Ohio State hosts Penn State on Friday at 6pm (eastern). It's February and at this time of the year there are usually just a few teams left that appear able to win a National Championship. So it's fun when we get two of those teams together for a dual.
Penn State has a lineup that is tough for anyone to measure up to. The Buckeyes once again have a bunch of individuals that will make a great night of curious match-ups.
Our good friends at The Inside Trip have written another Buckeye preview as they are from Ohio. I'll try to balance out their "homerism" with my own predictions. I hope you enjoy it.
Rankings per Intermat
125: #18 Jose Rodriguez vs. #2 Nick Suriano
3 weeks ago, Buckeye freshman Jose Rodriguez, kicked off the B1G10 dual season with an 11-2 record as the 12th ranked wrestler in the 125 pound weight class. His only 2 losses were 1-point defeats to returning All-Americans, both of whom were ranked in the top 10. Buckeye fans were beginning to believe that Rodriguez had All-American potential this year. Since then, however, he has lost 3 straight matches by a combined score of 47-10, albeit one of them to 1st ranked Thomas Gilman of Iowa. It’s become obvious that the grind of the college season and the weight cut is taking its toll on Rodriguez.
Nick Suriano, on the other hand, is 13-1 on the year, with his lone loss a 1-pont defeat at the hands of Gilman (Iowa). Suriano has 3 wins over top 10 ranked opponents and is really starting to solidify himself as the 2nd best wrestler in this weight class. Suriano’s defense is stingy, having only yielded 2 takedowns all season, and this doesn’t bode well for Rodriguez, who has struggled to score points recently. It’s safe to say that Penn State is heavily favored in this match.
The Inside Trip Prediction: Suriano, one of the best damn true freshman we have seen, is making a case for himself as a potential NCAA finalist this year. Rodriguez will need to use his length and size advantage to try and slow Suriano down and limit the damage. Look for Suriano to pick up the major decision here. 0-4 Penn State
Bloodround Prediction: While this could be a trap match for Suriano against the dangerous Rodriguez, we have yet to see him get caught by any measure. Penn State 4-0
133: #1 Nathan Tomasello vs. George Carpenter
Nathan Tomasello, ranked 1st in the country, has managed to remain unscathed this year while all other top 133lbs competition have taken losses. Last Friday night he was set to collide with 4th ranked, two time NCAA finalist, Cory Clark of Iowa. The match did not come to fruition. Clark sat out with an injury he has been laboring all year. Included in his undefeated season, Tomasello has wins over 6th ranked Zane Richards of Illinois and 7th Ranked Stevan Micic of Michigan.
George Carpenter has manned the 133lbs class for PSU since their projected starter, Jered Cortez, went down with a season ending injury. Our research has Carpenter with one win on the year, and multiple losses to unranked opponents.
The Inside Trip Prediction: Ohio State needs big bonus points at this weight to have a chance to upset Penn State. Look for Tomasello him to put up points early and try to get to his Hi-C turk for the fall. We see 6 here for the champ. 6-4 tOSU
Bloodround Prediction: While I appreciate homer love, I don’t see any pins from Tomasello this season…… Ohio State 5-4
141: #15 Luke Pletcher vs. #11 Jimmy Gulibon
Two of the most storied wrestlers from Pennsylvania, Luke Pletcher and Jimmy Gulibon, combined to win 7 PA state titles between them. The 21-2 Pletcher has looked much better in his last 4 matches since suffering his only 2 losses at the Midlands. He’s handling himself on the mat with the composure of a veteran, evident by his victory over ranked opponent Topher Carton in a hostile Carver Hawkeye Arena last weekend. Pletcher also has amazing technique for a true freshman which has helped him to a 3-1 record over ranked opponents this year. He will still struggle against the bigger 141’s but is very much in the discussion as a potential All-American for the Buckeyes.
The 10-6 Gulibon arrived at Penn State with high expectations, however has managed only 1 All-American finish in 3 tries. Ever the tease, you never really know which Jimmy you’re going to get. Will it be the wrestler who relentlessly attacked and overcame a deficit to pick up a nice win over Topher Carton at Iowa two weeks ago? Or will it be the wrestler who lost two matches at the Keystone Classic to unheralded wrestlers, Kyle Springer and Irvin Enrizuez?
