Overall: Arizona State is a really slick team and they have a lot of talent redshirting this season. I hope we get to see them again next year, as it will likely be a big dual between potential top five teams.
I believe Missouri is a little more hard-nosed and tough from the top position and that they will take the majority of the tough bouts and bonus points here.
This dual will feature incredible individual bouts at 125, 149, 157, 165 and 174. The 184 match is an interesting one for me as it talks to the depth of both teams to have a solid guy to fill that weight class despite the injuries both teams have suffered this year.
All rankings utilized are from the NCAA Coaches Poll first run rankings. I like the way Missouri is wrestling lately and I expect a great performance for them against ASU on Friday night.
The dual will be on the PAC 12 Network for those with that cable subscription.
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#21 Dack Punke (9-5) vs. Brandon Courtney (12-11)
Thoughts: This is an interesting stylistic match-up. Punke is really good at controlling ties in neutral and setting up both his Hi-C and his low single.
Courtney will wrestle from space a bit more and is longer than Punke is for this weight class. Past All-American, #10 Ryan Milhoff is the typical starter for the Sun Devils at this weight class, but has been unavailable for awhile due to injury concerns.
In his absence Courtney has been fairly successful and has wins over #26 Trey Chalifoux (Army) and past NCAA qualifier Christian Moody (Oklahoma). Look for a high paced bout with very little scoring, between the two up and coming freshman here.
Punke has been solid from top this season, but has avoided the bottom position against tough opponents when possible, and Courtney has been fairly similar in that he has been tough on top, but has struggled at times from underneath.
I look for Punke to get the better of the neutral wrestling here and to notch a takedown, but for Courtney to make up the point with a quick escape and riding time.
I see this as a potential swing match and I believe Punke will pick up a winning takedown either late in the third or in overtime to take a very tightly contested bout here
This match could be a lot of fun if both guys open up or if a big move is scored early, as both have a lot of great offense.
Prediction: Punke Dec. Courtney 4-2 SV1 (Mizz 3-0)
#10 John Erneste (13-3) vs. #24 Josiah Kline (18-9) OR Josh Kramer (7-6)
Thoughts: I am excited to see how Erneste looks this late in the season.
He has not seen a ranked foe in awhile, and although he got quick falls in his last two dual bouts he did not look as sharp as he is capable of being.
Erneste is a big favorite here regardless of, which wrestler meets him. I would expect Kline to get the call here.
Kline has an interesting history as he was a state champion for Rock Bridge high school his junior season, which is in Columbia Missouri.
He moved to Arizona his senior year and ended up matriculating to Lock Haven before finding a home at Arizona State.
Erneste and Kline have one previous encounter in Freestyle a couple summers ago, which Erneste won in a controlled fashion. I look for Kline to try to slow this one down, but Erneste at his best has to much from the top position for Kline and I think that Erneste will out scramble Kline for a fall here.
Kline may come out with a chip on his shoulder and be aggressive as he wrestles his old hometown school. He is an excellent scrambler, but the strength and length of Erneste will provide obstacles here.
This should be a really entertaining bout, especially if Erneste comes out a bit sloppy, but look for the lopsided win here for Erneste.
Prediction: Erneste Fall over Kline (Mizz 9-0)
#3 Jaydin Eierman (17-3) vs. Cory Crooks (10-16)
Thoughts: Eierman has gotten a couple nice falls his last few times out and has looked to work past the illness he was dealing with in Mid-January. At his best he is one of the more explosive offensive wrestlers in the country, as well as one of the more dangerous top wrestlers and scramblers. Crooks was having a decent season, before dropping his last eight matches in a row. Crooks is not a bad wrestler and has wrestled some ranked guys decently close this season, but he is the caliber of wrestler that Eierman fairly routinely massacres. I think that Crooks stays away from the fall here as he is likely going to be wrestling to keep the bout close. I think Eierman dominates both from his feet and with several cheap tilts here, but is unable to manufacture a fall and has to settle for the technical fall here. Look for Eierman to put on a show and get it fairly quickly in this bout locking up big team points for Missouri.
Prediction: Eierman Tech Fall Crooks 18-2 (Mizz 14-0)
#8 Brock Mauller (23-1) vs. #26 Josh Maruca (13-10)
Thoughts: Mauller has emerged as one of the best true freshman wrestlers for any squad this season. He has really solid neutral offense and can score from low singles, doubles, sweeps and primarily from his Hi-C. Mauller is one of the best pure scramblers in the country and he has a way of turning scramble positions into takedowns or easy stalemates from very adverse deep shots. Mauller has also not really shown a weakness on bottom. All of that said Maruca is a long wrestler for this weight class and is an excellent scrambler in his own right. Maruca is not having the season he was hoping to, but he is still very likely to qualify for NCAAs and be a dangerous out. Mauller has an edge in his strength (even as a true freshman) and in his counters, but Maruca is extremely crafty and both guys tend to wrestle fairly close bouts. I look for Mauller to score a couple early takedowns and to win this one with riding time somewhere in the neighborhood of 5-2 or 6-3. This is a big match for Mauller heading into an extremely tough closing stretch run for him. I expect him to take the solid win here and further boost his NCAA seeding argument.
