for the winning takedown. Hernandez was sporting a 6-1 record and was a finalist at the Junior World Team Trials last spring. Russell’s record now sits at 11-5 as he and his teammates wait to take on another in-state team from the ACC, NC State, on December 13th. 

7) Franco Valdes (Chattanooga)

Another big performance for the Mocs in their win over Ohio came at 133 lbs when Franco Valdes picked up a win in tiebreakers, 6-2. Valdes got his hand raised at the expense of Ohio’s 2019 national qualifier Mario Guillen. Hopefully, for Franco, the victory will snap him out of a tough stretch he’s had to endure. The sophomore had lost his last three duals and was only 2-5 before the dual with Ohio. Last year, Valdes competed solely in open competition and went 8-9 for the Mocs. Earlier this season, at the Southeast Open, Valdes fell to teammate Wade Cummings in sudden victory and the pair have been splitting time at 133 lbs. Next up for Franco and Chattanooga is a dual with Iowa State on the 14th of December. 

6) Alex Marinelli (Iowa)

If Austin DeSanto and Seth Gross was the main event of the Iowa/Wisconsin dual, the fifth installment of Alex Marinelli vs Evan Wick was the co-main event. Marinelli came into the match ranked second, while his opponent from Wisconsin was third, based on the Bull’s three wins over Wick in 2018-19. As one would expect, there was strong hand-fighting between the two and plenty of intensity. Marinelli scored takedowns in the first period and third. The third-period score came with less than 30 seconds remaining in the bout and knotted at two points apiece. Alex would ride out Wick for a 4-2 win. Following the 32-3 win by the Hawkeyes, the Big Ten Network aired a documentary entitled “Alex and Eli,” detailing the relationship between Alex, his wife Moriah, and her twin brother Eli, an NCAA qualifier for Wisconsin that passed away following a car accident in the summer of 2018. Please check it out. The story is heartwrenching and I thank Alex, Moriah, and her parents for discussing it so openly. 

You can watch or rewatch it here

5) Ricky Padilla (Fresno State)

Senior Ricky Padilla hopped into the Fresno State lineup for the first time in 2019-18 and had a significant impact. The Air Force transfer was only seeing action in his fifth dual, over two years with the Bulldogs, when he got the nod against Northern Colorado. Not only was Padilla looking for his first dual win against a DI competitor, but he would have to go through the Bears tenth-ranked 165 lber Austin Matthews to do so. The dual started at 165 lbs and Padilla and Matthews engaged in a bout that went back-and-forth for a match that was 8-7 in the Bulldogs favor after two periods. Padilla broke the bout wide open with an escape followed by a takedown and four back-points which gave him a major decision victory, 16-7. The win helped spark Fresno State to a 25-15 win over the Bears, a Big 12 rival.

4) Kaleb Romero (Ohio State)

The lineup that Ohio State sent out their Sunday dual with Cornell included three undefeated wrestlers. Top-ranked Pletcher and Kollin Moore make sense. The other is Kaleb Romero who ran his 2019-20 record to 8-0. Romero’s opponent from Cornell was 2017 All-American Brandon Womack, who came into the match with a 4-1 record. Their bout was tied at 4-4 late in the third period when Romero stuffed a shot from Womack and was able to spin behind him for the winning score. An escape from Womack made the final 6-5 in favor of Romero. Kaleb, a sophomore, spent a portion of the 2018-19 season as the Buckeyes starter at 165 lbs; however, he was bumped from the lineup when senior TeShan Campbell went down to the weight class. Now at 174, Romero fended off a challenge from redshirt freshman Rocky Jordan to establish himself at the starter.

3) AC Headlee (North Carolina)

For the second time in less than a month, AC Headlee has pulled off a win over a high-quality opponent in a close dual meet. In early November, Headlee downed Michigan’s blue-chip freshman Will Lewan in a 19-17 win for the Tar Heels. Sunday, AC got by Appalachian State’s two-time national qualifier Matt Zovistoski 3-2 for a win at 157 lbs. The win was critical for UNC, who took the dual 19-13. Headlee is now 6-2 in his redshirt senior season. For the past three years, Headlee has been competing at 141 lbs; however, he has bumped up to 157 for his final year of eligibility. Headlee qualified for nationals at 141 lbs in each of the last two years. In Pittsburgh, which is less than an hour away from his hometown, Headlee earned his first NCAA Tournament victory by pinning Chattanooga’s Chris DeBien. 

2) Anthony Cassioppi (Iowa)

The icing on the cake of what was already an excellent performance by the Iowa Hawkeyes was their 285 lber, freshman Anthony Cassioppi, taking out undefeated, third-ranked Trent Hillger to close out the dual. Like Hillger, Cassioppi came into Sunday without a blemish on his record, though he had only wrestled twice in 2019-20. Anthony was able to earn the only takedown of the match in the opening period off of a reshot. Cassioppi was able to fend off a late charge from the 2019 Badger All-American, but ultimately hung on to win, 3-2. The Iowa heavyweight had a big redshirt season where he went 20-2 with 14 pins among his 20 victories. In his three 2019-20 bouts, Cassioppi has already earned one fall and has defeated two returning national qualifiers. Anthony began the week ranked 13th in the nation, but will undoubtedly move up after his big win Sunday night. 

1) Austin DeSanto (Iowa)

TOM’s College Wrestler of the Week – December 2nd, 2019

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