This was the dual meet I missed the most last year. A thorough beat down the last time the Nittany Lions faced Michigan, this dual looks to be much closer (ala the 2015 dual in Ann Arbor, though with a full, non-redshirting PSU roster). The Wolverines are a very good team this year, one of a number at the top of not only the conference but the nation, and post a pretty good record this year - with one blip, a loss at Lehigh, a venue that was oh-so-close to taking out Penn State as well.
This is the first road dual of the Big Ten slate for the Lions, and easily the most difficult as PSU takes on Ohio State, Iowa, and Minnesota all at home. This seems the most likely to trip up the squad will face this season - and though Penn State has won six straight duals against Michigan, this will be a good test before the meat of the rest of their schedule.
How To Watch
What: #1 Penn State vs #7 Michigan*
Where: Cliff Keen Arena, Ann Arbor, MI
When: Friday, 1/12, 9pm
Audio: Free, Jeff "Ironhead" Byers, via GoPSUSports
Video: BTN (an actual tv station!)
|No. 1 Penn State||WT||No. 7 Michigan|
|No. 1 Penn State||WT||No. 7 Michigan|
|Devin Schnupp (Fr., Lititz, PA)||125||#15 - Drew Mattin (Fr., Delta, OH)|
|Corey Keener (Sr., Schuylkill Haven, PA)||133||#6 - Stevan Micic (So., Cedar Lake, IN)|
|Luke Gardner (Fr., Pottsville, PA) OR Jered Cortez (Jr., Carol Stream, IL)||141||Sal Profaci (So., Monroe Township, NJ)|
|#1 - Zain Retherford (Sr., Benton, PA)||149||Malik Amine (Jr., Brighton, MI)|
|#1 - Jason Nolf (Jr., Yatesboro, PA)||157||#5 - Alec Pantaleo (Jr., Canton, MI)|
|#1 - Vincenzo Joseph (So., Pittsburgh, PA)||165||#5 - Logan Massa (So., St Johns, MI)|
|#2 - Mark Hall (So., Apple Valley, MN)||174||#6 - Myles Amine (So., Brighton, MI)|
|#1 - Bo Nickal (Jr., Allen, TX)||184||#5 - Dominic Abounader (Sr., Gates Mills, OH)|
|Anthony Cassar (So., Rocky Hill, NJ) OR #10 Shakur Rasheed (Jr., Coram, NY) OR Matt McCutcheon (Sr., Apollo, PA)||197||#11 - Kevin Beazley (Sr., Highland, MI)|
|#3 - Nick Nevills (Jr., Clovis, CA)||285||#2 - Adam Coon (Sr., Fowlerville, MI)|
Is the newest edition to the PSU wrestling room, former Boise State wrestler Carson Kuhn, ready to suit up against the Wolverines this week? Eh, likely not. Which leaves Devin Schnupp, who got his first win of the season a few weeks ago at the Keystone Classic, but has been silent since. Unfortunately for Devin, his opponent looks to be closer to Darian Cruz’s level (if you remember, the PSU grappler was pinned by the reigning national champ) than Schnupp’s. Like most dual meets this year, this weight is the home team’s best shot at some bonus on the day.
Prediction: Martin by Major Decision
Score: PSU 0, Michigan 4
Keener, above all else (and including Cassar’s robbing by the refs), had the most disappointing Southern Scuffle, going 3-2 behind a difficult draw that saw him take on Poke Gary Wayne Harding (is it me, or is that a serial killer name?) in the second round. He’s due for a rebound, as I still firmly believe he deserves to be ranked, and will make a run at the podium come March. He doesn’t have the firepower, really, of Micic, but he should hang. I think the Wolverine gets it in the end, but it’s still within a takedown in the last minute.
Prediction: Micic by Decision
Score: PSU 0, Michigan 7
Jered Cortez’s Scuffle ended early due to an injury - heartbreaking for a wrestler who lost much of the last season due to a separate injury. Noticeably absent from the ORs in this one, though, is freshman phenom Nick Lee, who had a remarkable run in the Scuffle before letting his opponent reverse and pin him in the finals - something he’ll no doubt learn from, and grow into a better wrestler. In his place as the listed backup is Luke Gardner, who hasn’t been on the mat since the Keystone Classic, where he wrestled at 149 - but he’s back listed, at a lower weight. Profaci, by contrast, is facing PSU in a dual for the first time in his redshirt sophomore seasons, with losses to grapplers from Purdue and Navy, amongst other more understandable ones. This should be close - but I’ve got a gut feeling about Penn State here.
