No. 17 Rutgers Wrestling is off from scheduled competition this weekend, although they will send a contingent to the Mat-Town Open at Lock Haven University on Saturday. Friday night however, there is a huge Big Ten dual meet between No. 1 Penn State and No. 2 Iowa that should be appointment viewing for any fan of college wrestling (9:00PM EST, Big Ten Network). In that spirit, I’ve put together a Big Ten Power Rankings list below based on the first half of the Big Ten schedule. These rankings are strictly my opinion, obviously, and I’m sure they will ruffle a few feathers, but let’s get to it:
Big Ten Power Rankings
1. Penn State (13-0, 5-0)
Wins: Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Rutgers, Indiana
Ahead of their showdown Friday night with Iowa, Penn State has looked like Penn State, dominating most of the Big Ten including a statement 29-6 win over national No. 3 Michigan. A timely transfer in All-American Drew Hildebrandt at 125lbs, the No. 3 ranked Heavyweight in Greg Kerkvliet and four returning National Champions lead the way for the Nittany Lions who are the favorite at this point in the season.
2. Iowa (11-0, 5-0)
Wins: Minnesota, Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, Ohio State
The number one ranked team by a decent margin coming into the season, the loss of three-time National Champion Spencer Lee has brought Iowa back into the fold and they will need a full team effort to take down Penn State Friday night and moreover to repeat as National Champions in 2022. The availability of Austin Desanto, a polarizing yet dominant two-time All-American wrestler for the Hawkeyes will be critical to their postseason aspirations.
3. Michigan (6-1, 2-1)
Wins: Ohio State, Rutgers
Losses: Penn State
Outside of a rough loss to Penn State where many of their highly ranked wrestlers, including then No. 2 ranked Mason Parris and Myles Amine, matched up with PSU’s studs, they have been dominant, looking to get to full strength and put together a big post-season run. Former Rutgers National Champion Nick Suriano was able to begin competing for the Wolverines in the second semester and looks primed to grab his second title, especially with Spencer Lee being out.
4. Ohio State (6-2, 2-2)
Wins: Michigan State, Maryland
Losses: Michigan, Iowa
Perennial top contender Ohio State looked on paper to be in line for a “down” year but instead have looked strong, getting big contributions from Carson Kharchla at 165lbs and Kaleb Romero at 184lbs, both ranked No. 5 nationally. Of note, highly publicized recruit Anthony Echemendia, a Cuban native with multiple solid showings on the worldwide stage, doesn’t appear to be on the official roster anymore.
5. Wisconsin (8-1, 4-1)
Wins: Northwestern, Rutgers, Minnesota, Purdue
Wisconsin closes out January having one of best Big Ten records, but all those wins are by tight margins (by 4, 5, 6, and 9 points respectively). At 149lbs, recent inbound transfer Austin Gomez has been everything Coach Bono could ask for, starting the season 12-1 with multiple wins over top-ten wrestlers. True freshman Dean Hamiti has been stellar at 165lbs, starting the season 16-0 with 14 of those wins producing bonus points for his team.
6. Minnesota (3-3, 2-2)
Wins: Nebraska, Northwestern
Losses: Iowa, Wisconsin
Led by 2020 Olympic Gold Medalist Heavyweight Gable Steveson, the Gophers are the first team that threw a real curve ball in these rankings, with a win over Nebraska, but a loss to Wisconsin, who lost to Nebraska. Showdowns with Michigan and Ohio State still loom on the schedule, so we’ll have a better idea of where they stand heading into the postseason then.
7. Nebraska (5-2, 2-2)
Wins: Wisconsin, Northwestern
Losses: Purdue, Minnesota
The Cornhuskers might be higher on this list without the Purdue loss, but it should be noted they were without No. 9 Chad Red Jr and No. 5 Peyton Robb for that dual. The win over Wisconsin was their best showing of the season so far where they took seven of ten bouts against the Badgers. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see Nebraska knocking on the top-5 when the national tournament comes around in March, as they look like a strong tournament team.
