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Wrestling (TMI): Wisconsin at Michigan State Preview

The Badgers enter Friday’s competition as slight favorites against the Spartans.

Syndication: The Des Moines Register Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Disclaimer: This article has been written and submitted by NavyBadger, who will help cover Badgers wrestling.

Hey, folks, me again. This article is an example of a TMI piece that’s probably too deep for a fan of the Wisconsin Badgers who is not that interested in the nitty-gritty details of the wrestling team. For those heavy-duty fans, read on. For the faint of heart, proceed at your own risk.

Key:

1. GP (general public) These are easy-to-digest articles for the casual fan.

2. TMI (too much information) These are more in-depth articles for rabid wrestling followers. For all you take-a-dip-in-the-deep-end learners, don’t worry, you won’t drown.

The No. 17 Wisconsin Badgers are set to take on the Michigan State Spartans in East Lansing on Friday, with action starting at 6:00 P.M. CT.

In the dual meet rankings (separate and distinct from the tournament rankings), Sparty has floated just outside the Top 25 in most of the rankings so far this season. It’s a nice season if you’re anyone else, but below average for a Big Ten team.

Question: Why would a 7-0 non-conference dual meet record not have pushed Michigan State into the Top 25? Answer: Same as any other sport, a cupcake schedule.

After a respectable 4th place team finish at Midlands (Wisconsin finished 2nd), Sparty came crashing down to earth with the start of Big Ten dual meets. In their first three contests, the green Greeks fell to No. 13 Michigan 12-29, No. 14 Rutgers 13-22, and No. 1 PSU 0-35, dropping them to 7-3 (0-3 Big Ten).

When looking at the dual meet rankings, No. 17 Wisconsin will be their easiest Big Ten opponent so far and the best chance to pick their first win in conference action.

The Badgers, of course, will look to continue Sparty’s Big Ten beatdowns. An early 0-42 shutout vs Iowa State had many people down on UW’s prospects in this rebuilding year, but sweeping the rest of the non-conference dual meet schedule, which included some major competition, and placing 2nd at Midlands has the outlook decidedly better for the Badgers. They’ll look to get in the Big Ten win column after dropping the first conference dual meet to Ohio State 15-27.

Now, let’s take a look at the possible/likely matchups and a prediction at each weight class for the Badgers’ first Big Ten contest away from the Field House.

Note: if in the Top 33, rankings are from Intermat; if not, they’re from WrestleStat. The initial Coaches poll, while fun, is not very accurate right now.

125 No. 3 Eric Barnett (17-2) vs No. 43 Tristan Lujan (13-9)

You read that right. After a weekend of chaos in the weight class, Barnett has a career-high ranking, and there is even talk of him being in the running to win it all. Lujan’s no fish, but Barnett has beaten him 7-0 and 4-1 in their past two meetings, and I expect a similar non-blowout-but-not-in-doubt outcome.

UW 3, MSU 0

133 No. 49 Nico Rivera (9-5) vs No. 186 Andy Hampton (4-15)

Rivera’s been looking better after a relatively slow start to the season. He’s been hanging tough (not a New Kids reference...) with the hammers and has been showing growth. The redshirt freshman should pick up a nice B1G win here.

UW 6, MSU 0

141 No. 144 Felix Lettini (3-11) vs No. 30 Jordan Hamdan (15-6)

Also a redshirt freshman, Lettini has had a tough row to hoe this season, and going against a likely NCAA qualifier won’t ease his path. In looking at common opponents, Lettini did pin Indiana’s Cayden Rooks last season, while Hamdan has gone 0-4 vs the Hoosier in his career, so that’s a ray of hope. An upset win here would be nice, but I’m not predicting it.

UW 6, MSU 3

149 No. 23 Joey Zargo (12-5) vs No. 156 Braden Stauffenberg (6-13)

Zargo is a 24/7 kind of guy. In my opinion, he’s been performing under expectations the last few weeks (Midlands, Virginia Duals), but this should be a nice victory for the Wisconsin junior. I’ll even say bonus points.

UW 10, MSU 3

157 No. 147 Luke Mechler (7-10) vs No. 21 Chase Saldate (16-4)

A sophomore transfer from Oklahoma State and Stoughton, the Wisconsin grad has had some success with the Badgers’ tough schedule. There’s always a chance, but I’ll say probably not vs the likely NCAA qualifier.

UW 10, MSU 6

165 No. 5 Dean Hamiti (16-1) vs No. 9 Caleb Fish (18-5)

This Top Ten tilt will be the highlight of the evening... on paper. Hamiti tech’ed Fish 15-0 just over two months ago, and I suspect we’ll see fireworks from the fun-to-watch superstar again this time around. We might need the bonus points, too, in order to escape the state of Michigan with a team win.

UW 15, MSU 6

174 No. 12 Max Maylor (10-3) vs No. 85 DJ Shannon (9-12)

Maylor should be the one laying down the beat(down)s on this dance floor (okay, I won’t quit my day job). This Big Ten win won’t boost his resume as much as some, but who can say no to a W for the UW?

UW - 18, MSU - 6

184 No. 16 Shane Liegel (15-4) vs No. 21 Layne Malczewski (6-5)

This will be the closest match of the evening, I predict. Liegel has shown remarkable progress after an initial “D-III is nothing like D-I” start to the season. He attacks from every position and has that “it” that winners have. This will be a great test that I predict he’ll pass in a 3-2 type match that will help his B1G tournament seeding and drive him up the rankings even further.

UW - 21, MSU - 6

197 No. 129 Josh Otto (1-5) vs No. 29 Kael Wisler (22-10)

285 No. 143 Gannon Rosenfeld (1-8) vs No. 44 Josh Terrill (23-9)

It might not be Otto and Rosenfeld taking the mat here, as head coach Chris Bono has indicated he’ll play around with the lineup in the two heaviest weights, but I think we’re safe in assuming this we’ll give up bonus points in both.

Final Score: UW - 21, MSU - 15

This is a slightly Pollyanna-ish view, and things could go bad at a number of weights. If one decision flips to MSU, making it 18-18 in the above scenario, those bonus points racked up by our stars will be even more important (can we get a pin, please?). Could we see upsets in the other direction? I’d say Mechler, or maybe even Lettini, are our best chances to “win where we’re not supposed to,” as Coach Bono likes to say.

Overall, I’m predicting the Badgers pick up a solid win on the road to extend Sparty’s Big Ten misery, with some exciting fireworks and edge-of-your-seat action along the way.

Don’t expect another one of these TMI write-ups for Nebraska on Sunday. It takes too long to write (and the Pollyanna side of me will be harder to find for that one).