photo courtesy of Sam Janicki; SJanickiPhoto.com
It was a strange weekend in a strange season as midway through the week, news broke that the dual between Michigan State and Penn State was postponed. That means we have to wait until this weekend to (hopefully) see the Nittany Lions in action for the first time. Also, due to COVID-related issued in their athletic department, #2 Michigan will not be able to compete for two weeks. That will either delay or cancel a meeting between the Wolverines and top-ranked Iowa, slated to take place this Sunday. Iowa saw the mat this week and didn’t disappoint, routing Minnesota by 30+ points. Other newsworthy items include NC State extending their winning streak, Little Rock making history, Illinois continuing their resurgence, a new King of New York, SoCon powers colliding, and a disaster averted in Columbus. We’ll talk about those and more in the top performances of the week.
10) Chris Kober (Campbell)
197 lb senior Chris Kober made his season debut for Campbell in spectacular fashion. The Camels were in an early hole, trailing conference rival, Appalachian State, 17-3 after six matches. Campbell and Appalachian State have accounted for each of the last five SoCon team championships, so plenty was at stake. When Kober took the mat, Campbell was still behind 17-12. He was tasked with taking on sophomore Mason Fiscella who entered the match with a 5-3 record. In the third period, Kober thwarted a Fiscella attack then tossed him onto his back, where he secured a fall. That put the Camels in front by a point and a match later, Taye Ghadiali sealed the win at 285 lbs. Kober also got the nod against Gardner-Webb on Saturday and responded with a 16-4 major decision over Jack Trautman.
9) Korbin Myers (Virginia Tech)
The top two teams in Virginia clashed on Friday evening as the UVA Cavaliers traveled to Blacksburg to take on #10 Virginia Tech. One of the marquee individual matchups came at 133 lbs, where ninth-ranked Korbin Myers hosted Louie Hayes (Virginia), who sat just beneath him in the national rankings. The two are no strangers, as Myers had taken all three previous meetings between the two. This match was no different as Korbin hopped in front with a takedown in the first period. He extended that lead in the second after getting a four-point tilt. Myers was able to get four team points as he tallied a pair of takedowns in the third period to rack up a 12-1 major decision. His Hokies would hold on to win 19-15 and claim their ninth-straight victory over their in-state rival. Myers is now 4-0 and his team has won all five of their duals.
8) John Poznanski (Rutgers)
Sunday afternoon, #14 Ohio State and #19 Rutgers, were involved in a nailbiter and it was closer than some expected, in part because of the result at 184 lbs. Handling duties at 184 lbs was true freshman John Poznanski, the Scarlet Knights top recruit in the Class of 2020. The New Jersey state champion was ranked #40 overall in the country coming out of Colonia High School. Poznanski had won his dual debut for Rutgers against Michigan, but had a much more formidable opponent against the Buckeyes in #13 Rocky Jordan. He certainly didn’t look like a freshman, logging takedowns in each of the three periods on his way to a 9-6 win against Jordan. Poznanski’s win gave the Scarlet Knights a one-point lead, though they could not hang on to claim victory. If Rutgers were to have won, it would have been the program’s first against the Buckeyes.
7) Spencer Lee (Iowa)
Often times, the wrestlers featured in the top performances of the week tend to be ones that register stunning upsets or freshmen that have breakout performances. Sometimes we overlook the greats that are, well, great. 2020 Hodge Trophy winner Spencer Lee certainly fits that description. Lee improved his 2021 record to 2-0 with a first period fall over #21 Patrick McKee (Minnesota). Both of his matches this season have ended in that fashion. Last year, during his Hodge Trophy-winning campaign, Lee only had one of his 18 matches result in a regular decision. On Friday night, Lee got the Hawkeyes started and they won the first nine bouts during a 35-4 romp over Minnesota.
6) Cory Day (Binghamton)
With Cornell out of the picture in the 2021 season, the top collegiate team in New York looks to be….Binghamton. The Bearcats moved to 3-0 on Saturday with a 23-10 win over in-state, EIWA-rival #25 Army West Point. While seven Binghamton wrestlers got their hand raised in dual competition, it was their final wrestler that had the most surprising win. Redshirt freshman Cory Day put an exclamation point on the victory with a 10-2 major decision over #19 Ben Sullivan. Despite working with a distinct size disadvantage, Day fought back from an early 2-0 hole with a punishing top game. Cory used his leg riding skills to get two sets of back points on Sullivan, one in each of the final two periods. Day improved his record to 1-1 for the season, while his team is now 3-0 and looks poised to break into the national rankings.
