No. 1 Penn State vs. No. 5 Michigan: Nittany Lions Host Difficult Wolverine Squad in BJC

By Rob Dougherty on February 1, 2019 at 10:00 am
Stevan Micic will look to lead a Penn State upset in the BJC
Aaron Doster - USA Today Sports

No. 1 Penn State will put their 54 dual win streak on the line against No. 5 Michigan at the Bryce Jordan Center on Friday night. The dual will be broadcast live on BTN and begin at 7:00 p.m. Michigan poses perhaps the toughest test for Penn State during this dual streak due to the overall depth of their lineup. They are also fresh off of one of their biggest wins in recent history after beating No. 2 Ohio State in Columbus last weekend. 

The Nittany Lions have been banged up in recent weeks, and Michigan's lineup could test them if the full starting lineup is not available. 133-pound starter, No. 15 Roman Bravo-Young, was out against Indiana after suffering an injury against Ben Thornton (Purdue) last weekend. No. 2 Shakur Rasheed has not wrestled since he faced Mason Reinhart (Wisconsin) on Jan. 13. Both are listed on Penn State's match notes as probable starters, but it would not be a shock if Cael Sanderson makes a late change to start someone else. No. 11 Brady Berge and No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph have also missed time this season. 

With six wrestlers ranked in the top eight, the Wolverines are going to contend for the podium at the NCAA Tournament once again. Their most accomplished wrestler is 133-pounder No. 1 Stevan Micic. He is fresh off of one of the most impressive performances of the season last weekend when he defeated No. 6 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State) 14-1. A potential Bravo-Young and Micic matchup could be very tantalizing, and a great barometer for the true freshman. However, Micic is a cut above at the moment, and is simply one of the best in the nation. 133 pounds is the deepest weight class, in the land and Micic is the top dog right now. 

Some of the more interesting matches over the last two seasons have been between No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph and No. 7 Logan Massa. These two had a memorable scrap in the NCAA semifinals in 2017, which Joseph ultimately won. Joseph is 3-0 in his career against Massa, but these two have always had entertaining scraps. Even when Joseph won 12-3 in Ann Arbor last season, the match was close until Joseph hit a 6-point trip and pulled away late. Despite being really good, Massa has not delivered on the promise he showed as a freshman. His three losses this season are to talented guys, but he's also lost two matches to Josh Shields and Isaiah White, both of whom you'd expect him to defeat. Joseph will be favored to pull this one out, but expect Massa to make it difficult. 

At 141 pounds, No. 7 Nick Lee will look for his first top-10 win of the season vs. No. 5 Kanen Storr. Lee has had an up and down year for a wrestler who has spent the entire season in the top-seven but he really has not taken the leap into the upper tier of wrestlers who can win a national title this season. Lee is bonusing at a higher rate than last season, but has not faced the toughest schedule so far. Storr has had a very promising sophomore campaign, but has not been a big point scorer so far this season. If Lee can build an early lead, he could really put the pressure on Storr. 

No. 1 Jason Nolf could potentially have his hands full with No. 5 Alec Pantaleo. Despite Nolf's strong performances against No. 2 Tyler Berger (Nebraska) and No. 3 Ryan Deakin (Northwestern), Pantaleo has already wrestled one close match with Nolf needing a third period ride out to secure the win in Ann Arbor. Pantaleo's defense in particular was very impressive against Nolf, who often just overwhelms his opponents with a barrage of attacks. However, Pantaleo is capable of underwhelming performances, and if he shows up to the BJC with one, Nolf could walk away with a decisive victory. 

No. 1 Mark Hall and No. 3 Myles Amine are set to face off at 174 pounds. These two had a barnburner of a matchup at Michigan last year, which saw Hall escape with a narrow 6-5 victory. Amine's only loss this season is to No. 2 Zahid Valencia, and that was a one takedown match with a final score of 6-4. Hall is 2-0 in his career against Amine, with both matches decided by one point. This one is going to be very close, but I expect Hall to edge this one with his elite defense and scrambling ability. 

No. 1 Bo Nickal is going to be a massive favorite to continue his push for the Hodge Trophy against Jackson Striggow. Nickal has lost two matches in his college career, Striggow has lost 6 this season, and is 4-9 against common opponents. This one could be a fall or a tech, neither result would surprise me. 

Devin Schnupp picked up his first Big Ten dual win last weekend, but this weekend he will face an entirely different animal in No. 15 Drew Mattin. Mattin is not the most prolific, but he's very solid in all positions and gets the job done. Mattin beat Schnupp 8-0 last season, and while Schnupp has certainly improved, it's going to be a lot to ask of him to be close in this one versus a ranked opponent. Even still, Schnupp will go until the final whistle, so expect him to continue shooting, looking for any possible openings. 

No. 11 Brady Berge or Jarod Verkleeren will wrestle at 149 pounds against Malik Amine. Amine did not color himself in glory last season against Zain Retherford, where he tried to bully the three-time champion. However, Amine is not a slouch, and can easily challenge either Berge or Verkleeren. Expect either match to be tight late. This one that Michigan must have if they have visions of winning the dual. 

Depending on who is available for Penn State, the heavyweight match between No. 4 Anthony Cassar and No. 8 Mason Parris could be the deciding bout. Parris is still a bit raw as a true freshman, but he is such an impressive athlete. He is allegedly setting weightlifting records at Michigan. Considering they recently graduated supersized big man Adam Coon, that's tremendously impressive. Cassar has a lot more polish, and has been the more consistent of the two, but Parris can easily make this one close. He beat Ohio State's Chase Singletary last weekend with the dual on the line, and he very well may need to beat Cassar to win this one. Expect a close match, but I think ultimately Cassar's polish will be the difference between the two. 

Prediction - Penn State 21, Michigan 13 - I'm expecting a close dual, but a lot depends on what lineup the Nittany Lions put out there. Penn State could easily find themselves in an early hole, with Mattin and Micic heavy favorites to win. A Storr and Amine win could really set up the Wolverines for the upset, but I ultimately think Penn State has too much from 157-285. Bo Nickal can score big, and even if Shakur Rasheed does not wrestle, Penn State pretty much has to lose all the toss up matches to lose the dual. That said, it's not impossible, I just would view it as a remote chance. 

Projected Matchups

  • 125 pounds - Devin Schnupp (6-10) vs. No. 15 Drew Mattin (11-5)
  • 133 pounds - No. 15 Roman Bravo-Young (15-2) vs. No. 1 Stevan Micic (9-0)
  • 141 pounds - No. 7 Nick Lee (19-1) vs. No. 5 Kanen Storr (17-3)
  • 149 pounds - No. 11 Brady Berge (14-2) or Jarod Verkleeren (14-4) vs. Malik Amine (7-2)
  • 157 pounds - No. 1 Jason Nolf (18-0) vs. No. 5 Alec Pantaleo (11-4)
  • 165 pounds - No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (16-0) vs. No. 7 Logan Massa (12-3)
  • 174 pounds - No. 1 Mark Hall (18-0) vs. No. 3 Myles Amine (14-1)
  • 184 pounds - No. 2 Shakur Rasheed (14-0) vs. J.T. Correll (0-4) or Jelani Embree (9-3)
  • 197 pounds - No. 1 Bo Nickal (17-0) vs. Jackston Striggow (10-6)
  • 285 pounds - No. 4 Anthony Cassar (16-1) or Nick Nevills (8-2) vs. No. 8 Mason Parris (23-3)
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