photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com
We’ve made it through two weeks of collegiate competition! While a few dual meets were canceled, many schools have seen some sort of action. Week two brought us our first taste of the Big Ten. A Friday night doubleheader on the Big Ten Network made things feel as normal as possible. Still, we’ll have to wait another week to see top-ranked Iowa or number three Penn State. Focusing on who did compete, rather than who didn’t, seven of the top-ten dual teams in the country took the mat. While all of the held serve and won duals they were supposed to win, there were still plenty of notable individual results. Not only were there upsets and impressive freshman debuts, but we also saw some legendary coaches hit some career milestones. So get ready for the top-ten performances for week two of the college wrestling season.
10) Oklahoma State Freshmen
One of the unique idiosyncrasies of doing college wrestling rankings is the choice to rank true freshmen from day one or not. The Open Mat chooses not to. In a case like Oklahoma State, they have a pair of freshmen (Dustin Plott and AJ Ferrari) who I think very highly of and probably will be very successful in year one; it ends up negatively affecting their early-season rankings. That’s what happened for the Cowboys, who entered week two with a #7 national ranking in a tournament format. But now that OSU has taken the mat, their freshmen will be factored in and likely bump them up a spot or two. Plott and Ferrari both donned an Oklahoma State singlet officially for the first time and didn’t disappoint. Dustin has a major decision and a tech fall in his bouts against Chattanooga and Oregon State Sunday. Ferrari had a pair of majors at 197 lbs. Joining them was 125 lber Trevor Mastrogiovanni, who logged a pair of quality wins. Mastrogiovanni downed #25 Fabian Gutierrez (Chattanooga) in his first college bout, 8-2, and then defeated #27 Brandon Kaylor (Oregon State) in his next appearance. These three anchored a Cowboy recruiting class labeled number one in the nation and could help them threaten #1 Iowa/#2 Michigan/#3 Penn State this season.
9) Brian Smith (Missouri)/Pat Popolizio (NC State)
A pair of the nation’s top coaches notched notable milestones this weekend as Pat Popolizio won his 200th dual meet and Brian Smith claimed his 300th. Popolizio spent six seasons building Binghamton from a winless team to 14th in the country during his final season with the Bearcats. He has taken NC State to unprecedented heights, including an NCAA trophy finish in 2018 and an undefeated dual season a year ago. Win 200 came as the Wolfpack held off in-state foe Appalachian State, 24-12. 125 lber Jakob Camacho and 133 lber Jarrett Trombley both earned wins over ranked opponents from App State. Smith similarly took over a Missouri program that was in the basement of a powerful conference (then the Big 12) and rewrote the school’s record book. Under his direction, the Tigers captured an NCAA team trophy in 2007 and Olympians such as Ben Askren and J’Den Cox have thrived. A talented group of freshmen has been inserted into an otherwise veteran lineup for Smith’s current team and the results have been impressive. After sweeping North Dakota’s quad in week one, Mizzou outscored Central Michigan and Wyoming 53-15 to pick up another pair of wins Friday.
Also, on the coaching milestone front…..With Oklahoma State’s two wins on Sunday, John Smith moved fourth place all-time on the list of DI coaching victories. His 441 put him one ahead of former Minnesota-rival J Robinson.
8) Micah Roes (Binghamton)
Binghamton got their season underway on Saturday and came away with a win over Rider, 27-20. Three Bearcat wrestlers, Micah Roes, Anthony Sobotker, and Louie DePrez, all contributed with falls. We’ll single out Roes because of the quality of his opponent, #33 Jonathan Tropea. Tropea is a senior that went 20-14 in 2019-20 and was one of the wrestlers considered for an at-large berth, though he ultimately was not selected. The Broncs veteran, Tropea, jumped out of a 4-2 lead after the first period. Roes didn’t back down and took the lead after an escape, then a big double leg in the second. He would blow the match open late in the second with a tilt. Leading by five points in the third, Roes used a suck-back to put Tropea on his back and was able to secure a fall with one second remaining on the clock. Micah is a true freshman that made the New York state finals on two occasions.
