Big Ten wrestling season is back, and PSU’s first outing in-conference is on the road against and almost-always tough Badger squad. The Lions take the mat after the holidays having gone on the road in the Collegiate Wrestling Duals and walloping Central Michigan and North Carolina, and winning a closer-than-the-final-score bout against Iowa State, a program that was preseason ranked outside the top ten but now looks like a legitimate 2nd tier national title contender.
Wisconsin themselves faced Iowa State earlier this season, picking up only two bouts against the Cyclones. They match up better on paper in the lower weights against the Nittany Lions, so this bout will likely be closer; UW is led by title contender Austin Gomez at 149, a veteran grappler who actually beat returning champ Yianni Diakomihalis earlier this year in the Cornell wrestler’s first collegiate loss in five years (second overall).
Gomez isn’t the only guy gunning for the top of the podium for the Badgers, but he’s likely the best shot - and how the Nittany Lions
How To Watch
What: #1 Penn State at #13 Wisconsin*
Where: Wisconsin Field House, Madison, WI
When: Friday, January 6, 9 pm EST
Audio: Free (via GoPSUSports)
Video: Big Ten Network
|#1 Penn State||WT||#13 Wisconsin|
|#1 Penn State||WT||#13 Wisconsin|
|Gary Steen (Fr., Hermitage, PA)||125||#5 - Eric Barnett (Sr., Greenville, WI)|
|#1 - Roman Bravo-Young (Sr., Tucson, AZ)||133||#27 - Taylor LaMont (Sr., Mapleton, UT)|
|#4 - Beau Bartlett (Jr., Tempe, AZ)||141||#26 - Joseph Zargo (So., South River, NJ)|
|#15 - Shayne Van Ness (Fr., Somerville, NJ)||149||#2 - Austin Gomez (Sr., Carol Stream, IL)|
|#25 - Terrell Barraclough (So., Kaysville, UT) OR Levi Haines (Fr., Arendtsville, PA)||157||#16 - Garrett Model (Sr., Stoughton, WI)|
|#16 - Alex Facundo (Fr., Essexville, MI)||165||#5 - Dean Hamiti (So., Joliet, IL)|
|#1 - Carter Starocci (Jr., Erie, PA)||174||Josh Otto (Jr., Brookfield, WI)|
|#1 - Aaron Brooks (Sr., Hagerstown, MD)||184||Tyler Dow (Sr., Stoughton, WI)|
|#4 - Max Dean (Sr., Lowell, MI)||197||#14 - Braxton Amos (So., MIneral Wells, WV)|
|#1 - Greg Kerkvliet (So., Grove Heights, MN)||285||#11 - Trent Hillger (Sr., Holly, MI)|
Conventional wisdom says that Steen will lose big in this bout - but betting on a Cael Sanderson-coached wrestler to lose big isn’t necessarily the conventional bet. I think this’ll be relatively low scoring, with Steen taking some shots but a late period takedown (or two) without a corresponding escape will be the deciders for Barnett.
Prediction: Barnett by decision
Score: PSU 0, Wisconsin 3
Roman Bravo-Young didn’t return for another season to not score bonus in bouts like this. LaMont’s only points will be escapes - and he’ll be spending most of the third period trying not to get teched to no avail.
Prediction: RBY by tech fall
Score: PSU 5, Wisconsin 3
Beau’s really coming into his own, as we’d all hoped he would back down at his more natural weight. He’ll be aggressive and dominant from the start; I either think this bout will be a pin, or a decision with over 3 minutes of riding time by the Nittany Lion junior.
Prediction: Bartlett by decision
Score: PSU 8, Wisconsin 3
149 LBS - Match of the Meet #1
Last time we saw Van Ness, he lost a very narrow decision to an underrated (at least preseason) Cyclone wrestler in Paniro Johnson. Johnson started off his season upsetting Gomez; Gomez rebounded back and, as mentioned above, beat Yianni in a high-scoring bout. This one won’t be that high-scoring but I do think the PSUer comes up ever so closely short.
Prediction: Gomez by decision
Score: PSU 8, Wisconsin 6
157 LBS - Match of the Meet #2
I originally wrote this up as a Nittany Lion loss, but I’ve convinced myself otherwise. I’ve been more confident in true freshman Haines’ ability to take down ranked wrestlers, but even Bearclaw’s let up fewer points on average against shared than Model, so this one is my upset pick of the meet.
Prediction: PSU wrestler by decision
Score: PSU 11, Wisconsin 6
Maybe it’s too predictable for me, but I don’t consider Hamiti, even though he’s very good, a true national title contender - that’s what happens when there’s three undefeated returning champs at the weight already. How Facundo follows up his two-point loss to David Carr in his last outing will say a lot about his postseason hopes, especially against another really tough opponent. I do have to say, too, that it’s ridiculous that Facundo dropped to 16 when his only true loss of the year is to one of those returning national champs.
Prediction: Hamiti by decision
Score: PSU 11, Wisconsin 9
After the post-match interview following the collegiate wrestling duals, I doubt the PSU coaching staff will let Starocci be interviewed again, even by Byers. The Penn Stater is brimming with confidence, not just for himself but also his teammates, and his quest for a third title continues today. As Carter essentially said, though, the only way he doesn’t get bonus is if his opponent doesn’t actually wrestle (and wrestle to win) - and depending on the outcome of the bouts before him, this could actually be a bout to flip the lead back to the Nittany Lions.
Prediction: Carter by major decision
Score: PSU 15, Wisconsin 9
Brooks had an unexpected (and uncharacteristic) loss in his last bout due to a couple really big moves, but he’ll learn from it and come back stronger. That starts this week, where I bet he’ll look to show how dominant he really is, and why even after the loss he’s still #1.
Prediction: AB by fall
Score: PSU 21 Wisconsin 9
Last week, I threw the Gulibon on Dean and he responded by resoundingly beating of then-#2 Younger. He’s moved up one since then, with only undefeated wrestlers and Michael Beard ahead of him. I think this will be another low-scoring outing for Max though he dominates from the jump, unless it’s archery season.
Prediction: Dean by decision
Score: PSU 24, Wisconsin 9
Hillger is a good wrestler. But Kerk’s next level this year, and continues to show it. The title’s his to lose.
Prediction: Kerk by major decision
Score: PSU 28, Wisconsin 9
Overall score prediction: Penn State 28, Wisconsin 9
*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. Penn State is #1 in both rankings; Wisconsin is #13 in the dual meet rankings, and #11 in the tournament rankings.