Penn State will face two big tests this weekend in Illinois and Minnesota. With Wisconsin hamstrung by injury these will likely be the toughest matches left for Penn State. Both Illinois and Minnesota are dealing with a few injuries of their own which should greatly improve Penn State's chances especially against Minnesota, who will be without Sonny Yohn their very good 197 pounder.
Illinois is a solid team they don't have many names or rankings that jump out at you but they have very few weak weights. They will come to wrestle hard, there's a reason Penn State had a long losing streak against Illinois until a couple of years ago, they come to fight. I expect you may see a lot of Penn State guys held to decisions and in closer matches than what you may expect on paper. It should be a good exciting dual for the Rec Hall faithful.
The match on Sunday against Minnesota is a scary one. Minnesota after a down year is back and loaded with talent, as mentioned they'll likely be without Yohn but this is still a formidable team. Add in the strange travel arrangements where Penn State wrestles at home Friday then must fly to Minnesota for an early afternoon dual, and this has all the makings of an upset.
Friday vs #20 Illinois
125: #11 Brad Pataky / Nate Morgan vs Logan Arliss
Brad Pataky could be back this weekend but I suspect they won't risk his knee against Arliss who he should beat easily instead they'll likely wrestle him against Sanders to try and boost his seed at Big Tens. I think Morgan can beat Alriss, he's been wrestling well of late and Arliss quite frankly isn't that good. If Pataky were to wrestle expect a quick pin.
Nate Morgan by dec
133: #9 Andrew Long vs #7 BJ Futrell
This should be a great match up. Futrell will provide another chance to see if Long can handle the bump up to 133. I really thingk BJ is a great matchup for Long. He'll come after Long from the start which should give Long plenty of opportunities to score. This match will likely come down to who has the most gas left in the tank in the 3rd period. We'll get to see how good Long's conditioning is and if the Iowa match was a fluke or a sign for concern.
Long by decision
141: #7 Andrew Alton vs #4 Jimmy Kennedy
This is the 2nd of Alton's 3 straight matches against top 4 opponents. I think this is the best chance for Andrew to pick up a win. Like the previous match this a decent match up for Penn State . Kennedy isn't much of a mat rider, and he won't have a huge strength advantage over Andrew. Also Kennedy is coming back from injury so he may not be 100%. This match like the last one will hinge on if Alton can keep his lungs and avoid gassing like he did against Marion. Alton can't get head happy in this match, if he wrestles like he did against Nauman he can win. It will likely all come down to who gets the first takedown.
Alton by decision
149: #5 Frank Molinaro vs Eric Terrazas
Terrazas is a tough opponent and has been ranked several times through out the year, but this is a must win for Frank. With the lightweights not favored in most of the bouts it will be imperative for Frank to come out and get a big win. If Frank could finally break through and get a major against Terrazas it would be a solid statement win.
Molinaro by decision
157: #2 David Taylor vs Jackson Morse
Morse is a talented wrestler with good high school credentials, he could develop into a solid starter for Illinois, but he's not there yet. I think he'll put up a fight at least against, but Taylor will do what he does and were likely looking at big bonus points for Penn State.
Taylor by tech fall
165: Nick Fischer / Jake Kemerer vs Conrad Polz
Both Fischer and Kemerer have been wrestling about the same of late so it will be interesting to see with who the coaches go with. Either guy should be able to beat Polz but should and will are two completely different things. Whichever guy goes for Penn State can get a huge boost at the Big Ten tournament as far as seeding go with a win. Unfortunately I don't have much faith in either guy in a tight match right now and Polz has the experience edge.
Polz by decision
174: #2 Ed Ruth vs Ben Friedl
Friedl will bring some veteran experience into this match so I don't expect to see another blowout by Ruth. Quite simply though Ruth should win this match easily. As long as he doesn't suddenly forget how to wrestle he should win this match by a comfortable decision
Ruth by decision
184: #13 Quentin Wright vs Tony Dallago
Dallago is a central Pennsylvania product who had a good career on some really stacked Central Dauphin teams, but he should be no match for Quentin. Dallago will put up a fight though and should be able to push Quentin into the third period. I expect much like 174 this will be a comfortable lopsided decision for Wright who looked much better since taking off his shoulder harness last week, albeit against weak opposition.
Wright by decision
197: Justin Ortega / Nick Ruggear vs Joe Barczak
Barczak is a senior who comes in without much time in the starting lineup after waiting his turn beyond Patrick Bond for the past few years. He's done decently so far in his time in the starting lineup and should have no problems beating either of the Penn State 197 pound options.
Barczak by decision
Hwt: #6 Cameron Wade vs Pat Walker
Wade remains ranked 6th this week despite coming off a really terrible weekend wrestling wise. He'll take on Walker who comes in with a losing record and looks poised for a Wade beating. This should a be a good match for Wade to try and get himself back on track especially from the neutral position. I'm hopeful we'll see Wade get a couple of solid takedowns and put together some punishing rides from the top position en route to a decision win. I wouldn't be surprised to see Wade work that tilt/power half he does from the top position for the fall in this match.
Wade by decision
Final Score 26 Illinois 6
Obviously the final score prediction looks a little lopsided but don't forget that I have two upsets going in favor of Penn State. If those don't happen this could quickly tighten up, but baring and huge upsets against Penn State I can't see them losing to a solid but not outstanding Illinois team.
