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Penn State - Michigan Wrestling Q&A With Bloodround’s Tommy B.

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The undefeated Wolverines come to town Friday night to take on the undefeated Nittany Lions in the BJC, so we invited our Michigan bro to carve it up and talk some wrestling.

Cael, Casey and Dan Monthly are all leaning in to see what we have to say. Cael seems responsibly skeptical.
Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com

College wrestling fans have been disappointed and let down this year, as tons of potential must-see matchups have dissipated before the wrestlers ever reached the mat. Whether that’s been due to injury, illness or a form of postseason seed-protection strategy that the wrestling boards refer to as “ducking,” this year the missed matchups phenomenon feels particularly acute.

But we can’t lose hope. Or hype. Who wants to live in a world without wrestling wrestling to look forward to?

Not this fan!

So as Penn State heads into the two toughest duals of its season, I reached out to the fine fellows at Bloodround for some hyped wrestling talk about undefeated Penn State playing wrestling host to undefeated Michigan, tomorrow night in the Bryce Jordan Center. Live on the Big Ten Network at 7p.

For Penn State fans who don’t yet know, Bloodround is a weekly podcast during which two self-described knuckleheads from Michigan simply talk wrestling, in all its shapes and forms. Its founders and hosts are Tommy Baranoski and Kevin Claunch, and links to their podcast and all their content can be found at bloodround.com.

We had planned to do the split post thing, where half was hosted here and the other half at Bloodround, but life in both Virginia and Michigan got in the way. But like the stud wrestlers who inspire us on the reg, we pushed through life’s adversity, and continued to move forward.

Jp: Tommy B., welcome! How are things?

Tommy: Things are fantastic! A lot of wrestling to talk about this time of year, at all levels, and you got to love it.

Jp: For some of our readers who haven’t listened to you guys yet, can you tell us a little bit of background on your own wrestling histories, how you decided to create a podcast, and some of the steps you took to get it off the ground.

Tommy: I grew up with wrestling, with my dad being a high school head coach. I have wrestled, officiated, and coached in some combination since I was five. Kevin and I were fans of podcasts and would talk about how there wasn’t a podcast of just two guys talking Wrestling (and other various topics) each week.

Finally, one day we took the leap, and at first were surprised when 20 people would listen.

It’s a lot of fun to see it grow.

Jp: Last Friday night, your Wolverines avenged a close 2018 loss to the hated Buckeyes of Ohio State. A loss which accompanied a bet, which resulted in you guys wearing Ohio State singlets to one session of the Big Ten Tournament. I had the pleasure then of trekking to Michigan, meeting you in real life to join in on your bipartisan party bus between Grand Rapids and East Lansing, and of grabbing this pic of your bet loss for posterity.

Pictured: Tommy (left) & Kevin, flanked by hosts of The Inside Trip Podcast and Ohio State fans, Ben (left) and Brandon.

Was there anything at stake in Friday’s contest, a 19-17 Michigan win?

Tommy: Nope, no wager this year. It was funny, but worse than the wearing of the singlet was not having any pockets and then peeing in the restroom straps down.

Jp: Ha! Thankfully, I managed to avoid being an eyewitness to that scene.

Ok, let’s get into this dual. As always, we find it helpful to visit our friends at Wrestlestat to leverage their awesome Dual Comparison tool, to get detailed historical results vs common opponents and head-to-head.

125 #15 Drew Mattin (11-5) or Austin Assad (8-4) vs Devin Schnupp (6-10)

Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com

1. What’s the difference between Mattin & Assad? Will they both travel, and who is more likely to go vs Schnupp?

Tommy: Assad is two years older and was the planned starter last season. However, after they split wrestle-off matches, Assad went out for the season, for the second year in a row. The previous year’s injury caused Conor Youtsey to famously come out of retirement.

Assad is a freestyle guy with excellent summer performances, including winning two Fargo titles, and placing at U23 nationals, while Mattin did not, in the same bracket. That’s not to say Assad can’t have folkstyle success. He actually took 6th at the Southern Scuffle unattached as a true freshman. Mattin is an excellent scrambler and top wrestler as a true sophomore.

