Photo: Tony Rotundo

Is Michigan A Title Contender?


With the rankings changing recently and Penn State moving into the number one spot as expected there has by no surprise been a good amount of backlash. Many people are saying Michigan is on top and they are the best dual meet team in the country.

We will be taking a look at that but more importantly the head to head matchups with Penn State, Iowa and Michigan that would occur. This conversation becomes very interesting with how the swing matches play out and how many of them there are in each of these duals.

Michigan vs Penn State vs Iowa

125- Nick Suriano/Drew Hildebrant/Drake Ayala

Looking at this it is pretty obvious that Suriano is the clear favorite and this is definitely one of the stronger weights for Michigan. If we are in a dual meet setting the biggest thing for PSU is that they have a real 125 and that is All American Drew Hildebrandt, now even if Hildebrandt can’t win the match all he really has to do here is hold Suriano from getting bonus points which he should not be able to do anyways on a wrestler of that caliber.

Nick Suriano is the favorite as well over Drake Ayala as you could probably assume, honestly we have not seen enough from Drake to make a fair assumption being that he is improving very fast so it could go a bunch of different ways if they meet at big tens. No matter which way you put it in a dual meet setting or tournament setting Iowa is at a disadvantage losing Lee and they are working to get back as many of the points as possible.

In a tournament setting Penn State obviously benefits the most barely collecting points at the 125 pound weight class last year. Michigan should do substantially better with a title favorite in Suriano and Iowa should be looking at a high placement but loss in points because of Lee.

133- Dylan Ragusin/Roman Bravo-Young/Austin Desanto

Hopefully Ragusin can figure something out, the way he wrestled against McGee of ASU is not going to cut it against any one of these guys and will probably result in a tech or a pin. Of course he is still growing into 133 due to Suriano coming in and he gets the benefit of the doubt there. Overall this is one of the juggernaut weight classes as a whole with RBY, Desanto, McGee, Daton Fix, and more. It just becomes a hard task for a guy like Ragusin to break into the mix.

In a dual meet setting the goal for Ragusin against RBY will need to be to just wrestle smart and just think more about the team score than his personal gain in this match. McGee and RBY have similar wrestling styles and by what we saw he played right into his wheelhouse and if he can make the necessary adjustments he should be in a much better position to take on the national champ.

As far as Desanto goes it will just be tough for a smaller guy to beat someone that is charging and in your face the entire match with a motor that will never die out. Being quick is the way to beat that which is what RBY has done so well in their past meetings. In a tournament setting it comes down to this is one of Michigan’s weaker weights and nobody is hiding that but they can very well scrape together an All American finish if he puts it together perfectly at the end of the season.

141- Stevan Micic/Nick Lee/Jaydin Eierman

Whether it is because he is too small for the weight class or whether it is because he has not wrestled a folkstyle match in over 2 years Micic is going to need to figure something out. You can say whatever you want but there is no reason a guy that has made it as far in the sport as Stevan Micic should be losing to Cole Matthews. Obviously Matthews wrestled great that match so credit where it is due, but if Michigan really wants this title this is a weight they must figure out or that hope will be shut down very quickly by these guys Iowa and Penn State are bringing.

Nick Lee will meet Stevan Micic in the dual meet, before we thought this would be a fun match with Nick Lee and his pace vs Micic and his slickness from the feet. If Micic does not figure something out it will be looking like a bonus point victory. Of course Iowa and Michigan do not dual this season so we will have to wait till big tens to potentially see that matchup.

Once we talk about the tournament setting it comes that Michigan has previously not gotten too many points at this weight class. However with that being said Micic was down at 133 the last time he wrestled and took 3rd in a very stacked bracket. At this point in time it is clear that Nick Lee is the number one and Eierman is doing fine at number two, maybe having a few close matches where he shouldn’t but still winning.

149- Kanen Storr/Beau Bartlett/Max Murin

All three of these schools have one of the weaker weight classes at 149. This is a toss up between all three of those guys in our eyes. They all essentially have a style where they are too offensive and have a tendency to take 1 or 2 attacks at most during a match and win close ones. This is essentially all you can say about these guys.

In a dual meet setting Bartlett vs Storr may just come down to a ride out or who gets the toss in the second period. We do not feel like there is any clear favorite at this point in time and we do not feel like there will be heading into big tens no matter who wins this match.

In a tournament setting this becomes a big issue with all three guys. It will most likely get decided on who gets the draw they need and what they make of it. Michigan is looking for some big things in the 100th season, Penn State is known to perform at nationals, and Iowa is out for blood right now. It should be very fun.

157- Will Lewan/Brady Berge/Kaleb Young

This is another weight class where all of the competitors are evenly matched with all of them being around the 15 range. If we had to go with any one of these guys it would probably be Kaleb Young just due to the fact that he has done the most out of any of these guys. Berge has beaten Young but he also is just coming back to wrestling after being out of the sport for a while.

Looking at this match between what should be Berge and Lewan it would most likely favor Lewan at this point in time. Both of these guys have a tendency to wrestle closer matches and that would more likely than not cater to Lewan in this instance.