The Inside Trip Prediction: With both wrestlers having an amazing pace, this should be a great match. The Buckeyes need to win this in order to have a chance at beating the Nittany Lions. We like Pletcher to get the decision over the former All-American. 9-4 tOSU
Bloodround Prediction: Penn State fans are hoping the comeback win Gulibon had over Carton (Iowa) will have sparked momentum for him to have a huge run down the stretch. This is a really interesting match of two guys that have had their difficulties at 141. I think Pletcher edges a really close match here. Ohio State 8-4
149: #5 Micah Jordan vs. #1 Zain Retherford
Jordan, 21-1 on the year, suffered his first loss last week by a 2-0 decision to 4th ranked Brandon Sorensen of Iowa. Micah, usually a livewire on his feet, was slowed down by Sorensen, and was unable to get to his leg attacks. Micah also struggled on bottom, and was ridden the entire 3rd period - something that does not bode well in this matchup.
Returning national champion, Zain Retherford, is undefeated on the year. Two weeks ago, Retherford had a scare, almost losing his 50 plus match winning streak when Sorensen took him to the limit before ultimately falling in the final overtime. Not to knock Sorensen, but that match isn’t as close next time. Retherford has been the definition of dominance this year and last. What separates him from other wrestlers at this weight is his punishing top game. Retherford can usually ride anyone (absent Sorensen two weeks ago) and is stingy as any wrestler when it comes to giving up points.
The Inside Trip Prediction: Keeping this match to a decision is a win for Jordan in our book. It’s likely that Micah will struggle again to get to his attacks. And, if last week is any indication, he doesn’t want to find himself underneath Retherford. We think that Retherford scores enough for the major. 9-8 tOSU
Bloodround Prediction: Yeah Retherford’s top game means this will probably be a major for him. Jordan has looked really good this year, and it’d be awesome if he could somehow use Sorensen’s blueprint to get out and give another test to Zain. However, Zain is probably looking to make a statement here. Tied 8-8
157: Anthony DeCarlo vs #1 Jason Nolf
Another match where Penn State is heavily favored - Ohio State backup, Anthony DeCarlo, takes on the top ranked wrestler in the 157 weight class. DeCarlo has a really neat last name but is only 2-6 on the year. He will do everything in his power not to get pinned by Nolf.
Is there a more exciting wrestler to watch than Jason Nolf? All he has done in his first 2 seasons is go 48-2, earning a runner-up finish at the 2016 NCAA Wrestling Championships, and giving Isaiah Martinez his only loss in college. The dude is amazing, a real freak on the mat, and seems to just make shit up as he goes along. He leads the high scoring Penn State team in takedowns and technical falls, is 2nd on the team in victories and pins, and has victories over the 2nd and 3rd ranked guys by a combined score of 24-11. He’s good...damn good.
The Inside Trip Prediction: It was almost a year ago that Jason Nolf dominated Jake Ryan by a score of 19-6. If that happened again, we’d consider it a victory for the Buckeyes. Unfortunately, we think Nolf gets the pin this year. 9-14 Penn State
Bloodround Prediction: This is unfortunate. Penn State 14-8
165: Cody Burcher vs. #4 Vincenzo Joseph
Redshirt sophomore Cody Burcher mans the 165 weight class for the Buckeyes. Burcher, 14-8 on the year, is very consistent. He typically wins the matches he is supposed to, but has yet to beat a top 20 opponent this year. He manages to keep matches close with highly ranked opponents, but it has yet to translate into his own offensive points.
Vincenzo Joseph is another in the long line of super freshman for the Nittany Lions. The 4th ranked Joseph has two losses on the year, an early season high-flyer to Stanford’s Subjeck, and a recent overtime loss to returning national finalist Isaac Jordan. Joseph actually had Jordan dead to rights with the clock ticking down in the third period before he was reversed to push the match to overtime. Recently, Joseph defeated Iowa’s Joey Gunther 7-4. Gunther beat Burcher 3-0 last weekend.