For the first time, they are both currently healthy. With how different their styles are, it’s tough to compare them. And with Mattin’s win Friday night in Columbus, and that he majored Schnupp 8-0 in the dual last year, it would be surprising to see Assad this Friday.

2. What’s a reasonable finish at Nationals this year for your guy?

Tommy: I think both guys could find themselves alive in the tournament on Friday night and then you never know.

Jp: While the drama surrounding this weight for PSU has continued almost nonstop since Nick Suriano injured his foot in February of 2017, Devin Schnupp has quietly gone out and done his thing. Last year, his thing was going 1-14 and only giving up bonus points in 4 of those 14 losses. This year, after putting on a bit more size and lots of work in the room, his improvement is palpable. And frankly, it’s been pretty exciting for Penn State fans typically accustomed to elite dominance, to get to watch an undersized and often overmatched wrestler employ the effort-based principles of the coaching staff and bring us all along for a ride on his improvement trajectory.

Also this year, the results are beginning to appear, just like Cael teaches! He’s 6-10 on the year, with only 4 bonus losses. After getting majored by Wisconsin’s Connor Brown on 1/13, he’s held Nebraska’s Zeke Moisey and Purdue’s Devin Schroder to 6-1 and 5-2 decisions, respectively. Then on Sunday, he turned the tables completely, on Elijah Oliver’s backup, Liam Cronin (16-11 on the season), and walked away with his first career Big Ten dual meet win.

He’s still a longshot to qualify for Nationals at the Big Ten tourney, depending on eventual conference allocation counts for the weight, but he’s definitely changing the conversation.

3. Dual Prediction?

Tommy: Mattin by decision.

I like Schnupp’s fight. With RBY’s injury, if Mattin could get his top game going with some legs and a power half, a tech or a pin would be the kind of swing Michigan needs to steal this dual. So, potentially a big moment in the dual.

Jp: Mattin by Decision.

133 #1 Stevan Micic (9-0) vs #15 Roman Bravo-Young (15-2) or TBD Replacement

Stevan Micic is a confident man.
Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com
Is Roman Bravo-Young healthy enough to wrestle Micic with this much swagga?
Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com

1. Micic beat #6 Luke Pletcher on Friday, 14-1. Did it look as dominant as the score indicates?

Tommy: Pletcher doesn’t have many losses at 133, and I can’t remember seeing him look as pedestrian. That’s meant to be a compliment to Micic and not a knock at Pletcher.

It was an incredible performance.

2. Is 133 the deepest, toughest weight in the country this year? Put another way: how awesome will the Quarterfinals be on Friday morning in Pittsburgh?

Tommy: There have been some wild results in recent weeks. I think it’s possible Micic is a head above this field though, although that might be homerism speak. I honestly feel Pletcher, Desanto, Gomez, and Lizak are a step behind. Maybe Suriano and Fix can slow Micic down on their feet.

There should be plenty of fascinating matchups early and often in Pittsburgh.

Jp: Oh, hell yes. Even with returning National Champion Seth Gross on the shelf from injury this year (and rumored to maybe possibly do a grad transfer to follow his former SDSU coach Chris Bono to Wisconsin, pending being granted a likely 6th year of NCAA eligibility), this field is littered with studs. The weight’s newcomers alone are fierce: OkSt’s Daton Fix, Rutgers’ Suriano, Pitt’s Micki Phillipi, PSU’s Bravo-Young, Iowa State’s Austin Gomez. Added to the returning AA’s Tariq Wilson, Austin Desanto (in new digs at Iowa), Pletcher, Lizak.

It’s pretty sick just reading the names in the Top-20.

3. Dual Prediction?

Tommy: Micic should dominate whoever Cael throws out there. If Michigan can start off the dual (assuming it starts at 125) with more than 10 points, it should be fun to put a little heat in the seats of the fans at the BJC.

Jp: RBY injured his knee on Friday against Purdue, finished the bout and took the L to #14 Ben Thornton, 7-3. Cael has a couple 133’s on the roster, but none who traveled with the team on the road trip, so he forfeited to Indiana on Sunday. Back home now, he has a few options. RSJR Scott Stossel is 3-4 on the year, RSFR Austin Clabaugh is 1-2, and RSJR Patrick Higgins hasn’t wrestled at all this year.