Prediction: PSU wrestler by Decision
Score: PSU 3, Michigan 7
It took the flu and a raucous home crowd in the electrifying Carver Hawkeye Arena to almost take Zain down a year ago. This match will not be like that.
Prediction: Zain by Pin
Score: PSU 9, Michigan 7
Do you guys remember last year when Nolf came out and decked then-and-still-#2 Michael Kemerer two times in the year, decisions where it felt like nothing Kemerer could do would get him the win and it was simply him trying to not get bonused, and there was such a gulf between the PSU wrestler and the rest of the field? Yeah, that, except Pantaleo, though good (despite being pinned by Zain two years ago) is not Kemerer. This will be fun.
Prediction: Nolf by Tech Fall
Score: PSU 14, Michigan 7
165 LBS - Match of the Meet #1
These two wrestlers have only met one time before, in the NCAA semifinals when the third seeded Cenzo controversially took down Massa before upending IMar in the finals. Massa hasn’t had quite as good a year as last, when he was one of the top four wrestlers of the weight in the nation as well as the conference. His last match, the quarters of the Cliff Keen Vegas Invitational, saw him lose pretty handily to Wisconsin frosh Evan Wick; he hasn’t been on the mat again due to injury. It would be easy to count him out, but Cenzo has been battling injuries himself - and I just see an early loss motivating Cenzo for the rest of the season (much like last year). Home mat advantage and average officiating give it to the guy out for revenge.
Prediction: Massa by Decision
Score: PSU 14, Michigan 10
The youngest of the Amine brothers is inarguably the best wrestler, and he’s a previous All American and ranked in the top ten. But this is Mark Hall, undersized for his weight but quick as hell and funky and hard to take down. This one won’t be as close as the score, as Hall may barely scrape by on the scoreboard but it won’t ever feel like Myles is going to take it from the reigning champ.
Prediction: Hall by Decision
Score: PSU 17, Michigan 10
Bo isn’t quite as dominant as his lower-weight counterparts, Nolf and Retherford (who are one and two in NCAA’s just-released most pins list) - he’s only top ten, with only one regular decision (against Lehigh’s Preisch in a bout that never really felt in doubt despite the one point differential). Abounader missed out on being an All-American due to injuries that kept him out of the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments last year, but is a very good wrestler and would have been a good additional challenge to Bo in the brackets last year. But this is Bo, so the question is whether it’ll go all seven minutes; my money says Dom stays off his back, doesn’t let Bo get into his crazy throws and funk, and keeps it to a decision (barely).
Prediction: Bo by Decision
Score: PSU 20, Michigan 10
197 LBS - Match of the Meet #2
Speaking of the NCAA’s most dominant list, holy hell, Shakur Rasheed! The reigning Southern Scuffle champ hasn’t wrestled attached in a dual meet this season, but has been darn impressive in unattached showings. He’ll have to fight off Cassar, who the coaches just love and has great upside, and last year’s starter Matt McCutcheon. What an embarrassment of riches at one weight. Whoever it is will be facing veteran Beazley, a two-time NCAA qualifier at ODU who transferred to Ann Arbor this year and is having his best season yet. Whoever PSU puts out there, though, should have an advantage, if only because of who they face in the room.
Prediction: PSU wrestler by Decision
Score: PSU 23, Michigan 10
Remember when I said that Keener had the most disappointing Scuffle? Maybe that wasn’t 100% correct. Nick Nevills came into the tourney the #3 ranked wrestler in the nation, seeded first, and looking to dominate this year (except against maybe all-amazing-everything Kyle Snyder) and instead fell to fourth, even losing his final match to now-#7 Stanford wrestler Nathan Butler. This dropped him in the rankings, and had him lose a little luster. Up next, unfortunately, is senior Adam Coon, who burst onto the scene four years ago as a freshman in ‘14 when he defeated defending national champ Tony Nelson. He redshirted last year due to injury, but Coon still seems to be on another level, an NCAA runner up as a sophomore and third in ‘16 behind the aforementioned Snyder and NLWC sometime training partner Nick Gwiazdowski. He’ll be, on paper, the only threat to Snyder’s dominance now that Wisconsin’s Conor Medbery has exhausted his eligibility - and Nevills got owned by the latter last year. This’ll be close as Nick’s ride has gotten better this year, but I just think Coon is too good.
Prediction: Coon by Decision
Score: PSU 23, Michigan 13
*The Penn State athletic department, in its official capacity, uses Intermat Tournament Rankings in all its match literature; in those rankings, Penn State is #2 and Michigan is #4. I’m using Intermat’s Dual Meet rankings because, a) this happens to be a dual meet, and b) it’s a better ranking for the Nittany Lions.