The Inside Trip Prediction: Only Isaiah Martinez has managed to secure bonus points against the tightfisted Burcher despite the fact that he has faced very solid competition this year. We see a regular decision by Joseph. 9-17 Penn State.
Bloodround Prediction: Joseph has been very impressive and should cruise to a win here. A major seems a stretch to predict though. Penn State 17-8
174: #1 Bo Jordan vs. #7 Mark Hall
The match at 174 pounds should be very interesting and play a pivotal role in the final outcome of the dual. Bo Jordan has not had the season, to this point, that Buckeye fans had envisioned for him when he made the move up to 174. It has nothing to do with his results however, just the lack of them. Whether it has been injury or the birth of a new daughter, Bo has only wrestled in 9 matches on the year and has been the subject of many debates regarding his #1 ranking. Wrestling against Iowa last week, in his first time on the mat in weeks, he pulled out a 3-2 victory over 11th ranked Alex Meyer. While it’s hard to not view a 3-2 win over a returning All-American as a good result, we find it odd that Bo struggled to put any sort of ride on Meyer - especially considering that position is probably his strongest. The Buckeyes need Bo wrestling and wrestling well to have any shot at being a top team in March.
Penn State pulled the redshirt label from Mark Hall in dramatic fashion 2 weeks ago in a dual at Carver Hawkeye Arena, only to have him go out and lose a close match to Alex Meyer. This event caused many to question the decision or even question Hall’s ability and his readiness to compete. Not us. We don’t put too much stock in a freshman losing his first official match out of redshirt, in a big dual on the road at CHA, after having a tough wrestle-off the same week. It’s important to look at the situation and to look at his total body of work this season. The 20-2 Hall leads the team in wins, is second on the team in pins, and has scored bonus points in 14 matches. He also has wins over wrestlers currently ranked 13th, 9th, and 4th, of which 2 of them are former All-Americans. The hype is real for Mark Hall and deservedly so.
The Inside Trip Prediction: We see this match going 1 of 2 ways. Either Jordan scores a takedown and is able to ride the smaller Hall to victory, or, Hall is able to win the match on his feet and avoid being ridden by the bigger Jordan. We see the former and pick Jordan to win by decision….however my confidence is lacking as I write this (Brandon Olinger NOT Ben Watson). 12-17 Penn State
Bloodround Prediction: I imagine the Penn State wrestling room this week was a combination of about 2,000 whistles with Mark Hall on bottom with guys like Cunningham, Nickal, Nolf, Matt Brown, Jake Varner, and even Cael being on top. They know he has no chance to win if he isn’t dialed in off the starts on bottom. If Jordan had wrestled more this season, I’d pick him. However, I think Hall will be ready for this test. Penn State 20-8
184: #10 Myles Martin vs. #2 Bo Nickal
Revenge is a dish best served in the cold of winter. I’ve got to imagine that’s Bo Nickal’s thought process regarding his meeting with Myles Martin on Friday night. Nickal, a RS Sophomore, entered Saturday night of the 2016 NCAA tournament with one loss (an upset he later avenged at the NCAA tournament to Indiana’s Nate Jackson), and a 3-0 record over Martin that year. One of my (BW’s) greatest NCAA tournament memories is when Martin countered Nickal’s throw and put him on his back to win an NCAA title. Martin, the NCAA Tournament 11 Seed, left the tournament as the 174lbs national champion. Up at 184lbs this year, Martin has been a bit inconsistent. He has a technical fall over 15th ranked Steve Schneider of Binghamton and a major decision over 12th ranked Emory Parker of Illinois. However, he has struggled against elite 184lbs competition with losses to #1 (unofficial), #4, #5, #9, and returning NCAA 3rd RS Pete Renda.
Bo Nickal is ridiculous, ludicrous, and absurd. Bluntly, the dude can wrestle. He’s fun to watch and fun to hate (in a fan sense – certainly not real hate). The kid has bonus pointed his way through the season minus a 10-5 “slip-up” win over returning national runner-up T.J. Dudley. Nickal has an unbelievably diverse offense and can seemingly score from any position. He also has a knack for helping his opponents find their backs.
