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Wrestling (TMI): Wisconsin vs Northwestern Preview

The Badgers host the Wildcats in the Field House in a busy weekend for Wisconsin sports.

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Syndication: Journal-Courier Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

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

Starting with a programming note, if the title of the article contains TMI (too much information), it’s written for rabid wrestling fans. For the casual observer, proceed at your own risk! (or, just skim the team preview and the conclusion after the final score prediction)

The No. 23 (dual meet) Wisconsin Badgers (6-4, 0-3 B1G) host the Northwestern Wildcats (0-4, 0-3 B1G) on Friday at 7 P.M. in the Field House.

For Badger backers not taking the opportunity of a Friday night date night at the Field House, the contest can be viewed on B1G+. Fans can also follow along with live updates on X, envisioning the action in their heads as the Badgers tear apart the Mildcats.

Team Previews

Wisconsin is right in the middle of a rebuilding year, and the season looked like it’d be a long one after a bad showing against Iowa State. Then things started looking up with easier non-conf foes, a record-tying performance at Midlands, and a couple of wins against good competition to close out the non-conference schedule 6-1.

The Big Ten, by far the strongest conference in wrestling, has been a mixed bag for the Badgers. Wisconsin lost all three dual meets so far, including a slight upset loss to Michigan State (warning: your IQ will fall by approx. 1 pt per minute spent reading comments on that site).

On the bright side, the stars have racked up wins vs ranked opponents, and the young ‘uns have gotten valuable, NCAA tournament-like experiences while showing flashes of what they can become. This weekend should see the Badgers tear the heart out of North-worst-ern Indiana Jones style.

Having had good team results and excellent individual efforts in the past, this year’s iteration of Nerd-western wrestling has definitely taken a step back. After a decent showing in the pMSU Open very early in the season, they proceeded to lose to Northern Illinois 18-17, finish eighth at Midlands (UW finished second), and get blown out by Maryland 29-15, No. 6 Nebraska 39-3, and No. 3 Iowa 46-0 in B1G dual meets.

Wisconsin will provide them no quarter as, spoiler alert, I predict the ‘Cats will go home crying again (you can purchase purple “crying cat” stickers here)

Individual Matchups

In this section, we’ll take a look at the likely matchup at each weight class, give a prediction, and keep track of the running team score.

Note: Nos. 1 through 33 are from Tuesday’s Intermat rankings. Numbers above 33 are from Wrestlestat. Why is 33 significant? Because that’s the number of wrestlers in each weight class who make the NCAA tournament.

125: No. 2 Eric Barnett (19-2) vs. No. 167 Massey Odiotti (7-11)

As everyone around him loses, and he doesn’t, Barnett keeps inching up the rankings, slotting in at No. 2 this week. After a couple of never-give-up-the-ship opponents last weekend, the bearded super-senior should feast on this freshman from the Felines. We’ll know something has gone awry if UW doesn’t get bonus points in this match.

UW - 4, NW - 0

133: No. 50 Nico Rivera (10-6) vs. No. 200 Pat Adams (1-9)

A couple of tough opponents have pushed Rivera further away from Top 33 territory, but he’s looking pretty good content-wise. A B1G win here for the redshirt freshman will go towards a possible top-half seeding at the B1G tournament and get him back on track for a potential NCAA invite. Rivera’s wrestling up a weight class this year, and head coach Chris Bono seemed to indicate he’s in line to take Barnett’s place at 125 next year.

UW - 7, NW - 0

141: No. 150 Felix Lettini (3-13) vs. No. 136 Kolby McClain (6-8)

Our redshirt freshman has his best chance so far to pick up a B1G victory going against a true freshman. Lettini’s shown bits and pieces of excellence. Can he pull it all together in a winning performance? Let’s look at the one common opponent: the North-wasteland-er beat the guy 7-1, and Lettini lost 9-1. Both matches were from the pMSU tournament, which was very early in the season. Does the transitive property work here? Maybe not, but I’ll take off my homer hat and say it does for this one.

UW - 7, NW - 3

149: No. 22 Joey Zargo (13-5) vs. No. 183 Aiden Vandenbush (3-13)

This should be an easy one. Figuring the foe is a journalism major, Zargo might prematurely end the contest with the cunning linguist via tech fall or pin. Against common opponents, the Badger is 8-1, while From the Shrubbery is 1-8. I’ll say bonus points on this one.

