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Rutgers Wrestling: Big Ten Championships Preview Part 1

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The Big Ten Wrestling Championships run this weekend at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on the campus of the University of Iowa. We take a look at possible matchups and where Rutgers fits into the mix. Today, the first five weights.

Roy DeBoer - used with permission

It was March 7 and 8 of 2015.  St. John Arena in Columbus, and Rutgers is making its first appearance in the Big Ten Wrestling Championships.  Welcome to the big time!

When all was said and done, Rutgers finished in 11th place with 20.5 points, ahead of Indiana, Michigan State, and Maryland.  No champions, no one in the finals.  And only two place winners (1st -8th).  That was then, this is now.  And the expectations are higher.

Penn State and Iowa go into the tournament as favorites. PSU, though, will be the rabbit everyone will be chasing.

2015-16 Final Wrestling Standings
Conference Overall
W-L-T % W-L-T %
Penn State 9-0-0 1.000 15-0-0 1.000
Iowa 9-0-0 1.000 16-1-0 .941
Michigan 8-1-0 .889 13-3-0 .813
Ohio State 7-2-0 .778 11-3-0 .786
Rutgers 5-4-0 .556 16-5-0 .762
Nebraska 5-4-0 .556 11-6-0 .647
Minnesota 5-4-0 .556 10-8-0 .556
Illinois 4-5-0 .444 13-5-0 .722
Purdue 3-6-0 .333 9-8-0 .529
Indiana 3-6-0 .333 6-7-0 .462
Wisconsin 3-6-0 .333 4-8-0 .333
Maryland 1-8-0 .111 5-13-0 .278
Michigan State 1-8-0 .111 2-14-0 .125
Northwestern 0-9-0 .000 2-13-0 .133
Updated through 2/23.

Both finished the conference season 9-0, with Iowa having only one loss on the season, a stunning loss to NC State in the final match of the season in the NWCA Duals. PSU has nine wrestlers ranked in the Intermat top 20, including four number one wrestlers.  Iowa has eight in the top 20 with no number ones, but with a three along with two number two wrestlers.

Today, we'll look at the lower five weights in this year's Championships.

125: Ohio State's Nathan Tomasello is the No. 1 wrestler in the nation, coming into the tournament at 18-0.  The redshirt sophomore is the returning Big Ten and NCAA champion.  The nation's number 2 wrestler is Iowa's Thomas Gilman (22-0).  In last year's B1G tourney, Tomasello topped Gilman in the finals. There are six ranked wrestlers in the top 20 from the Big Ten.  The conference has been allocated seven slots in the NCAA tournament, so almost everyone who places in Iowa City will be guaranteed to be heading to the NCAAs. Rutgers' Sean McCabe lost to Gilman  on a TF 21-6 (7:00) back in December.  McCabe is 13-11 on the season, but has lost his last four bouts.  The coaches' panel has nine Big Ten wrestlers, including McCabe at No. 27.

Intermat
RANK WRESTLER SCHOOL CLASS
1 Nathan Tomasello Ohio St Sophomore
2 Thomas Gilman Iowa Junior
4 Nico Megaludis Penn St Senior
10 Tim Lambert Nebraska Junior
19 Elijah Oliver Indiana Freshman
20 Conor Youtsey Michigan Junior

133: Almost half of the top 20 in the weight class is from the Big Ten.  Illinois' Zane Richards (No. 2) and Iowa's Cory Clark (No. 3) are the conference's top nationally ranked wrestlers at the weight class.  In last year's Big Ten Championships, Clark took third while Richards was fifth. In early January, Richards beat Clark in SV-1, 5-3.  The weight class will send nine on to the NCAA Championships at The Garden.  RU's Anthony Giraldo is 15-11 on the season, He lost to then-No. 3 Cory Clark by MD, 11-2.  Twelve conference wrestlers are in the coaches' panel ranking, with Giraldo at No. 20.

