All last season, college wrestling fans wanted to see the top two teams in the country compete — Penn State and Iowa.
When the National Wrestling Coaches Association Dual Championship Series came along, fans thought they might get their chance.
However, it didn’t happen because they are both in the Big Ten.
Fast forward to this year.
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The No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country all season long were Oklahoma State and the Nittany Lions. At 4 p.m. Sunday, they will get paired up in the National Wrestling Coaches Association Dual Championship Series title match.
Even though the two best teams in the country will tangle, fans might not get to see the crazy point totals they are used to seeing.
The Cowboys have the strength to match up with the Nittany Lions’ strengths. After all, all of Oklahoma State’s wrestlers are currently ranked in the top 10 of their weights classes except for 125 pounds.
“It’s going to be exciting,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said Tuesday during media day. “Oklahoma State has a fantastic team. Ten really good guys. A great atmosphere. You are wrestling for a dual championship. It’s not a sanctioned NCAA dual, NCAA championship, but it’s a big deal for us and it should be for everybody.”
The pair matched up in last season’s inaugural title match with Penn State winning 29-18.
One person not in that match was Penn State’s Nick Suriano.
Suriano has been one of the many Nittany Lion wrestlers consistently scoring bonus points for the team. On Sunday, he might be the only one to accomplish that feat.
Suriano will get redshirt freshman Nick Piccininni, who is 18-6. Half of Piccininni’s losses have given up bonus points.
Piccininni was pinned by Cornell’s Noah Baughman in December. The other two losses were major decisions against Big Ten opponents. Ethan Lizak of Minnesota topped Piccininni 8-0, and Iowa’s Thomas Gilman racked up a 12-4 win.
Gilman was a common opponent of Piccininni and Suriano. In fact, Suriano’s only loss this season came in a 3-2 decision against Gilman.
“I knew this was what I would get if I came to Penn State,” Suriano said. “Look where we are as a team. I get the opportunity to have the title of being on the No. 1 team in the country. I think in my mind we already are, but we’re going to go out there compete for it and earn it.”
Oklahoma State has a clear advantage at 133 pounds with No. 3 Kaid Brock. From there, it’s anybody’s dual.
No. 1 Dean Heil of Oklahoma State and No. 10 Jimmy Gulibon will rematch at 141 pounds. Heil topped Gulibon 9-5 last year. At 149 pounds, it will be No. 1 vs. No. 2 in Penn State’s Zain Retherford and Anthony Collica. Retherford topped Collica 4-1 last year.
The Cowboys’ Joe Smith and the Lions’ Jason Nolf will renew their rivalry at 157 pounds. Smith comes in ranked No. 6. Oklahoma State’s Chandler Rodgers replaced Alex Dieringer at 165 pounds and is No. 8.
Penn State’s Mark Hall is going to get a rematch with Kyle Crutchmer at 174 pounds. Hall major decision Crutchmer at the beginning of January for the Southern Scuffle title.
Bo Nickal will get another shot at a wrestler in the top five of 184 pounds.
The Penn State sophomore has already beaten No. 3 T.J. Dudley of Nebraska (10-5) and pinned No. 5 Sammy Brooks of Iowa with a spladle. Now, he will get No. 4 Nolan Boyd. If he beats Boyd, Nickal would just have to top No. 1 Gabe Dean of Cornell to claim he beat everyone in the top five of their weight class.
Matt McCutcheon will get No. 8 Preston Weigel and Nick Nevills could face No. 6 Austin Schafer. Oklahoma State had two others listed as a probable starter when released on Wednesday.
“Every match is huge,” Sanderson said. “They got a lot of really great wrestlers. That’s what makes for a great dual.”
Note: The match will not be televised but both Champs Sports Grill and Home D Pizzeria said they will have the match via live stream. Robin Hood Brewing Co. in Bellefonte will also carry the match, but a server said they were already fully booked.
No. 2 Penn State (13-0) at No. 1 Oklahoma State (14-0)
What: National Wrestling Coaches Association Dual Championship Series
When: 4 p.m., Sunday
Where: Gallagher-Iba Arena, Stillwater, Okla.
Radio: WRSC 1390
Online: Flowrestling.org (paid subscription)
125: No. 2 Nick Suriano (16-1)
No. 11 Nick Piccininni (18-6)
133: George Carpenter (1-11)
OR Triston Law (0-2)
No. 3 Kaid Brock (22-1)
141: No. 10 Jimmy Gulibon (13-6)
No. 1 Dean Heil (23-0)
149: No. 1 Zain Retherford (18-0)
No. 2 Anthony Collica (17-1)
157: No. 1 Jason Nolf (18-0)
No. 6 Joe Smith (8-3)
165: No. 4 Vincenzo Joseph (13-3)
No. 8 Chandler Rogers (17-4)
174: No. 7 Mark Hall (23-2)
No. 9 Kyle Crutchmer (15-4)
184: No. 2 Bo Nickal (17-0)
No. 4 Nolan Boyd (18-3)
197: No. 9 Matt McCutcheon (14-3)
No. 8 Preston Weigel (15-4)
285: No. 3 Nick Nevills (15-2)
No. 6 Austin Schafer (18-1)
OR Tanner Allen (8-6)
OR Derek White (17-8)