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Big Ten Wrestling Championships preview: Where does Rutgers finish?

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The first step to the national podium is this weekend in Bloomington as the Big Ten Tournament opens on Saturday

Roy DeBoer with permission

In 2016, Rutgers stunned a lot of people with a fifth place finish at the Big Ten Championships. The team's success is not catching anyone by surprise this year as the Knights finished tied for fourth place in the regular season standings. The challenge now, though, is continuing that success in the Big Ten Championships starting Saturday at Indiana.

Seedings will come out later in the week and On the Banks will bring them to you when they are released.

We take a look at each weight class with current rankings to get a sense of what might happen in Bloomington this weekend. Rutgers put all ten wrestlers on to the NCAA Championships last year; duplicating that in 2017 will be a much greater challenge with fewer RU wrestlers ranked and automatic qualifying allocations not in RU’s favor in some weight classes.

125 || Big Ten awarded 7 Allocations for NCAA

2015 Champion: Nathan Tomasello, OSU

Current Intermat Rankings:

Right, the top seven wrestlers in the nation at 125 are all from the Big Ten. With seven allocations, it would be an uphill battle for Rutgers’ Brandon Paetzell to qualify. An at-large bid is likely the best possibility for the true freshman (14-8, 5-4 B1G).

133 || Big Ten awarded 9 Allocations for NCAA

2015 Champion: Cory Clark, Iowa

Current Intermat Rankings:

Tomasello is a two time defending national champion. Can’t - or need to - say much more than that. With nine allocations for this weight, there is still a good opportunity for the wrestler who won RU’s first ever Big Ten bout, Scott DelVecchio (17-11, 4-5 B1G), to get to St. Louis. But Scott will have to step up. DelVecchio has lost to Tomasello, Richards, and Micic, but it was only a 9-7 to Richards earlier this season at home.

141 || Big Ten awarded 9 Allocations for NCAA

2015 Champion: Anthony Ashnault, RU

Current Intermat Rankings:

In all likelihood, Ashnault (24-3, 9-0 B1G) gets the top seed in the tourney. He topped Gulibon, 4-1 at State College and majored Pletcher, 10-1.

149 || Big Ten awarded 6 Allocations for NCAA

2015 Champion: Zain Retherford, PSU

Current Intermat Rankings:

Retherford went 34-0 last year enroute to an NCAA title and he’s undefeated this season. Theobold is 18-7 (5-3 B1G) with losses to Retherford (F 5:33), Jordan (12-4), and Bannister (3-2). The Bannister loss was back in December. The six allocations gives Theobold little room for error, although an at-large would certainly be possible.

157 || Big Ten awarded 9 Allocations for NCAA

2015 Champion: Isaiah Martinez

Current Intermat Rankings:

Nolf was a national finalist last season, losing to Illinois’ Martinez, 6-5. He’s undefeated this season with a tech fall over John Van Brill (20-9, 5-3 B1G). The nine allocations bode well for JVB, but he needs to take advantage of every opportunity. He lost to Murphy, 6-1 but pinned Langendorfer in a stunning win at the RAC.

165 || Big Ten awarded 6 Allocations for NCAA

2015 Champion: Isaac Jordan, WIS

Current Intermat Rankings:

Martinez won his second national title last season at 157. He’s likely to be looking at three come later in March. He does have formidable competition in the B1G Championships with the numbers 2-4 ranked wrestlers right behind him. Who wrestles for Rutgers will be up in the air until the seedings are announced. Willie Scott has more dual bouts (nine with 4-5 dual record) than anyone else on the squad at 165. Anthony Pafumi (1-3 dual) or Dylan Painton (9-8, 0-2 B1G) could also get the call.

