We recently capped off a perfect regular season with a perfect ending by obliterating the Oklahoma State Cowboys, 34-6. We end the dual season at 13-0 (9-0) as we begin to shift phases toward the post season. With the changing of scenery and the increased tension of the end in sight, we realize that we have to keep the momentum going in the proper direction. As was the case for a majority of the year, all ten of our wrestlers appear inside the top ten rankings of their individual weights, now it’s time to deliver on those numbers.
Spencer Lee is going to end the regular season exactly where he started it, at #1. He has a 15-0 record and has bonus points in 14 of those matches, including his most recent major decision over rival #4 Nick Piccininni (OKST).
Austin DeSanto has held steady in the top three all season and looks to be recovering from the knee injury he sustained during the dual with Penn State. All four of the top ranked wrestling in 133 are all from the Big Ten Conference. #1 Seth Gross (Wisc), #2 Roman Bravo-Young (PSU), #3 Austin DeSanto (IA), and #4 Sebastian Rivera (NW). Whoever comes out of the B1G tourney alive will more than likely receive the top seed for the NCAA’s.
Max Murin has been sitting in the top 3 for almost two months now. At the time it appeared to be from a battle of attrition, as in the guys above him losing and him simply staying alive. But now, we can confidently say he’s earned it and he’s wrestling like a #3 ranking should be. In back-to-back weeks he knocked off a returning All-American #5 Mitch McKee (Minn) and most recently majored #21 Dusty Hone (OKST). #1 Nick Lee (PSU) and #2 Luke Pletcher (OSU) are unquestionably in the top tier of this weight, but Murin is making a strong case to be the best of the rest. He’s wrestling damn good and deserves the accolades and recognition.
Pat Lugo is one loss to Sammy Sasso (OSU) away from being the unanimous #1 across the board. Lugo pinned #6 Boo Lewallen (OKST) over the weekend is wrestling perhaps the best we’ve ever seen him. I have to confirm this, but I read Lugo has only given up 3 takedowns on the year... which is truly amazing. He’ll snag the #2 seed for the B1G tourney, which could set up a rematch with Sasso in the finals. The winner of that could also earn the #1 seed for the NCAA’s.
Kaleb Young has slowly been trending in the wrong direction. He hasn’t found a bonus point win since the Midlands and has been wrestling way too close to the vest and it backfired on him against then #18 Wyatt Sheets (OKST). Despite the loss, KY only dropped a few notches in the rankings and still sits firmly as an All-American projection. There’s nobody in this class that he cannot beat, but he’s also proving that he can be beaten by anyone. Young stumbled down the stretch last year, as well, and took a couple losses in the B1G before turning it on when it really mattered. We’re hoping he can repeat that process.
Alex Marinelli and Michael Kemerer continue to roll and thus they’ve stayed the same. Marinelli had a tightly contested match against #7 Travis Wittlake (OKST) that saw very little offense by either guy, but The Bull was able to prevail. Theses are the types of mentally tough matches that he likely loses in the past. This was a good for him ahead of conference play and he passed it. On the other hand, Kemerer is dominating everyone in front of him. He’ll be the #1 seed for the B1G’s, which should set up a rematch in the finals with #2 Mark Hall (PSU).
Abe Assad hasn’t wrestled since his Feb. 2 loss to #7 Cam Caffey (MSU). Despite not seeing the mat lately he’s held steady in the rankings floating between #8 and #9. With the recent news that #1 Zahid Valencia (ASU) has been suspended indefinitely, this weight class has been turned on its head and is ripe for the taking. Valencia was the heavy favorite to run away with 184lbs, but now with his status firmly in question, well, you get the point.
Jacob Warner is wrestling the best we’ve ever seen him. With a couple solid wins and a couple losses by #4 Ben Darmstadt (Cornell) and #6 Patrick Brucki (Princeton), Warner has moved back over them in most rankings. If the rankings hold over the next two weeks, Warner could snag a #2 seed for the B1G’s.
Tony Cassioppi took consecutive losses to #1 Gable Steveson (Minn) and #2 Mason Parris (Mich), but losing to the only two guys above him didn’t hurt his ranking. Big Cass should stroll into the B1G’s with the #3 seed. It’s been a very solid year for our redshirt freshman who began the year at #11, per Flowrestling.
Not much has changed over the past couple of weeks. With the shifting of individual rankings, guys moving up and down, we’ve seen projected points change to a degree, but for the most part, it’s remained the same.
The biggest mover you’ll see is that of Arizona State. With Valencia’s suspension and future in doubt, they took a massive hit falling from #6 all the way to #14. That’s 20+ points that came off the board for them and unless Zahid is able to return for the Pac 12 tourney, they can kiss any hope of a team trophy goodbye.
I also want to draw your attention to the NWCA rankings that appeared back in mid-January. This is the ranking body that provides one criteria used for conference allocations (how many spots at each weight, per conference, auto qualify for the NCAA’s), qualifiers, and NCAA seeding. This is the only ranking system that truly matters, but with the large time gaps between updates, it’s hard to include them in posts like this.
The final rankings should be released Feb. 27.