8. Rutgers (12-4, 2-4)
Wins: Illinois, Indiana
Losses: Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State, Wisconsin
Ok, I’m a homer, but hear me out. The Scarlet Knights were a big upset loss via pin against Michigan State from being 3-3 here, so I still like them over the Spartans. They match up well with Purdue and Northwestern and own wins over Illinois and Indiana, so that’s how they end up in the eighth spot here. Despite losing All-American candidates in Sammy Alvarez and Jackson Turley for the season, No. 3 at 141lbs Sebastian Rivera looks to lead by example as he’s been a monster so far this season, going 18-0 with 11 wins by technical fall, almost doubling the total of the next closest wrestler in that category.
9. Michigan State (8-2, 3-2)
Wins: Rutgers, Purdue, Indiana
Losses: Ohio State, Penn State
Michigan State is having a solid dual year and are building a strong foundation out in East Lansing, with seven of ten weight classes occupied by underclassmen. They probably aren’t built at the moment to have a big tournament run but should expect some points at nationals from AA candidates Cam Caffey, Rayvon Foley, and now Layne Malczewski, who took out No. 5 John Poznanski of Rutgers and looked strong against No. 1 Aaron Brooks of Penn State.
10. Purdue (8-4, 2-3)
Wins: Illinois, Nebraska
Losses: Wisconsin, Michigan State, Iowa
The Boilermakers have had an up and down Big Ten showing so far this season, taking advantage of a short-handed Nebraska squad to grab a big win, but have suffered understandable losses to Iowa and Wisconsin. They are led by senior 125lber Devin Schroder who looks to break into the top eight at the national tournament and earn that elusive All-American status in his fifth year after three trips to the big dance so far.
11. Northwestern (2-4, 0-4)
Losses: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska
Despite being winless in the Big Ten this year, Northwestern had a tightly contested dual with Wisconsin and finished fourth as a team at the always competitive CKLV Invitational in early December. Senior Ryan Deakin, the No. 2 ranked wrestler at 157lbs, looks to be on a collision course with defending National Champion David Carr of Iowa State when March rolls around.
12. Illinois (2-3, 0-3)
Losses: Rutgers, Iowa, Purdue
The Fighting Illini of Illinois have been hit with the injury bug, specifically at the lower weights, this season and it’s they struggled accordingly in Big Ten competition. Top-ten ranked Dylan Duncan and two-time national qualifier Mike Carr have not competed for the team so far this season and I’ve heard Carr won’t be returning. No. 6 at 133lbs Lucas Byrd is looking to improve upon his 5th place All-American finish last year and has a single loss on the season so far, an early season drop to Anthony Madrigal of Oklahoma State.
13. Indiana (3-3, 1-3)
Losses: Rutgers, Penn State, Michigan State
A rebuilding team in the Big Ten, the Hoosiers currently feature underclassmen in nine of ten weights as they look to develop a strong foundation for the future. Returning national qualifier and No. 14 ranked Donnell Washington has stood out, going 11-3 with his losses coming to currently ranked top-11 opponents. They were able to take out Maryland for their only Big Ten win so far, cementing their standing above the Terps this season.
14. Maryland (5-7, 0-3)
Losses: Penn State, Indiana, Ohio State
Another team looking to build for the future while struggling in the present is Maryland, who’s lineup features a mix of under and upperclassmen. At 133lbs, King Sandoval is a dangerous, YOLO style wrestler who is 13-8 on the season, with 11 pins. The most impressive Terp so far this season has to be Kyle Cochran at 184lbs who took home the title at the usually super competitive Southern Scuffle tournament.
We still have the whole month of February for this list to shake out further, and odds are there will be some movement in the middle of the pack. Friday night’s dual between Penn State and Iowa is a fantastic way to kick off the second half of the Big Ten schedule.