174 || Big Ten awarded 9 Allocations for NCAA

2015 Champion: Bo Nickal, PSU

Current Intermat Rankings:

The nine allocations for the Big Ten at 174 is a big plus for all wrestlers and certainly for Jordan Pagano (24-7, 6-1 dual, 3-1 B1G). Or would it be Phil Bakuckas (12-7, 6-6 dual, 2-3 B1G)? Pagano has been on the cusp of the rankings for a while and has moved up over the last few weeks. Bakuckas lost to Brunson, 3-1 in sudden victory. Pagano dropped a 5-2 decision to Amine and then upset Lehigh’s No. 4 Ryan Preise in the NWCA Duals. Jordan was undefeated until he lost to Cornell’s No. 2 Ryan Realbuto in the National Duals, 3-2.

184 || Big Ten awarded 9 Allocations for NCAA

2015 Champion: Sammy Brooks, Iowa

Current Intermat Rankings:

Gravina (18-7, 5-4 B1G) is in one tough weight class - as if there are any easy ones. Bo Nickal is the national runner-up at 174. Dudley - the man Gravina beat last season in dramatic style to give RU a win - is the national runner-up at 184. And Brooks lost to Dudley at the NCAA Tournament last year, 9-6. In dual matches, Gravina lost to Nickal (F 4:27), Martin (9-2), Jackson (5-4), and Parker (8-6 SV).

197 || Big Ten awarded 7 Allocations for NCAA

2015 Champion: Morgan McIntosh, PSU

Current Intermat Rankings:

As a freshman, Matt Correnti (13-10, 4-5 B1G) has a mountain to face going into his first Big Ten Championships. Pfarr took third at the NCAAs last year. Studebaker is 24-6 this season. He lost to Moore by a 16-8 count. McCutcheon is 15-3, 6-3 B1G. BUT....Correnti only lost to McCutcheon by a 4-3 score in the dual. Hmmm.

Hwt || Big Ten awarded 5 Allocations for NCAA

2015 Champion: Kyle Snyder, OSU

Current Intermat Rankings:

Numbers 1, 2, and 3 all from the Big Ten. And it doesn’t get much easier after that. Razhonn Gross (11-9, 6-1 B1G) has been a great story this season, and he’s been getting stronger. But the B1G only has five automatic qualifiers at heavyweight and getting an at-large would be very tough. He is 6-1, though, but has only faced Snyder (24-9 Tech loss) among the group above.

Big Ten Predictions

I really hate doing this. So many variables play into all of this. We still don’t have seedings, and that can be critical to a wrestler’s - and a team’s - finish.

Team champion: Penn State (surprise!)

Rutgers finish: 6th place

Rutgers champions: Anthony Ashnault repeats

Rutgers place winners (1st - 8th): Scott DelVecchio, Anthony Ashnault, Ken Theobold, John Van Brill, Jordan Pagano, Nick Gravina, Matt Correnti

NCAA Qualifiers: Six - DelVecchio, Ashnault, Theobold, VanBrill, Pagano, Gravina

Tournament Rankings

There is a difference between a good dual match team and a good tournament team. Rutgers finished the season as the No. 12 ranked team. But Intermat also ranks teams based on their view of them as a tournament team. Will a team push through wrestlers, get them into scoring situations in wrestlebacks, score needed bonus points. According to Intermat, Rutgers drops a bit as a tournament team.

Rutgers comes in at No. 20 as a tourney team and only No. 9 among Big Ten squads.

Intermat Tournament Rankings - Big Ten only

Hodge Trophy

Since 1995, the Hodge Trophy has been awarded to the nation’s outstanding collegiate wrestler. It is wrestling’s “Heisman”. In all, nine Big Ten wrestlers, including seven of the last nine winners, have been from the conference. The latest assessment by FloWrestling, Christian Pyles has six Big Ten wrestlers in his top nine candidates for the Hodge.

Big Ten Wrestler of the Week

Bo Nickal, Penn State || 184 pounds – So.

  • Led the top-ranked Nittany Lions to a 27-13 win over No. 2 Oklahoma State
  • The No. 2 wrestler pinned fourth-ranked Nolan Boyd of Oklahoma State in just 38 seconds
  • Improved to 18-0 on the season, earning his 13th pin of the year

A look back one year....