What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of a blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: Rob from Roar Lions Roar, the best damn Penn State blog around.
1) Penn State's projected roster for the dual lists multiple options at several weights (125, 141, 157, and 197). How much uncertainty is there really at those weights and who do you expect to get the starting nods there?
ROB: I think that 125 and 141 are fairly settled at this point. I expect Carson Kuhn to get the start against Spencer Lee and I expect Nick Lee will get the start at 141. Kuhn just came into the lineup against Ohio State and represented himself well against Nathan Tomasello. I can't see Cael going back to Devin Schnupp, who has wrestled really hard but is a bit undersized at the weight. Penn State has listed Lee or Jered Cortez at 141 since the Southern Scuffle, but Lee has started every single time. I don't expect that to change tomorrow. 157 is a race between two backups, Luke Gardner and Bo Pipher. Pipher has wrestled at 149, 157 and 165 this season, and despite struggling against Micah Jordan last weekend, I expect him to get the start. However, Gardner has done decent in the few tournaments he has entered this season. Whoever it is, I expect Michael Kemerer to really grasp control.
197 is another story entirely. Matt McCutcheon is still listed as a possible starter but he has not started a single dual all year. I do not expect him to go. The real question comes down to the starter is between Anthony Cassar and Shakur Rasheed. They both have their strengths and Cassar is fresh off of a great performance against Kollin Moore. Rasheed is a pinning machine and has more bonus point potential than Cassar. Cael's decision became much harder after last Saturday, as it seemed that Rasheed was starting to lockdown the spot. Penn State could honestly go with either, and I wouldn't be surprised.
2) Zain Retherford vs Brandon Sorensen is probably the showcase match of the dual, if only because it features #1 against #2 at 149 lbs. Zain has been an absolute freight train this year -- do you expect that to continue against Sorensen or do you think Sorensen might be able to keep things a bit closer?
ROB: I don't expect Sorensen to keep it that close against Zain on Saturday night. Granted, Sorensen kept it close and wrestled a great match in Carver-Hawkeye last season. Over the other three matches these two have wrestled though, Sorensen has only scored one point and their last match ended with a Zain fall. I would be fairly surprised if Sorensen kept it close given how well Zain has wrestled all season.
3) One of the most intriguing weights of the dual looks like 165, where we should see #1 Vincenzo Joseph square off with #4/7 Alex Marinelli. How do you think that match is going to play out?
ROB: Vincenzo Joseph has looked awesome all season, and I have been really surprised at his composure this year. I think he's got himself a lot of doubters as to whether he can beat Isaiah Martinez again this season, but given how well Joseph has performed, I think he's got himself a great chance to beat Martinez again. Vincenzo is not as prolific on the scoreboard as a Zain, Jason Nolf or Bo Nickal yet, but he's been scoring more points than last season. Vincenzo might also be the most relaxed and composed wrestler at this level. He seems completely unshaken even in the most turbulent moments.
Alex Marinelli has impressed me all season. I think "The Bull" is going to be Vincenzo's toughest match to date. Marinelli impressed me against both Logan Massa and Nick Wanzek this season, and beating Richie Lewis twice is no small feat. I expect this match to be a one or two takedown match, and even though I am picking a Vincenzo win, I think a 3-2 or 5-4 type scoreline is very possible here.
4) 197 has been one of the most interesting weights for Penn State all year, with Matt McCutcheon, Shakur Rasheed, and Anthony Cassar all excelling there at different times this season. Rasheed blew up at the Southern Scuffle, but Cassar just recorded a huge win over former #1 Kollin Moore last week. How is that weight going to shake out -- Saturday and at the tournaments in March?
ROB: This weight has been a strange one all season for Penn State. Shakur Rasheed was the third stringer, and was basically expected to be Bo Nickal's backup this season. He had some shaky results in open tournaments in the fall. However, at the Southern Scuffle, Rasheed went Super Saiyan and just started pinning guys left and right. He picked up three first period pins from the quarterfinals to the finals, beating two ranked wrestlers in the process. Rasheed seemed to be locking this position down even further with a comfortable win over Kevin Beazley. Rasheed seemed to offer Penn State the best at both worlds, he could possibly advance further and score more bonus points. The decision seemed to be out of Cael's hands, then Anthony Cassar beat Kollin Moore and now I have no idea what to think.
