photo courtesy of Illinois athletics
The third week of the collegiate wrestling season played out similar to the two that preceded it. There were a couple last-minute, COVID-related cancellations, but still plenty of action going on around the country. This time we saw the women’s collegiate season with a handful of strong dual meets, evidenced by our “Wrestler of the Week.” The second week of Big Ten action had all of the conference teams (except Penn State) take the mat. With it being a free year and the regular season more like a quick sprint than a marathon, each match has a different significance than in the past. Coaches can insert a true freshman rather than forfeiting, which has led to some fun results and interesting matchups. Conversely, an injury in the third week of the season can linger until the postseason since it’s only just over a month away. I’m sure as the season goes on, we’ll find even more nuances that make the 2021 campaign unique. Until then, take a look at that top ten performance of the week in college wrestling.
The Naval Academy moved to 2-1 on the year and picked up their first conference win by downing Lehigh 21-9. That marked the first time since 2011 that the Midshipmen defeated the Mountain Hawks. It was also the lowest output for Lehigh against Navy, dating back to 1995. During the dual meet portion of the day, seven Navy wrestlers got their arms raised. Perhaps most impressive was 197 lber, #31 Jake Koser, who knocked off #17 Jake Jakobsen. Though it was an upset rankings-wise, Koser also was victorious during their 2019-20 dual. In the other marquee match of the afternoon, 149 lber #26 Casey Cobb defeated #25 Jimmy Hoffman, 5-2. Freshmen Andrew Cerniglia and David Key continued to stay unbeaten.
9) Ed Scott (NC State)
Week one saw Ed Scott dominate during his initial appearance in the NC State lineup against Gardner-Webb. He was held in-check by #20 Jonathan Millner (Appalachian State) in his last time out, which is not unusual for a true freshman. Scott was able to bounce back in style Friday with a 14-1 major decision victory over #27 Denton Spencer of Virginia. Ed was one of seven NC State wrestlers who earned wins over their conference rival to the north. Scott is now 3-1 on the season and has earned bonus points in all three of his victories.
8) Jalin Harper (Oklahoma State)
Last week we mentioned how the Oklahoma State freshmen burst onto the scene in the Cowboys 2021 debut. One we may have overlooked was 157 lber, Jalin Harper. Jalin did suffer a loss, though, against Chattanooga in his dual meet debut. This time out, Harper was a perfect 2-0. He posted an impressive 6-0 shutout against 16th-ranked Justin Ruffin during the Cowboys 38-0 romp over SIU Edwardsville. Harper finished the day by majoring Little Rock’s Noah Aziere. There’s a chance that we’ll see a lot of Jalin in the OSU lineup this year.
7) Jake Keating (Virginia)
During the Cavaliers dual meet against NC State, Jake Keating had one of the most imposing matchups. He faced off with eighth-ranked Thomas Bullard, a three-time national qualifier and an NWCA second-team All-American in 2020. Keating was up for the challenge and edged Bullard, 4-3. The win moves the 2021 record to 6-0 for the Cavalier 165 lber. So far, Keating has wins over three ranked wrestlers. The junior is looking to qualify for the NCAA Championships for the first time in 2021.
6) Allan Hart (Missouri)
A second appearance in the top ten in three weeks! Say it ain’t so. Allan Hart makes a return showing based on his two wins Sunday afternoon. Hart continued his hot streak with a 17-0 tech fall win over Drew Bennett in his first bout of the day. His Missouri Tigers rolled to a 34-6 win over Northern Iowa. Allen then handed fourth-ranked Ian Parker (Iowa State) his first loss of the year, 7-4. Again, his team crushed sixth-ranked Iowa State, 31-7. Hart’s record climbs to 6-0 and he has earned wins over the returning Big 12 champion (Parker), the MAC champion (Dresden Simon), and Pac-12 runner-up (Grant Willits).
5) Patrick McKee (Minnesota)
Patrick McKee’s 2021 campaign started with a rough 8-1 loss to Liam Cronin; however, he bounced back big time this weekend. McKee got things going with a 19-6 major decision over Maryland’s King Sandoval. He and his Gopher teammates would win all ten matches in their dual against Maryland. Next up was second-ranked Rayvon Foley of Michigan State. McKee pulled the upset 10-6. It was the highest-ranked opponent Patrick has defeated in his two years competing for Minnesota. His win helped spark the Gophers to a 28-6 win over a much-improved Michigan State squad.
4) Nelson Brands (Iowa)
Earlier last week, some eyebrows were raised when Nelson Brands was the only wrestler for Iowa listed at 184 lbs. The Hawkeyes also were expected to have #8 Abe Assad available during their dual with Nebraska. The Cornhuskers 184 lber was All-American Taylor Venz, a returning third-place finisher at the Big Ten Championships and the seventh seed at Nationals in 2020. In his Big Ten dual debut, Brands was extremely impressive in a 13-5 major decision over Venz. We’ll have to monitor the 184 lb situation for the Hawkeyes going forward. As of now, Brands has stated his case to remain as the starter. Next up for Iowa is Minnesota, which features #28 Owen Webster at 184.
3) Brody Teske (Northern Iowa)
Last weekend, Brody Teske made his first appearance in the Northern Iowa lineup and racked up a pair of wins against a duo of unranked, but experienced foes. Now the competition level was raised, with #17 ranked Connor Brown of Missouri representing his first opponent of Sunday afternoon. Teske prevailed 12-10 in sudden victory in one of the week’s most entertaining matches. Later, Teske saw action in an “extra match” against ninth-ranked Alex Mackall (Iowa State). He ended up getting the win there, as well, 6-4. It could be the first of many matches between the two. The schools are slated to dual in February and each is expected to be a factor at the Big 12 Championships.
2) Luke Luffman (Illinois)
In 2019-20, Luke Luffman got thrown in the fire and competed at 285 lbs in the Big Ten. Luke turned in a respectable 17-11 record and was the first alternate at the weight for the 2020 NCAA Championships. Luffman started his 2021 campaign off on the right foot by majoring Jacob Bullock (Indiana), 11-3; it still didn’t give the hints that Luke would knock off two top-seven opponents this weekend. A 3-2 win for Luke over Ohio State’s #7 Tate Orndorff was instrumental in the Fighting Illini’s’ 18-15 upset of the Bucks. Later in the afternoon, Luffman was able to edge #5 Trent Hillger, 4-3 in tiebreakers. Last year, the two-time All-American from Wisconsin had shut out Luffman 4-0 at the Midlands. Like his team, Luke improved to 3-0 for the year and could become a factor in the nation’s toughest conference.
1) Jaclyn McNichols