At Tuesday’s press conference, Cael had this to say about Bravo-Young’s recovery:

“We want him in the lineup obviously. The more matches he gets, the more experience, the better. And Friday, with Micic, he’s very, very good. So, that’s a guy we’d like him to get a feel for.”

When asked in a follow-up question if it can be a day-of decision, Cael answered:

“Oh yeah. Yeah. It just depends. Some kids get better and heal faster than others. He’s really responded very well and he’s doin pretty darn good, actually. So there’s a pretty good chance he’ll be ready to roll.”

All that throws a big wrench into my prediction, because I think the world of RBY. He’s lightning quick, hasn’t been ridden or turned, and has done plenty of both to his early opponents. His only weaknesses so far have been getting his arms caught over his head against Gomez’ double underhooks (and getting decked) and his proclivity for attempting aerial acrobatics after giving up a single leg.

But how “ready to roll” is he?

Plus, that Micic-Pletcher score!

Let’s go with Micic by Decision.

141 #5 Kanen Storr (17-3) vs #7 Nick Lee (19-1)

Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com
Nick Lee gets his hand raised after winning his first Southern Scuffle title, over one of his toughest competitors this year, Stanford’s true freshman, Real Woods.
Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com

1. #2 Joey McKenna beat Storr on Friday, 18-3 (6:10). Same question: did it look as dominant as the score indicates?

Tommy: Another shocker from the dual in Columbus!

Pletcher & Storr came in ranked 6th and 5th, respectively, and got destroyed. Storr only had two 1-point, razor sharp losses on the year before Friday. McKenna might be that good this year. He lost on riding time 1-0 to Meredith in the semi-finals and to Stieber at Final X. Outside of that, the last 12 months has him just getting his hand raised.

2. You guys said on this week’s episode that McKenna looked capable of knocking off Cornell’s reigning champ, Yianni Diakomihalis. What’s the rest of the 141 podium look like to you?

Tommy: There are so many guys again for only eight spots. You have guys ranked in the top ten right now that are proven dangerous commodities including All-Americans Perry & Red, Kaid Brock, Ian Parker (Iowa State), and whomever Iowa decides on in March. I don’t think enough people are talking about Carr (Illinois). I think he can beat anyone.

Jp: This is a really fun weight for both teams, as its tier structure seems to have pretty firm demarcation lines. I personally had wondered how close to Tier 1 Storr might be, but McKenna seems to have answered that pretty firmly. Which gives me pause, because I’m still hopeful slash expectant that Nick Lee can still take him. Lee has big matches still coming against both McKenna and Illinois’ Mikey Carr, who beat him in the B1G Semis last year.

If we know that McKenna and Storr are in separate tiers, is Nick Lee in McKenna’s tier or Storr’s tier? Or in a separate one in between?

I’ll say Carr, Ian Parker, Sa’Derian Perry and Josh Alber, in some order 5th through 8th. Behind Yianni, McKenna, Eiermann & Nick Lee, in some order.

3. Dual Prediction?

Tommy: Damn, there are so many interesting matches in this dual. I love the continued improvement of Lee. Tough duty for Storr as you had a tough loss in Columbus follow-up by going into the BJC.

I think Storr can out-veteran him with a scramble and win the 3-2 match.

Jp: I haven’t seen Storr wrestle yet this year. But I’ve watched Nick Lee continue to showcase his superior gas tank and attack mindset a bunch this year. I’d be surprised if Tristan Moran, Lee’s only conqueror so far this year, can repeat that result if they meet again. Lee is improving from bottom, riding harder on top, and in neutral his leg attacks are coming, regardless of period.

Lee by Decision.

149 #11 Brady Berge (14-2) vs Malik Amine (7-4)

Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com
Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com

1. #3 Micah Jordan beat Amine by Major Decision on Friday, 17-4. Did it look as dominant as the score indicates (feel the theme!)?

Tommy: It did.

It had to be a welcome feeling for Micah after losing to Pantaleo three times last season.

(ed note)

2. This is the eldest Amine’s last year of eligibility; can he finally make the podium in this cleared-out weight this year? Any other Dark Horse candidates to join or replace him?

