Men's basketball isn't the only team getting Big Ten competition underway this weekend; Iowa wrestling is starting league play as well. They host Illinois on Friday night, the first of three straight dual meets against Big Ten opponents (they head out to east to take on Rutgers and Maryland next weekend). Illinois should pose a stiffer challenge than Rider did last Friday night; the Illini have five wrestlers ranked in InterMat's most recent Top 20 at their respective weights, though only one (two-time NCAA Champion Isaiah Martinez) is ranked in the Top 10 (#2 at 165). On paper there may not be any matches featuring two ranked opponents, unless Alex Marinelli makes his season debut tonight. Here's the breakdown:
all rankings via InterMat
125: Justin Stickley (Fr, 5-2) vs #13 Travis Piotrowski (So, 6-0)
Stickley picked up a nice win via fall last week, but Piotrowski looks like a significant step up. Stickley may keep it close for a bit, but I like Piotrowski to win by 4-5 points.
PREDICTION: Piotrowski via DEC (Illinois 3-0)
133: Phillip Laux (Sr, 6-0) vs #20 Dylan Duncan (RS Fr, 4-2)
Laux is on the fringes of the Top 20, so this looks to be a fairly even match. Duncan doesn't have any wins of note, but he does have a narrow 5-4 defeat against Missouri's John Erneste (ranked #8 at 133). This feels like a toss-up, but I'll take Laux to win a squeaker at home.
PREDICTION: Laux via DEC (TIE 3-3)
141: Vince Turk (So, 3-1) vs Mike Carr (RS Fr, 1-1)
Turk was stunned with some early big moves in an 8-4 loss against Tyson Dippery last week, but Carr looks like a good bounce-back opponent. I think Turk wrestles with an extra edge here and gets bonus points.
PREDICTION: Turk via MAJ DEC (Iowa 7-3)
149: #2 Brandon Sorensen (Sr, 4-0) vs Eric Barone (So, 4-3)
Barone has a so-so record and some of those losses have been to less-than-stellar competition. He did hold Sorensen to just a 2-0 decision win at the Big Ten Tournament last year, though. I think Sorensen extends the gap on him this year, especially at home.
PREDICTION: Sorensen via MAJ DEC (Iowa 11-3)
157: #3 Michael Kemerer (So, 4-0) vs #17 Kyle Langenderfer (Sr, 4-2)
Langenderfer moved up to 157 last year, but he's never faced Kemerer before. Langenderfer started 0-2 this season, but has run off four wins in a row, albeit mostly against weak competition. Kemerer, the reigning Big Ten Wrestler of the Week, has been a buzzsaw so far and I don't expect him to let up here.
PREDICTION: Kemerer via MAJ DEC (Iowa 15-3)
165: Kaleb Young (RS Fr, 3-1) or #14 Alex Marinelli (RS Fr, 0-0) vs #2 Isaiah Martinez (Sr, 2-0)
IMar is a monster: his only two college losses have come via fall to Penn State's Jason Nolf (at 157 in 2015-16) and Vincenzo Joseph (in the 165 lb finals last year). Otherwise he's 96-2 with bonus points out the wazoo. He's only wrestled twice this year, but both wins were via technical fall. IMar and Marinelli met up at Midlands last year; IMar won via 14-5 major decision. I don't expect much of a difference result here, whether Iowa sends out Young or a likely rusty Marinelli.
PREDICTION: Martinez via MAJ DEC (Iowa 15-7)
174: Joey Gunther (So, 4-0) vs Xavier Montalvo (So, 0-1) or David Riojas (Fr, 2-2)
Gunther has been off to a solid start this year, with a 4-0 record and three major decisions in those four wins. Neither Montalvo or Riojas look like an enormous jump up in quality. I like Gunther here and I think it may be close to a major decision, but I'll go with a regular decision.
PREDICTION: Gunther via DEC (Iowa 18-7)
184: Mitch Bowman (Jr, 4-0) vs #12 Emery Parker (Jr, 5-1)
Bowman is also off to a nice start and he picked up a dominant 15-3 win over Michael Fagg-Davies, who's been on the fringes of the Top 20 in some polls. Parker is a fringe Top 10 guy and he should be Bowman's stiffest test yet. Bowman should have a lot of confidence given his start to the season, but I think Parker takes this one.
PREDICTION: Parker via DEC (Iowa 18-10)
197: #10 Cash Wilcke (So, 4-0) vs Andre Lee (Jr, 5-3)
Andre Lee is Mr. Decision. None of his eight matches this year have involved bonus points (for or against) and only five of his 25 matches last year involved bonus. Wilcke has bonus points in 50% of his matches this year, but he picked up bonus in less than 20% of his wins last year. I like Wilcke here, but not by bonus.
PREDICTION: Wilcke via DEC (Iowa 21-10)
285: #7 Sam Stoll (Jr, 4-0) vs Deuce Rachal (Jr, 5-4)
Deuces wild! There could certainly be a pin in this one: three of Stoll's four wins have featured falls and three of Rachal's five wins have also been via fall. Someone's shoulders could be touching the mat here. I'll go with Stoll via decision, though.
PREDICTION: Stoll via DEC (Iowa 24-10)
Illinois looks like a big favorite in one match (165) and a solid favorite in two others (125, 184), while Iowa looks like a big favorite in three matches (149, 157, 285), a solid favorite at another (197, 141), and a slight favorite at one weight (174). 133 looks like a toss-up. If Iowa takes care of business at their favored weights -- and is able to get some bonus points -- I think they'll be just fine.
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