The Inside Trip Prediction: “Pain” – Cliché? Maybe. But after watching Nickal flip Rutgers’ Gravina on his back like a rag doll and spladle Brooks, we see Nickal by major but will not be surprised if he gets the fall. 12-21 Penn State
Bloodround Prediction: Nickal is so good on his feet, and Martin’s defeat of him is probably a thought in his brain every ten minutes. Does Bo try to make a statement, or does he dial it back to make sure he wins 8-4ish? Either way, he avenges the NCAA final. Penn State 23-8
197: #4 Kollin Moore vs. #9 Matt McCutcheon
Kollin Moore has been a pleasant surprise for the Buckeyes this season. While many fans thought the potential was there, few could have predicted the early success he is having this year. His only 2 losses this season have come at the hands of J’Den Cox and Brett Pfarr, respectively ranked 1st and 2nd at 197 pounds. He’s tied for 2nd on the team in wins with 20 and can score a lot of points on his feet as he is constantly attacking and pushing the pace; however his mat wrestling is still raw.
You have to have a little bit of appreciation for Moore’s opponent, Matt McCutcheon. He’s obviously wrestling out of his weight class due to the talent at the weight below him. Even so, he’s managed to find himself 12-2 on the season so far. He’s not a prolific point scorer but has the ability to keep matches close with the elite in this weight class as evident by his 3-2 loss to Pfarr. His only other loss was by pin in the 3rd period to 6th ranked Aaron Studebaker. The match was 2-1 prior to that.
The Inside Trip Prediction: We are of the opinion that Moore is the 3rd best guy at this weight. His offense will be too much for McCutcheon to keep up with. While we hope that a major decision is the result, you’re more likely to see a victory by decision for Moore. 15-21 Penn State
Bloodround Prediction: I’ve never been a huge McCutcheon fan, and he seems to move up in the rankings here and there for reasons I can’t explain. Maybe he looked really impressive in his 4-3 win over Correnti (Rutgers)? This is a test for Moore that I think he passes. Penn State 23-11.
HVY: #1 Kyle Snyder vs. #3 Nick Nevills
Snyder is otherworldly. The minute you think he can’t get better, he goes out and wins a gold medal at the Yarygin in Siberia with three technical falls and a pin in the finals. Snyder has actually been a bit more diverse with his leg attacks this year, and has turned himself into a pinner – albeit against lesser completion. Snyder has faced one ranked (college) opponent this year, Arizona State’s 7th ranked Tanner Hall, and came away with a 20-8 major decision.
My what a difference a season can make. Nevills, a sophomore for the Nittany Lions, was out most of last year with an injury. He came back at the end of the year, but was nowhere near 100%, and failed to qualify for the NCAA tournament. This year, Nevills has been very solid with wins over multiple ranked opponents. His only loss is to current #2 ranked Medbery of Wisconsin in a tight 4-3 match.
The Inside Trip Prediction: Nevills is very good college wrestler. Snyder is literally one of the best wrestlers in the world. Snyder will attempt to pepper Nevills with shots early, hoping to tire out the bigger opponent. Snyder has an uncanny ability to break opponents with his pace. We see a major decision here. 19-21 Penn State.
Bloodround Prediction: Snyder should cruise here despite Nevills being very good. While I don’t think there’s much of a snowball’s chance in hell here, to see Nevills move and keep up with the pace of Snyder will be interesting to see. I think there’s a chance Nevills is in that top tier, and he has the chance to show it here even if his hand doesn’t get raised. Penn State 23-15. This dual is a tough one for the Buckeyes to pick up six wins or win the bonus points battle. I have Cael winning six, but there are some tough and intriguing battles in the mix to watch. Thanks to the Inside Trip fellas for helping grow the conversation about wrestling out there, even if they are from that dirty state down south.
There you have it. We have the matches split at 5-5, but bonus points win the day for Penn State. Let’s hope we are wrong.
Brandon Olinger and Ben Watson are NCAA wrestling fanatics and hosts of The Inside Trip wrestling podcast. You can follow Brandon on twitter @brando413, Ben on twitter @bawlaw, and The Inside Trip @theinsidetrip1. You can email them @ firstname.lastname@example.org