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Wrestling Preview: No. 1 Penn State at No. 3 Michigan

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It’s the Nittany Lions’ toughest challenge to date!

Kerk’s got a big test ahead on Friday.
Heather Weikel | Black Shoe Diaries

It’s now late January, so you wrestling fans know what that means…

Yeah, the Collegiate Wrestling Duals were a blast and all, but nothing compares to some good back-to-back Big Ten dual meets in the final six weeks of the dual season. It may seem to you that it’s a bit unfair that Penn State has to go on the road, in back to back weeks, against the other top two teams in the conference/nation (especially when those two teams aren’t wrestling each other), and while I don’t disagree—these weekends aren’t the main course. They’re just the salad, with the appetizers coming the first week in March, and the entrees in Detroit just two weeks later. And as iron sharpens iron, it’s always good to find out now more of what you’ll be up against on the tail end, when it does count for all the marbles.

In and of themselves, the duals starting off tonight will be a ton of fun to watch for all folks who even casually enjoy the sport of wrestling, as well as having an impact (in terms of seeding) on seeding in the tourney in Lincoln—and giving an indication of where things might go later on!

“This is the way.”

Doing predictions can sometimes be a crapshoot, driven by little more than gut feeling or intuition; often, for me, I try to make them logically driven, without too much blatant homerism or unfettered optimism (especially when my pessimism has, at times, seemingly been a force in itself). But all that can get thrown by the wayside in a tough, essentially-tossup dual like this one—where bonus points will be at a premium (and may ultimately decide the bout).

What does that mean for the individual matches? Well, I was quite tempted to throw all the toss ups into the win column for the good guys (as earlier drafts of my score predictions indicate). And while ultimately I’m not going that far, any result ranging from an 8-bout PSU rout to an 8-bout Michigan victory isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility!

And on this site, as a fan of Nittany Lion wrestling…if I didn’t predict Penn State to win, wouldn’t you find my lack of faith disturbing?

How To Watch

“A friendly piece of advice…assume that I know everything.”

What: #1 Penn State vs #3 Michigan*

Where: Cliff Keen Arena, Ann Arbor, MI

When: Friday, January 21, 6 pm

Audio: Free, via GoPSUSports

Video: Big Ten Network

Lineup

“Make ten men feel like a hundred.”

Lineup

#1 Penn State WT #3 Michigan
#1 Penn State WT #3 Michigan
#7 - Drew Hildebrandt (Sr., Granger, IN) 125 #1 - Nick Suriano (Sr., Paramus, NJ)
#1 - Roman Bravo-Young (Sr., Tucson, AZ) 133 #8 - Dylan Ragusin (Fr., Elk Grove Village, IL) OR Jack Medley (Sr., Chesterfield, MI)
#1 - Nick Lee (Sr., Evansville, IN) 141 #4 - Stevan Micic (Sr., Cedar Lake, IN)
#19 - Beau Bartlett (So., Tempe, AZ) 149 #16 - Kanen Storr (Sr., Leslie, MI) OR Cole Mattin (So., Delta, OH)
Tony Negron (Jr., North Babylon, NY) OR Terrell Barraclough (So., Kaysville, UT) OR Joe Lee (So., Evansville, IN) 157 #15 - Will Lewan (Jr., Chicago, IL)
#16 - Brady Berge (Sr., Mantorville, MN) OR Creighton Edsall (Jr., Wyalusing, PA) 165 #10 - Cameron Amine (So., Brighton, MI)
#1 - Carter Starocci (So., Erie, PA) 174 #6 - Logan Massa (Sr., St Johns, MI)
#1 - Aaron Brooks (Jr., Hagerstown, MD) 184 #2 - Myles Amine (Sr., Brighton, MI)
#2 - Max Dean (Jr., Lowell, MI) 197 #8 - Patrick Brucki (Sr., Orland Park, IL)
#4 - Greg Kerkvliet (So., Grove Heights, MN) 285 #2 - Mason Parris (Sr., Lawrenceburg, IN)

125 LBS

“Size matters not.”

Nick Suriano is certainly a…particular collegiate wrestler, onto his third Big Ten program in four years of competing. And, with Spencer Lee’s season-ending surgery, bumping back down to 125 makes it seem like a second NCAA title is his to lose. Drew Hildebrandt can get Penn State some points at this weight come March (something we’ve been lacking since Suriano’s injury in 2017) but that’s probably not going to be enough this weekend, on the road in a hostile environment.

