Dual meets are back in action after the holiday break, as wrestling fans are treated with a much anticipated matchup between #3 Arizona State and #12 Cornell on Wednesday night in Austin, Texas. The dual can be streamed exclusively on FloWrestling and will begin at 8 p.m. ET.
Most recently for the Sun Devils, four wrestlers brought home medals at the Midlands Championship, and saw a return of 2021 NCAA Finalist Brandon Courtney for the first time in the 2022-2023 season. For Cornell, they’ll be back in dual action for the first time since the Collegiate Duals in New Orleans, Louisiana where they placed third with wins over Oregon State and North Carolina. The Big Red wrestled #4 Iowa State down to the wire in a 18-15 loss, and showed a lot of promise with a talented lineup.
Here is a breakdown and projection of every bout set to go down on Wednesday night.
125 – #6 Brandon Courtney/#10 Richard Figueroa vs. #17 Brett Ungar
Arizona State’s #6 Brandon Courtney returned back to the mat this past weekend at the Midland Championships, and impressed after missing the first five events of the season for the Sun Devils. Courtney finished with a silver medal, and defeated Lehigh’s Killian Delaney, and Northern Illinois’ Blake West en route to the finals. An exciting matchup between Courtney and West Virginia’s #7 Killian Cardinale was set to take place in the semifinals at 125-pounds, however Cardinale medically forfeited the bout. Courtney was handedly defeated by Wisconsin’s Eric Barnett by a score of 6-2 in the finals, but showed his wrestling was not limited due to injury.
While Courtney missed the first five events, his teammate #10 Richard Figueroa showed off his superstar potential while filling in for the Sun Devils. Figueroa won gold at the Cliff Keen Invitational, and has yet to lose a bout this season. Figueroa was set to compete at the Midlands with Courtney in the bracket, which could have possibly determined who would start. It’s crazy to think a returning NCAA Finalist wouldn’t be the clear starter, and with Figueroa pulling out of the Midlands I would expect Courtney to square off against Cornell’s #17 Brett Ungar. Ungar faced off against Figueroa at the Cliff Keen Invitational, and dropped the bout 6-2. However, Ungar has looked really impressive to start his true freshman season, and is coming off a 4-0 victory over North Carolina’s Jack Wagner.
133 – Julian Chlebove/#4 Michael McGee vs. #3 Vito Arujau
Cornell’s #3 Vito Arujau is no stranger to Arizona State’s #4 Michael McGee, as both top-5 ranked wrestlers squared off in the Cliff Keen Invitational Finals just a month ago. Arujau cruised to a 6-1 victory, however McGee might not be available this time for the Sun Devils. McGee was forced out of competition for the Midlands tournament, but teammate and former top recruit in the nation Julian Chlebove impressed in his absence.
Chlebove finished with a fourth place medal at the Midlands Championships, and defeated former NCAA All-American Taylor Lamont in a deep consolation bracket at 133-pounds. Chlebove only lost to one wrestler throughout the tournament, dropping two matches to Illinois #8 Lucas Bryd in both the championship and consolation bracket. If McGee isn’t able to go Wednesday night, I would expect Chlebove to make this an interesting match at 133-pounds.
141 – Jesse Vasquez/Emilio Ysaguirre vs. #16 Vince Cornella
Cornell’s #16 Vince Cornella has been a solid consistent option for the Big Red at 141-pounds, and is making the most of his first year as a starter. Cornella comes into the dual with a 10-3 record, and was a big part of Cornell’s success at the Collegiate Duals. Cornella had victories over Oregon State’s #19 Cleveland Belton, and Iowa State’s Zach Redding at the Duals, and could have another tough test with Arizona State’s Jesse Vasquez.
In the Midlands Championships this past weekend, Vasquez steamrolled his way into the quarter-finals, scoring a total of 34 points in three matches and winning two by major decision. Vasquez then dropped a tight match in the quarters to SIU Edwardsville’s Saul Ervin, 6-3. Following his first defeat of the tournament, Vasquez was forced to medically forfeit out of the tournament, so I would expect Emilio Ysaguirre to step in at 141-pounds for Arizona State.
149 – #6 Kyle Parco vs. #1 Yianni Diakomihalis
One of the most exciting and suspenseful bouts of the dual will go down at 149-pounds, and features a top-10 matchup between Arizona State’s #6 Kyle Parco and Cornell’s top-ranked Yianni Diakomihalis. Diakomihalis has only competed in four bouts so far this season, however his dominance continues to reign to start the new year.
Yianni will have his hands full with Parco, who just brought home a second place medal at the Midlands Championship. Parco cruised his way into a finals matchup with Northwestern’s #5 Yahya Thomas, where he ultimately dropped a super close match by a score of 4-3. Thomas was then named the BIG 10 Wrestler of the Week, and gave Parco his third loss of the season. Now set to face the top-ranked wrestler in the country at 149-pounds, Parco has another big opportunity to propel himself within the top-5.
