Preview by Curt Heinrichs
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of 100 battles.” – The Art of War- Sun Tzu
Head Coach: Joe McFarland
An Ohioan himself, McFarland was a 2 time state champ in Ohio as a high schooler. McFarland then became one of the most decorated wrestlers in the history of the Wolverine program, earning All-American honors all 4 years. McFarland is in his 15th year at the head of his alma mater’s program and has coached 5 individual NCAA champions, including two time champs Kellen Russell and Ryan Bertin.
McFarland is flanked by former NCAA champs Donny Pritzlaff and Sean Bormett.
Adam Coon – Heavyweight - Just a true freshman, Coon has met the lofty expectations that followed him out of high school. Coon knocked off 2 time NCAA champ Tony Nelson recently and moved to #1 in the NCAA, but was then defeated late in the match by MSU’s Mike McClure. Coon is currently ranked #2 in the country.
Eric Grajales- 149 lbs- Grajales is a real head-scratcher as a college wrestler. A highly-touted recruit out of Florida, Grajales has been up and down throughout his entire career.
Grajales has qualified for the NCAA tournament 3 times and has yet to find the podium. He’s fared progressively worse each year at the Big Ten tournament after finishing 2nd as a freshman. Last year as a 1st seed, he was knocked off early and had to battle to earn 7th place. Grajales is a very physical wrestler, but has been known to fade late in matches. Grajales is just 1-2 against Paddock in his career. Grajales is currently ranked #7 in the latest Intermat rankings.
Dan Yates- 165 lbs- Like Grajales, Yates has qualified for the NCAA tournament 3 times, but has never earned All-American status. Yates has a knack for capitalizing on opponents’ mistakes and ending the match with a pin. He’s only been defeated twice so far this season and is ranked #6 in the latest Intermat rankings.
Ohioans on the roster:
In addition to taking Joe McFarland, who hails from North Olmsted, Michigan also poached Domenic Abounader from the Buckeye State. Abounader was a 3 time Division I state champ for St. Edward High School. Abounader just cracks the latest Intermat rankings at #20.
At a glance, the Buckeyes have 7 wrestlers ranked in the latest Intermat rankings, while the Wolverines have 5. With only a few votes separating the #12 Buckeyes from the #11 Wolverines, each match will be key in this one. In a recent Twitter conversation, Coach Ryan and Cael Sanderson (Penn State’s coach, 4x undefeated NCAA Champ, and Olympic gold medalist for those unaware) discussed the importance of dual meets on post-season competition, and I tended to agree with Sanderson’s argument that each dual impacts post-season seeding, which ultimately can affect the wrestler’s trip to the NCAA tournament. Let’s take a look at some of the most important matches.
125 lbs- Conor Youtsey vs #15 Nick Roberts
Youtsey’s 13-7 record may be deceiving, as he’s given returning NCAA champ Jesse Delgado a pair of close matches this season and has only given up bonus points twice. A win for Roberts would be huge for the Buckeyes as the next few weight classes are the wheelhouse of the Buckeye team.
133 lbs- Rossi Bruno vs #5 Johnni DiJulius
It’s been a rough go for Bruno this year, as he’s only 2-5 against Big Ten opponents. Bonus points out of JDJ would be huge for the Buckeyes as this is one of the matches where the Bucks should be most heavily favored. DiJulius won a 6-5 decision against Bruno earlier in the season.
141 lbs- #13 Steve Dutton vs #3 Logan Stieber
Dutton is a transfer from Lehigh, where he qualified for the NCAA tournament a pair of times. Dutton has only wrestled 3 times to this point in the season. As with all of his matches, Stieber will be looking for 6 points via the armbar/half combo. Knocking off the undefeated Dutton would be big for the Buckeyes, especially if Stieber can score bonus points as he’s done in all of his wins to date this season.