Sunday vs #5 Minnesota
125: #11 Brad Pataky / Nate Morgan vs #5 Zach Sanders
I think this will likely be the match we see Pataky this weekend. Cael has said he'd wrestle once and I think they need to see if he can possibly knock off Sanders to help seeding at Big Tens. He wants to be able to avoid Precin and McDonough for as long as possible at the tournament. Pataky matches up well with Sanders and they've had some great matches in the past but I just don't think Brad will be healthy enough to beat him this time around. This match also would concern me about Brad's knee as these two typically have had some crazy scrambles in the past. If Morgan does go expect big bonus for Minnesota at this weight probably a tech Sanders will put up points.
Sanders by decision
133: #9 Andrew Long vs David Thorn
Thorn is the younger brother of highly ranked 141 pounder Mike Thorn, but he has taken some lumps in his initial college campaign. But if he's anything like his brother he'll come right after Long and try to press the action. This is a bout Penn State must win, and bonus points would be a huge plus, but I see Long winning comfortably in the 5 point range.
Long by decision
141: #7 Andrew Alton vs #2 Mike Thorn
I know Cael said he thinks this is a good match up for Andrew and he can beat Thorn but I disagree. Of course I would expect the coach to say his wrestler can win. I think Kennedy is a much better match up for Andrew. Thorn is really aggressive, so there is a chance if he comes straight after Alton, Andrew may be able to throw him. But I think Thorn will wear Andrew down, with his relentless style. I also think Andrew's lack off mat wrestling ability will really hurt him in this one, as Thorn can be pretty tough on top.
Thorn by decision
149: #5 Frank Molinaro vs Danny Zilverberg
This is one of the few matches where Penn State comes in a heavy favorite along with 157. Frank needs to step up as a veteran leader on the team and pick up bonus points for the team. A 7 point decision could be a big blow for Penn State in this one. That being said Zilverberg isn't exactly a cupcake he'll give Frank a good fight, but I think Frank wins this match comfortably. I also hope I'm wrong but I think we see Frank win a 5 or 6 point decision with tons of riding time to spare.
Molinaro by decision
157: #2 David Taylor vs Matt Mincey
Mincey comes in at 10 and 5 on the year but he should be no match for Taylor who should once again put up big bonus points for Penn State. Top ranked Steve Fittery posted a 6 3 win against Darryl Cozzoco of Rutgers Wednesday night, a guy Taylor beat 13 3 earlier this year. So Taylor can make a bit of statement with two more big wins this weekend.
Taylor by major decision
165: Jake Kemerer / Nick Fischer vs #11 Cody Yohn
The coaches have said it's still up in the air as to who will start, although I suspect whoever starts Friday will get the nod again in this match. Cael has said he wants an aggressive high scoring 165 pounder which should give Fischer the edge, but I wouldn't rule out Jake. I think no matter who wrestles Yohn will win and probably easily. But I think Fisher and especially Kemerer are tough enough from neutral defensively to keep this to a regular decision loss.
Yohn by decision
174: #2 Ed Ruth vs #12 Scott Glasser
This will be a good chance for Ruth to establish himself as the clear favorite to win the Big Ten, if he can win big against Glasser. Glasser will be a tough opponent for Ruth but I don't think he's quite talented enough to beat him. But Ruth can not afford to give up any easy takedowns in this one. I think Ruth wins easily with a shot at a major for Penn State.
Ruth by decision
184: #13 Quentin Wright vs #9 Kevin Steinhaus
This should be a great match, and it will provide a good look at where Wright is at right now health and wrestling wise. Wright had two impressive performances last week but Steinhaus will be a huge step up in competition for him. I think Wright is far better than what he showed against Iowa and this will be his first chance to prove it. I think that match was a wake up call for him and he'll come out ready for this one. It's basically a hunch but I think Wright puts on a solid performance and wins this one comfortably by 4 or so points.
Wright by decision
197: Justin Ortega / Nick Ruggear vs Joe Nord
Sonny Yohn the normal Minnesota started isn't listed here but I wouldn't rule out seeing him this weekend if he wrestles I think he'll win by a major decision at least. Nord has been up and down for Minnesota this year and it seems this is a match Penn State could steal. But I have to give the edge to the experienced senior Nord.
Nord by decision
HWT: #6 Cameron Wade vs #8 Tony Nelson
Wade comes in slightly higher ranked but he certainly hasn't been wrestling like it lately. This match could be an early preview of the Big Ten finals in a few weeks. And it should be an interesting match, I think Nelson has the advantage from neutral but if Wade could get on top he should have a big advantage over the slightly smaller Nelson. I'm just not really confident right now with Wade with the way he's wrestled the past two matches and I think he drops one here.
Nelson by decision
Final Score Penn State 16 Minnesota 15
As you can tell this should be a close competitive bout. Currently the only separation is the bonus points picked up by Taylor. The good news is most of the swing matches I picked against Penn State with exception of 184, so if Penn State can pick up a win at 141 or heavyweight that will go a long way. Of course Minnesota could also pick up bonus at 125 and 197 depending on who wrestles. There are a lot of variables going into the match and quite honestly no result would surprise me from a lopsided Penn State win to a Minnesota win. The team has been rather quite this week as opposed to all the chatter before the Iowa match, I think they view this as a chance for redemption and to prove they deserve their ranking. I think we'll see a pretty good inspired effort on Sunday.