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A Week of Wrestling, 2021 1117: The College Season is Up and Running

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One fanboy’s thoughts on the wrestling week that was and the ones that will be.

Artwork courtesy of Penn State alumnus Ross Bendik, The Foundation for Wrestling Art & Innovation. You can follow Ross’ fun work on twitter @WrestleChicago.

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift. That is why it is called the present.

There have been many versions of this quote throughout history, but as a huge Kung Fu Panda fan, I like to attribute it to the venerated founder of The Valley of Peace, Master Oogway. In the first movie, he introduces the quote with a brief admonishment to Po which is deeply related to the increasingly popular wrestling concept of surrendering the outcome: “you are too concerned with what is and what will be...”

While it is a useful mindset for wrestlers to eliminate external distractions in order to focus tightly upon the on-mat present, wrestling fans can afford to be a little more open with our fandom: it’s ok if we concern ourselves with what is and what might one day be.

So let’s re-up it this format I tried last year and see if I can generate some momentum for a weekly wrestling links & takery blog.

Yesterday is History

Fresh rankings came out yesterday! I love that Intermat’s free rankings now go out to 33—the same number that qualify for Nationals at each weight, and include 7 columns:

  • Current Rank
  • Wrestler Name
  • School
  • Class / Eligibility
  • Conference
  • Record
  • Last/Previous Ranking

Penn State remains unranked at 125, but Beau Bartlett & Creighton Edsell have entered this week’s rankings. Bartlett is now #27 at 149 (just ahead of former Penn Stater and new Virginia transfer, Jarod Verkleeren), while Edsell’s impressive introduction at 165 last weekend has landed him at #32.

Intermat’s tourney rankings, calculated using Placement & Advancement points projections similar to those used in BSD Wrestling’s Phat Mat Stats posts, still show Penn State 17.5 points behind #1 Iowa in the team race, while its non-algorithmic Dual Rankings chose Oklahoma State for 2nd place ahead of the Lions.

The NCAA’s own dual rankings, which they call the NWCA Coaches Poll, also were updated. I assume the same methodology posted on the NWCA website last year continues on for this year:

The NWCA Division I Wrestling Coaches Poll is voted on by two coaches from each Division I wrestling conference. Each first-place vote is worth 25 points, 24 points for a second-place vote, 23 for a third-place vote and so on through to one point for a 25th-place vote. The poll is based on dual meet results. Teams who are not competing this season are not included in the voting process.

Maybe if we’re lucky, our old friend Jason Bryant might read this and drop in for a confirmation or refutation.

This week’s Coaches Poll has the Nittany Lions in 2nd, and Oklahoma State in 6th:

November 15, 2021 Coaches Poll, via https://www.ncaa.com/rankings/wrestling/d1/nwca-coaches

This year’s Big Ten rotation leaves five conference foes off of Penn State’s schedule: Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue, Wisconsin and Northwestern. All five of them are ranked in the 11-25 spots. But four of the Top-10 face PSU in scheduled dual meets:

  • #1 Iowa
  • #4 Michigan
  • #9 Ohio State
  • #10 Nebraska

The only member of the back half of the Top-25 the Lions are currently scheduled to face is #18 Rutgers. But add in possible matchups at the Journeymen Collegiate Duals event in December, and Penn State could also, maybe, square up against one or more of:

  • #3 Missouri
  • #5 NC State
  • #7 Arizona State
  • #8 Virginia Tech
  • #12 Cornell
  • #16 Northern Iowa

Review Links

Intermat’s Rokfin Channel has a recap ($) of each Big Ten team, from veteran correspondent Cody Goodwin. Intermat’s owner, Mat Scout Willie Saylor, is in the process of merging the subscriptions of the two sites, but if you’ve already bought a paid subscription to Rokfin, perhaps via the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club’s channel, you can read this recap with it.

About Iowa, Goodwin writes:

Iowa — Sent a handful of starters to the Luther Open, where the big highlight was Alex Marinelli’s 3-2 win over Patrick Kennedy in the finals at 165 pounds. Elsewhere: Austin DeSanto’s 8-4 win over Cullan Schriever at 133 was entertaining, too; true freshman Bretli Reyna beat Vince Turk, 6-5, at 149; Jesse Ybarra wrestled attached at 125 (and took first); and Abe Assad lost in the finals to Clayton Whiting, an impressive high-school senior from Wisconsin who has now won two college opens in as many weeks.

