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Top 10 College Wrestling Performances of the Week – January 27th, 2020

monday, kennedy

photo courtesy of Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com

Last week we mentioned how most of the results seemed to be predictable and there was less chaos than usual. That only lasted a week. This weekend saw plenty of notable happenings. A number one went down to a freshman with two top-five wins. Oklahoma State was upset by a team for the first time since 1991. The ACC had a dominating showing from one of their four-top 15 teams. If that wasn’t enough, two heavyweight programs went at it in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and second-ranked Penn State got a run for their money. With so much going on, it was certainly challenging to trim the week’s top performances down to ten, but we’ve managed to do so.

10) Tim Rooney (Kent State)

The Kent State Golden Flashes were in action on Saturday against MAC foe Buffalo which meant for #23 Tim Rooney, a date with #13 Derek Spann (Buffalo). The returning conference runner-up, Spann, had won his previous 12 matches and defeated Rooney in sudden victory during their 2018-19 dual. This time, Rooney returned the favor and emerged victorious by the score of 6-4. That win helped swing the tide towards Kent State’s and they downed the Bulls, 20-17. Kent State’s record on the year is now bumped up to 6-9. Spann wasn’t the only one with a winning streak on the line during their dual. Rooney has now won eight consecutive matches, a streak that has seen him down four past NCAA qualifiers. He is also 5-1 in duals against MAC competition. 

9) Zac Bruanagel (Illinois)

Even though they are starting four freshmen, the Illinois Fighting Illini have been a tough out and on Sunday picked up a solid win over rival Michigan. One of the key wins for head coach Jim Heffernan’s crew came at 184 lbs when Zac Braunagel knocked off a wrestler ranked directly above him in #16 Jelani Embree. Braunagel’s 5-4 win proved to be the difference in the Illini’s 20-16 victory over Michigan. Braunagel is now 14-6 on the year and 2-2 in Big Ten duals. Beating Embree now gives Zac three wins on the year over ranked opponents. Next up for Braunagel on Friday is NCAA qualifier Cameron Caffey (Michigan State), someone that Braunagel majored at the season-opening Michigan State Open. 

8) Tanner Sloan (South Dakota State)

After making the Junior World Team over the summer and a runner-up finish at the 2018 Midlands, while redshirting, expectations were sky-high for South Dakota State freshman 197 lber Tanner Sloan. Tanner dropped a couple of early-season matches, which may have tempered the bright outlook for some. Of course, looking at Sloan’s three losses within the first month of competition, they all came to quality opponents who were past national qualifiers. One of those opponents was Jake Woodley (Oklahoma), who downed Sloan 5-3 at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Invitational. The two met again on Sunday as the Jackrabbits hosted Woodley and the Sooners for a dual. Tanner was able to reverse that result and got a 4-2 win. That helped SDSU to a 23-16 victory over their Big 12 counterparts. Sloan has now won eight-straight matches and avenged one of his four losses on the year. He’ll have another test on Friday when All-American Dakota Geer and Oklahoma State will host South Dakota State. 

7) Austin DeSanto (Iowa)

Iowa is in the midst of a challenging three-week stretch that has featured duals against top-ten opponents Nebraska and Ohio State, with second-ranked Penn State looming on Friday. One of the many standouts for the Hawkeyes this year has been their 133 lber Austin DeSanto, who currently holds the number two ranking at his weight. DeSanto put on a show on Friday night when facing talented freshman Jordan Decatur. The young Buckeye got the first takedown of the match, but that didn’t phase DeSanto one bit. Austin responded with 13 straight takedowns of his own and recorded a 27-12 tech fall. During the latter stages of the bout, it was apparent that Decatur could not hang with the pace of the Hawkeyes and DeSanto was able to rack up takedowns with ease. Austin is now without a loss in 2019-20 in dual meets, though he does have a date with undefeated #4 Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State) just days away. 