5) Lance Runyon (Northern Iowa)
Last week, Northern Iowa freshman Brody Teske received a mention; now another freshman on the Panther Train needs his due. This time it’s 174 lber Lance Runyon. Lance was one of six UNI wrestlers to log wins against Big 12 foe Oklahoma. That added up to a 23-13 win for head coach Doug Schwab’s team. Runyon got the most significant victory of the afternoon when he cradled and pinned #10 Anthony Mantanona. As most of Mantanona’s matches go, this one featured plenty of action. The Sooner struck first with an early takedown, but Runyon quickly scored on a reversal. The two exchanged takedowns, again, but after the second, Lance locked up a cradle and ended the match. All of this scoring took place in only two minutes and ten seconds. Runyon also got to see action in an “extra” match where he pinned Iowa State’s Grant Stotts in 1:28. He is now 5-1 on the season and is slated to meet Oklahoma State’s star freshman, Dustin Plott, this Saturday.
4) Malik Heinselman (Ohio State)
One of the difference makers in Ohio State’s win over Rutgers was their leadoff hitter at 125 lbs, Malik Heinselman. Malik continued his strong start to the season by downing #18 Nic Aguilar (Rutgers), 10-4. While Heinselman was the higher-ranked wrestler, these two met in dual meet action last year and Aguilar prevailed 14-1. The Buckeye struck early with a pair of first-period takedowns, then added another right before the buzzer in the second period. He was also able to corral Aguilar on the mat enough to earn a riding time point. Heinselman is now 3-0 and has wins over a pair of 2020 national qualifiers (Aguilar and Justin Cardani – Illinois), along with Eric Barnett, who we’ll mention later.
3) Little Rock
The Little Rock Trojans hit the road this weekend and had a Sunday which saw them compete three times against opponents in California. After a 33-8 loss to Cal Poly, Little Rock picked up their first win in program history when they downed Fresno State, 35-11. The Trojans then made the trek from San Luis Obispo to take one CSU Bakersfield. Against the Roadrunners, head coach Neil Erisman recorded his team’s first-ever conference win, 24-21. In that dual, Arkansas-native Dylan Johnson gave his team a shot to win by registering a pin at 197 lbs. That pulled the team score to 21-20 in favor of the hosts. 285 lber Gabe Beyer sealed the deal with a 13-5 major decision in the final bout. Beyer, along with Khyler Brewer (125), Paul Bianchi (133), Alex Hernandez (165), and Johnson, all went 2-1 on the day for the Trojans. Any chance to celebrate will be brief as Oklahoma, South Dakota State, and Stanford all travel to Little Rock for a quad Sunday. Congratulations to coach Erisman and the Little Rock program for their milestones yesterday.
2) Eric Barnett (Wisconsin)
On paper, the 125 lb match between #2 Devin Schroder (Purdue) and 0-2 Eric Barnett appeared to be a mismatch in the Boilermakers favor. Schroder was coming off a breakout 2019-20 campaign that saw him lose only once to a B1G opponent not named Spencer Lee. But looking at the result from last year when the two met, Barnett gave Schroder a run for his money, before falling, 9-8. This time, Schroder held a 2-0 lead in the second period and was riding tough on top. Barnett tried to hip over his opponent and didn’t get all the way over. What he did do was catch a headlock. Eric had an incredibly tight grip and contained Schroder as he tried to squirm and fight free of the hold. It was to no avail and Barnett won with a second-period fall. His Badger teammates held up their end of the deal too, and Wisconsin handed #12 Purdue their second loss of the weekend. Eric’s record moves to 1-2, with his two losses coming to returning national qualifiers, Cardani and Heinselman. Barnett was the starter in 2020, as a true freshman, amassing a 21-11 record, though he came up just shy of qualifying for nationals.
1) Isaac Trumble (NC State)