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Saturday night's contest between Penn State and Ohio State features the second- and third-ranked teams in the country, teams that are currently separated by just three projected points in this week's team tournament rankings.
Penn State will be favored at 133, 165, 174, 184, and heavyweight. If Ohio State gets wins at 125, 149, 157, and 197, The whole dual meet could come down to 141.
While the entire dual is intriguing, no match has more fan interest than the 141-pound showdown between #1 Luke Pletcher and #2 Nick Lee.
Pletcher and Lee will wrestle in one of the most highly anticipated matches of the entire season. Both wrestlers have been outstanding on the season. In fact, they are currently ranked #4 and #5 in the Hodge Rankings behind only Zahid Valencia, Spencer Lee, and Vincenzo Joseph.
How do Lee and Pletcher Stack Up?
These two top 141-pounders have both been incredibly dominant, drastically improving their bonus point rates this year earning a number of top-10 wins.
Nick Lee is 16-0 with a 93.75% bonus rate. That's up from last year's mark of 68.57%, his second-best season in terms of bonus-point wins. Of his 15 bonus-point wins, he has four falls and seven techs. In other words, he has ended the match early this year 11 times in 16 tries.
Luke Pletcher's bonus rate this year is nearly double what it was last year, his second-best season. He's 23-0 with a 65.22% mark, compared to 32.35% a year ago. He has three falls and two techs this year, so his match termination rate pales in comparison to Lee's, but his level of competition has been markedly better.
As Nomad noted in his most recent Hodge Rankings article, 13 of Pletcher's 23 wins have been against ranked opponents; more impressively, seven of those 13 ranked wins have come against opponents inside the top 10.
Nick Lee currently has six ranked wins, three of which are inside the top 10. The following table breaks down Pletcher and Lee's wins against top-10 opponents. While Pletcher has a clear edge in terms of volume of ranked wins, Lee's consistent dominance is better than Pletcher's.
These two share three common opponents in the top 10. Pletcher and Lee have comparable results against #4 Tristan Moran and #6 Chad Red. Their matches with #5 Mitch McKee have gone a bit differently. Lee earned a first-period fall while Pletcher has two convincing decisions.
Here is their ledger this year against top-10 opponents:
#4 Tristan Moran
14-1 major on 2/7
11-3 major on 1/17
#5 Mitch McKee
Fall in 1:57 on 2/9
10-5 decision on 12/6
12-6 decision on 1/26
#6 Chad Red
9-1 major on 1/24
11-3 major on 12/6
10-1 major on 2/2
#7 Dom Demas
2-1 tb-1 on 11/2
#9 Real Woods
3-1 sv-1 on 11/10
While Pletcher and Lee have had similarly dominant seasons, they score in different ways. Take each man's most recent win over Chad Red as an example.
In Pletcher's match with Red in the Ohio State vs Nebraska dual, Pletcher used constant pressure to move Red around the mat and used hard snaps to set up go behinds, leg attacks, and cradle attempts.
Lee, on the other hand, majored Red with leg-attacks to both sides of the body and with a pace so high that his snap to go-behind came easily in the third period.
The similar dominance and disparate styles of Pletcher and Lee make this one of the most exciting matches of the year and also one of the hardest matches to predict. At this point, it feels likely that we'll see these two wrestle three times this year, and we'll know a lot more about where they stand on Saturday night.