6) Parker Filius (Purdue)

One of the beauties of dual meets is that there’s the opportunity for an unheralded member of a team to be the difference-maker. That was the case for Purdue as they traveled to a raucous RAC building to take on Rutgers. With the Boilermakers trailing 18-17, the final result came down to the outcome at 141 lbs. Sophomore Parker Filius had to get by highly-touted true freshman JoJo Aragona. The pair needed more than the allotted seven minutes to determine a winner and the match headed into sudden victory. There it was Filius who was able to grab the match-winning takedown, which not only got his hand raised, but it also nudged his team past the Scarlet Knights. That wasn’t the only win of the weekend for Parker, either. He also registered a major decision victory over Hunter Baxter (Maryland) during Purdue’s 37-4 win over Maryland on Friday night. The 15-5 Filius now heads into an imposing stretch of his schedule with top-ten two opponents awaiting this weekend. 

5) Mark Hall (Penn State)

On Friday night, Penn State was in jeopardy of dropping their second dual meet of the season as they were trailing Nebraska 12-11 after six matches. The crisis was averted as one of their senior leaders, Mark Hall, stepped up and put together an incredible individual effort. Mark was facing one of the Huskers top grapplers, 2019 All-American Mike Labriola. Hall continued to push for bonus points and was able to lock up a cradle late in the bout. Not satisfied with the back points he would receive, which placed him over the major decision threshold, Hall flattened out Labriola and earned the pin with only eight seconds remaining in the match. Those points proved to be crucial for the Nittany Lions, who would win by the score of 20-18. In the past, Hall has not been regarded as a bonus-point machine, but he has turned up his game during his final go ‘round. Mark now has eight falls in his 16 wins and sports a bonus % of 81%, which is nearly double his total from 2018-19. This Friday, he’ll have his hands full with an undefeated Michael Kemerer of Iowa. 

4) Liam Cronin (Indiana)

The semifinals of the Midlands dealt the Indiana Hoosiers a severe blow when they lost their 125 lber Brock Hudkins to a season-ending injury. Hudkins had evolved into a wrestler who was ranked in the top-eight and had just given All-American Patrick Glory (Princeton), all he could handle. With Hudkins down, Liam Cronin has stepped in and seized the opportunity. Cronin got a massive win on Monday night when he upset, Devin Schroder (Purdue), who was in the top-eight himself. Liam kept that momentum going Friday when he knocked off #13 Nic Aguilar (Rutgers), 4-2. For good measure, Cronin also recorded a majored decision Sunday against Maryland’s Brandon Cray. Though he only has a 9-11 record, Cronin has established himself as a dangerous competitor that could be capable of making waves at the Big Ten meet. This week will feature Liam against a pair of talented freshmen in Patrick McKee (Minnesota) and Eric Barnett (Wisconsin). 

3) Keaton Geerts (Northern Iowa)

The Northern Iowa team made some history on Saturday night by defeating Oklahoma State for the first time since 1991 and only the third time in program history. One of the deciding matches in the Panthers 19-15 win over the Cowboys was Keaton Geerts’ upset of #15 Wyatt Sheets at 157 lbs. Geerts came into the match with a 9-11 record and had no wins against prior national qualifiers on his resume. That didn’t appear to be a problem as Keaton secured three takedowns during the contest and earned a third-period escape with put him ahead on the scoreboard 7-6 and preserved his riding time point. Head Coach Doug Schwab’s team now has a four-match winning streak, one that started on January 12th, by defeating MAC-power Missouri. Geerts, a winner of two-in-a-row himself, will take on another ranked opponent Sunday when the Panthers travel to Oklahoma.

2) Kennedy Monday (North Carolina)

One of the most surprising dual results of the weekend was North Carolina’s 23-10 win over previously unbeaten Virginia Tech. The win wasn’t all that unexpected since the Tar Heels defeated the Hokies last year, but it was the manner in which they won. The same can be said for North Carolina’s 165 lber Kennedy Monday. Not only did Monday upset three-time All-American David McFadden, but he did so with a 21-6 technical fall. Kennedy scored ten points in the opening period and never slowed down. The win was Monday’s fifth in-a-row and he moves to 9-1 in dual action and 17-4 overall. Monday’s upcoming schedule features potential dates with four ranked opponents, including one All-American, so there will be plenty of opportunities to move up the rankings. 

1) Sammy Sasso (Ohio State)

TOM College Wrestler of the Week – January 27th, 2020

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