Wednesday, August 17

Around the Big Ten | How Penn State wrestling stacks up ahead of Big Ten, NCAA Tournament


Across collegiate athletics, many conferences are regarded for their dominance in certain sports.

The SEC is known for its prowess in football and baseball among others, the ACC for soccer and basketball, and the Pac-12 for men’s volleyball, cross country and depth in other sports.

The Big Ten has a stranglehold on a number of sports, including women’s volleyball, field hockey, but most prominently, the Big Ten is the clear powerhouse in wrestling.

Looking across the wrestling rankings, every weight class is littered with Big Ten athletes near the top.

In total, the Big Ten has 45 athletes in the top 10 across all 10 weight classes with a considerably larger number of athletes in the top 15.

With the regular season coming to a close, the Big Ten hosts the two clear favorites to take home the NCAA team title in Penn State and Iowa.

However, before these two teams compete in Detroit for an NCAA championship, they must first clash at the Big Ten Tournament.

While the Big Ten Tournament may still be several weeks away, many teams are closing out their seasons in strong fashion, building up to what could be one of the most exciting tournaments in some time.

After falling to Penn State in what was unquestionably the dual of the year, Iowa has bounced back well, hammering Wisconsin by a significant margin.

The Hawkeyes are set to take on a struggling Oklahoma State team on Saturday that, at one time, looked like it could contend for an NCAA title.

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Unlike Penn State, Iowa still has a wrestler ranked at every weight class and has the talent to give the blue and white a run for its money.

A second team axed on its home mat by Penn State, Michigan has also closed out the season well, winning four straight after its loss to Cael Sanderson’s squad.

The Wolverines are still ranked third in Intermat’s tournament power rankings and should have a respectable shot at placing highly at the NCAAs, but competing for a national title looks like it could be out of the question for the maize and blue.

However, Michigan does have two athletes Penn State fans will certainly be paying attention to in Nick Suriano, a former Nittany Lion and current No. 1-ranked wrestler at 125 pounds, and Myles Amine, who narrowly lost to Aaron Brooks in one of the top matches of the year.

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Over this past summer, Natalie Heising was faced with a major decision.

Next in the tournament power rankings for the Big Ten is Ohio State at No. 6.

The Buckeyes, like every other team who’s faced off with Penn State, were defeated with relative ease.

Since then, the Buckeyes narrowly defeated Rutgers in a match that came down to the final bout to determine a winner.

While not a team-title contender, Ohio State does have a reasonable shot at claiming two individual titles with Sammy Sasso at 149 pounds and Carson Kharchla at 165 pounds.

Following the top-four teams, a tight race between Nebraska, Minnesota and Rutgers exists for the team that could claim fifth at the Big Ten championships.

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Minnesota has already defeated Nebraska this season in a tight dual, besting the Cornhuskers 19-13, while Rutgers hasn’t faced either Minnesota or Nebraska.

Scarlet Knights currently have six athletes ranked, with two of those wrestlers sitting inside of the top 10, compared to Minnesota and Nebraska, who each have eight ranked wrestlers.

Minnesota does have one clear title favorite in Olympic gold medalist Gable Steveson at heavyweight, while Nebraska lacks an individual-title contender on its roster.

All three teams have fairly complete squads overall, with Golden Gophers with a slight edge come Big Tens if its roster is healthy.

Health will also be an important factor to watch as the Big Ten Tournament grows nearer.

Injuries have plagued the conference for much of the season with big names like Spencer Lee, Nick Lee, Roman Bravo-Young, Michael Kemerer and many others missing time this season already.

Just weeks away from the tournament, Penn State saw Brady Berge, Carter Starocci and Max Dean all absent from its lineup, and saw Greg Kerkvleit appear to tweak his hamstring during his match on Sunday against Nebraska, according to Sanderson.

Still, with several weeks left to go before the Big Ten Tournament, fans will be left waiting until the true fireworks of the 2021-22 season begin to go off.

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In college athletics, players come and players go.

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