Prediction: Suriano by decision

Score: PSU 0, Michigan 3

133 LBS

“Shut him up or shut him down.”

I waffled on this one. Not on whether RBY or Ragusin would win the bout; no, my indecision surrounded by how much the returning champ would win by. And while I predicted bonus for him last week that ultimately didn’t come to pass, it was JP’s column from yesterday that made me go major here.

Prediction: RBY by major decision

Score: PSU 4, Michigan 3

141 LBS

“Your focus determines your reality.”

Chop wood, carry water. Nick Lee’s reportedly back in the lineup having been cleared a little too late for last Sunday’s dual vs Rutgers, and he faces a steep test in an Olympian. Not too different from what he faces when training in the NLWC weight room—and he’s beaten Micic before. The gas tank does the trick in this one.

Prediction: N. Lee by decision

Score: PSU 7, Michigan 3

149 LBS

“Impossible to see, the future is.”

I’m predicting that if Bartlett meets Van Brill again in the post season, it won’t be a particularly close match (provided Angel Rivera’s not the ref). And a better outcome this weekend would be an upset on paper—but Beau’s got his eyes on not just making the idle at the NCAAs this year, but making the podium. His aggression and how he responds to a disappointment last week will show dividends.

Prediction: Beau by decision

Score: PSU 10, Michigan 3

157 LBS

“Never tell me the odds.”

If Berge was inexplicably able to go at 157 this weekend, I’d pick a different result here. Because while i’ve been very impressed with Uncle Tony’s son’s progress this year, Lewan will be just a little too much for him, with a late takedown that seals the result.

Prediction: Lewan by decision

Score: PSU 10, Michigan 6

165 LBS

“Do, or do not. There is no try.”

I didn’t know how much I missed seeing Brady Berge in the lineup until last weekend, when he stepped out onto the mat. And without the special headgear to boot! His competition in the return of the coach gets stiffer much quicker, but bork knows he can beat an Amine brother.

Prediction: Chef Bardy by decision

Score: PSU 13, Michigan 6

174 LBS

“There is no such thing as luck.”

Carter Starocci won the title last year after about a billion last second or overtime victories, but this year, he’s been called the most improved wrestler at PSU by Jeff Byers for a reason. Logan Massa has been around for forever, but that experience won’t help him. I’m tempted to pick bonus here but I’m hoping Starocci proves me atop cautious.

Prediction: Starocci by decision

Score: PSU 16, Michigan 6

184 LBS

“There’s always a bigger fish.”

Even though he’s the returning champ, Aaron Brooks isn’t a universal number one at this weight—-because of this Olympian, who’s bumped down from his 197lb weight in collegiate action a year ago. And white this Amine is a bronze medalist and absolutely a great wrestler—AB was also in Tokyo. As a training partner. For the gold medalist in that weight, David Taylor.

Prediction: AB by decision

Score: PSU 19, Michigan 6

197 LBS

“Stay on target.”

Max Dean transferred to Penn State to be a champion. When you come to Penn State, that’s what we do. And that road continues this week, with yet another good, top ten wrestler across from him on the mat.

Prediction: Dean by decision

Score: PSU 22, Michigan 6

285 LBS

“Strike me down, and I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.”

I do not know when the heavyweight bout, where I predict a PSU loss, has been the most anticipated match of the meet for me! The dual result could very well come down to this, and it’s a good indicator of how far Kerk has progressed. If Gable Steveson had left college for the WWE full time this year, 285 would be Mason Parris’ weight to lose—as he’s simply destroyed everyone not in a MN singlet. But can he destroy Kerkvliet? And better yet, even if he wins tonight—is it close enough that Kerk can catch him in March?

Prediction: Parris by decision

Score: PSU 22, Michigan 9

Overall score prediction: PSU 22, Michigan 9

“Great, kid! Don’t get cocky.”

*The Penn State athletic department, in its official capacity, uses Intermat Tournament Rankings in all its match literature; I’m using Intermat’s Dual Meet rankings because this happens to be a dual; luckily for this dual, Penn State is #1 in both rankings, and Michigan is #3 in both.