7) Boo Dryden (Minnesota)
Last season, Boo Dryden joined the Minnesota Golden Gophers after the first semester and saw action in four duals. He also was the school’s entrant at 133 lbs in the Big Ten Championships. Dryden was also in the lineup at 133 lbs on Friday during the team’s 2021 debut. His opponent was 2020 national qualifier #28 Alex Thomsen (Nebraska), who recently won a Senior National championship in Greco-Roman. Not only did Dryden get a solid 9-2 win over Thomsen, but he also did so by going upperbody with the Greco star. With a full year in the Minnesota wrestling room under his belt, the tall Dryden should be a matchup nightmare for most of his Big Ten competition.
6) Allan Hart (Missouri)
We certainly could have included Allan Hart in our to performances article from week one, but Hart was at it again on Friday. Last week was highlighted by a : 36-second fall over Grant Willits (Oregon State), who was ranked one spot ahead of Hart at the time. Allan made the cut this time around based largely on his 4-2 win against #10 Dresden Simon (Central Michigan). Simon was named a second-time All-American by the NWCA in 2020. Hart then ran his season record to 5-0 after downing Wyoming’s true freshman Darren Green, 8-4. Last season, Hart got the nod in the postseason for the Tigers for the first time and responded by making the 133 lb MAC finals, which qualified him for the NCAA Tournament.
5) Dylan Ragusin (Michigan)
Even though he was ranked #59 overall in the high school Class of 2020, I’m not sure if most people figured Dylan Ragusin would have an immediate impact for the University of Michigan. However, those expectations jumped through the roof after Dylan made the Senior National freestyle finals in October. There he defeated NCAA champion Darian Cruz and teched All-American Sean Russell. Ragusin got the start in Michigan’s first dual of the year on Friday at Rutgers. All he needed was 121 seconds to toss #15 Nic Aguilar to his back for a fall. Two days later, Dylan was in the starting lineup against Maryland. Again, Dylan impressed with a 9-1 major decision over freshman King Sandoval. Ragusin will get tested again this weekend as he should face Brock Hudkins (Indiana), who was in the top-ten last week.
4) Brock Hardy (Nebraska)
Coming into this season, most expected a freshman to take charge for Nebraska at 149 lbs, after the departure of 2020 second-team All-American, Collin Purinton. Kevon Davenport, not Brock Hardy, was the one most thought would replace Purinton. Hardy had missed the prior two seasons after taking an LDS mission in Brazil. But it’s not as if Brock wasn’t highly regarded coming out of high school. He was a four-time Utah state champion and won the Walsh Ironman as a senior. The concern would have been him missing so much mat time, as many wrestlers that serve missions end up taking redshirts upon their return. Hardy jumped in the mix and cruised to a 9-2 win over 16th ranked Michael Blockhaus of Minnesota. That victory proved to be important in the Huskers 22-14 win over the Gophers.
3) Justin Cardani (Illinois)
Illinois came into the weekend ranked #17 in our dual portion and was able to flex their muscles during a 39-3 win against Indiana. The Fighting Illini started the match with six straight wins, the first of which was tallied by Justin Cardani at 125. Cardani had a tall task as his opponent was fourth-ranked Brock Hudkins. The match was all knotted up at one with time running out in regulation; however, Justin did not need extra time and secured the winning takedown and got his hand raised after a 3-1 win. Cardani is a sophomore that qualified for the NCAA Championships last season after receiving an at-large berth. He finished the year 16-10, including a 7-2 record in conference duals. The win over Hudkins was his second career against a top-ten opponent.
2) Trey Munoz (Arizona State)
One of the members of Arizona State’s second-ranked recruiting class in 2019, Trey Munoz, took the mat for the first time for the Sun Devils on Friday. The redshirt freshman 174 lber shocked eighth-ranked Anthony Mantanona (Oklahoma), 8-3. Munoz was able to grab a pair of takedowns on the Oklahoma junior and even amassed enough riding time for an extra point. The win helped #10 Arizona State to a 20-12 victory over #12 Oklahoma. Last season, Trey racked up a 13-2 record competing unattached. He was a champion at the Northern Colorado Open and third at the Roadrunner Open. This weekend will really help us find out where Munoz belongs, with respect to the 174lb rankings, as Arizona State will take on Iowa State, Missouri, and Northern Iowa.
1) Matt Stencel