Tommy: Malik had a great win over Maruca in the Arizona State dual, but has yet to string those kind of positive results together. Ben Lamantia has a couple dual wins in January and is a guy who always will battle. I imagine it’s Malik who will keep getting the majority of the opportunities though, injuries permitting.

Jp: Tommy Thorn? It’s an odd season when a Thorn bro is considered a dark horse. How bout the Soufrican from Stanford, Requir van der Merwe? He wrestled tough at the Scuffle.

3. Dual Prediction?

Tommy: Will we see Berge? Verkleeren and Berge both seem to wrestle things closely so I have to imagine it’s a decision for Penn State no matter what combination of the four possible guys we see here.

Jp: Yes, Berge’s head-to-head result at the Keystone, along with his superior finish at the Scuffle (3rd, to Verk’s R12 fizzle) are the public pieces of evidence that Berge’s the presumed “starter” and likely PSU representative in March. Additionally, Cael said on Tuesday “yeah, we just wanted to give him a weekend off, so, nothing’s wrong with him at all.”

Amine’s a scrapper, we know, so this should be a good fight. Berge’s been, in many ways, a typical freshman. He’s working on his attacking mindset, trying to learn how to turn on top, sometimes struggling to get out on bottom. He’s also working what looks like a pretty taxing weight cut, so that he can use this eligibility year actually competing (he already redshirted last year), before bumping up to replace Jason Nolf next year.

Still, his fundamentals are solid and his effort has been there. Cael mentions his mindset almost every time he talks about Berge and adds that he’s done everything they’ve asked of him. All the tools and coaching and mindset and effort are in place for Berge to succeed--this year, and I suspect after a weekend off last week, we’ll see them all come together in an impressive performance tomorrow night.

Berge by Decision.

157 #1 Jason Nolf (18-0) vs #5 Alec Pantaleo (11-4)

Yes, Jason Nolf is #1 and has been for a long time.
Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com
Will Alec Pantaleo need prayers to improve on his 6-4 loss performance from last year?
Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com

1. Based on that 3-2 score against #6 Ke-Shawn Hayes on Friday, I’m not interested in hearing about that match. Instead, what is Pantaleo’s ceiling this year? He’s finished R16, 6th & 5th in three trips to Nationals; can we expect to see him wrestling on Saturday night in Pittsburgh?

Tommy: Pantaleo is one of my favorite guys. He’s entertaining, a hard-worker and a really great young man.

That being said, being such a fan of his has aged me several years.

Pantaleo wrestled Hidlay twice last year and got the first takedown both times. In the semi-finals, Hidlay caught him in an over-under and drove with it beautifully for six. If that didn’t happen, we may be talking about an NCAA Finals rematch.

It’s been a tough year for him. The illness--missing almost two months, and an unsuccessful weight cut for the 2-day Midlands. However, if anyone has the mindset and the work ethic to shed this and win an NCAA title, it is Pantaleo.

2. Speaking of clear demarcation lines in a weight class’ tiers, is there anybody who can blur the line behind Jason Nolf and knock off the fully-healthy 2x National Champ? Absent that, what surprise names might we expect to see on the bottom steps of this year’s podium?

Tommy: Nolf is incredible. He makes wrestling in college look easy. They should bottle whatever unicorn magic is running through his veins and sell it.

Zach Hartman (Bucknell) has looked really good in his freshman campaign, and I was impressed with the Bison team at the Midlands. EMU transfer, Zac Carson (Ohio) is looking really good these days. I also think Parriott (Purdue) can scramble and catch fire in the big dance as well.

Jp: Oooh, good call on Carson. He wrestled Bo Pipher tough in the Scuffle Semis (before getting decked at 6:21). I’m eyeing up two freshmen: Lehigh’s Josh Humphreys and Mizzou’s Jarrett Jacques.

3. Dual Prediction?

Tommy: Without the knee injury and Imar matches, is the Pantaleo match the only one where you thought Nolf might lose?

