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NCAA Wrestling: DI Wrestling Championships

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The midwestern swing for the Nittany Lions continues on Sunday, when they head up to Minneapolis for the first of two trips this year.

After a successful stop in Madison on Friday, the Nittany Lions complete their daunting road schedule this season with a final stop in Minneapolis to face the Gophers. This will be the first of two trips to the Cities this year, as the NCAA tournament in March takes place in the Vikings’ US Bank Stadium. This is also the second dual in a three-dual stretch (and third in a five-dual stretch) that will be nationally televised on the Big Ten Network.

Minnesota, like much of the Big Ten, is a very solid, strong squad with a couple of hammers. Undoubtedly, the most high-profile of those is heavyweight Gable Steveson, who last year was a freshman phenom everyone expected to win the NCAA title before PSU’s Anthony Cassar beat him twice, at the Big Ten and NCAA tournaments, to claim the title; since Cassar’s out for his final season with injury, Steveson becomes the defacto odds-on favorite in a very, very stacked weight class.

The 2019-2020 season is UM head coach Brandon Eggum’s third full season as permanent coach in Minneapolis, after being named to the position in the middle of the 2016-2017 season after vaunted coach J Robinson was let go amidst scandal. Eggum was on the staff at Minnesota for 15 years prior to taking over the head spot, is a Gopher alum, and generally nice guy when you approach him in bars a few days before the tournament to talk wrestling and the guys on his team you think have a shot to medal.

Minnesota is a tough team that boast a very solid 4-2 record in Big Ten action this year, with wins over top-ten Wisconsin and Purdue squads.

How To Watch

What: #3 Penn State* vs #18 Minnesota

Where: UW Field House, Madison, WI

When: Sunday, February 9, 2pm

Audio: Free, Jeff “Ironhead” Byers, via GoPSUSports

Video: BTN

125 LBS

Prediction: McKee by major decision

Score: PSU 0, Minnesota 4

133 LBS

Roman Bravo-Young has taken a major step up this season, and Friday night showed that he’s firmly in the conversation for the NCAA title. He was the one shooting, with offense, late in a 6-5 loss to returning champ Seth Gross, and he actually had a riding time advantage – which shows his growth in all facets of his game this season. He’s confident, and he’ll score a lot on Sunday.

Prediction: RBY by major decision

Score: PSU 4, Minnesota 4

141 LBS – Match of the Meet

When I was writing up the preview for Friday’s Wisconsin dual, I was shocked to see that the algorithms over at WrestleStat were predicting Nick Lee to lose; yes, he was bested last year by Moran in the dual meet in double overtime, but he rebounded and won by bonus in the conference tournament. Couple that with a Lee that’s been on an absolute tear this season, and we all knew that Lee would be the victor – the question was by how much. And he didn’t disappoint, breaking Moran down early and winning going away. Mitch McKee is a very good wrestler, but Lee will do the same on Sunday.

Prediction: Lee by major decision

Score: PSU 8, Minnesota 4

149 LBS

Jarod Verkleeren had his first ranked win on Friday when he took down Wisconsin’s Cole Martin, and showed why he has the starting spot at this weight. UM’s Lee, though, is a tougher animal, and while I see Verk keeping it close, the points he’ll give up early in the first will be enough for Lee to stave off a late Verkleeren flurry.

Prediction: Lee by decision

Score: PSU 8, Minnesota 7

157 LBS

Jeff Byers jinxed Bo Pipher on Friday when he kept repeating he’d never lost by bonus – then he lost by bonus. But Bo is super tough despite his record, and I expect he’ll win the riding time metric but not be able to get an offensive point from neutral on Sunday.

Prediction: Thomas by decision

Score: PSU 8, Minnesota 10

165 LBS

Prediction: Joseph by tech fall

Score: PSU 13, Minnesota 10

174 LBS

Hall is going to score bonus, by hook or by crook. He’ll take the loss to Kemerer as a learning opportunity, much as he did three years ago, and will only improve from here on out.

Prediction: Hall by major decision

Score: PSU 17, Minnesota 10

184 LBS

Brooks ground out a very tough win on Friday against a thick NW transfer, and his confidence will only grow from here. On Sunday, I think he’ll be up and cut Webster late to look for the bonus – and will score the extra-point-enabling takedown with less than ten seconds on the clock.

Prediction: Brooks by major decision

Score: PSU 21, Minnesota 10

197 LBS

While he didn’t look as dominant as he had at some points over his career, on Friday night, Shakur Rasheed looked the best we’ve seen from him this season. He was dominant on top, looking for various turning combinations and breaking his opponent down – and if he really is getting his groove back, as it looks like, he can cap off his career as an All-american again.

Prediction: Shak by decision

Score: PSU 24, Minnesota 10

285 LBS

It is disappointing that freshman Seth Nevills got the default and wouldn’t get a tune-up against a top opponent on Friday in preparation for this monster of a match on Sunday. I’m not so sure that it would matter too much; Steveson is the best of the best at this weight, and he should be able to take control rather quickly. Nevills has talent, and will be great in coming years. This bout won’t show that.

Prediction: Steveson by major decision

Score: PSU 24, Minnesota 14


*The Penn State athletic department, in its official capacity, uses Intermat Tournament Rankings in all its match literature; in those rankings, Penn State is #2, and Wisconsin is #6. I’m using Intermat’s Dual Meet rankings because this happens to be a dual.

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