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Rutgers Wrestling: Big Ten Championships Preview Part 2

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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 took a look yesterday at the lower weights and where Rutgers fits into the mix. Today, the upper five weights.

Roy DeBoer - used with permission

Yesterday, we looked at the lower weights for the Big Ten Championships.  Today, it's the big guys.

The conference announced the pre-seeds as voted on by the coaches; these are the seeds for Rutgers:

Two number three seeds - Anthony Ashnault and Richie Lewis - is pretty good for only the second season in the conference.  For Lewis, it is his first go round in the B1G.  Both Anthony Perrotti and Billy Smith earned four seeds.

Penn State holds four No. 1 seeds, with 149-pounder Zain Retherford, 157-pounder Jason Nolf, 174-pounder Bo Nickal and 197-pounder Morgan McIntosh earning top billing in their weight classes. Michigan boasts two top-seeded grapplers in Dom Abounader (184) and Adam Coon (285), while Ohio State received top seeds in Nathan Tomasello (125) and Micah Jordan (141). The Fighting Illini's Zane Richards (133) and Badgers' Isaac Jordan (165) round out the group of top-ranked grapplers.

Full conference pre-seeding can be found here.

Now the previews for the final five weights.

165: Anthony Perrotti, Rutgers' first All American in the Goodale era.  Or should that be #GoodaleEra?  In 2015, Perrotti was at 157; he moves up a weight class and he comes in to the Big Ten Championships ranked No. 7 and on a roll.  In the dual meet on February 5, he lost to then-No. 3 Isaac Jordan (21-0), 4-0.  He'd like nothing better than another crack at the No. 2 wrestler in the country.  Last year, Bo Jordan (14-3) topped Isaac Jordan, 3-2, and they certainly look like they are headed for another showdown.  Isaac Jordan topped Bo Jordan 6-4 in a dual match just two weeks ago.  There's another rematch people might like to see.  With seven ranked wrestlers, the weight class will be a scramble.  The NCAA has six slots allocated to the conference at 165.

Intermat


RANK WRESTLER SCHOOL CLASS
2 Isaac Jordan Wisconsin Junior
3 Bo Jordan Ohio State Sophomore
5 Steven Rodrigues Illinois Senior
7 Anthony Perrotti Rutgers Senior
8 Chad Welch Purdue Senior
13 Austin Wilson Nebraska Senior
17 Shakur Rasheed Penn State RS - Freshman

174: A true freshman as the number one wrestler in the country?  Yeah, and I'm guessing that Bo Nickal, who has one loss to Indiana's Nate Jackson, will be top seed.  He's already beaten Martin, Brunson, and Barnes. Brunson is the only Big Ten place winner returning from the 2015 Championships.  Phil Backukas (15-11) is 3-1 in his last four bouts.  He lost to both Iowa's Meyer, 8-3 and Nebraska's Barnes, 9-3 early in the season.  The weight class gets nine allocations from the NCAA, the deepest weight class for the Big Ten along with 133.  Backukas is No. 23 in the coaches panel.

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RANK WRESTLER SCHOOL CLASS
1 Bo Nickal Penn State Freshman
6 Zac Brunson Illinois Junior
10 Alex Meyer Iowa Junior
11 Nate Jackson Indiana Junior
13 Myles Martin Ohio State Freshman
16 Micah Barnes Nebraska Junior
20 Nick Wanzek Minnesota Sophomore

184: The Wolverines' Abounader is the returning Big Ten champion at the weight.  Brooks and McCutcheon were scheduled to face off in 2015, but the match never happened with Brooks winning by forfeit.  Courts (8th) and Dudley (6th) also return as place winners.  Back in December, Rutgers' Nick Gravina took a gutsy 3-2 victory over then-number 4 (and returning All American) T.J. Dudley (17-5).  It spurred the Knights to a 17-16 upset of the Cornhuskers. There are seven allocations at 184 in the NCAAs for the Big Ten.

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RANK WRESTLER SCHOOL CLASS
2 Dominic Abounader Michigan Junior
7 Matt McCutcheon Penn State Sophomore
11 T.J. Dudley Nebraska Junior
13 Sammy Brooks Iowa Junior
17 Kenny Courts Ohio State Senior
20 Nicholas Gravina Rutgers Sophomore

197:  Stacked up top, light top-to-bottom.  Morgan McIntosh is the returning Big Ten champion while Pfarr was the runner up at 184 in 2015.  Burak (4th) and Huntley(5th) also placed.  RU's Hayden Hrymack has been up and down, but a strong tournament run could give him a shot to go to the NCAAs.  In last year's Big Ten tournament, Hrymack beat Nebraska's Aaron Studebaker, the No. 5 seed.  The conference gets just six allocations, and you have five ranked wrestlers ready to step into them.  That leaves a dark horse able to squeeze into the sixth guaranteed spot.

Intermat


RANK WRESTLER SCHOOL CLASS
1 Morgan McIntosh Penn State Senior
3 Brett Pfarr Minnesota Junior
4 Nathan Burak Iowa Senior
7 Max Huntley Michigan Senior
11 Aaron Studebaker Nebraska Junior

Heavyweight: Only two heavyweights return from last year's place winners,  Adam Coon (3rd) and Michael Kroells (5th).  The most interesting wrestler is Kyle Snyder who is 3-0 for the Buckeyes.  3-0?  Yeah, he was kinda busy becoming the youngest freestyle World champion in U.S. wrestling history this past September and continuing to train for the 2016 Summer Olympics.  He was preparing to take an Olympic redshirt but decided to return to the team.  He gets the No. 2 seed behind Coon.  Last year, Billy Smith (23-6) qualified for the NCAAs despite not placing at the B1G tourney.  Coon pinned Smith in the first period in the Michigan dual this year but topped Kroells in their match, in the tiebreaker, 2-1.  There are seven slots allocated to the B1g at heavyweight..

Intermat
RANK WRESTLER SCHOOL CLASS
2 Kyle Snyder Ohio State Sophomore
4 Adam Coon Michigan Junior
7 Sam Stoll Iowa Freshman
9 Michael Kroells Minnesota Junior
13 Billy Smith Rutgers Senior
16 Nick Nevills Penn State Freshman
19 Collin Jensen Nebraska Junior

Coaches Panel

Reviewing the coaches' panel and RPI rankings, nine Scarlet Knights were listed in the coaches' ranking, including No. 27 Sean McCabe at 125 pounds, No. 20 Anthony Giraldo at 133 pounds, No. 5 Anthony Ashnault at 141 pounds, No. 31 Tyson Dippery at 149 pounds, No. 9 Richie Lewis at 157 pounds, No. 7 Anthony Perrotti at 165 pounds, No. 23 Phillip Bakuckas at 174 pounds, No. 18 Nicholas Gravina at 184 pounds, and No. 9 Billy Smith at heavyweight.

The same nine Scarlet Knights were recognized in the RPI standings. McCabe was ranked No. 27, Giraldo No. 19, Ashnault No. 3, Dippery No. 27, Lewis No. 6, Perrotti No. 6, Bakuckas No. 24, Gravina No. 13, and Smith No. 6.

Who wins the tournament?

If the seeds hold, and they're usually pretty-sorta-kinda good, Penn State gets the title.  That doesn't take into account any bonus points or how well wrestlers do in the wrestle back stage -- the consolations.  You can win a title, or at least move into second or third, by picking up lots of third and fourth place finishes.  Ohio State will likely make more noise than some would expect, along with Iowa.  Rutgers will be better than year one; the Knights should end up in the middle of the pack, sixth or seventh.  And that ain't too bad.

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