People forget the 6-4 decision in Ann Arbor last season before Nolf won NCAA’s on one leg. Pantaleo also traded takedowns with Nolf in freestyle in the 2017 US Open before pulling away late. Pantaleo might be a weird matchup for the lengthy Nolf, and the difference in the dual last year was that Nolf had to use riding to get the edge. If Pantaleo defers after a 0-0 first, does Nolf choose top? Does Pantaleo choose neutral in the 3rd if Nolf chooses down? These guys are fast and fun to watch.

I think Nolf wins by decision and has to tighten back up after Pantaleo gets a takedown in the 2nd period.

Jp: Pantaleo is exciting. He’s a brick house, but with insane athletic ability and fluidity. His shots are explosive!

Nolf said at the start of the season that one of his goals was to be a new man this year. We’ve seen it. He’s been displaying a ferocity, a mean-ness, a … is Zain-ness a thing? He ragdolled #2 Tyler Berger and #3 Ryan Deakin in the past few weeks. But I think Pantaleo’s a different wrestler than either of them. Last year in the dual in Ann Arbor, Pantaleo held Nolf to the only non-bonus win prior to the knee injury, a 6-4 decision in their only career meeting.

Still, this is Jason Nolf and it’s a Jason Nolf showing more and more characteristics of former teammate Zain Retherford.

Nolf by Major, and with *lots of action from both sides.

165 #1 Vincenzo Joseph (16-0) vs #7 Logan Massa (12-3)

Vincenzo Joseph’s famous Concrete Hips, dictating the contours of Penn State’s famous cummerbund.
Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com
Can Logan Massa stay this relaxed against the 2x National Champ?
Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com

1. (Jerry Seinfeld voice) So what’s the deal with Logan Massa? Any injury stuff lingering?

Tommy: Massa was never healthy last season and immediately had knee surgery after the season. Michigan is notoriously tight-lipped with injuries. I don’t know if he’s 100% healthy or just finally ramping up after a fall of rehab.

At the CKLV, if you lose in the semi-finals, you wrestle approximately 20 minutes later. So outside of that loss to Romero (Utah Valley), whom he’d tech’d earlier in the tournament, a loss to #6 Isaiah White on 12/1 and #4 Shields at Arizona State is his “down year”.

2. This season versus common historical opponents, Cenzo is 4-0 and Massa is 5-2, with losses to Isaiah White (6-2) and Josh Shields (7-3). What does Massa need to do to get back to his 33-2, 3rd place finish of his RSFR year?

Tommy: I think it’s very possible he is still ramping up after recovering from surgery that delays your pre-season training. His results are solid and his gas tank is improving. Last year, it was his decision to face Joseph in the dual after being out for a few weeks from the initial injury. I imagine he wants to make a statement this Friday that he is a national champ contender.

Jp: I think you’re right, and that he’s only a hair away from contending again. Last postseason, he did seem really close. At Big Tens, after outlasting Marinelli in sudden victory and flexing on Tom Brands, he took Cenzo to a 5-4 loss in the semis. Then he fell to Wiscy Wick before besting Marinelli again for 5th.

At Nationals, he had terrible luck. He caught the ascendant Wick in Round 2, and who did he see when he dropped into the consis in R24? 8-seed Chandler Rogers, who he fell to in sudden victory and his season was over.

3. Is 165 the second-deepest, second-toughest weight in the country this year?

Tommy: It’s nasty. I think it’s the deepest. You have guys like Monday (North Carolina) and Viruet (Brown) to worry about before you even get to the hammers ranked in the top 12. It’s Nolf vs Nickal for the Hodge this season, but Joseph should really be more in the conversation if he can win this bracket again and somehow go undefeated.

4. Dual Prediction?

Tommy: Joseph’s ability to win these matches over and over is astonishing. They’re all scouting him, a consequence of being a 2-time champion. Yet, he just keeps getting those wins in different ways. I imagine Massa is fired up for this match. Hopefully, his gas tank holds up and once again these two are in a one-takedown match with less than a minute to go.

Joseph by decision.

Jp: Vincenzo’s gotten so much better. That’s an interesting thing to say about a 2x Champ, but it’s been pretty noticeable. He’s diversified his neutral game some more--he can still threaten the big trips with tight overhooks, and almost always finishes when he attacks the legs. His riding game has toughened, and he doesn’t get ridden; he used mat wrestling alone to again best Nebraska’s frustrating White, 2-0.