Anthony Cassar started this season off in fairly unimpressive fashion and he was not the points scorer that has been so synonymous with Cael Sanderson's teams. However, Cassar has improved as the season has gone on and put in easily his best performance of the season against Kollin Moore. Cassar's win against Moore seemed possibly repeatable as well. Moore was never much of a threat in neutral, which is weird to type and say aloud, and Cassar really controlled the match from start to finish. If I was going to put percentages on who I think starts in March between these two, it would be Shakur Rasheed 55% and Anthony Cassar 45%. I guess this is why we pay Cael the big bucks.
5) Heavyweight is another weight that looks pretty close on paper. What are Nevills' strengths and how do you think he and Sam Stoll match up?
ROB: Nick Nevills' greatest strength is his ability on top. On a few occasions this season, Nevills was in close matches and got third period ride-outs to win some matches. He has not the fastest or most agile heavyweight, but he's got pretty solid takedown defense and a knack for finding the points when he needs them. As far as how this match is going to go, I give Nick a slight edge since it is in State College, however, it could really go either way. Sam Stoll is one of the best heavyweights in the division. This match could end something like 2-0 or 2-1 and I would not be surprised at all. I do not expect the scoreboard to be lighting up in this one.
6) Which match are you most excited about seeing on Saturday?
ROB: For my money, that match has to be between Vincenzo Joseph and Alex Marinelli. I think that match is going to be awesome and really offer a lot of insight into whether Marinelli is not just an All-American contender, but whether he can challenge Vincenzo or Isaiah Martinez at the top of the podium. Zain Retherford and Brandon Sorensen will at least be interesting in the sense to see if Sorensen has closed the gap on Zain. Sam Stoll and Nick Nevills will wrestle a close match, but I'm not sure it's going to be an exciting contest.
7) 125 and 157 look like notable advantages for Iowa, while 174 and 184 look like weights where Penn State has a significant edge. What are the odds for a surprise result at those weights?
ROB: In all honesty, I really do not see a surprise at any of these weights as being more than like a 5% chance. I think Spencer is going to come out on fire against Carson Kuhn back in his home state, and Michael Kemerer has too much dog in him to drop a result. Mark Hall and Bo Nickal have wrestled a few close matches this season, but there really has not been many matches this season where it seemed like they were actually going to lose. I think these will be matches where their opponents are going to have to do whatever they can to keep the score down for the team.
8) OK, prediction time -- how's the dual going to go on Saturday night?
ROB: Right now, I have this dual going 31-11 for Penn State. I think Spencer Lee and Michael Kemerer will account for all 11 points for Iowa. As great as Kuhn looked last weekend, Spencer's top game is so vicious and he's turned so many elite guys that I think Spencer can get a tech fall. Kemerer will likely either get a tech fall or fall as well. Sam Stoll and Nick Nevills is a tossup match that I have going for Penn State. I think Penn State holds the edge at 133, 141, 149, 165, 174, 184, and 197. If Marinelli can pull the upset at 165 and Sam Stoll wins, this score becomes 25-17, so another match flipping could give Iowa a great chance to pull off the upset. I just think the Penn State lineup is too balanced and will make it tough for the Hawkeyes.
BONUS! I answered questions posed by RLR over here, so give that a read, too!
Thanks for being a good sport, Rob, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped by Iowa on Saturday (lolololol). You can check out Rob and the rest of the RLR crew at Roar Lions Roar. You can also follow Rob on Twitter at @greenmanRD and Roar Lions Roar on Twitter at @RLRblog. The Iowa-Penn State dual meet is in Happy Valley, PA on Saturday, February 10, and is scheduled to start at approximately 7:00 pm CT, with TV coverage from BTN.