UW - 11, NW - 3

157: No. 175 Luke Mechler (7-12) vs. No. 18 Trevor Chumbley (11-6)

The Wisconsin native transferred from Oklahoma State last summer after a promising redshirt freshman year there, starting this year off at No. 90. The UW schedule is so tough, though, that Mechler hasn’t broken through in his sophomore season back home in Wisconsin. Chumbley’s no joke and, while an upset here wouldn’t shock my socks off, I’m not predicting it.

UW - 11, NW - 6

165: No. 5 Dean Hamiti (18-1) vs. No. 21 Maxx Mayfield (12-8)

The junior superstar won with very solid technique last weekend against some tough competition. This will be an NCAA tourney-type matchup and the highlight bout of the night. Mayfield (no, his first name is not a typo, and there is nothing NSFW about him) is another tough out, but Hamiti’s last two outings against him have ended in 14-2 and 10-0 major decisions for the good guys. I predict Hamiti’s signature “pump up the crowd” gestures after the ref raises his hand in victory at the end of the match.

UW - 15, NW - 6

174: No. 12 Max Maylor (12-3) vs. No. 122 David Ferrante (11-9)

https://twitter.com/JakeKoco/status/1744764738259611746

Returning home to Wisconsin for his final year of eligibility after a dalliance with (and degree from) Michigan, Maylor’s season has been everyone’s dream come true so far. This might get silly as normally-spelled-Max has beaten all three common opponents who have felled Ferrante this season, and he has shown the ability to run up the score. I’ll go with bonus points.

UW - 19, NW - 6

184: No. 16 Shane Liegel (15-6) vs. No. 33 Troy Fisher (8-7)

This will be the other ranked-vs-ranked battle of the evening. I’m thinking the Illinois-living, piscis-catching, named-for-the-city-state-that-fell-for-the-large-Greek-wooden-horse wrestler will put up a good fight, but the now-wrestling-for-UW-D3-to-D1-Cinderella-story-of-the-season will give it all he’s got. The crowd might have a heart attack while watching a gritty, super-close, maybe overtime win for Wisconsin. (whew)

UW - 22, NW - 6

197: No. 92 Josh Otto (1-7) vs. No. 63 Evan Bates (6-8)

This is a tossup in my mind. Bates was about a .500 wrestler last year as a redshirt freshman, just missing an NCAA tournament invite. He has not improved this year and is certainly looking at our guy as a get-well match. Otto has put on a lot of weight to fill the hole at 197 and has shown some good flashes against the heavier competition. That said, the flashes have not converted to bangs (i.e. wins). With the B1G being so stacked, this is as good an opportunity as any for Otto to pick up a W. I’ll go with a pessimistic prediction here but would welcome a win.

UW - 22, NW - 9

285: No. 155 Gannon Rosenfeld (1-10) vs. No. 80 Jack Jessen (4-5)

Having gone 15-4 last year vs mostly non-starter competition, Rosenfeld (he needs to do some comedy work on the side) is now a redshirt freshman thrown into the fire of a starting Big Ten lineup. He came close and closer to the win column last weekend, and —copy, paste from Otto— this is as good an opportunity as any to pick up a win. If Rosie can keep putting up the points while being a little more solid on defense, this could go the right way. The crowd would go absolutely bonkers. For the purposes of this preview, though, I’ll throw a premature wet blanket on those celebrations.

Final Score UW - 22, NW - 12

This is a pretty fair (i.e. non-Pollyanna) look at the dual meet. Figuring some of the toss-ups will go the other way, a purple kitty or two will be purring on his way home. You’ll notice that my W/L predictions have been pretty solid, but I tend to underestimate bonus points, both for and against. We’ll likely see the same in this dual meet, so the score might be higher for one or both teams. Even if UW comes up tails in all the coin-flip matches, this should still be a comfortable win for the Badgers. If they all go our way, on the other hand, it will be Itchy and Scratchy levels of bloodbath; Experts of humane solutions for feral (i.e. wild) cats in Wisconsin might generate a PR problem that’s more headache than the win was worth.

Did I mention this would be a good date night destination? The hot action coupled with a little Babcock ice cream on a campus that will be rocking after the wrestling (and hockey) wins - will set the stage for all but the most unlucky to end the evening on a happy note.