Oh, and he’s pinning dudes this year now, too! His 10 pins trail Nolf & Nickal, who each have 11.

Cenzo by Decision.

174 #1 Mark Hall (18-0) vs #3 Myles Amine (14-1)

Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com
Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com

1. Amine seems to have separated himself from other Tier 3 guys at this weight and has claimed Tier 2 for himself, behind Hall & Zahid. What does he need to do finally solve these two?

Tommy: 174 has oddly had these clear cut tiers more than any other weight for as long as I can remember. Right now it’s Hall/Valencia, Amine, and then Lewis (Missouri). Amine crushes everyone but those top three.

He has taken 4th and 3rd at the NCAA Championships, meaning he has just three losses through two trips, and all of them are to Zahid Valencia.

This match needs to be in neutral position as long as possible. If Hall gets a takedown or Amine selects down, Amine needs to get out quickly and avoid the cross-wrist ride from Hall. Amine has scored takedowns on Hall before and he needs as much clock as possible to make this happen where his score is on the happy side of the ledger.

2. Dark Horse podium candidates at 174?

Tommy: Skatzka has looked really good transferring from Indiana to Minnesota and doesn’t seem to miss many days in the weight room. I always thought Womack (Cornell) has the talent and could be that shock senior to put it together. Also, Neal Richards (VMI) is showing his potential, is now ranked and won the All-Academy Championship. Would be great for that program to have someone alive in Pittsburgh on Friday night.

Jp: How about tOSU’s Ethan Smith? If he’s holding Amine to 3-2 decisions, is 12-5 on the year and might be forcing an early end to Te’Shan Campbell’s career, maybe he can win on Friday night in Pittsburgh.

3. Dual Prediction?

Tommy: This will be the most boring or the most exciting match of the dual.

Either Amine gets the first takedown and Hall opens up to come back into the match, or knowing the 1-point decisions last year, Hall just tries to slow this match down to a glacial pace. Hall by decision but we will be rooting for Amine to finally breakthrough.

Jp: Man, after watching Hall absolutely dominate Zahid in all three positions, in Rec Hall in December, I have trouble picturing how anybody’s gonna score more points than he scores. This season, only Matt Finesilver and Mikey Labriola have finished takedowns on him (h/t Brian Jones’ @lemonsandpie PSU takedown spreadsheet).

Hall by Decision, and a 3-0 career record vs Amine.

184 #2 Shakur Rasheed vs JT Correll (0-4)

Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com
Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com

1. These two have no common opponents. What’s the story with RSFR Jelani Embree (9-3 this year)? Is this a case of Correll taking one for the team with a big weight cut?

Tommy: This could be a wild match if Rasheed or Embree is not ready. Word is Embree is coming back this season, we just don’t know when.

Correll has a pretty good pedigree, with high school competition at Blair Academy and Wyoming Seminary. His record is ugly without competing in the fall and then facing three ranked guys in his four dual appearances.

He didn’t show any quit in tough duty against #1 Martin last Friday, so hopefully he brings that fight to this Friday.

2. I’m not sure there’s any separation among the guys at 184 behind Myles Martin, who is alone in Tier 1. How do you foresee podium finishes 2-8 shaking out?

Tommy: There are a lot of dangerous guys at this weight, but none have been able to go takedowns with Martin. I had thought Venz (Nebraska) was more of an athlete than a wrestler, but that seems to be changing with two wins over Foster (Northern Iowa) and Parker (Illinois). There are so many wild cards. Reenan (NC State) is back from redshirt, returning All-Americans Dean (Cornell) & Ness (North Carolina) are not ranked in the top eight, and DePrez (Binghamton) & Caffey (Michigan State) are turning heads.

There will be blood at NCAA’s, but I have no clue how to predict 2-8.

Jp: Agreed. I also don’t yet know how good Rasheed is! You protect yourself against the cradle, what else is he gonna hit you with? Can he get to legs consistently?

Is Reenan’s knee healthy? Because he looked like a statue against MyMar a few weeks ago. Venz decked Parker a week after struggling to turn 165-pound Mason Manville. Jacobe Smith is probably still settling into his new weight. Who knows?

