2020 Big Ten Wrestling Championship

2020 Big Ten Championships 165-Pound Preview

2020 Big Ten Championships 165-Pound Preview

Preview, predictions, and everything else you need to know about the 165-pound weight class at the 2020 Big Ten Championships.

Mar 3, 2020 by Andrew Spey
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Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and one year without the Big Ten Championships has made many a wrestling fan's heart grow excruciatingly fond. But the wait is over, and the raddest and baddest wrestling tournament outside the NCAAs is nigh upon us.

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Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and one year without the Big Ten Championships has made many a wrestling fan's heart grow excruciatingly fond. But the wait is over, and the raddest and baddest wrestling tournament outside the NCAAs is nigh upon us.

Watch the 2020 Big Ten Championships Live on Flo

March 7-8 | 10 AM & 11 AM Eastern

The big storyline all year long was the battle between Penn State senior Vincenzo Joseph and Iowa junior Alex Marinelli for weight-class supremacy. But the Big Ten can boast of more than just two NCAA title contenders, as Evan Wick and Isaiah White are also in the top five of the national rankings. Additionally, Shayne Oster, Ethan Smith, and Danny Braunagel are all in the top 20.

Big Ten Previews: 125133 | 141 | 149 | 157 | 174197

To get an idea of how impressive the Big Ten 165-pounders have been this season, the graph below shows the number of projected tournament points as determined by the national rankings, broken down by conference.

From preseason to postseason, the Big Ten has been projected to earn over half of the available 165-pound points in Minneapolis. At no point during the season did the Big Ten NOT have four of the top six 165-pounders. It has been a dominant season and barring injury, it is a safe bet that we will see at least four Big Ten wrestlers on the NCAA podium.

Contenders

#1 Vincenzo Joseph, Penn State

#2 Alex Marinelli, Iowa

#4 Evan Wick, Wisconsin

#5 Isaiah White, Nebraska

Vincenzo Joseph leads the pack. The undefeated Hodge Trophy contender also owns the most NCAA hardware of anyone in the bracket, with two NCAA titles and a runner-up finish in three trips to the Big Dance. Yet this is also Joseph's last opportunity to win a Big Ten title, an award that has so far eluded the Nittany Lion. Cenzo was beaten by Isaiah Martinez in 2017 and 2018 (though got his revenge in both NCAA finals matches) and was stopped by Marinelli in the 2019 Big Ten finals.

The all-time NCAA series between Cenzo and Marinelli sits in favor of Marinelli by a tally of 2-1, although Cenzo did win their last battle, a ferocious decision in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, which you can watch in the video below.


The previous two editions of Cenzo vs The Bull (2018, 2019) followed a shockingly similar script; the only difference in 2020 is that Marinelli's upper body offense did not work for him, at least not when he needed it. Joseph may have the heaviest hips in all of college, so going upper body can offer you better odds, but that tactic is also fraught with danger, as Marinelli discovered when Cenzo hit an expertly timed lateral drop off his upper body pressure in Carver-Hawkeye last month.

See below to watch Cenzo have a much easier time with Shayne Oster, a very tough wrestler having a breakout season for Northwestern.

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As for Marinelli, despite finishing no higher than sixth in his first two cracks at the NCAAs, he has dropped just one match over three regular seasons (the aforementioned loss to Joseph on January 31). If there was any question about why Alex is known as the Bull, watch him wear down the Harvard's 27-6 Phil Congiliargo at the 2019 Midlands and then finish him off with a muscular cement job.

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Last year's fifth-place finisher Isaiah White has just three losses in his senior campaign. The Cornhusker has only lost to Cenzo, Marinelli, and Wick (all within a span of 13 days), but also has two wins over two-time All-American Josh Shields. You can watch Zay-Zay defeat Shields in the finals of the CKLV in the video below.

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Then there is Evan Wick, whose impossibly long frame presents serious problems for the rest of the division. Wick has a reach that would make Dhalsim from Street Fighter jealous, which he uses to pick ankles with deadly effectiveness. And if you decide to shoot on Wick, you better finish quick, as he can sit the corner and end the match with a cradle. He can also pin you in a tilt, as he did to Bernie Truax at 2019's Midlands (see below).

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Projected Seeds

Our own Daniel Lobdell took a crack at predicting all the Big Ten seeds, so let's cut and paste from this article and see what he came up with at 165.

  1. Vincenzo Joseph, Penn State
  2. Alex Marinelli, Iowa
  3. Evan Wick, Wisconsin
  4. Isaiah White, Nebraska
  5. Shayne Oster, Northwestern
  6. Ethan Smith, Ohio State
  7. Danny Braunagel, Illinois
  8. Bailee O’Reilly, Minnesota
  9. Drew Hughes, Michigan State
  10. Kyle Cochran, Maryland
  11. Brett Donner, Rutgers
  12. Tyler Meisinger, Michigan
  13. Tanner Webster, Purdue
  14. Dillon Hoey, Indiana

Also, because we procrastinated long enough before writing this preview, we also have the official Big Ten pre-seeds, so let's plop 'em down right here as well.

  1. Vincenzo Joseph, Penn State
  2. Alex Marinelli, Iowa
  3. Evan Wick, Wisconsin
  4. Isaiah White, Nebraska
  5. Ethan Smith, Ohio State
  6. Shayne Oster, Northwestern
  7. Danny Braunagel, Illinois
  8. Bailee O'Reilly, Minnesota
  9. Drew Hughes, Michigan State
  10. Kyle Cochran, Maryland
  11. Brett Donner, Rutgers
  12. Tyler Meisinger, Michigan
  13. Tanner Webster, Purdue
  14. Diego Lemley, Indiana

If the pre-seeds hold, then Nomad only missed Oster and Smith switching places and didn't have Lemley in for Hoey for the Hoosiers. That's pretty good!

The Big Ten will have eight automatic qualifiers at this weight class, which will really intensify the #8 vs #9 seeds first-round matchup between O'Reilly and Hughes. They are both capable of making deep runs in March, which a point that segues nicely into our next topic.

Sleepers and Landmines

Ethan Smith is having the best season of anyone outside the big four. He's beaten three-time All-American David McFadden (who, remember, beat Wick this season) and #8 Thomas Bullard of NC State.

Oster is having his best season yet as a senior for the Northwestern Wildcats, having won his last eight regular-season matchups. One of those wins came over Danny Braunagel, who is having a very strong redshirt freshman season for the Illini. Anything less than a secured national qualifier bid this weekend for Smith, Oster, and Braunagel will be a disappointment.

That leaves one AQ for the final six seeds. Bailee O'Reilly and Drew Hughes will have essentially equal chances of snagging it. Both have solid winning records, though none of them have any ranked wins on the season. Hughes does have the experience as a two-time NCAA qualifier.

Spey's Spredictions

1st: Alex Marinelli, Iowa

2nd: Vincenzo Joseph, Penn State

3rd: Evan Wick, Wisconsin

4th: Isaiah White, Nebraska

5th: Ethan Smith, Ohio State

6th: Danny Braunagel, Illinois

7th: Shayne Oster, Northwestern

8th: Drew Hughes, Michigan State

I'm picking an extremely mild upset in Hughes over O'Reilly in round 1. After that it's all chalk until the finals, where I'm picking the Bull to wrestle a more cautious match and deny Joseph a Big Ten title in his fourth trip to the finals; however, I would not be shocked in the slightest if both of those predictions turn out to be incorrect.

Apologies I do not have a bolder prediction for you. All the more reason to root for upsets at the RAC to prove me wrong!