We're starting off what will prove to be a tremendous weekend of wrestling with an excellent Big Ten dual in Columbus, Ohio, tonight.
When #18 Minnesota travels to #1 Ohio State, there will be 16 total ranked wrestlers and seven matches in which both wrestlers will be ranked. The dual starts at 7 PM Eastern time.
The visiting Gophers have drawn all year after weigh-ins, so it is likely the dual won't start at 125. However, there really isn't a bad place to start, as six weights will feature ranked matchups. Below are the projected lineups for each team.
125: #5 Ethan Lizak (Minnesota) vs. #1 Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State)
133: #12 Mitch McKee (Minnesota) vs. #2 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State)
141: #10 Tommy Thorn (Minnesota) vs. #6 Joey McKenna (Ohio State)
149: Ben Brancale vs. #6 Ke-Shawn Hayes (Ohio State)
157: #17 Jake Short (Minnesota) vs. #6 Micah Jordan (Ohio State)
165: #8 Nick Wanzek (Minnesota) vs. #13 Te'Shan Campbell (Ohio State)
174: Chris Pfarr (Minnesota) vs. #3 Bo Jordan (Ohio State)
184: #20 Owen Webster (Minnesota) vs. #2 Myles Martin (Ohio State)
197: Bobby Steveson (Minnesota) vs. #1 Kollin Moore (Ohio State)
285: Rylee Streifel (Minnesota) vs. #1 Kyle Snyder (Ohio State)
We've already gone over the feature bout of the evening between Ethan Lizak and Nathan Tomasello, so let's now also dive into the 133- and 141-pound battles.
133: Mitch McKee (UM) vs. Luke Pletcher (OSU)
McKee has had an interesting season so far, missing a little bit of time due to the U23 world championships. He is the only person to keep South Dakota State's Seth Gross from winning by bonus and is 0-3 against ranked wrestlers. However, all nine of his wins are by either pin or major. McKee's front head and short offense may be difficult to employ this week.
Pletcher has risen to #2 in the rankings, but only three of his 18 wins were bonus-point victories. He is 5-0 against currently ranked guys, so he is certainly getting tested by the Buckeyes' schedule. The game plan for Pletcher won't change much against McKee: finish low singles and try to grind out a riding time point.
The dual being at Ohio State certainly favors Pletcher, as McKee is 2-5 so far in college in road duals. However, this one likely won't be decided until the final period, as McKee tends to get stronger as the match goes on and Pletcher hasn't shown himself yet to put up points in bunches against the top tier of guys.
141: Tommy Thorn (UM) vs. Joey McKenna (OSU)
This is a potential revenge match for McKenna, who got pinned by Thorn in an overtime scramble last year in the second round of NCAAs. Of McKenna's six career losses in college, that one was by far the most surprising.
Similar to McKee with U23s, McKenna's season has only featured six matches because he competed in those world championships. This will undoubtedly be his toughest test so far, which could previously be considered #15 Cole Weaver.
It might seem odd that Thorn has only dropped to #10 after six losses, but all of them have come against guys who are currently ranked. For a guy who has taken double-digit losses into NCAAs each of the past two years, this seems exactly like the type of match he would drop, against a quality guy, on the road, in a tight match.
165: Nick Wanzek (UM) vs. Te'Shan Campbell (OSU)
The only match in which the Gophers are favored is at 165, with Nick Wanzek ranked eighth to Te'Shan Campbell's 13th. The two did not hit at CKLV after Wanzek medical forfeited out to sixth after losing in the semis.
The common opponent results from this year are a mixed bag. Wanzek beat Nebraska's Isaiah White 2-0 on riding time and and an escape point and has a 2-1 win over Arizona State's Anthony Valencia. Campbell, on the other hand, split with White at CKLV and beat Valencia 14-0 in a November dual.