157 – Michael Kilic vs. Colton Yapoujian
157-pounds will be a bout to keep a close eye on Wednesday night, as it could prove to be a big swing match for either squad. Arizona State continues to be forced to look elsewhere than top-10 ranked Jacori Teemer, who is still injured. Injuries continue to pile up for the Sun Devils at 157-pounds, as Max Wilner medically forfeited out of the Midlands Championships this past weekend. It seems that Zeke Jones will send out Michael Kilic, who also competed at the Midlands for Arizona State. Kilic went 1-2 at the Midlands, and will have a chance to come up big for the Sun Devils at 157.
Colton Yapoujian last saw action at the Collegiate Duals, where he dropped both matches to Iowa State’s Jason Kraisser and Oregon State’s Isaiah Crosby. Yapouian also has a good chance to get back into the win column, and it could prove to be a big win for Cornell with three top-10 ranked wrestlers following Yapoujian.
165 – Tony Negron vs. #9 Julian Ramirez
Cornell’s #9 Julian Ramirez had himself a really impressive showing at the Collegiate Duals, which was the last time he was on the mat. Although Ramirez dropped a bout to #3 David Carr, Ramirez looked really good in wins over Oregon State’s #19 Matthew Olguin and North Carolina’s Nicholas Fea. Ramirez advanced to the round of 12 at the NCAA Championships last year in his freshman season, and continues to show why he is on the verge of All-American status.
Tony Negron continues to be the option for the Sun Devils at 165-pounds, as the Penn State transfer has had some big moments to start his first year at Arizona State. Negron knocked off #23 Lucas Revano at the Journeymen Collegiate Classic, and recently beat George Mason’s Drew Dixon at the Midlands Championship. Ramirez will obviously have an edge over Negron, but I wouldn’t be overly surprised to see this match be closer than expected.
174 – Cael Valencia vs. #5 Chris Foca
Cornell’s #5 Chris Foca has been nothing but a hammer to start the 2022-2023 season, and comes into the dual with a 13-1 record. At the Collegiate Duals, Foca won all three of his matches by bonus points and two by fall. Foca is super dangerous on his feet, finding ways to pin opponents in dynamic fashion. In a deep 174-pound weight class, Foca has quickly shown he belongs well within the top-5 at 174.
For Arizona State, Cael Valencia will start for the Sun Devils in his redshirt freshman season. Valencia, brother of 2x National Champion Zahid Valencia, just wrapped up the Midlands Championship with a 2-2 record, with wins over Penn’s Michael Kistler and Illinois’ Caden Ernd.
184 – #19 Anthony Montalvo vs. #9 Jonathon Loew/Nathan Thacker
There was some question if #9 Jonathon Loew would compete at the Collegiate Duals for Cornell, and he eventually ended up not competing. Loew last competed at the Cliff Keen Invitational, until he medically forfeited out with an injury. Loew cements a great row of ranked wrestlers for the Big Red, and Cornell has a huge advantage with him in the lineup. Nathan Thacker wrestled for Loew at the Collegiate Duals, so I would expect him to do the same if Loew isn’t quite ready.
Sun Devil’s #19 Anthony Montalvo last competed at the Cliff Keen Invitational, and looked pretty good despite not coming home with a medal. Montalvo, the Oklahoma State transfer, took Northern Illinois’ #2 Parker Keckeisen to the brink, until dropping the match 5-3.
197 – #20 Kordell Northfleet vs. #18 Jacob Cardenas
Arizona State’s #20 Kordell Northfleet hopes to get back into action against Cornell’s #18 Jacob Cardenas, as Northfleet last competed at the Cliff Keen Invitational where he earned an eighth place medal. It is important to note Northfleet medically forfeited out of his seventh place bout at the Invitational, and teammate Jonathon Fagen competed at the Midlands. Fagen was 1-1 at the Midlands until medically forfeiting out, so if Northfleet is absent again it could get interesting for Arizona State at 197-pounds.
Jacob Cardenas will step out for the Big Red on Wednesday night, and is most recently coming off a 4-0 shutout victory over North Carolina’s Max Shaw. Although Cardenas dropped a bout to Iowa State’s 184-pounder Marcus Coleman who bumped up, Cardenas is still a problem for many opponents at 197-pounds.
285 – #6 Colton Schultz vs. #16 Lewis Fernandes
Arizona State’s #6 Colton Schultz might not be living up to everyone’s perfect expectation, but Schultz only has two losses on the season. Schultz was the consensus #1 ranked heavyweight in the country going into the 2022-2023 season, but losses from SDSU’s AJ Nevills and now Pitt’s Dayton Pitzer have made people second guess the top rankings at heavyweight. Either way, Schultz will continue to put up a lot of bonus points and consistently beat great wrestlers. Schultz and Cornell’s #16 Lewis Fernandes have matched up before, and it was at last year’s NCAA tournament where Schultz won by fall within a minute of the first period.
Cornell’s #16 Lewis Fernandes was on the brink of All-American status last season, and continues to look pretty good to start the new year. Although Fernandes dropped to Iowa State’s #2 197-pounder Yonger Bastida at the Collegiate Duals, Fernandes remains as one of the top-20 best heavyweights in the country. With Schultz dropping another match, Fernandes can make anything happen to wrap up the dual in Austin, Texas.
Final Score Prediction: 21-9 Cornell