Ed: bumped for awesomeness, and because we could use some non-coaching search content, right?--CG
Although Cornell's Gabe Dean pulled off the upset of the year (with all due respect to Zain Retherford's win over 2x Champ Logan Stieber last month) when he upended Penn State's own 2x Champ Ed Ruth 7-4 in the finals, Penn State still finished with a dominant 25.5 point margin of victory over second place....Oklahoma State? Wait, wha??? I thought the mighty Minnesota Golden Gophers were shaping up to put forth the biggest challenge to PSU's fourth straight National Championship goals! They sure looked that way two weeks ago, before the competition heated up at the two major holiday tournaments. In the December 17 rankings roundup, Minnesota had 7 All-Americans ranked and they all averaged a Top-5 ranking. Remember, a 5th place finish would earn 10 points in Placement & Advancement points and that would bring Minnesota 70 points right there, without extra Placement points for finishing higher and without Bonus points.
But entrance into the Southern Scuffle, a tournament which has gotten more brutal each of the four years that Penn State has won it, can bring a bit of reality back into the rankings. Minnesota & PSU were neck-in-neck after Day 2 / Session I's quarterfinals. Minny had 8 semifinalists & Penn State had 7. What happened in that second session all but clinched the title for PSU. Penn State went 6-1 and Minnesota went 3-5 with 1 medical forfeit. Penn State sent Nico, Gulibon, Retherford, Taylor, Brown & Ruth into the finals, while only Schiller & Nelson won for Minnesota and Dardanes advanced when Cornell's Rob Koll MFF'd Villalonga. It was pretty much game over at that point. Worse for Minnesota's previously highly ranked studs, only Thorn & Storley battled back for 3rd place. Chris Dardanes lost again & finished 4th, Nick Dardanes got pinned in the finals (a beautiful usage of the new 'only a toe needs to be in bounds' rule by Mizzou's Drake Houdashelt), Ness got tech falled & then MFF'd for 6th place & 3 losses on his season and Steinhaus lost again & finished 5th. Nelson & Schiller went on to titles. Since I've found the whole thing so hilarious from a GoLOLphers standpoint, here is Minnesota's new rankings chart first (here's the link to all four on the spreadsheet):
Storley, Schiller & Nelson remain unchanged after their Scuffle performances, but 133 through 157 & Steinhaus at 184 all dropped. Before the Scuffle, when Ness was undefeated, most services had him as the clear #3 behind DSJ & Dieringer at 157. After a pin, a tech fall and the MFF, he's averaging 8th place and 5.5 points, instead of the 13.5 he had been earning at 3rd place. As a team, Minnesota went from 108 projected points to 90 this week. How realistic are those? I'd guess Thorn, Ness & Steinhaus are likely to place higher than their new average ranks, and the Dardanes' together are probably about right in the wild 141 & 149 weight classes. 174 seems to have settled into a consistent heirarchy, but Storely is really very close to Kokesh & Brown, so he could improve some. And I remain underwhelmed by Schiller, although the 197 Scuffle field was tough and nobody stepped up to unseat him. Minnesota will still very much be in the national championship race, but it looks like they're going to be more dangerous in the Big Ten Tourney.
But back to the good guys, what did we learn? Going 2-4 in the finals isn't going to set any records at Nationals (and didn't at the Scuffle either: Penn State finished with 189 points and the Scuffle's high score was 193 set by Minnesota in 2001). Wrestling boards are generally far more reliable for 'inside sources' than football ones (especially football coaching searches!), mostly because of the smallness of wrestling communities, so I don't have any problem believing this guy's post that Nico, Vollrath & Ruth were all sick heading into the Scuffle. The latter two certainly pass the sniff test, based on what I observed on the mat (and that's not to take a single thing away from the excellent tourney Dean had knocking off Steinhaus and Ruth and winning the OW). Nico's got a big hurdle to climb in Nahshon yet (still not betting against him) and Gulibon didn't appear to stand a chance against Okie's giant 133 pounder, and even though Chris Perry looked way better than he did at nationals last year, Matt Brown's not that far behind. Taylor & Ruth both remain great bets to earn titles again. zPain will have some very close battles, but he's becoming more and more proven and is now a very solid bet for a Top-3 finish in March. I'll even call it a win for Big Jimmy to have gotten out from under Nelson in p2 and not giving up the riding time point. Would have loved to see him get another chance at Ohio's Jeremy Johnson (who MFF'd in the 3rd place bout), but what are you gonna do? Let's see that chart!