Apparently that Assad loss to the high schooler prompted a number of reactions around Iowa Internet, such that Rick Assad felt prompted to tweet:

Perhaps more usefully, here is Abe Assad commenting to Hawk Central on his Luther Open performance:

Assad had earned the starting spot last year, before getting injured and giving way to Nelson Brands, and here we hear him echo a popular sentiment at this early part of the new season: the importance of merely getting more matches in.

It will be interesting for Penn State fans to follow the Iowa developments at 184 — one of only three weights at which the Hawkeyes did not earn All-American honors during their title run this past March, as Assad & Nelson compete for the right to bite & scratch battle returning National Champion Aaron Brooks.

You can catch Iowa Coach Tom Brands talking about the Luther Open generally here, and watch him struggle to explain their approach to Spencer Lee’s health and part-time availability this season at 125 here, along with an Alex Marinelli interview here, all from Hawk Central.

Responding to a Wrestling Loss

How wrestlers respond to losing is almost always a fascinating examination. This week one of Division II Wrestling’s brightest stars and co-founder of The Pin Doctors wrestling blog, Josh Portillo posted an insightful disclosure of his response to his own disappointing losses in the D2 National Championships last year:

Josh has long been very open with discussing his own mental health and its impact on his wrestling, and I’m glad he’s continuing to share. Take a read, including the replies.

More Review Links

Michigan opened its season with a 39-3 whupping of CSU Bakersfield. Head Coach Sean Bormet:

Nebraska also opened its season with a win against an overmatched opponent, and the SBN Nebraska blog, Corn Nation, provided a really thorough breakdown of it and the season ahead. I think it’s worth keeping an eye on their wrestling coverage this year. I’ve really enjoyed reading Dylan Guenther’s articles, and they’re one of the few SBN college blogs with their own Wrestling section permalink. Check it!

Tomorrow is a Mystery

There are some excellent duals and tourneys coming up again this weekend! Cari should have a preview up for the Penn State - Army dual tomorrow, but here’s an interesting tidbit from the twitter machine from Beau Bartlett’s opponent, along with a recap of Army’s early-season start:

Upcoming Compelling Duals

You know we’re longtime fans of the folks at WrestleStat, so I often use this link to one of their very useful Lists: Remaining Duals.

Thursday Night, 11/18/21:

  • #2 Penn State hosts Army, for the first dual in Rec Hall with fans since the abbreviated 2020 season came to an end

Friday Night, 11/19/21:

  • #7 Arizona State hosts #17 Oklahoma
  • #9 Ohio State hosts #8 Virginia Tech

Saturday, 11/20/21

  • #11 Minnesota hosts #6 Oklahoma State
  • #12 Cornell hosts #23 Stanford (and its new Assistant Coach, Vincenzo Joseph)

Let’s keep an eye on Intermat, which is posting weekly viewing guides with links to video streams, and link to it in the comments please.

Upcoming Compelling Tourneys

Here’s WrestleStat’s list of upcoming tourneys. Of note this week:

  • Shorty Hitchcock Open, 11/20/21. Could possibly see some of Penn State’s depth wrestlers compete.
  • Keystone Classic, 11/21/21. Another former Penn State staple, held in the hallowed Palestra and hosted by the Pennsylvania Quakers, now coached by two former Penn Staters in Mark Hall and Bryan Pearsall.

Today is a Gift

Nationals tickets are now on sale, but only individual sessions are yet available for purchase—there is no published way to buy All-Session tickets yet!

Clearly organizers have become savvy to the incredible demand to attend this amazing event, and are now experimenting with various revenue boosters. There are only a few sections of the Joe Louis Arena available to select during this round of ticket purchase and are all upper deck. Hopefully fans will at least have an opportunity to purchase all-session tickets from blocks set aside for individual teams, but we should probably count on this becoming a more painful process than it has been in the recent past.

Nebraska takes on UNC tonight on BTN! Dylan Guenther has a good preview at Corn Nation.

That’s all for this week. I hope to see you back here next Wednesday!

As always, I invite feedback of all flavors. Please feel free to engage in the comments below or on twitter @JpPearson71.