Intermat
RANK WRESTLER SCHOOL CLASS
2 Zane Richards Illinois Junior
3 Cory Clark Iowa Junior
5 Jordan Conaway Penn State Senior
9 Johnni DiJulius Ohio State Senior
10 Ryan Taylor Wisconsin Junior
12 Geoffrey Alexander Maryland Senior
13 Eric Montoya Nebraska Junior
18 Rossi Bruno Michigan Senior
19 Dominick Malone Northwestern Senior

141: Anthony Ashnault, the Knight's top ranked wrestler at No. 5, is probably Rutgers' best chance at a Big Ten title.  He'll need to top the Buckeyes' Micah Jordan (No. 4, 21-0).  Jordan is a redshirt freshman and was 31-3 in 2014-15 wrestling unattached.  Minnesota's Tommy Thorn (21-4) at No. 7 will certainly be in the mix, as well.  Ashnault took fifth at last year's B1G Championships.  The weight class will send seven to the NCAAs.  Ashnault is No. 5 in the coaches' panel, with seven other Big Ten wrestlers on the list.

Intermat
RANK WRESTLER SCHOOL CLASS
4 Micah Jordan Ohio State Freshman
5 Anthony Ashnault Rutgers Sophomore
7 Tommy Thorn Minnesota Freshman
19 Anthony Abidin Nebraska Senior

149: The weight class is stacked, with five of the top six wrestlers in the country at this weight.  Penn State's Zane Retherford (So. No. 1), Iowa's Brandon Sorensen (So. No. 2), and Nebraska's Jake Sueflohn (Sr. No. 3) are likely candidates  for the finals, along with Northwestern's Jake Tsirtsis and Michigan's Alec Pantaleo. Tsirtsis took the 2015 Big Ten title by topping Sorensen, 2-1.  Pantaleo finished fourth.  This season, Retherford has beaten both Tsirtsis (15-5) and Pantaleo (Fall 6:35).  The Knights' Tyson Dippery is 16-10 on the season, losing to both Sorensen and Pantaleo.  Six Big Ten wrestlers are allocated to he NCAA tournament.  Nine Big Ten wrestlers are on the coaches' panel of 33 in the weight, including Dippery at No. 31.

Intermat
RANK WRESTLER SCHOOL CLASS
1 Zain Retherford Penn State Sophomore
2 Brandon Sorensen Iowa Sophomore
3 Jake Sueflohn Nebraska Senior
5 Jason Tsirtsis Northwestern Junior
6 Alec Pantaleo Michigan Sophomore
16 Jake Short Minnesota Sophomore

157: Another loaded class.  Last season, Anthony Perrotti, now at 165, represented Rutgers at the weight class.  In 2015, he finished seventh in the Big Ten Championships, topping Maryland's Louis Mascola.  The conference has the two top-ranked wrestlers in the country in PSU's Jason Nolf (Fr. 27-0) and the Illini's Isaiah Martinez (R-Fr. 23-1).  Martinez's lone loss was a stunning loss by fall to Nolf on January 23.  Think there's excitement about a rematch?  And Martinez is the reigning Big Ten and NCAA champion at the weight.  RU's Richie Lewis, currently ranked No. 12, is the fourth highest ranked Big Ten wrestler at 157.  There are seven slots allocated to the Big Ten for the NCAA tournament.  Lewis is No. 9 on the coaches' panel behind only Martinez and Nolf.  There are seven other Big Ten wrestlers on the list at 157.

Intermat
RANK WRESTLER SCHOOL CLASS
1 Jason Nolf Penn State Freshman
2 Isaiah Martinez Illinois Sophomore
10 Jake Ryan Ohio State Freshman
12 Richie Lewis Rutgers Junior
13 Brian Murphy Michigan Junior
18 Edwin Cooper Iowa Senior
19 Tyler Berger Nebraska Freshman

To view brackets for the Big Ten Championships, click here.

For 165 through heavyweight, click here.