The Altons have started to wrestle some matches. Dylan went 2-0 at the Wilkes Open a week ago and 4-0 at the F&M Open this past weekend, before being pulled from each in planned MFFs. Andrew went 3-0 at the Wilkes, but was sick and unable to compete at the F&M. As such, AWN is now ranking them. GAH & D1CW still went with Frey & Vollrath in this week's ranks, but all 6 services are now ranking Gulibon and not Conaway. For averages, PSU is only clocking in at 6 projected All-Americans, but 5 of them are ranked in the Top-3, with McIntosh hanging onto 8th place by a hair after his mediocre Scuffle performance. Overall, I think that chart looks about right. The Altons have the meat of the B1G dual schedule to start climbing and PSU's two weakest weights saw some definite improvements last week, as Gulibon & Lawson finished 2nd & 3rd respectively. Both of those classes are absolutely loaded with talent, but our guys are starting to show there's decent hope for them to crack the Top-8. Lots more to come these next two months, and it's gonna be fun to watch.
While Penn State was dominating the Scuffle and Minnesota was choking, Oklahoma State had a very nice, if quiet, 2nd place performance with 3 champs, a 2nd & a 3rd. They even got two 5ths & a 7th out of their bottom half. Meanwhile, Iowa absolutely stomped the weaker field at the 51st Midlands--by an 85 point margin over second place Edinboro. Penn State & Iowa's finals performances were eerily similar, as Iowa went 3-4 in their 7 finals matches. I'd think this take by bscaff fits both squads: 'PSU wins, nearly setting the points record against an awfully tough field. But just about everyone leaves a little pissed off.' Iowa did actually break its own Midlands points record, but the sentiment was shared by our friends at the Pants. Charts:
Iowa is actually leading the rankings projected points race at this juncture of the season, with 94. They project the same number of All-Americans as Minnesota, but have an average rank, across all ten weight classes, of 7.5, to Minny's 9.7. (PSU averages the highest of the contenders at 7.2). Midlands likely brought about a few changes in the Hawkeyes lineup and certainly changed the way the services rank them, as Thomas Gilman & Nathan Burak have now joined the ranks. And don't look now, but Iowa has a ranked 149 pounder in Brody Grothus! His 4th place finish at Midlands (to redshirting Hawk freshman Brandon Sorensen) got the attention of the services, and while he's not projected to score but a point or two with that ranking average, chances of Iowa qualifying and actually sending a wrestler to nationals at that bugaboo of a weight definitely increased. Gilman's big Midlands wins over Delgado & Garnett (en route to the 125 pound title) suggest he's ranked pretty accurately in the chart. Moore, Lofthouse, Evans & Telford look pretty accurate as well, while Ramos, Jeeva & Burak are more likely to finish higher than their current averages. I think Penn State still has too much top end firepower, but Iowa is definitely going to make things interesting. The B1G tourney is likely to be more closely contested than nationals, like it was three years ago.
Oklahoma State's 5 projected AAs are all elite Top-3, but their bottom five won't come close to scoring enough points to keep them in the national title race conversation with the other three, and the current ranking averages agree with that. Additionally, their 4 #2-ranked wrestlers all have very, very tough roadblocks to surmount for them to come home with even one titlist. Still, they have enough good wrestlers that they can very much affect the outcome of the team race with performances against the Top-3. When the pre-seeds come out in March, we'll have a better idea which Cowboys we'll have to swallow our pride to cheer for.
But way before that, we'll get to see the okie pokes in some great dual meet action, starting this Friday when they travel to Carver Hawkeye Arena for a battle with the Hawks, streamed live on btn.com at 8p. Check out these matchups (average ranks used)!
125 #4 Gilman vs #23 Klimara
133 #4 Ramos vs #2 Morrison
141 #11 Jeeva vs #16 Collica
149 #19 Brothus vs #4 Kindig
157 #1 DSJ vs #2 Dieringer
165 #5 Moore vs #2 Caldwell
174 #6 Evans vs #2 Perry
184 #4 Lofthouse vs #24 Boyd
197 #18 Burak vs #15 Rosholt
HWT #3 Telford vs #15 Marsden