Wait, I’ll make one prediction: that Lehigh Senior Ryan Preisch finally make the podium after R24, R12, R12 finishes his first three tries.

3. Dual Prediction?

Tommy: Another tough duty for Correll, if Rasheed is back, to avoid the cradle and pin. However, a chance to be the hero if Cael has to use someone else.

Jp: Cael said Tuesday: “we’re optimistic that we’ll see Shak on Friday also.” They then had Rasheed do the weekly wrestler post-practice interview, so the tea leaves are strong-ish.

Against either opponent, I’ll say Rasheed by Decision.

197 #1 Bo Nickal (17-0) vs Jackson Striggow (10-6)

Striggow’s mission, Part 1: spend less time in this position.
Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com
Striggow’s mission, Part 2: spend more time in this position.
Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com

1. Striggow & Michigan had terrible luck last year, when ODU All-American Kevin Beazley transferred in, beat him out and then sustained a season-ending injury at the Big Ten Tourney, too late for Michigan to let Striggow try to qualify for Nationals. Friday he held #2 Kollin Moore to a 12-5 decision. How did he look then and how has he looked during this RSJR season?

Tommy: Striggow looks tough, and was 5-4 in Big Ten duals as a redshirt freshman two years ago.

197 probably has the most open of podiums this season. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to finish in the top six at the Big Ten tournament and be in the fray in Pittsburgh. I’ve heard redshirt freshman Andrew Davison is pretty close behind him for the spot. He looked pretty tough at the Midlands.

2. There is a lot of room behind Nickal & Moore at this weight this year. Give us your podium picks, please?

Tommy: Putting me on the spot my man, but I think 2) Brucki 3) Warner 4) Schultz 5) Miklus 6) Moore 7) Caywood 8) Jakobsen

Jp: I also like Brucki! He looked great at Midlands.

It’s been two years since J’Den Cox graced the Nationals mats, so I’m going nostalgic and picking Greg Bulsak to hang in there.

3. Dual Prediction?

Tommy: Nickal by major.

Jp: In this extremely cleared-out weight this year, Nickal has been mostly competing against his teammates. As Tommy noted above, he’s in the thick of a Hodge Trophy race against Nolf & Cenzo and they’ve all three been battling against each other for the team pin lead. Additionally, Nickal has only been taken down once this year (annoyingly, by Nebraska’s Eric Schultz, who was also the only opponent to prevent Nickal from bonus points).

Nickal by Major Decision.

285 #4 Anthony Cassar (16-1) vs #8 Mason Parris (23-3)

Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com
Sam Janicki, SJanickiPhoto.com

1. Parris clinched the dual against Ohio State Friday night by avenging a November 15-9 loss to #19 Chase Singletary and beating him 6-3. But he also has Midlands losses to Claunch’s boy Matt Stencel (by pin, of course) and to Northwestern’s Conan Jennings (6-4), who Cassar absolutely mauled 12-2. What is the TRFR’s style? Can he stop Cassar from taking him down?

Tommy: The Jennings match was a joke. The ref started just dinging Parris on bottom as Jennings held a wrist and sat on the ankle. Parris then got desperate and made a mistake. It was a learning experience.

Heavyweight in college is an adjustment, and Parris wrestled 220 in high school making for a steeper learning curve. Still, you can see the improvement and the quality of wins he had. This dual has so many interesting matches you really can’t say it enough.

These two might be the fastest heavyweights this season, with no offense to Steveson (Minnesota).

2. Remember not long ago when this weight class was dominated by the extra large and often plodding behemoths? How and why do you think we’re seeing so many more mobile Heavyweights these days, and which of them do you expect to finish on the podium?

Tommy: I have been to seven straight Big Ten tournaments and when that started, guys left for the parking lot (bars) when heavyweight started. That is not the case anymore!

Have you walked through a high school lately? Kids are bigger. You can listen to Joe Rogan’s podcast for conspiracy theories as to why. Here’s my oddball theory. Hitters in MLB and Wrestling’s heavyweights have height limits. You get to a certain height and it becomes diminishing returns on the reaction time needed. You’ll never see a 7’2” guy pulling 95 mph cutters.

