Now that redshirt decisions have been made and we have entered the heart of the wrestling season, I wanted to take an opportunity to look at one of my favorite aspects of college wrestlings: the weight class rankings. I used Intermat, but there are other rankings sites out there that are also credible.
Disclaimer: Normally I could write multiple thousand words on this stuff, but I have a bum finger at the moment that is affecting my typing and won't be able to dedicate as many words to all this. I know, I'm super disappointed too.
125: #9 Spencer Lee
149: #2 Brandon Sorensen
157: #2 Michael Kemerer
165: #11 Alex Marinelli
197: #5 Cash Wilcke
285: #3 Sam Stoll
Ross wrote an article going into the national tournament last year, or maybe two years ago, labeling the type of tournament teams that would be competing for the championship. Iowa is firmly in the category focused on riding your stars to the top. Let's be realistic here: Lee and Marinelli being as low as they are is just a formality until we reach the meaty portion of the dual schedule starting this Sunday. Once they start ascending to the heights they are capable of, Iowa will see every one of their ranked wrestlers in the top 10.
Cash Wilcke is easily my biggest surprise of the season in terms of performance on the mat for an Iowa wrestler. He wasn't even ranked last year and I viewed his run to the Round of 12 at last year's tournament as a source of humor. Exciting humor, but humor none the less. This year he has taken his game up another level. He doesn't have an impressive resume, but when watching him wrestle you can see a confidence and swagger that wasn't there before. I'll be very intrigued to see if he can make some noise in a division that is basically Kollin Moore and friends.
This is such an exciting weight. That Top 5 is a fantastic group of wrestlers, and it doesn't even include Spencer Lee or Nick Piccininni! Also, the Big Ten here is stacked with 8 guys ranked, 5 of them in the Top 10. 125 had plenty of intrigue before Lee's redshirt got pulled, and now it's appointment viewing anytime anyone of the Top 10 guys are going at it.
Seth Gross has been a hammer this year to the point where he should probably get mentioned in Hodge Trophy discussions. He's easily handled all comers so far this year. There's a salty group of guys behind him, though. I love seeing Austin DeSanto (aka the guy who beat Spencer Lee in high school, caveats aside) at Drexel make his mark. Montorie Bridges of Wyoming has been on a tear of late and will be guy to watch come tournament time. Scotty Parker of Lehigh was the previous #2 after he had some very impressive wins early in the season, most notably beating Kaid Brock 9-8, but he had a rough Southern Scuffle and dropped to #8. It'll be interesting to see how he bounces back.
The top 5 at 141 has been a carousel. For two years it's been held down by Dean Heil, and then this year chaos decided to finally reign. If rankings were released dailly, there would have been 4 #1 guys in the last week. Dean Heil has lost his last two matches (to Meredith and Jack) and finds himself at #5 after having what felt like a literal stranglehold on the weight. This is so refreshing. I look forward to watching the madness continue in March.
This is Zain Retherford's weight, and as much as I will cheer cheer cheer for Sorensen, I don't see him or anyone coming close to toppling this giant. Sure, Sorensen had that magical match last year, but Retherford had the flu at that time and then pinned Sorensen in the first period at Nationals. Retherford has pinned or teched every opponent this year with the exception of #4 Ryan Deakin. Dominance. Justin Oliver is another guy to keep an eye on. He is very capable of upsetting Oliver and I dread that potential semifinal matchup.
While Zain Retherford has pinned or teched all but one opponent, Jason Nolf has pinned or teched EVERY opponent. However, I think the other guys at 157 provide a more intriguing matchup to him than 149 does to Zain. Kemerer, Hidlay, and Lavallee are game opponents and we'll see if any close the gap on Nolf this year. This is another weight where the Big Ten is very well-represented, with 5 guys in the Top 10.
Another exciting Top 5 is present here as Isaiah Martinez will be looking to avenge his loss to Vincenzo Joseph in the finals last year. Unfortunately, Penn State and Illinois don't meet up this year, so it will have to wait until tournament time, and who is to say Logan Massa won't get to Joseph before then (Penn State wrestles at Michigan this weekend)? Marinelli is also looming here, probably excitied t get his chance at some of the heads here. Also, a shoutout to the pending Chad Walsh-Chance Marstellar matcup that will be coming during EWL conference action. You don't see the EWL conference marquee matches like that often.
This weight has Valencia, Hall, and Bo Jordan. Wrestling is so good right now, guys! Daniel Lewis has also been a terror monster this year, so that's an exciting potential foursome. The middle to bottom of 174 has been shuffling all year, so the unpredictability for those lower AA positions will be fun to watch as well. Dylan Lydy is a Big Ten wrestler to watch, as he's been exceeding expectations and knocked off #6 Myles Amine at Midlands
Bo Nickal vs. Myles Martin is the match for this weight class, though I think Ryan Preisch of Lehigh will definitely have a say in that come Nationals. While the name value isn't as high, this is another weight class that sees the Big Ten ranking eight guys, seven of them in the Top 10!
Here is another weight with another clear favorite at the top in Kollin Moore. The only source of intrigue outside of Cash Wiclke is Shakur Rasheed of Penn State who stormed to a Southern Scuffle title. At the start of the season, Matt McCutcheon, who has been a Round of 12 guy the last five years it seems, was manning this weight. Then Anthony Cassar took his spot. And now after the Scuffle, it looks like this weight is Rasheed's who was wrestling at 165 two years ago. Bonkers
Kyle Snyder is the new face of USA OIympic Wrestling and this is the part where I remind you that Nathan Burak beat him. Also Sam Stoll is #3 here after beating the human stall Tanner Hall in the finals at Midlands. Those guys are all well and good, but outside of Snyder I'll be most inerested in watching the guys like Jacob Kasper and Youssif Hemida who represent the lighter, more athletic version of HWT aimed at taking shots and scoring points.
Wrestling is great and awesome and fun and if going through these rankings told me anything, it's that even after witnessing Penn State crown five straight champions to end last year's national tournament, there are still plenty of storylines and intrigue to go around. We are very fortunate to be fans of a competitive team in the Big Ten.