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COLLEGE UPDATE FOR JANUARY 3: Tigers prove it at the Scuffle

By Jason Bryant

If you've paid close attention to the USA Today/InterMat/NWCA team rankings in the last few weeks, you might have noticed the swing in voting for the top team in the country.

Missouri, fresh off its championship at the Southern Scuffle hosted by the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, is now a unanimous #1 in the team rankings released on Wednesday.

Missouri first climbed to the top of the rankings on December 12 after Minnesota beat top-ranked Oklahoma State. In the prior weeks, as many as four teams were receiving first-place votes. Missouri, by virtue of winning a tournament involving the Golden Gophers, picked up all 12 first-place votes, but had things gone differently in Greensboro, how would it have turned out?

Fans loyal to the Maroon & Gold will point to All-American Mack Reiter and Big Ten champ C.P. Schlatter not being in the lineup. Missouri fans could point right back with a pair of All-Americans, Tyler McCormick and Matt Pell, not being in the line-up as well.

In the words of Nick Bakay, advantage: push.

Minnesota picked up four individual titles, which might still make them the favorite come March, but in the latest issue of "What Have You Done For Me Lately Weekly," it was Missouri's lesser-known stars that pushed them to the team title.

Sure, Ben and Max Askren are both ranked #1, but what about the roles of the not-so-known kids? Consider true freshman Ashtin Primus picking up falls with a vicious cross-face cradle. There were redshirt freshman Johnny Olanowski scrambling his way to a fourth-place finish and Josh Wagner giving Dustin Schlatter and Gregor Gillespie some battles.

But what about Nick Marable? He's behind nationally-ranked Pell, comes in and takes third. Talk about being ready to step in the line-up.

Minnesota's four champions is absolutely nothing to sneeze at. Neither is the progress of Jayson Ness at 125 pounds. The Minnesota native is starting the Gophers off strong. Manuel Rivera has emerged as one of the nation's elite at 141 pounds. He's still unbeaten and looking to pierce the top four when he gets a chance at folks like Ryan Lang, Nathan Morgan, Derek Moore and Andy Simmons, two of which he'll see in conference action.

Cornell looks to be nearing full strength as Troy Nickerson and Adam Frey made their debuts in Big Red singlets this season. Nickerson, last year's runner-up at 125 pounds at the NCAA championships beat All-American Tanner Gardner of Stanford in the final after beating Ness in the semis. Frey, a highly touted recruit from Blair Academy, saw his first action at 133 and won the title, beating then-second ranked Matt Keller of UT-Chattanooga and two-time All-American Evan Sola from North Carolina. He was named Wrestler of the Week for his win.

Frey's emergence makes Cornell a darkhorse come NCAA tournament time, should the Big Red become completely healthy - and stay that well.

Maryland (seemingly) has a dilemma at 141 pounds where they have former ACC champion Charlie Pinto and Easton, Pa., native Alex Krom. Pinto failed to place at the Scuffle, while Krom finished second. It's the second time this season Krom has placed second in a tournament this season.

The other - he lost to Pinto 5-3 in the finals of the Cornell Body Bar back in mid-November.

The Midlands
A few interesting occurrences came out of the 44th Midlands over the weekend at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.

The first was Iowa State's solid performance, finishing 47.5 points ahead of rival Iowa less than a month after the Hawkeyes took eight of 10 matches in a dual at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

The second was high school senior Corey Jantzen becoming only the fourth pre-collegian to enter the event - and he placed seventh at 133 pounds.

Jantzen, the younger brother of 2004 NCAA Champion Jesse Jantzen, has committed to follow his brothers footsteps and wrestle at Harvard.

While there were many great performances at the Midlands, like Mike Grimes of Northern Illinois and Jake Patascil of Purdue meeting in an unlikely final at 149 pounds, Jantzen was still the buzz of the tournament.

Host Northwestern had two champions and finished third - five points behind Iowa. Ryan Lang won the title at 141 pounds, beating Iowa's Alex Tsirtsis in the final, while Mike Tamillow beat Wynn Michalak of Central Michigan and Kurt Backes of Iowa State to win the crown.

A new No. 1 emerges at 157 pounds, where Illinois' Mike Poeta takes hold of the nation's top ranking after beating Iowa State's Trent Paulson.

Also, any talk of Nick Simmons dropping to 125 can officially be nixed. According to the NWCA Weight Certification Program, Simmons passed his deadline to start dropping. That means he's staying at 133. It makes sense. He won the Midlands and is ranked #1 in the nation at the weight.

Another note was at heavyweight where for the second straight year, a Division II wrestler would claim the Midlands title.

Last year, Nebraska-Omaha's four-time Division II champion Les Sigman won the title in Evanston. This year, it was Sigman's D-II finals opponent - Nebraska-Kearney's Tervel Dlagnev - that took home the crown.

Dlagnev, a very agile and mobile heavyweight, dominated Northwestern's Dustin Fox, who is ranked third in Division I, en route to a 10-4 victory.

Coming up
The 10th edition of the Lone Star Duals will kick off on Friday at South Grand Prairie High School just outside of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Oklahoma and Oklahoma State are the top teams at the annual event, which has a high school dual tournament running along side.

The college format is a collection of teams wrestling duals against one another without advancement, so you're more likely to see odd individual matchups than two teams grinding away towards each other to a final.

Oklahoma State will take on all three service academies - Army, Navy and Air Force - in one of the event's most intriguing schedules.

Other rather "odd" matchups include: New Mexico Highlands vs. Army; North Carolina vs. Utah Valley State; Northern Colorado vs. North Carolina; Harvard vs. Boise State and Marion Military Academy vs. Oklahoma.

The latter will put Sooner Sam Hazewinkel wrestling against his father and uncle, Jim and Dave Hazewinkel, who coach at Marion Military Academy, the new Junior College program in Alabama.
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