photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com
Just like that, the first month of the collegiate wrestling season is in the books. With an abridged 2020-21 schedule, that means we’re halfway through the regular season. Unbelievably enough, right before the midway point of the year, we got to see Penn State for the first time. As one may expect, the young Nittany Lions team was a bit rusty and missed a few key cogs. Still, they managed to pull out wins over Indiana and Northwestern. Another unique challenge in this unprecedented year is that second-ranked Michigan is still on a two-week pause across their entire athletic department.
Meanwhile, the top-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes continued to chew up the rest of the Big Ten. Speaking of streaking, NC State extended their winning streak against one of their primary rivals and there was chaos amongst the bottom half of the national dual rankings. We’ve got all that and more in our top-ten performance of the week!
10) Jeffrey Boyd (West Virginia)
The West Virginia Mountaineers improved to 5-2 on the year after a 25-11 win over Northern Colorado on Sunday. Northern Colorado entered the day ranked 22nd in the nation with a 3-0 record. One of the upsets that help swing the dual towards WVU’s side came at 141 lbs when redshirt freshman Jeffrey Boyd took out #24 Chris Sandoval 7-1 in sudden victory. After seven minutes with each wrestler only logging a single escape point, followed by a minute in overtime and another spent in rideouts, the twoheaded into a second sudden victory period. Boyd was on the offensive and forced Sandoval into a scramble to defend. The Mountaineer caught Sandoval on his back for the winning takedown, plus a set of back points for good measure. Jeffrey improved to 5-2 on the year and was one of seven WVU wrestlers who were victorious.
9) Michael Battista (Virginia)
Another school that had upset on their mind this weekend was Virginia, which hosted 16th ranked ACC-rival Pittsburgh. The Cavaliers ended up narrowly edging the Panthers 17-16 on the strength of three upset wins. One of which came at 184 lbs when #33 Michael Battista downed #21, Gregg Harvey. Battista’s 3-2 decision tied the dual at 13 points apiece and put UVA in position for the win. Michael’s season record now moves to 5-2 and he looks poised to move up from his current national ranking of #33. His only two losses of the year came at the hands of opponents ranked in the top-five nationally.
Typically a win for Lehigh over Binghamton wouldn’t be classified as an upset, but it’s true. The Bearcats were 3-0 and ranked 25th in the country before their meeting with Lehigh. The Mountain Hawks ended up sending out four true freshmen and three redshirt freshmen in their first eight weights. Redshirt freshmen Malyke Hines and Luca Frinzi ended up getting their hands raised for Lehigh. The 19-16 win was clinched by the two veterans at the back end of the Lehigh lineup, Jake Jakobsen at 197 and heavyweight Jordan Wood. Lehigh trailed by three points when Wood took the mat in his first collegiate bout of the year. He initially was sitting out the season with an Olympic redshirt. Jordan ended up pinning Cory Day in the third period. The Mountain Hawks were led by former NCAA champion Darian Cruz who stepped in to handle head coaching duties.
7) Tony Cassioppi (Iowa)
The final match in top-ranked Iowa’s 36-6 romp over #11 Illinois featured a 285 lb bout between two top-ten ranked heavyweights, #3 Tony Cassioppi and #10 Luke Luffman. Luffman has flown up the rankings this season and entered the match 4-0 after a pair of wins over #6 Trent Hillger (Wisconsin) and #11 Tate Orndorff (Ohio State). Tony jumped out to a 2-0 lead after a takedown in the first period, then locked up a cradle in the second and pinned his fellow Illinois-native, Luffman. It was the first fall of the year for Cassioppi after racking up seven in 2019-20. Cassioppi moves to 2-1 on the year, with his lone setback coming to top-ranked Gable Steveson (Minnesota). Steveson accounts for three of Tony’s four collegiate losses.
6) Malik Heinselman (Ohio State)
For the second time in as many weeks, Malik Heinselman has earned a spot in the top-ten performances of the week. His last mention came after earning a win over Nic Aguilar (Rutgers) during Ohio State’s narrow victory over the Scarlet Knights. Heinselman upped the ante this week by downing third-ranked Rayvon Foley (Michigan State), 5-4. Malik captured takedowns in each of the first two periods and an escape in the third to upset the Spartan. Sunday, Heinselman pinned Maryland’s Zach Spence in the second period as the Buckeyes shut out the Terrapins. He moves to 5-0 on the season and has wins over three national qualifiers. Malik is sure to move up from his current national ranking of #14.
5) Requir van der Merwe (Stanford)
Stanford’s season finally kicked off last weekend and one of the new wrinkles in the Cardinal lineup was Requir van der Merwe at 157 lbs. Van der Merwe was a national qualifier in 2019 at 149 lbs and competed at that weight during the 2019-20 campaign. Up at his new weight, Requir has been very impressive and he went 4-0 last week. He notched a pair of wins by major decision on Thursday when Stanford met Cal Baptist and Cal Poly. Three days later, van der Merwe earned wins over ranked opponents #13 Justin Thomas (Oklahoma) and #19 Cade DeVos (South Dakota State). Instead of racking up bonus points, van der Merwe was forced to gut out one-point wins against both opponents.
4) Parker Keckeisen (Northern Iowa)
The highest-ranked recruit in Northern Iowa’s Class of 2019, Parker Keckeisen, faced his biggest test of the 2021 season on Saturday and passed with flying colors. Keckeisen is currently ranked #25 in the country at 184 lbs and won all five of his previous contests. The most notable came up at 197 lbs, where he knocked off 2020 national qualifier Wyatt Koelling (Missouri), 6-1. Stakes were higher this week as he had to face #9 Dakota Geer (Oklahoma State). Geer sported an identical 5-0 record, as well. Keckeisen was able to pull the upset after getting a takedown in sudden victory for his 4-2 win. Unfortunately for Northern Iowa, Parker’s efforts were not enough as they fell to #5 Oklahoma State, 20-12.
3) Donnell Washington (Indiana)
The eyes of the college wrestling world were trained on the 174 lb weight class in the Indiana/Penn State dual, expecting a show out of a redshirt freshman. Little did they know that #7 Carter Starocci would not be the freshman who got his hand raised; that was Donnell Washington. Right off the bat, Washington took it to Starocci as he threw him to his back for four early points. Donnell was able to hold off a comeback attempt by Starroci and prevailed 10-9. His work wasn’t done, though. Washington also secured a pin late in the third period over Northwestern’s freshman Troy Fisher. Getting the fall ended up being a difference-maker for the Hoosiers, as they nipped Northwestern 18-16. Washington’s record for the year now moves up to 3-1.
2) Tariq Wilson (NC State)
Another chapter in a budding rivalry between Tariq Wilson and Zach Sherman of in-state rival, North Carolina, was written Friday night. Before Friday’s dual, the pair had met five previous times, with Wilson earning wins in four of those instances. Even so, Sherman had won their most recent meeting in the 2020 ACC Finals. This time Sherman held a one-point lead with under :30 seconds left in the bout. Wilson shot a big double leg and sent the Tar Heel 141 lber right to his back for a takedown and two near-fall points. Tariq held on to earn the 9-6 victory. That match could have changed the course for the remainder of the dual. North Carolina got a win at 133 lbs and would win by major decision at 149. Instead, the Wolfpack cruised to a 28-10 victory and extended the teams winning streak to 22 matches.
1) Owen Webster (Minnesota)