In Wrestling, we are getting guys who are 220-260 lbs of muscle. The 6’5” buffet busters can’t keep up. Hormones in turkey or evolution…..you can’t just lean on the Cassar/Parris guys of the world. Adam Coon and Aaron Judge are basically the top of the limit, and those are unicorns of athletes.

Jp: Dude, I’ll buy all of that you’re selling me! Because, no, I have not walked through a high school lately.

Regardless of how or why, though, I know I freakin love it. Cassar’s been a revelation. He’s got me feeling bad for Nevills, the 2x AA, who’s on the bench in his final year, because dude decided he was just gonna get big.

But it hasn’t been a “just.” He’s attacking the legs, frequently!

G. Steveson looks like too much, and tOSU’s got Kerkvliet coming in next year. Nevills’ youngest brother, Seth (greyshirting at the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club), just beat Maryland’s AA Hemida in an open last month! The new breed is gonna keep coming, and it’s a glorious thing to see in our favorite sport.

3. Dual Prediction?

Tommy: I expect a wild one. 9-8 Cassar.

Jp: I’m pretty excited for this one. Cassar’s ascension has been amazing. He’s always shown skills, but this year’s version of him--healthy, happy, eating and lifting big--is the scariest we’ve seen him. Only Derek White, with an excellent John Smith gameplan, has been able to win the ties and thwart Anthony from taking him down.

I’m gonna stick with my boy, but this newbie Wolverine deeply intrigues me.

Cassar by Decision.

Final Takery

Jp: Brother man, thank you so much for this chat!

While I’ve got you, could you share with us your overall impressions of the state of the Michigan program, its coaches and its future? Are we looking at more Top-5 team finishes in the coming years?

Tommy: The top recruits keep coming. They have Joey Silva and Will Lewan in redshirt and still have this tough of a team. Also, Pantaleo and Malik Amine are the only seniors. If Penn State’s rocket of Cael Glory comes back to orbit in the next few seasons, Michigan should be one of the teams to catch them.

This dual is interesting and full of individual awesome matches. However, don’t be too shocked if the team score is close. Bormet needs bonus at 125 & 133, Storr to beat Lee, Massa and/or Amine to pull the upset, and then Parris. That’s really not that far fetched.

Jp: Lastly, do you have any final questions for us?

Tommy: Do you guys really appreciate Cael Sanderson and Casey Cunningham? Can you give Casey back (Fulton, Michigan farm town with a few hundred people and Central Michigan University)?

Cael is the greatest wrestler of all-time and then just goes into coaching and dominates a non-country club sport? That’s unheard of!

Mariano Rivera or Tom Brady aren’t just going to just take over a college program and win 7 of 8 titles. It’s amazing.

Jp: Ha, yes, we do, sir!

I sure hope the team is archiving all that good footage of the practices, because every story we hear, even from Cael, is that Casey is the man in that room. I remember Ed Ruth on the mic after a dual once telling Jeff Byers that one of his goals beyond becoming a 3x National Champ was to one day take Casey in practice. Never heard if he ever did.

For my part, I think Michigan Wrestling is dope. I like everything they’re doing up there, and I really dig coach Sean Bormet, and the super-smooth way they passed the torch to him, from retiring coach Joe McFarland.

I really dug how much the Wolverines scrapped in the January dual at their place last year, and I guarantee they’ll be back doing the same in the BJC tomorrow night.

Still, this is the Cael Sanderson dieNASTY, as my kid pronounces it these days (and which I stand up for every time my wife tries to correct him), and they’re going to struggle mightily to convert all the fight they’ll undoubtedly bring, into scoreboard points.

And it’s all gonna be a blast to watch.

Thanks again to Tommy. Be sure to follow @bloodround and check out their content at http://www.bloodround.com/ I see Kevin published a new post on Princeton’s Patrick Brucki just yesterday!

Also thanks to Sam Janicki, the Michigan wrestler and photographer who let us use his gorgeous photos in this post. He was at this year’s Southern Scuffle and has a ton of beautiful shots of Penn State wrestlers and coaches. Check em out on his site at https://www.sjanickiphoto.com/2018-2019-College-Wrestling/2019-Southern-Scuffle