149 lbs- #7 Eric Grajales vs #18 Ian Paddock
Grajales is one of the Wolverines’ more dependable wrestlers, but Paddock has shown twice before that he’s got Grajales’ number. A win here would not only be huge for the Buckeyes, but it would be a big win for Paddock in one of his final matches in St. John Arena, not to mention earning him a more favorable seed in the Big Ten tournament.
157 lbs- #14 Brian Murphy vs Randy Languis
A rarity in college wrestling today, Murphy never won the Illiois State wrestling title, but he currently finds himself ranked in the top 20 as a true freshman. A win over Dylan Ness of Minnesota is the biggest feather in Murphy’s cap to this point. Languis will be a heavy underdog in this one, but should be able to keep it close.
165 lbs- #6 Dan Yates vs Joe Grandominico
Yates only has a pair of losses thus far in the season, neither of which is to Big Ten opponents. With that said, Yates hasn’t tangled with David Taylor of Penn State or Nick Moore of Iowa yet this season, so his undefeated in-conference streak could come to a halt in the near future. Grandominico would best serve his team if he could muster an effort like Mark Martin did against Lee Munster (or Sam Brancale of Minnesota against then #3 ranked Thomas Gilman of Iowa) and pull an upset. At the very least, Grandominico needs to keep the match close in order to help the team score.
174 lbs- Collin Zeerip vs #14 Mark Martin
An interesting note: Zeerip’s dad Craig Zeerip wrestled for the Buckeyes in the 80’s, but Collin and his 2 older brothers all wrestled at U of M. I know there’s a saying about apples falling far from trees, but that’s not applicable in this case. This match starts a critical string of 3 in a row where ranked Buckeyes take on unranked or lower ranked Wolverines. The youngest Zeerip brings a nice 16-7 record to the match, whereas Martin has a comparable 19-9 mark. Martin already owns a 15-6 major decision over Zeerip earlier in the season, and Coach Ryan and Co. would appreciate a duplicate performance here.
184 lbs- #20 Domenic Abounader vs #10 Kenny Courts
A win here would be a nice rebound for Courts, as he lost his 2nd match of the season to Nebraska’s TJ Dudley last weekend, which was Courts’ 4th L overall. Abounader has been hot in the conference, winning 3 of 4 to this point, including a big 6 point win over MSU’s Rizqallah in the TB period (top/bottom period occurs if the match is still tied after the 1 minute sudden victory period, which is right after regulation. The 6 points scored in TB aren’t a misprint, Abounader escaped, scored a takedown, and locked up a cradle to score a 5 count as the buzzer sounded. Pretty impressive for 30 seconds of wrestling.). Maybe if Courts can strike up the offense, he can yet again inspire Nick Heflin to do the same like he did against Northwestern.
197 lbs- Chris Heald vs #8 Nick Heflin
Heald has had a tough go of it in his first year in the Big Ten, going just 2-6 thus far against conference foes (although 4 of those losses are to Purdue’s Braden Atwood, so that skews the data a bit). Heflin still has just a lone loss on his record to date, with most of his victories being by a very narrow margin. This would be yet another prime opportunity for Heflin to turn up the heat and score some points for his team.
Heavyweight- #2 Adam Coon vs Nick Tavanello
Coon rattled off an impressive 23 straight wins to begin his career before falling to #8 Mike McClure for his 1st loss. Coon doesn’t just settle for the standard 2-1 matches that are commonplace among heavyweights; Coon is a point-scorer with a number of pins and major decisions to his credit. Coon also has wins over 2 time NCAA champ Tony Nelson and current #1 Bobby Telford in tight matches. If Tavanello stands any chance against the Wolverine big man, he’ll have to attack from the opening whistle and take the match to Coon. As mentioned, the Buckeyes should be favored in the 3 previous bouts, so hopefully they’ll be ahead at this point in the dual since the odds should be long against Tav.
In addition to the Know Your Enemy preview, I’ve also got another preview in the works, but nothing’s finalized yet. Check back soon to see if I made it work.
Thanks as always for reading and Go Bucks!