The #16 Wisconsin Badgers travel to Ames Iowa this weekend to take on #10 Iowa State on Sunday at 2pm. You can watch the dual live on ESPN with the UFC fight pass. This will be a bit of a homecoming for the coaching staff as Head Coach Chris Bono and Assistant Coach Jon Reader both won National Titles for the Cyclones. However, that is in the past and Coach Bono said on the Badger Den podcast this week that they are coming there focused and ready to wrestle.
Last year these two teams dualed in the finals of the team tournament Battle of River City down in Florida. The Cyclones defeated the Badgers 26-6. Of note, this dual was one of those classic wrestling duals where it had countless razor close matches, but the result went one way so it makes a lopsided team score despite the competitiveness of the actual dual. This year, the Badgers will no doubt be climbing an uphill battle in this one, but sometimes that’s when teams wrestle their best! Currently the Badgers are nationally ranked at 4 different weight classes and the Cyclones are ranked at 9. This dual is full of storylines and I’ll get you all caught up below!
First starting off at 125 Eric Barnett is currently ranked #5 in the country and will be the favorite as he takes on #17 Kysen Terukina. Truth be told I am expecting bonus points here for Barnett despite not earning any last week. The team will also need them from their Senior star. Barnett often comes up big when needed and I have full faith he will get the job done. However, very important to note is that Terukina actually upset Barnett last year in this dual 9-7. Call it a revenge match for Barnett if you will, but the man with the best beard in the country at 125 is getting the job done in dominant fashion!
At 133 we will see the redshirt freshman Nicolar Rivera make his debut in the starting lineup against another redshirt freshman #20 Evan Frost. This match will have my full attention. Nicolar is coming off a title in the Fresh/Soph division at the Michigan State Open and like always he will be wrestling with a lot of confidence; that’s dangerous. This will be the first real test for the young Badger and I would not rule out an upset. Nicolar has one of those styles that can cause a lot of people issues the first time they wrestle him. He has always been a winner his whole career despite the unorthodox style and as a fan this is the first time I can see how it will play out.
At 141 the Badges will likely send out RS Freshman Felix Lettini against #22 Jacob Frost. Don’t quote me on it but I believe the Frost’s are twin brothers. Lettini will be facing some stiff competition here. He had a rough go at it last weekend, but the Badger is young. I think there will be some growing pains here for Lettini, but if he stays focused and continues to work he has a long career ahead of him with lots of time to jump some levels.
The 149 pound matchup is an interesting one. #24 Joey Zargo is coming off a solid weekend last weekend where he took out some nationally ranked opponents. Zargo, up from 141 where he spent the last two years will look to continue his hot start at his new weight. Not quite sure which of the two opponents Zargo will face, but he will either see #13 Casey Swiderski or Anthony Echemendia who beat Swiderski this year in their wrestle off. Swiderski moved up from 141 to 149 this year. Last year Zargo dropped his match to Swiderski in their dual 10-5, so I am sure he would love another crack at him. However, in my own opinion that has no inside knowledge I anticipate we will see Echemendia. This may actually play better for us Badgers though. Zargo is an average mat wrestler, but he loves to wrestle on his feet and push the pace. Enchemendia grew up in Cuba, meaning he did not start wrestling folkstyle until college. He too does not wrestle much on the mat. Finally, what could play a factor is something I mentioned before. Zargo wrestles HARD and loves to push the pace and Echemendia has been known to have some gas tank issues in the past. Keep that in mind when watching.
At 157 Coach Bono confirmed on the Badger Den Podcast that Luke Mechler is their guy and they have full confidence in him. Love that. Mechler is young, a tough wrestler and works hard. The Cyclones will likely send out their only wrestler not currently ranked, Cody Chittum, but DO NOT let the no ranking fool you. Chittum is a stud freshman and has not yet had a chance to earn wins to rank him. Mechler will have his hands full here, but there is nothing I would love more than to see Mechler get the W in this match. Mechler is obviously no slouch and I think he has continued to get better since coming to college. A match like this could be a great opportunity to prove it.
The 165lb matchup is the marquee match of the dual. Our guy #4 lean mean Dean Hamiti will take on #2 David Carr. Hamiti had a tough match with Carr last year in the dual where he lost 7-5. