While there will be a ton of great wrestling on Friday, this is the dual that takes the cake. This is the dual that the wrestling community will be focused on. #1 Penn State Nittany Lions Vs #2 Iowa Hawkeyes. Essentially there are three different ways to preview this dual.
Subjectively biased towards Penn State.
Subjectively biased towards Iowa.
Objectively as possible.
I'm going to do my best to look at this dual from the third option. Now Penn State did go into Ann Arbor, Michigan and in just about every way imaginable if it could have gone PSU's way, it did go PSU's way. They won all the tossups, plus one (at least on paper) upset. I can't see them doing that in Iowa City. Michigan has a solid fanbase, but it isn't the black & gold faithful. PSU walk into Carver Hawkeye Arena, in front of 15,000 strong cheering against them & just have their way with Iowa? I just DO NOT see that happening. Yet if it does, I see best case scenario for Penn State being...
Penn State 21
Now, on the same hand, Iowa isn't going to manhandle Penn State either. Cael Sanderson send his boys westward to come out on the losing end of every tossup? We have a better shot at Mississippi & Mississippi State both announcing that they will start varsity wrestling programs in 2022-2023. That is NOT going to happen. Yet, if it does, I see best case scenario for Iowa being...
Penn State 7
Neither one of these lopsided scores is going to happen. Penn State isn't going to come into Carver Hawkeye Arena and win all of the tossup matches & Iowa isn't going to send Penn State back to Happy Valley unhappy that they lost all of the tossup matches.
So what will happen?
Let's color coordinate this thing....
BLACK = True toss up. Can't say that you'll agree with me on this. Most likely you won't actually. Few are going to be reading this from a neutral position. Most will be reading it from a pro-Iowa or a pro-Penn State standpoint. Nevertheless remember my goal here is to be objective.
BLUE in white - Penn State is the heavy favorite
WHITE in Blue - Penn State is the slight favorite
GOLD in Black -Iowa is the heavy favorite
BLACK in Gold - Iowa is the slight favorite
125 lbs - #7 Drew Hildebrandt Vs #10 Drake Ayala
Let's take everything into account here. First off when comparing results against opponents it is important to keep in mind that Hildebrandt was competing for Central Michigan at the time. Take nothing from Coach Tom Borrelli, one of my personal favorites, but being coached by Cael Sanderson is a whole other ballgame. I don't know if Hildebrandt in a CMU singlet would have given #1 Nick Suriano a 1-0 match the way he did in a PSU singlet last weekend. That's just telling you straight and telling you honest. Which makes me wonder the weight of telling you that he has losses to Purdue's Devin Schroder & Northwestern's Michael DeAugustino, both of which Ayala recently defeated. It's also of note that Hildebrandt owns a sudden victory over Malik Heinselman of Ohio State, who recently pulled off an upset over Ayala last weekend. The ranking is definitely an advantage for the Nittany Lion, but being contested inside of CHA is definitely an advantage for the Hawkeye. Like it or not, that's why I call this one a toss up.
133 lbs - #1 Roman Bravo-Young Vs #3 Austin DeSanto
Now I would like to call this one a toss-up. DeSanto DOES own two victories over RBY. A 12-8 decision and a 7-2 decision. Yet, I can't ignore that RBY has taken the last two matches 3-2 & 5-2, nor can I ignore the fact that the last match that ended prematurely, was more than going RBY's way. RBY is not a heavy favorite in this match, but he is a slight favorite. DeSanto is capable of an upset here & the Energizer Bunny Norman Bates may just have "mother" prepared to visit RBY. We all go a little crazy sometimes & now would be a good time for DeSanto to do just that if the Hawkeyes are to win this dual. On the mat of course.
141 lbs - #1 Nick Lee Vs #2 Jaydin Eierman
This dual has swing matches and this is one of them. These two are bound to meet probably two times after this and neither is going 3-0 against the other. Eierman defeated Lee 6-5 at the BIG 10's last season and Lee avenged that loss 4-2 sudden victory at the NCAA's. For what it's worth, locked away in the depths of history, Eierman once defeated Lee 12-4 too. As far as I'm concerned this is a must win for both teams. Team momentum is a real thing & I have no idea where we'll start, but I would imagine as hardheaded and stubborn as both Sanderson & Brands are, we'll begin at 125. This is where things can really get cooking for either team. This could end up being the most important match of the dual.
149 lbs - #19 Beau Bartlett Vs #10 Max Murin
There have been times in the past when Max Murin has let nerves and pressure get to him, underperforming. This season it happened against Lehigh when he dropped a match to Bryant Manzona. Yet for the most part this season he has performed up to expectation. Matter of fact, he's exceeded them at times. A beautiful win over Yahya Thomas of Northwestern & giving #2 Sammy Sasso all he could handle in a 3-2 loss. Upsets can and often do happen, but there's no reason at all this shouldn't be a comfortable decision for the Hawks.