Prediction: Mauller Dec. Maruca (Mizz 17-0)
#17 Jarrett Jacques (22-5) vs. #14 Christian Pagdilao (18-8)
Thoughts: This is likely the 2nd most pivotal bout in this dual meet from a seeding perspective. Jacques has been excellent this season and has really come on in recent weeks including a nine match winning streak. He is really improving as the season goes along. His neutral confidence and gas tank have done a complete 180 since early in the season. Jacques has also gained confidence in his top game over the course of the season. Pagdilao is a grizzled fifth year senior who began his career hot as an NCAA qualifier for Michigan State and has largely toiled as a spot starter at ASU until this season. Both wrestlers have a match with Josh Humphreys (Lehigh) this season and Jacques won 5-4, while Pagdilao lost 6-1. Jacques has a very aggressive style and will take a lot of ground and look both to attack and force bad counters, whereas Pagdilao is an exceptional counter wrestler in his own right. Both guys are very explosive and this bout could feature some extremely entertaining flurries. This bout will likely be high scoring and Jacques gas tank will certainly be tested, but I have Jacques scoring enough to win here in what should be a slugfest. I ultimately like Jacques mat game to be a difference maker here.
Prediction: Jacques Dec. Pagdilao 12-9 (Mizz 20-0)
#13 Connor Flynn (16-4) vs. #5 Josh Shields (23-3)
Thoughts: Both wrestlers here have really similar styles. Both Flynn and Shields are really long for the weight class and are tough from the top position, as well as both being excellent counter wrestlers and scramblers. This is an odd match-up as Shields certainly has better results against common opponents, but Flynn wrestles an extremely similar style. An interesting nugget is that this bout could be a potential 2nd round bout at NCAA’s looking at current seeding predictions. I think Flynn will come out aggressive here and the match should be pretty competitive. It would not stun me in the slightest if Flynn scored an early takedown or even pulled off the upset, as this matchup seems fairly favorable. If Flynn is able to win this match it would be huge for his potential NCAA seeding, but all of that said Shields is really crafty and is great at winning close bouts. I will take Shields by one point here, as I think his top wrestling will be a difference maker here for him.
Prediction: Shields Dec. Flynn 4-3 (Mizz 20-3)
#4 Daniel Lewis (18-1) vs. #2 Zahid Valencia (23-1)
Thoughts: This is the premier match of the dual and one of the bigger individual matches for a Missouri wrestler this season. Despite consistent excellence from each wrestler neither met last season or this season up to now. Lewis is very talented in neutral, but he truly excels when he can hook a leg and go to work cradle hunting on top. Valencia is possibly the longest wrestler at this weight class and has the most variety in his offense of any 174 lb wrestler as well. This should be an extremely high level match and could go in one of two ways. The first way I see this match going is that Valencia gets going from neutral and Lewis has a hard time slowing him down enough to get opportunities from top. Valencia’s left side low single is almost impossible to stop consistently. I could even see Lewis taking top in that scenario. The 2nd way I see the bout going is that both guys are overly cautious from neutral and that Lewis’ riding has an opportunity to make a difference in the bout. This would be a huge win for Lewis and would completely muddle NCAA seeding between the #2 and #4 spots. Ultimately I think Valencia’s neutral game will be too much for Lewis here, although Lewis may put on a good ride and slow down the bout here. I will take Valencia by two in a high scoring affair here.
Prediction: Valencia Dec. Lewis 8-6 (Mizz 20-6)
Taylor Watkins (17-8) vs. Jacen Petersen (10-9)
Thoughts: I am excited to see Taylor Watkins get an opportunity. Watkins’ has quietly had an excellent season up at 197 to this point including a win over incumbent starter Wyatt Koelling. Koelling has a better resume this season and deserves to start, but Watkins is a goer and I really enjoy watching him wrestle as well. Knowing that Dylan Wisman was not quite ready to come back it is good to see Watkins cutting down and filling the spot for this dual meet. Petersen ironically is also a great team player for ASU. He was a reserve 165 lb wrestler for them through the Midlands, but has bumped up and filled in for an injured Kordell Norfleet. This should be a really fun competitive bout between two wrestlers that will really go for it, as they are eager for the opportunity to help their team. Watkins has a strong upper body game and is very stocky and powerful. Petersen is pretty explosive and is pretty slick. I think Watkins size will have an impact here. I have Watkins winning a close, exciting bout here to help put the dual away for the Tigers.
Prediction: Watkins Dec. Petersen 7-5 (Mizz 23-6)
#23 Wyatt Koelling (18-7) vs. Austyn Harris (6-15)
Thoughts: Koelling has been really solid for the Tigers lately and is a big favorite here. Harris has been susceptible to getting pinned against better opposition this season and Koelling’s upperbody game make a fall very likely here. Koelling is also a solid pinner from the top position and has beaten better than Harris by fall this season. Look for Koelling to look sharp here.
Prediction: Koelling Fall over Harris (Mizz 29-6)
#17 Zach Elam (18-6) vs. Brady Daniel (10-15)
Thoughts: Elam has been the better of these two freshman this season, but Daniel is having a solid freshman season. I look for Elam to get the better of the neutral wrestling here with his slick go behinds and sweep singles. Elam is a hammer on top when he is on and I expect him to wrestle fairly well here. Daniel is tough to score on and will likely keep this one fairly close. Look for Elam to use his length and movement to wrestle a really complete match and walk away with a solidly controlled victory here for his team heading into a couple big dual meets for Elam and his NCAA seeding. I think we see a zoned in Elam here.
Prediction: Elam Dec. 7-3 (Mizz 32-6)