By Courtney Baumann
The Big Ten wrestling championships are just days away, along with the opportunity to qualify for the national championships.
Competing in what is undoubtedly the toughest conference for wrestling, four teams, Penn State, Iowa, Nebraska, and Ohio State, have a the best chance of taking home the Big Ten team title.
Taking numerous things into account, including record, head-to-head competitions, ranked wrestlers, seeded wrestlers, and overall performance throughout the season, here are my unofficial power rankings heading into the Big Ten championships.
The Nittany Lions are the easy favorite to win the Big Ten title. With two No. 1 ranked wrestlers, Zain Retherford and Jason Nolf, and five more in the top five, Penn State has been a force to be reckoned with this season. The team has made its way to a perfect 14-0 with wins over 10 teams that are now ranked at the end of the season. This included knocking off season-long No. 1 Oklahoma State at the National Duals to move into the top spot.
Iowa experienced a midseason bump when it lost back-to-back dual meets to Oklahoma State and Penn State but put itself back together with a wins over Ohio State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Nebraska, and Edinboro to close out the dual season. Iowa has one top-ranked and top-seeded wrestler in Thomas Gilman, as well as three other No. 2 seeded guys: Brandon Sorensen, Michael Kemerer, and Sammy Brooks.
The Huskers will try to bounce back from a tough end to the season. They finished their duals on a three-meet skid, losing to Ohio State and Iowa, then Virginia Tech in the National Duals. Even so, Nebraska moved up in the team rankings from No. 6 to No. 5 after the Virginia Tech dual. There are five top-10 ranked wrestlers in the lineup, and four of them received top-3 seeds in the tournament.
An 11-3 record left Ohio State ranked No. 6 heading into tournament season. Like Nebraska, the Buckeyes also ended their season on a loss. They were paired with Cornell in the National Duals, where they lost a tightly fought meet, 19-18. Had Olympic gold medalist and No. 1 ranked Kyle Snyder wrestled at heavyweight, the dual would have more than likely swung in the Buckeyes’ favor. Nathan Tomasello is also ranked No. 1 at 133, while three others are ranked in the top 5 of their weight classes.
This last spot in the top 5 was a tough one to decide. Rutgers, Illinois, Minnesota, and Wisconsin could all be worthy of the spot, but Rutgers ultimately looked the best overall. The Scarlet Knights closed the dual season with a 12-5 record and tied for a No. 12 ranking with Minnesota. The team’s losses this season came to Cornell, Penn State, Michigan, Ohio State, and Lehigh, all of which were ranked in the top 15 at the time. Rutgers has five top-25 guys in its lineup and looked impressive at the Midlands Championships, where the team finished in fourth place.
(14) Michigan State