157 lbs - U.R. Terrell Barraclough/U.R. Joe Lee Vs #12 Kaleb Young
If there ever be a time to step it up and be a hero for Kaleb Young, that time is now. He has the opportunity to be the biggest punch, the hardest blow against the Nittany Lions. As far as I'm concerned he is the only hope Iowa has Friday night for bonus points. If he can get a major that he is more than capable of in this match against either one of these guys, that is HUGE points for the Hawkeyes. Putting 4 up on the board instead of 3 may not seem like much but against a team like Penn State? It's huge.
165 lbs - #16 Brady Berge Vs #1 Alex Marinelli
Honestly I think the recent loss to Carson Kharchla of Ohio State may have been the very thing that Marinelli needed. He's been a little lackluster this season & as Bruce Springsteen says, sometimes you need a spark to start a fire. We'll see if the pilot light was lit or if it wasn't on Friday night. Berge on the other hand after his lay off is slowly but surely climbing the ladder. A recent upset over All American Cam Amine of Michigan, he'll soon find himself way above #16 in the rankings. No doubt about that & no doubt about it, it'll show against Marinelli. This by all means should be a victory for the Hawkeyes, but I think it'll be closer than the rankings dare indicate.
174 lbs - #1 Carter Starocci Vs #2 Michael Kemerer
Now, looking at this objectively on paper, the pendulum swings Iowa's way throughout the middleweights. Rankings/results favor the Hawkeyes at 149, 157 & 165. In order to PSU to pull away with the victory, they need to swing it back in their favor. Winning this tossup match would do just that. Starocci & Kemerer like Lee & Eierman are going to meet multiple times this season. Again, I'll see the chances of either going 3-0 against the other is slim. Thus far Kemerer owns a 7-2 decision over Starocci & Starocci overs a 3-1 sudden victory over Kemerer. What's ironic about this matchup is I saw quotes from two different wrestling journalist that I read and admire. One said that he couldn't see Starocci ever being beat again & the other said that he couldn't ever see Kemerer ever being beat again. Well, one of them is going to be wrong Friday night, aren't they?
184 lbs - #1 Aaron Brooks Vs #18 Abe Assad
Now we get into where PSU is locked & loaded. The last Brooks & Assad met, Brooks won a 7-3 decision and for the Hawkeyes sake, keeping it to a decision is crucial. The blue & white faithful may not think they need bonus points to win, but this is Iowa, in Iowa's house, on Iowa's mat. Putting 4 up instead of 3, could make a (pardon the pun) major difference.
197 lbs - #2 Max Dean Vs #4 Jacob Warner
There was a time when I would have called this one an upset. There was a time when I would have slightly favored Warner. There was a time when I would have heavily favored Dean. As of now, I'm going with Dean as the slight favorite over Warner. Both of these guys have looked very good a couple of times this season. Dean manhandling Arizona State's Kordell Norfleet with victories over Rutger's Greg Bulsak & Michigan's Pat Brucki. They haven't all been pretty, but nevertheless W's for Warner against Isaac Trumble of North Carolina State, Michial Foy of Minnesota, Thomas Penola of Purdue, Andrew Davison of Northwestern and Gavin Hoffman of Ohio State. On the same hand, both Dean & Warner have had a hiccup too. Warner lost to Iowa State's Yonger Bastida earlier this season & just last weekend Dean dropped a decision to Michigan State's Cam Caffey.
What doe this suggest?
That both of these guys need to wrestle up to expectation for their team. Either one of these guys goes into this one anything less than 100%, the other is going to make him pay dearly for it. The pressure is on, who comes out the cooker?
HWT - #4 Greg Kerkvliet Vs #5 Tony Cassioppi
I know I'll catch Hell from some PSU fans for not calling Kerk at least a slight favorite in this one. I can just hear it now, "Did you not see how he handled Parris last weekend!?!?!" And that's the funny thing about it isn't it? Sometimes the only way to "see" something is to completely ignore something else. Well, I tell you what, I'm NOT ignoring. Yes, maybe Kerkvliet wasn't at 100% the last time he and Cassioppi met, but a 9-0 major decision is still a 9-0 major decision. I'm not ignoring the fact that Kervliet now owns an 8-5 decision over a guy that has thus far stuck Cassioppi twice. I'm also not ignoring that Cassioppi owns two victories over Arizona State's Cohlton Schultz, who Kerkvliet has yet to defeat. You can look at Cass's fluke loss by fall to Princeton's Jack DelGarbino & make what you will of it, but other than that his only loss this season is to Steveson, who like it or not PSU fans, will kick the crud outta Kerkvliet too. We really haven't gotten a chance to see how much he did or didn't improve over the summer yet. You can make the argument in his 13-4 major over Tate Orndorff of Ohio State, but he kicked the stuffing out of him multiple times last year too. Truth is, we haven't gotten a real opportunity to see what Cassioppi is truly made of yet this year. While he'll be Kerk's second test of the season, Kerk will be his first.
There you have it. That's my analysis for the most anticipated dual of the season. Whether it's a PSU win or an Iowa win, one thing is for sure, this much great wrestling? Either way, the fans win. This is gonna be GOOD.