Around the Big Ten: Wrestling
This article excludes Penn State and Nebraska, as a preview article has been written for their upcoming match on January 20. Read that article here.
The Big Ten conference is home to 10 of the top 25 wrestling programs in the country, according to FloWrestling. With the second half of the season now underway, a deeper looking into the best conference in college wrestling in deserved. This week the western division will be examined.
Currently ranked 14th, the fighting Illini have two top-10 wrestlers on their team in Mike Carr and Emery Parker. Mike Carr sits at No. 4 in the 141 pound rankings and is one of three sophomores in the top five. Carr has two losses this season, but both have come by medical forfeit. Carr will face two top-25 wrestlers in the upcoming weeks as he looks to cement his status as a top notch athlete in a very talented division. Emery Parker sits in the No. 2 spot in the 184 pound division only behind Ohio State’s Myles Martin. Parker started this season slow, but has remained constant throughout the season. Parker and Martin will face off on Feb. 1, which will set the tone for the Big Ten tournament and eventually the NCAA tournament.
Ranked fourth, the Hawkeyes have a lethal lineup. They sent returning 125 national champion in second ranked Spencer Lee and followed by eighth ranked Austin DeSanto at 133 pounds. This two are teammates now, but they have quite the history when on opposite sides of the mat; Lee was looking to cap an incredible high school career by winning four Pennsylvania state titles and go 145-0 in 2017. DeSanto also a graduating senior in 2017 - both are sophomores now - looked to get his revenge on Lee as Lee defeated DeSanto in the 2016 final in embarrassing fashion by a 15-0 technical fall.
DeSanto did the unthinkable and took Lee down before the buzzer to hand the then Iowa commit his first and only pre-collegiate loss. Lee and DeSanto now on the same team have proven to be a deadly combination in Iowa’s lineup. Lee has one loss on the season to Sebastian Rivera of Northwestern as DeSanto’s lone loss was to state rival Iowa State’s Austin Gomez. This has not slowed the pair down, still racking up team bonus points in 65 percent of their matches thus far. With both men being only sophomores, they could become some of the greatest Hawkeye wrestlers in history.
Sitting at No. 8, the Golden Gophers are still a tough team to keep up with this year. With a mix of youthful and experienced athletes, the Golden Gophers can put up a good fight. Senior Ethan Lizak, nicknamed “The Backpack” due to his ability to earn riding points, and freshman Gable Steveson lead this squad. Lizak has always been in the mix when the national tournament comes around, but has never captured an individual title. He is a two-time All-American and has a career record of 122-35. Lizak will look to finally capture that elusive individual title as the 133 pound crown is up for grabs, as the reigning champion Seth Gross of South Dakota State announced that he is out for the rest of the season due to a back injury. On the other hand, Gable Steveson has set the heavyweight division on notice as the freshman has looked impressive all year.
Stevenson's closest call this season came in his fourth career match as he secured the victory in sudden victory. Being the top-ranked heavyweight as a freshman sets the bar very high for the rest of the year and your career, but until this point Stevenson's backed this accolade by going 22-0. Stevenson recently trained with Minnesota alumni Brock Lesnar, who won his national champion at the school back in 2000.
Learning from someone of Lesnar’s star power and accomplishments can give Stevenson an edge in all aspects of wrestling that can propel Stevenson into legendary status if he can continue the path he is currently set on for the rest of his tenure at Minnesota.
Just outside the top 10 at No. 11, the Wildcats are having a rough season. Their record stands at 3-5, with their Big Ten conference record being 1-2. Sebastian Rivera and Ryan Deakin serve as the stars on the team; Rivera is the nation’s top 125 pounder while Deakin is third in the 157 pound rankings. Rivera’s route to win the national championship will go through Iowa’s Spencer Lee. Rivera beat Lee in duel competition, but will most likely see each other again in the conference tournament and the national championship bracket.
Deakin will try to maintain his current path, as he in ranked behind Jason Nolf of Penn State and Tyler Berger of Nebraska. Deakin should be proud of his season thus far as he is only a sophomore keeping up with seniors Nolf and Berger. Deakin’s sole losses this year also were at the hands of the elder Nolf and Berger, which will provide motivation for when Deakin potentially matches up with them in the upcoming months.
The Boilermakers are the lone team in the western division to be unranked, but this does not mean that Purdue should be looked down upon. Christian Brunner and Dylan Lydy anchor the back half of the Boilermakers’ lineup; the juniors look to build ahead towards next season as both compete in very tough weight classes.
Brunner, who is ranked ninth at 197 pounds, would have to overcome Penn State’s Bo Nickal and Ohio State’s Kollin Moore to become a national champion. Lydy, on the other hand, ranks 15th in the 174 pound weight class and would have to beat guys like Mark Hall from Penn State and Zahid Valencia from Arizona State to achieve great success. Keep an eye on this Boilermaker team as their future could be very bright and can make some noise when March rolls around this year.
The Badgers have had a rough stretch as their four losses have come in their last four duels. Ohio State handed Wisconsin their first loss with a final of 23-13, which was followed by a Rutgers victory where the Scarlet Knights held on with a 17-16 final. Penn State and Northwestern added to two more losses as Wisconsin now holds a 6-4 record. Evan Wick and Trent HIllger aim to bring the season around as their next opponents are Minnesota and Maryland.
Ryan Simpson is a senior majoring in statistics and minoring in sociology. To contact him, email email@example.com.