This is the second of two articles that breaks down Penn State’s 2018-19 schedule as the Nittany Lions look to capture their eighth national title in nine years.
Here’s a look at the Big Ten portion of their schedule:
Opponent: at Northwestern
Date: Jan. 11, 2019
Last Meeting: Penn State 45 – Northwestern 3, Jan. 29, 2017 at Rec Hall
Bout to Watch: 157: No. 1 Jason Nolf (PSU) v. No. 6 Ryan Deakin (NW)
These two have never met before, as Deakin wrestled at 149 last year. Deakin is 1-1 vs Penn State wrestlers, beating Luke Gardner by tech fall at the Keystone Classic last year before dropping major decision to No. 1 Zain Retherford.
Outlook: While Northwestern opened the season as the No. 17 team in the country, the Wildcats fell 26-17 in their season opener against North Dakota State. Although there should be a handful of ranked matchups, including at 157, 174 and possibly 141 pounds, Penn State should handle Northwestern without much of an issue.
Opponent: vs. Wisconsin
Date: January 13, 2019
Last Meeting: Penn State 33 – Wisconsin 11, Jan. 27, 2017 in Wisconsin
Bout to Watch: 165: No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph (PSU) v. No. 2 Evan Wick (Wisc.)
Last season’s national champion and third place finisher have never met, but when they do it’s expected to be a tight match all around. So far this season, Wick is 4-0, with one tech fall victory.
Outlook: With six ranked wrestlers, the 19th-ranked Badgers have plenty of talent in the lineup this season, headlined by last season’s third-place NCAA finisher Evan Wick. Unfortunately for them, Penn State is still heads and shoulders above Wisconsin. Expect the Nittany Lions to roll.
Opponent: vs. Nebraska
Date: January 20, 2019
Last Meeting: Penn State 27 – Nebraska 14, Jan. 8, 2017 in Neb.
Bout to Watch: 157: No. 1 Jason Nolf (PSU) v. No. 3 Tyler Berger (NEB)
While Nolf is 3-0 against Berger all time, the pair haven’t wrestled each other since the 2017 NCAA Championship semifinals, when Nolf won by a major decision. Berger finished third at the 2018 NCAA Championships.
Outlook: After finishing the 2017-18 season 10-4, the No. 12 Cornhuskers are prepared for another strong season, as they return seven starters from last season, including three All-Americans. The Huskers add two-time All-American Zeke Moisey, a transfer from West Virginia, as well. Expect Nebraska to have another strong season, but to fall to the top-ranked Nittany Lions.
Opponent: at Purdue
Date: January 25, 2019
Last Meeting: Penn State 43 – Purdue 6, Jan. 19, 2018 at Rec Hall
Bout to Watch: 174: No. 2 Mark Hall (PSU) v. No. 10 Dylan Lydy (PUR)
In two matchups last season, Hall was 2-0 against Lydy, winning by major decision and tech fall. While it’s likely Hall will have the same sort of success this season, Lydy more than doubled his win total last season, so if he has improved again over the offseason, the gap between the two could be much closer.
Outlook: Last season, Penn State rolled to a 43-6 victory over the Boilermakers inside the friendly confines Rec Hall. This year, the Nittany Lions will head to West Lafayette, but will most likely come away with a similar result.
Opponent: at Indiana
Date: January 27, 2019
Last Meeting: Penn State 44 – Indiana 3, Dec. 17, 2017 at Rec Hall
Bout to Watch: 141: No. 4 Nick Lee (PSU) v. No. 13 Cole Weaver (IU)
Last season, Lee was 2-0 against Weaver with two major decision victories on his way to a third-place finish at the Big Ten Championships and fifth at NCAA’s. Expect this to be one of the better bouts of the day when Penn State and Indiana face off in January.
Outlook: With just two ranked wrestlers in the lineup, the 2018-19 season looks like it could be another tough one for the Hoosiers, who are coming off a 6-10 record last season. Indiana opened this season with a 25-12 loss at the hands of Virginia. Penn State should easily defeat the Hoosiers in Bloomington.
Opponent: vs. Michigan at the Bryce Jordan Center
Date: February 1, 2019
Last Meeting: Penn State 25 — Michigan 12, Jan. 12, 2018 at Michigan
Bout to Watch: 174: No. 2 Mark Hall (PSU) v. No. 3 Myles Amine (MICH)
It’s always exciting when two ranked wrestlers meet on the mat, let alone two wrestlers ranked in the top five. Hall and Amine faced off twice last year, once in the dual meet and the other for the Big Ten title. Both matches were decided by one point, so this year’s matchup shouldn’t be any different.
Outlook: Conference matchups always have added pressure, but Penn State should have the edge over Michigan in this one. Similar to the Nittany Lions, the Wolverines have seven ranked wrestlers in the lineup, with several of them being in the top five. However, it still will not be enough for Michigan to pull out the win, especially in the spotlight of the Bryce Jordan Center.
Opponent: at Ohio State
Date: February 8, 2019
Last Meeting: Penn State 19 – Ohio State 18, Feb. 3, 2018 at Rec Hall
Bout to Watch: 141: No. 4 Nick Lee (PSU) v. No. 2 Joey McKenna (OSU)
Lee and McKenna only faced off once last year, but it was a back-and-forth bout. While Lee took the 7-6 loss on the mat that day, he has grown as a wrestler over the past year. He finished the season as an All-American, after having his redshirt pulled and being named the starter midway through. Lee will be tough competition for his opponents this year, and this bout should be a good one to watch.
Outlook: Last year in Rec Hall, the match between Ohio State and Penn State could not have come down to the wire any more than it did. Although Penn State heavyweight Nick Nevills lost to Kyle Snyder, it was still enough to keep the Nittany Lions on top at the end. Ohio State came back to beat Penn State at the Big Ten Championships, but Penn State got the final win by bringing home a national title at NCAAs. Based on the past year, these two teams will bring several close matchups, but Penn State will pull out the win against an Ohio State team that lost some of their stars.
Opponent: vs. Michigan State
Date: February 15, 2019
Last Meeting: Penn State 43 – Michigan State 6, Jan. 14, 2018 at Michigan State
Bout to Watch: 184: No. 4 Shakur Rasheed (PSU) v. No. 18 Cameron Caffey (MSU)
The matchup at 184 is the only ranked bout between the two teams. Rasheed and Caffrey have not faced off before so other than the fact that they are both in the preseason rankings, fans should expect a tough bout from both sides.
Outlook: Penn State dominated Michigan State at the dual meet last year in East Lansing. With the Nittany Lions strong lineup, the Spartans will not be equal competition in majority of the weight classes.
Opponent: at Illinois
Date: February 17, 2019
Last Meeting: Penn State 34 – Illinois 7, Feb. 10, 2017 at Rec Hall
Bout to Watch: 184: No. 4 Shakur Rasheed (PSU) v. No. 2 Emery Parker (Ill.)
A top five matchup between the two teams should make for an exciting second half of the dual. Bo Nickal was the former wrestler at 184 for the Nittany Lions and won three matchups against Parker of Illinois. While Rasheed is a different wrestler than Nickal, once he finds his place at 184 pounds, he will be a force to be reckoned with.
Outlook: The match is away for the Nittany Lions, but that should not affect the outcome of this dual by much. According to InterMat’s preseason rankings, No. 20 Illinois will be facing a No. 1 Penn State team that is finishing up their season and looking to go into championship season on a winning note. Penn State will leave Champaign with a win to conclude their conference matchups.