#19 MICHIGAN vs. #2 MINNESOTA
Sunday, January 19th, 2:00pm, Cliff Keen Arena
There’s no secret here. The match everyone around the country is waiting to see is at heavyweight where #1 Adam Coon will take on #2 Tony Nelson. The key to victory for Coon will be getting off the bottom. He’s been unbelievably good for a freshman getting off bottom, but Nelson is a hammer on top. I’m picking Coon to figure out to score a takedown and win 3-2. 149 will feature another great matchup as #12 Eric Grajales will try to knock off #2 Nick Dardanes. Grajales is very capable of an upset here, as he is very tough to beat inside of Cliff Keen Arena. The Wolverines have a shot to knock off the Gophers, but in the end I think Minny has just a little too much firepower for the Maize and Blue.
EMU vs. NORTHERN ILLINOIS
The Eagles will renew their rivalry with the NIU Huskies on Friday in Ypsilanti. In their last six meetings, each time has won three times, so look for an exciting dual. The most intriguing matchup here should be at 157 lbs, between EMU’s Brandon Zeerip and NIU’s Andrew Morse- both two-time MHSAA state champs. Outside of that, most weights seem to have a clear favorite and it will likely come down to bonus points in the end. That being said, I think EMU wins, 18-15.
#19 MICHIGAN vs. #11 ILLINOIS
This one should be an absolute barnburner from start to finish. Oddly enough, the marquee matchup in this one is between another Morse, Jackson, and another Hesperian, Dan Yates. The 165 lbers are ranked 12th and 7th respectively and were the 2010 and 2009 MIG Wrestlers of the Year. For the Wolverines to pull this one out, they’ll need production at 174 and 184 from Collin Zeerip and true freshman Domenic Abounader. If they win these, I think they leave it up to Coon to decide the dual, and he’s about as close to a lock as anyone in the country right now.
MSU vs. #2 MINNESOTA
The Spartans host the Gophers on Friday in East Lansing, and are favored on paper in all ten weights. So MSU will have to focus on individual matchups that they could potentially win. At 285, Michael McClure will be the first of two Michigan heavyweights to try and take down returning 2-time NCAA Champ, Tony Nelson. Nelson won 4-0 in their last meeting. If the Spartans are going to win a match in the dual, it will likely come at either 125 or 165, as those are the only weights where the Gophers don’t have someone in the top 20.
CMU vs. OHIO
Ever since Central lost to Ohio U by way of two defensive falls two years ago, the two teams have ignited a bitter rivalry. This match will surely to be another brawl as these squads are very evenly matched. The big matchups of the dual, that will probably decide the dual, will be at 157 and 174. 157 features two Illinois sophomore NCAA qualifiers, as CMU’s Luke Smith will face off with OU’s Spartacus Chino. Then at 174, we’ll see #7 Cody Walters and #10 Mike Ottinger. Whichever team can win these matches will come out on top in this great dual.
EMU at OHIO
I like CMU’s chances of winning over the Bobcats more than I like EMU’s chances, but there is definitely a shot. To do so, they’ll need to rely on the strengths of their senior leaders- Germaine, Joseph, and Whitenburg. Germaine and Joseph will look to score bonus points, while Whitenburg has a shot to knock of #13 Phil Wellington in his first match since defaulting out of the Midlands with an injury. Whitenburg won their only meeting last season. Another good match will be at 157 between Zeerip and Chino.
CMU vs. MISSOURI
With Mizzou’s move from the Big 12 to the MAC, an almost instant rivalry was formed between the Tigers and the Chipps. I have CMU pulling out a 16-15 victory in this one, for two reasons. One reason is Central has a clear advantage in the lower weights, and they will need to capitalize on that. The second reason is Mizzou Senior 157 pounder Kyle Bradley has been suspended indefinitely for violating team rules. So look for Luke Smith to try for bonus points in that match. Either way, it will be an exciting dual and look for the Chippewas to cap off a solid weekened at home with a win.