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Penn State wrestling: Nittany Lions ranked No. 1 in NWCA poll for Dec. 11, 2018

Editor’s note: The Centre Daily Times will publish weekly updates based on NWCA coaches team and InterMat individual rankings to give readers a glimpse into how Penn State wrestling fits into the bigger picture.

Despite not competing this past weekend, Penn State remained the unanimous No. 1 for the seventh straight week in the Theraworx National Wrestling Coaches Association team coaches poll.

The Nittany Lions will face their second ranked opponent of the season on Friday when they take on No. 15 Arizona State at Rec Hall. The dual could see four bouts between ranked wrestlers, with the rematch of last season’s 174-pound NCAA final between No. 1 Zahid Valencia, of ASU, and Penn State’s No. 2 Mark Hall as the headliner.

The two are 1-1 in official NCAA matches, with Valencia winning the most recent battle 8-2. Wrestling in front of a home crowd, Friday will be a good opportunity for Hall to win back the No. 1 rank he held only briefly after winning the national championship in 2017, before Valencia earned it back again after an unofficial 3-2 win over Hall at the NWCA All-Star Classic, and based on the caliber of his wins over ranked opponents early in the season.

A couple other Nittany Lions could have the opportunity to move up in next week’s ranking, should they get a win on Friday. Either No. 12 Brady Berge or Jarod Verkleeren, who have been trading starts so far this season, will face off against Franklin Regional High School product Josh Maruca, ranked 11th this week by InterMat at 149 pounds.

Other ranked matchups in Friday’s dual include Penn State’s No. 1 Jason Nolf vs. No. 16 Christian Pagdilao, and No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph vs. No. 5 Josh Shields — another Franklin Regional product.

Arizona State also has a ranked wrestler in No. 6 Ryan Millhof at 125 pounds, while Penn State has additional ranked wrestlers in No. 1 Bo Nickal at 197, No. 4 Nick Lee at 141, No. 4 Shakur Rasheed at 184 and No. 5 Anthony Cassar at heavyweight.

There wasn’t much movement in the team coaches poll this week, as many programs are wrapping up competition for the end of the semester and upcoming finals weeks.

In top-five action, Ohio State, Oklahoma State, Iowa and Michigan each picked up another dual win.

No. 2 Ohio State put a 23-13 beating on No. 10 Wisconsin in its home opener, handing the Badgers their first lost of the season. The Buckeyes won six out of 10 matches, including an upset by then-unranked Ethan Smith over then-No. 9 Ryan Christensen at 174 pounds. Smith debuted in InterMat’s rankings this week at No. 16, while Christensen slid to No. 11.

No. 3 Oklahoma State smashed in-state rival Oklahoma 41-2 for coach John Smith’s 50th Bedlam dual win. The Sooners’ lone win came with an upset at 141 pounds, where freshman Dom Demas beat two-time All-American Kaid Brock 7-6. Oklahoma was later deducted a team point for unsportsmanlike conduct. Brock slid three spots this week to No. 9, while Demas jumped up eight spots to No. 8.

No. 5 Michigan handed Big Ten foe Indiana a 32-7 loss, while No. 4 Iowa handed a still-injury-riddled Lehigh a 28-14 loss. The Mountainhawks are now 0-4 on the season, and slid to No. 20 in the team poll.

The Big Ten still leads all conferences with 10 teams ranked in the top 20. Northwestern fell out of the rankings after a 30-10 loss to Old Dominion, but was replace by the 5-1 Rutgers.

Theraworx NWCA Division I Wrestling Coaches Poll

Dec. 11

Rank Team (votes) Rec. Pts. Prev.
1 Penn State (16) 3-0 400 1
2 Ohio State 4-0 382 2
3 Oklahoma State 4-0 368 3
4 Iowa 6-0 352 4
5 Michigan 3-0 334 5
6 Missouri 4-0 321 6
7 N.C. State 5-0 303 7
8 Cornell 2-0 285 8
9 Minnesota 3-1 277 9
10 Wisconsin 6-1 253 10
11 Nebraska 4-1 233 11
12 North Carolina 3-0 225 12
13 Purdue 2-1 203 13
14 Virginia Tech 1-2 181 14
15 Arizona State 1-2 173 15
16 Northern Iowa 1-1 147 17
17 Illinois 1-1 123 18
18 Wyoming 3-2 117 21
19 Lock Haven 1-0 96 20
20 Lehigh 0-4 85 16
21 North Dakota State 4-1 78 19
22 Utah Valley 5-2 75 22
23 Iowa State 1-1 62 23
24 Pittsburgh 2-0 54 24
25 Rutgers 5-1 29 NR

Others receiving votes: Princeton 22, Old Dominion 13, Northwestern 4, Appalachian State 4.

Dropped out: No. 25 Northwestern

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