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Going into every dual, conventional wisdom dictates the predictions for the match's outcome. But without fail, these predictions are thrown out the door and we find ourselves stunned when upsets occur, only to make the same mistake over and over again. Just one week ago, Missouri was favored in six matches and won three against Northern Iowa. These types of upsets have been happening all season long, and they still catch us off guard.
Knowing this, let's take the time to identify the dark horses in the National Duals championship between No. 2 Penn State and No. 1 Oklahoma State at OSU's Gallagher-Iba Arena on Sunday. These are wrestlers who few will consider legitimate shots at a win, but are prime examples of the guys who are all too often counted out.
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125Dark Horse: No. 11 Nick Piccininni, OK State; Opponent: No. 2 Nick Suriano, PSU
A four-time New York State champion, Piccininni is in the midst of a strong freshman campaign. Incredible freshmen in the past such as Kyle Snyder and J'den Cox have maybe given us irrational expectations for other first-year NCAA wrestlers. The lightning-fast dynamo Piccininni is currently ranked 11th in the country. Oklahoma State freshmen tend to make real gains toward the end of the season, so improvement from Piccininni shouldn't surprise us. Standing opposite Pich is a fantastic true freshman in Nick Suriano. We haven't seen Suriano have that "freshman moment" all year. Even in defeat against Thomas Gilman, Suriano didn't let the moment overtake him. So is Suriano simply unflappable? Or is he due for a letdown and a freshman moment in front of a hostile Oklahoma State crowd? Suriano's head hands are elite, but Piccininni's speed in his leg attacks may be the secret to getting in deep against Suriano.
141Dark Horse: No. 13 Jimmy Gulibon, PSU; Opponent: No. 1 Dean Heil, OK State
Jimmy G is quietly turning in a strong second semester. Since the new year began, he's 7-2 with losses to Anthony Ashnault and Colton McCrystal. His schedule has been fairly competitive as well. He has knocked off Tommy Thorn, Luke Pletcher, Topher Carton, and Cole Martin already. While his opponent, Dean Heil, represents a very difficult stylistic matchup (in that Heil doesn't get taken down, like at all), Gulibon's pedigree is still high, and his high crotch may be the best way to take down Heil since head inside is a relative death sentence.
174Dark Horse: No. 7 Kyle Crutchmer, Oklahoma State; Opponent: No. 9 Mark Hall, PSU
A dark horse who's ranked ahead of his opponent? Yeah, that's right. Crutchmer may be among the most overlooked wrestlers in this dual due to his last outing against Mark Hall. What you must understand is that match to match, Crutchmer is rarely the same wrestler. I'm sure this is frustrating for the OSU coaching staff, but the guy who lost to Hall in a lopsided decision in the Scuffle finals is the same one who beat Alex Meyer (who beat Hall) soundly at home a few weeks later. You don't know what you'll get each week, but he's generally very tough at home. His throws and power double only need to connect one time to do real damage.
197Dark Horse: No. 9 Matt McCutcheon (aka Mouse aka McCutchison), PSU; Opponent: No. 8 Preston Weigel, OSU
Where McCutcheon stacks up at 197 is still relatively unknown. He seems to be somewhere between the second and third tier. He's lost to only Brett Pfarr, Aaron Studebaker, and Kollin Moore this year. He and Weigel are just separated by one spot in the 197 FloRankings. McCutcheon is an adept scrambler and underrated rider. Weigel will have a decided size advantage against McCutcheon, but his bottom skills are where the rubber will meet the road. Weigel is one of the best turners at this weight. His ability to get and control wrists is freaky. If McCutcheon can get away, the upset could be there for the taking.
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