Disclaimer: I am no journalist, expert, or Jack Ryan-like analyst. I’m simply an overzealous wrestling fan that is way too eager for the season to start. Take everything I say with a block of salt. So let’s light this fuse and get going!
141lbs is without a doubt one of the most intense roster battles we’ll have this fall. It’ll be an all-out war between the three-headed monster that is Vince Turk, Carter Happel, and Max Murin. In my opinion, there is no clear cut favorite to win. It very well could come down to a coach’s decision on who starts, who sits, and well that’s about it. There are no redshirts remaining for any of these guys.
Similar to 133lbs, 141 also bounced back and forth between Vince Turk and Carter Happel for portions of the season. Neither guy was able to distance themselves enough and make a claim as the out-right starter until late. Eventually Turk cemented himself in the lineup and earned a berth to NCAA’s after placing 5th in the Big Ten Championships and fell just shy of AA status. All in all, it was a good year for Turk and nabbed the good guys a handful of points in the tournament, which is more than many people were expecting.
Turk was the initial starter and had a solid year in his redshirt sophomore season. He had a couple early stumbles, which opened the door for Happel, but the door didn’t stay open. He eventually reclaimed his lineup spot and went on to have a 15-10 record including 6-4 in duals. As mentioned before, he placed 5th in the B1G’s, which awarded him an invite to March Matness.
He had several signature wins against guys that went on to finish in the top 25. He beat #18 Eli Stickely (Wisconsin) twice, #19 Nate Limmex (Purdue) and avenged a Midlands loss to #17 Cole Weaver (Indiana) in the NCAA’s. He also defeated Chad Red (Nebraska) who finished 7th. Of his 10 losses, 9 were by decision with several of them against elite competition and guys that would go on to AA. With key wins against those ranked opponents and the way he held his own against the best of the best in the back half of the season, it’s no wonder why he won the Most Improved Award at the annual team banquet.
The way Turk finished the season he showed he can hang with the big guns, but he has some work to do. He’s all go, no quit, pedal to the metal, but really tapers off and slows down in the 3rd period. If he can work on that, keep the energy high, and improve on his bottom game he’ll be on the fringe discussion to be a possible AA. He definitely has the skill set, but it all just needs to gel.
Happel was more inconsistent. He went on to have a winning record at 11-7, but finished just 2-3 in dual meet competition. Two of his losses were to fellow Hawkeye, Max Murin, at the Luther Open and Midlands. He had one big win against 2017 AA, Tommy Thorn (Minnesota), who was ranked #24 at the time, but also had a few bad losses including a major decision loss to #10 Tyler Smith (Bucknell) that arguably cost him the starting spot for the remainder of the season.
The biggest difference between the two was Turk’s ability to keep the score close against the top guys. It felt like if Turk was going down, he was going down swinging, whereas Happel seemed to be waiting for an opening or perhaps hesitant to take a risk. That’s all fine and dandy if you’re a Brandon Sorensen, but at this moment in time, he’s not. Happel has the physical gifts to be on the podium, but needs to work on the mental aspect and go out there with confidence, open it up, and let it fly.
Our final guy that may have the biggest say in who starts and who rides the bench is Max Murin. He had a stellar season wrestling unattached while he redshirted his freshman year going 15-3. He won the Luther Open, placed third at the UNI Open, and after losing in the first two rounds at the Midlands he stormed back (winning seven in a row) to take fifth place. One such victory was over Yahya Thomas (Northwestern) who opens this season at #20.
Mad Max also had a great summer competing in freestyle. He claimed the silver medal at the 2018 UWW Junior Freestyle U.S. Open where he knocked off ex-Cyclone Kanen Storr (Michigan) and Andrew Alirez (Colorado). He also beat mega Ohio St. recruit Sammy Sasso 11-7.
Flowrestling predicts Murin as the eventual starter and thus has him #17 in their preseason rankings.
#13 Nate Limmex, Purdue: 11/24
Luke Karam, Lehigh: 12/8
#15 Mitch McKee, Minnesota: 1/13
#10 Michael Carr, Illinois: 1/25
#20 Yahya Thoams, Northwestern: 1/27
#6 Chad Red, Nebraska: 2/3
#11 Ryan Diehl, Maryland: 2/8
#12 Cole Weaver, Indiana: 2/15
#16 Tristan Moran, Wisconsin: 2/17
#4 Kaid Brock, Oklahoma St.: 2/24
Karam is a fringe top 25 wrestler who deserves some respect. Regardless, that’s a brutal run starting in mid-January through the remainder of the season. Whoever goes is going to have ample opportunity to climb the rankings and do so in a hurry. A few other possible linchpins that we may run into at the Midlands is All-American #7 Sa’Derian Perry (Old Dominion), #8 Josh Alber (UNI), and #9 Mason Smith (Arizona St.), to just name a few.
Six All-Americans return to this incredibly deep and talented weight class. #1 Yianni Diakomihalis (Cornell) is the returning champ and favored once again with #2 Joey McKenna (Ohio St.) and #3 Jaydin Eierman (Missouri) being the two likely to meet him in the finals. #5 Nick Lee (PSU) went on quite the run last year to earn AA status, but had a few stumbles throughout the year. He definitely isn’t invincible like some other guys in that PSU lineup. These lads are going to kick the hell out of each other and outside of the top 5 they are very beatable, which should open the door for a Hawkeye to walk in and medal. But they’re going to have to earn it.
Most believe Murin to get the nod, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Turk claim the starting spot with Happel left on the outside looking in. I see these two as a toss-up with perhaps Murin having a bit of a higher ceiling at the moment, but it’s whether or not he can put it all together as a redshirt freshman. Realistically, they will have to wrestle out of their minds and get a lot of help to place high in March, but with that being said they have a legit chance to AA. Anywhere from 6th to 8th. Whichever guy goes, Tom and Terry Brands will have them ready to rock in roll starting 11/9 in Kent, Ohio.
Murin wins the spot and takes 7th at the NCAA’s.