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National Duals Preview: #14 Penn State

The National Dual Tournament in Cedar Rapids Falls, IA (campus of University of Northern Iowa) might be my favorite wrestling event of the season.  It is the only one of it's kind, as you wrestle dual meets (team on team) in a tournament format.  There has actually been some talk about instituting some sort of similar tournament on the NCAA level, as wrestling is one of those strange sports where you wrestle individually for a team score.  Anyway, the bracket for the tourney (which kicks off Saturday morning at 9 a.m.) has been released, so let's take a look at what Mizzou might expect.

First off, the teams participating.  The tournament seeds the top 8, but 9-16 are not seeded like you might expect from your standard 16-team bracket.  You will soon see this, and I don't know why it is.  So here they are, with the seed first and then national ranking.  I WILL put them in 1-16 order (NCAA basketball style) so you can see where everything fell.  As always, rankings are courtesy of Intermat (the team rankings were updated for January 6th, but the individual rankings were not updated)

#1 - Iowa (#1)
#2 - Iowa State (#2)
#3 - Cornell (#3)
#4 - Nebraska (#4)
#5 - MIZZOU (#5)
#6 - Ohio State (#6)
#7 - Wisconsin (#9)
#8 - Minnesota (#11)
9 - Buffalo (NR)
10 - Boise St.(NR)
11 - UNI (#21)
12 - Penn State (#14)
13 - Northwestern (#20)
14 - Michigan (#17)
15 - Indiana (#19)
16 - Wyoming (NR)

So...Minnesota CLEARLY gets a great draw, as does Wisconsin.  Cornell probably gets the strangest draw as they are the #3 seed but get the 2nd highest rated 2nd tier team.  Of course, Penn State is the highest rated second tier squad, and Mizzou will draws them in the 1st round, with the winner to face the winner of Nebraska/Northwestern.  Let's take a look at Penn State...

125: Brad Pataky of Penn State is not ranked, but had two wins this past weekend in pretty dominant fashion (15-1 and a medical forfeit late in the first period).  While Troy  Dolan has certainly improved as his first season on varsity has gone on, this is going to be a tough matchup for him.  I give Pataky the advantage here (and understand that all I know about him is what he did this past week :-)

133: #19 Todd Schavrien had a pretty darn solid Midlands Tournament, winning a couple of matches over ranked opponents and perhaps raised his national ranking.  Jake Strayer of Penn State had a good weekend, scoring a win over #20 ranked Fisk of Lehigh.  That probably makes this match just about a toss-up, with the silght edge to Schavrien.  This may be a match we need to win to make sure we win.

141: #14 Marcus Hoehn also had a nice Midlands Tournament, and while he did not score a win over a ranked opponent, he certainly took care of the ones which were not ranked.  Penn State has a frosh at this weight in Frank Molinaro, who is currently #20.  However, Molinaro lost last weekend to an unranked Lehigh wrestler, so he might not stay in the new rankings.  Give the edge to Hoehn here as this is another match he should win.

149: Bubba (yes...Bubba) Jenkins of Penn State is #2 in the nation.  Andrew Sherry has wrestled decently, and took #6 Patacsil to a 12-7 decision.  I believe the best we can hope for is another decision, but keeping this match managable and keeping Penn State away from bonus points is what will be important at this weight.

157: This weight is going to give us one of the better matches of the dual, as #7 Mike Chandler, fresh off of his 3rd place finish at Midlands faces #8 Dan Valimont.  Damn near toss up here between the senior Chandler and junior Valimont, but a win would be big for both team and person.

165: #8 Nick Marable has not quite had the season he likely imagined, with a couple of stumbles already this season.  However, he has still been able to beat the best when he has faced some of them.  Penn State does not have a consistent starter at this weight, so the only question here should be whether or not Marable is able to score some bonus points for the Tigers.

174: Another young Lion wrestler here, as #15 freshman Quintin Wright had two wins over 2 unranked wrestlers last week.  For #4 Raymond Jordan, the finish of Midlands was probably not to his liking, but this matchup should be.  Just the natural physcial maturity should give Jordan the advantage here, but another win over another ranked wrestler would be nice for him.

184: Could be another toss-up weight here for the Tigers, as Dorian Henderson wrestled decently in Chicago at the Midlands, and Penn State's Jack Decker went 1-1 last weekend with a loss against unranked Lehigh wrestler.  Hopefully the Tigers will have the match in hand at this point, but Henderson might be able to salt it away if everything else goes to plan for Mizzou.

197: If it is not salted away at 184, #4 Max Askren should be able to do it, as he will take on Clay Steadman of Penn State, who lost both of his matches last weekend, and was crushed pretty good by #19 Kennedy of Lehigh.  Askren should do well here, and bonus points are certainly a possibility.

HWY: No one is hotter than Mark Ellis right now, fresh off of his 1st place finish at Midlands and Big XII Wrestler of the Week.  Penn State's Cameron Wade is unranked and went 1-1 last weekend.  I could certainly see Dom Bradley getting action here as well, as there is nothing that says you have to use the same lineup for all the duals.  Either way, I expect Mizzou to win here.

All in all, I see four almost-sure wins for Mizzou (165, 174, 197, HWY) with a couple of should-wins at 133 and 141, and toss-ups at 157 and 184.  Controlling the action at 125 and 149 will help Mizzou potentially wrap this one up early, but I see a Tiger win.

Tomorrow, we will take a look at the assumed opponent (if rank holds) for the Tigers in the next round, the #4 ranked Huskers of Nebraska.