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Wrestling Preview: No. 3 Penn State at No. 12 Minnesota

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The Nittany Lions are back in dual action, on the road against the Gophers for their first Big Ten dual of the season!

2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships

Minnesota is an historical wrestling powerhouse - but some wrestlers were suspended earlier this year, and then J Robinson was fired. They have an interim head coach in Gopher alum Brandon Eggum, a three-time All American and two-time conference champ who’s been on staff since he left the mat itself in 2000; he’s led Minnesota to a 3-1 record (2-0 in-conference).

The Gophers already have narrow wins over Michigan and Michigan State and a blowout loss to Oklahoma State, in which a number of Minnesota grapplers didn’t participate. The best incentive in this dual, though? The last time the two squads met, Penn State was undefeated, en route to their fourth consecutive national title. Minnesota had one loss—and beat the Lions by one (via a questionable, in my humble opinion, loss by Zach Beitz) and split the conference dual meet title on the year.

This year should be different, despite some unknowns surrounding Minnesota’s lineup.

How To Watch

What: #3 Penn State vs. #12 Minnesota

Where: The Sports Pavilion, Minneapolis, MN

When: Friday, 1/6, 8 pm ET

Audio: Free, Jeff "Ironhead" Byers, via GoPSUSports

Video: BTN+

No. 3 Penn State WT No. 12 Minnesota

#3 - Nick Suriano (Fr., Paramus, NJ)

125

UR - Skyler Petry (So., Waterville, MN)

OR #6 - Ethan Lizak (So., Schnecksville, PA

#13 - Jered Cortez (So., Carol Stream, IL)

133

#16 – Mitch McKee (Fr., St Michael, MN)

#12 - Jimmy Gulibon (Sr., Latrobe, PA)

OR UR - Kade Moss (Jr., South Jordan, UT)

141

UR – Gannon Volk (So., Lakeville, MN)

OR #9 - Tommy Thorn (So., St. Michael, MN)

#1 - Zain Retherford (Jr., Benton, PA)

149

UR – Miles Patton (Fr., Rochester, MN)

OR UR - James Berg (Fr., New Prague, MN)

#1 - Jason Nolf (So., Yatesboro, PA)

157

#9 – Jake Short (Jr., Inver Grove Heights, MN)

#8 - Vincenzo Joseph (Fr., Pittsburgh, PA)

165

UR – Brandon Kingsley (Sr., Apple Valley, MN)

OR #14 - Nick Wanzek (Jr., Inver Grove Heights, MN)

UR - Geno Morelli (Sr., DuBois, PA)

OR #15 – Shakur Rasheed (So., Coram, NY)

174

#14 - Nick Wanzek (Jr., Inver Grove Heights, MN)

OR UR– Chris Pfarr (Jr., Le Sueur, MN)

#2 - Bo Nickal (So., Allen, TX)

184

UR– Bobby Steveson (Fr., Apple Valley, MN)

#11 - Matt McCutcheon (Jr., Apollo, PA)

197

#2 – Brett Pfarr (Sr., Le Sueur, MN)

#5 - Nick Nevills (So., Clovis, CA)

285

#8 – Michael Kroells (Sr., Belle Plaine, MN)

125 LBS - Match of the Meet #1

Suriano is still very good, and undefeated. And though the official release for this dual meet only lists Skyler Petry wrestling at this weight, after blazing through the lineup at the Southern Scuffle (and earning B1G wrestler of the week), Ethan Lizak is back after being suspended from the team until January 1, and entered the rankings this week at number 6. Lizak redshirted last season but was an NCAA qualifier in 2015. Lizak also beat Lehigh’s Darian Cruz by major, while Nick narrowly missed the bonus. But still, Suriano’s undefeated on the season, while Lizak has one loss (to Nebraska’s Lambert)—so I like Nick in a close one.

Prediction: Nick by Decision

Score: PSU 3, Minnesota 0

133 LBS

It sounds like Cortez wasn’t just sick - he’s been injured. I would be surprised if he comes out this week, especially against a ranked foe. Completely healed Jered would take this one (McKee, though ranked, was pinned at Michigan), but I think the Gopher is too much for our backup.

Prediction: McKee by Decision

Score: PSU 3, Minnesota 3

141 LBS - Match of the Meet #2

The last time in Minneapolis, Jimmy wrestled a very tough David Thorn very closely—only giving up two points on the day (an escape, and a riding time point). Jimmy’s bigger now, and though he’s an unknown according to Cael, he’s better than Volk. Is he better than David’s brother Tommy, though? Thorn is another one back from suspension, with his only action this year being at the Southern Scuffle (where he finished 7th). For some reason, I’m confident in Jimmy—but not sure I’m confident enough to pick him this week.

Prediction: Thorn by Decision

Score: PSU 3, Minnesota 6

149 LBS

Fredy Stroker announced on Thursday that he was leaving Minnesota in the middle of the season, looking to transfer immediately and not in-conference in order to compete right away. His backups are both fairly untested, though Patton did fill in for an injured Jake Short last year. Regardless, Stroker had a losing season on the year—and beat out both of these wrestlers. It’ll be a rude awakening for whomever steps out on the mat.

Prediction: Zain by Fall

Score: PSU 9, Minnesota 6

157 LBS

Jason Nolf is facing a ranked wrestler. Will it matter? Probably not. I expect Nolf to win easily, with bonus, but not a lot.

Prediction: Nolf by Major

Score: PSU 13, Minnesota 6

165 LBS - Match of the Meet #3

Nick Wanzek has bumped back down to 165 (where he was last year) as Chris Pfarr reentered the lineup, and all he did was get to fourth at the Southern Scuffle - his first outing back down. Cenzo, though, is also very good, bouncing back after his loss to Subjeck. This should be a close one, but Joseph should get it.

Prediction: Cenzo by Decision

Score: PSU 16, Minnesota 6

174 LBS

Wanzek moved back down, as stated above, for the younger Pfarr to come back onto the mat in dual meets. Pfarr is a big name, but I’m not sure Chris can get it done against either Sheed or Geno.

Prediction: Rasheed or Morelli by Decision

Score: PSU 20, Minnesota 6

184 LBS

Poor Steveson. He faces a Nickal on a tear, having had his streak of seven falls in a row snapped against Binghampton, where he only scored a major decision. He’ll go back to his old ways for his first match this week before a really tough opponent on Sunday.

Prediction: Bo by Pin

Score: PSU 26, Minnesota 6

197 LBS - Match of the Meet #4

Brett Pfarr has only one loss this season - to undisputed #1 J’Den Cox at the Scuffle, which ended in a 6-4 decision in favor of the Tiger, one of the few non-bonus point victories for Cox. Pfarr himself is a bonus point machine most outings, and though Mouse is doing much better bumping up a weight than many predicted preseason, the Gopher is a juggernaut. I think McCutcheon doesn’t give up bonus, but it doesn’t feel particularly close.

Prediction: Pfarr by Decision

Score: PSU 26, Minnesota 9

285 LBS - Match of the Meet #5

Nevills had been getting better by the week before the long break. Kroells finished second at the Scuffle with a great victory over Stanford’s Nathan Butler before losing to Duke’s ranked Jacob Kasper. The Minnesotan is a two-time All-American, and placed third at the Big Tens last year - this matchup will be a good gauge of how far Nick has come, and where he needs to go in order to make All-American this year. I think he’ll have prepped well.

Prediction: Nevills by Dec

Score: PSU 29, Minnesota 9