Editor’s note: The Centre Daily Times will publish weekly updates based on NWCA coaches team and InterMat individual rankings to give readers a glimpse into how Penn State wrestling fits into the bigger picture.
College wrestling did not rest over the winter semester break, with two major midseason tournaments — Midlands Championships and the Southern Scuffle — shaking up the individual rankings.
Although Penn State wrestlers didn’t see a whole lot of changes, there was movement in the rest of the field, with a new No. 1 at 125 pounds and a bevy of new faces in this week’s InterMat rankings.
The story of the past couple weeks was Northwestern’s Sebastian Rivera’s upset win over defending national champion Spencer Lee, of Iowa. The redshirt sophomore racked up three takedowns to none for the 7-3 decision and to take over at the top spot at 125, the lone weight class where Penn State does not have a ranked wrestler.
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Despite losses from a few starters at the Scuffle, Penn State wrestlers all saw upward movement in this week’s poll.
True freshman Roman Bravo-Young suffered the first loss of his young career when he gave up the pin to Iowa State’s Austin Gomez, who moved up one spot to No. 9 this week. Yet Bravo-Young was able to battle back and finish strong with a 10-1 major decision over Cal Bakersfield’s then-No. 20 Sean Nickell, which marked Bravo-Young’s first win over a ranked 133-pounder this season. For his effort, Bravo-Young slid up a spot to No. 14.
Brady Berge moved up one spot to No. 9 at 149 pounds after his Scuffle performance, in which he beat two ranked wrestlers plus Stanford’s Requir Van der Merwe, who slid into the rankings this week at No. 15 after his Scuffle run. Van der Merwe beat Navy’s Jared Prince, who slipped two spots to No. 19.
The biggest jump at 149 was made by two-time Scuffle champion Kaden Gfeller, of Oklahoma State. The redshirt freshman made the leap from No. 12 up to No. 6 after defeating No. 7 in Duke’s Mitch Finesilver, 3-2, in the finals. Finesilver handed Berge his lone loss of the tournament, a 3-2 decision won on a second-period rideout.
Despite his loss in the finals to Oklahoma State heavyweight Derek White, Anthony Cassar also moved up one spot in InterMat’s poll to No. 4. The previous No. 4, Maryland’s Youssif Hemida, dropped down to No. 6. Hemida did not compete at Midlands due to illness, but finished fifth a few weeks later at the Franklin and Marshall Open, his lone loss coming at the hands of unattached Penn State commit Seth Nevills.
Oregon senior Amar Dhesi, last year’s third-place heavyweight finisher at NCAAs, entered the mix officially last weekend after taking time to train with the Canadian national team. His debut, however, was spoiled by Michigan true freshman Mason Parris, who had his redshirt pulled in that match. Dhesi entered the rankings at No. 5, while Parris — who has losses to Ohio State’s Chase Singletary, Northwestern’s Conan Jennings and Central Michigan’s Matt Stencel — debuts at No. 8.
The rest of the Nittany Lions remain unchanged in their ranks. Penn State still boasts four No. 1s in Jason Nolf, Vincenzo Joseph, Mark Hall and Bo Nickal at 157, 165, 174 and 197 pounds, respectively. Sophomore Nick Lee remains No. 4 at 141 pounds, and Shakur Rasheed No. 3 at 184.
A few other changes of note to the individual rankings are the entrance of Oklahoma’s State’s Joseph Smith at No. 6 at 174 after his second-place Scuffle finish, and Jacobe Smith’s move from No. 7 at 174 to No. 11 at 184 for the Cowboys.
Bucknell freshman Zach Hartman — whom Penn State fans might remember for his November takedown of Nolf — debuted in the rankings at No. 10 at 157 pounds after an impressive third-place finish at Midlands. Hartman’s marquee win was a 10-2 major decision over Arizona State’s No. 11 Christian Pagdilao. The Sun Devil is ranked one above Michigan’s Alec Pantaleo, whom he beat in dual competition at 157 pounds on Saturday. Pantaleo had competed down at 149 at Midlands, and did not compete against Oregon.
Team rankings in the National Wrestling Coaches Association coaches poll remained largely unchanged after some shakeup last week with the South Beach Duals. Missouri went 4-0 in Fort Lauderdale, with wins over Purdue, Cornell and Lehigh to improve to 10-0 on the season and overtake Michigan at No. 5, where the Tigers remain in this week’s poll.
The Nittany Lions are again the unanimous No. 1, with Ohio State, Oklahoma State and Iowa filling out the rest of the top 5.
Penn State competes next on the road against Northwestern on Friday and is back home Sunday to take on No. 10 Wisconsin.
Theraworx NWCA Division I Wrestling Coaches Poll
|1||Penn State (16)||4-0||400||1|
|23||North Dakota State||6-3||47||20|
Others receiving votes: Stanford 9, Old Dominion 7, Lehigh 5, Virginia 2.