As we make this into a team preview these guys are all neck and neck with each other and at the end of the day this falls into the same category as 149 where it may just come down to the draw that each of these guys get.

165- Cameron Amine/Creighton Edsell/Alex Marinelli

Here comes one of the massive gaps in the PSU lineup that they are working on. Edsell came in unranked as expected but has worked himself up into the top 20 range. This only means so much however with Amine and Marinelli being prior All Americans. Michigan will be heavily favored in this dual meet as expected, Amine has looked solid this season but we did not get to see him in this highly anticipated match vs Anthony Valencia.

At this point in time Amine is a favorite over Edsell but pulling bonus points in this match just does not seem like it will happen here. This may be better for Edsell in this scenario filling in a gap where Penn State has been struggling.

If we move into the tournament title talks it will obviously fall in favor of the Hawkeye but at the end of the day it is no secret that Marinelli has not wrestled to his potential at the NCAA tournament and that may just be something to take advantage of here.

174- Logan Massa/Carter Starocci/Michael Kemerer

These three guys might just be the best three in the country right now, and honestly looking at their previous matchups they are not even separated by a point. This match will be huge between Starocci and Massa at the dual, last time they wrestled it was 7-1 but that was only due to Starocci hitting a crazy 6 point move in double overtime. These points right here could decide the dual and give the upper weight hammers that they have the momentum that they need to get this done.

As far as the tournament goes Massa has done solid but not as good as Starocci or Kemerer. Kemerer at this point in the season still seems a bit banged up so that may be a little bit of an advantage to Michigan there. With how Starocci has been looking he might be heading for that repeat. This being said, Massa is 100% a national title contender, not just a guy who is looking to bring in points for the Wolverines.

184- Myles Amine/Aaron Brooks/Abe Assad

This is the match everyone is watching this dual for. Olympic Bronze Medalist Myles Amine will take on defending NCAA Champion Aaron Brooks. Crazy enough Myles Amine has never won a national title himself but he has been very close on four separate occasions. He was granted a 5th year along with multiple wrestlers due to the free year last season. If Michigan wants to win this dual this is a big match to win. They will probably open up the dual at 197 to have Brooks vs Amine last if they can, but if they do not do that it will be huge heading into these big toss up bouts at 197 and 285.

In the tournament race it is very apparent that this is the weakest weight class on the Iowa lineup and they do not have many. Assad has been improving steadily and is still a top 20 guy in the country, but still well behind Brooks and Amine for the time being. If everything goes how it should, Brooks and Amine should meet in the NCAA finals. There may not be a huge factor for points between 1st and 2nd but they are fighting for scraps at this point.

197- Patrick Brucki/Max Dean/Jacob Warner

This weight is a huge toss up all around. Jacob Warner of Iowa is the only of these guys that competed at the last national tournament. Max Dean of Penn State was a national finalist down at 184 in 2019 and he is looking for revenge this season and it shows. Has not been handed a real match at this point and if definitely the clear favorite here. Brucki on the other hand has taken a few losses but never dominated in a match only losing close ones. He seems to be getting a better grip on things and knocked off national finalist Nino Bonaccorsi in a recent dual meet.

Tournament talks become interesting here. Warner won’t be far behind either one of these guys and on a good day might even beat one of them. The way Dean has been looking this season it looks like he is setting up a potential national title campaign. Brucki looks right on track to become an All American should he wrestle to his potential. Warner looks good as well but just not as dominant as you would hope, however he is still winning matches so that is whatever. At this moment it just seems like Dean and Brucki are bigger bonus point guys which is a big deal in this team race.

285- Mason Parris/Greg Kerkvliet/Tony Cassioppi

Heavyweight has evolved as a weight class and these three guys are at another level. The Mason Parris vs Greg Kerkvliet rematch will be very interesting. Parris defeated Kerkvliet at the Big Ten tournament where it was no secret that he was still injured. He then defeated Parris in the quarterfinal round of the Olympic trials before falling to Gable Steveson in the semifinals who of course went on to win the Olympics. This match tends to just be a massive toss up at this point. Both guys are athletic and have the ability to get to low and quick attacks. If there is one weakness it is Kerkvliet’s size weighing in at only 230-235 pounds while Parris from the looks of it is closer to the 250ish range.

When we get into the team tournament race there is one goal on our mind. Get to the finals vs Gable Steveson, there is a huge problem here and that is you don’t want to be in the top half of the bracket at nationals or Big Tens. Can either of them pull the upset of the century? Probably not but at the end of the day scoring bonus points may just be a huge advantage here with how stacked this weight class is nowadays.

Overall Analysis-

Is Michigan a national title contender? Yes, but not at this moment. The fact remains that they need to figure some things out, they need a lot of points from Micic at 141 and judging by how he looked in his last match he is not that same guy we saw in 2019 or 2018. That being said on a dual meet schedule they can either be the best team in the country or all the way down at number 3 like they are now. The dual meet is going to be won off of swing matches and there are a lot of them in this dual. 149,157,174,184,285. With 5 matches having the potential to go either way in this dual meet, winning them will be huge. Along with that getting bonus points in favored matches will be even bigger.

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Akil Murugan
Akil Murugan
Senior Editor for Heavyweight Nation

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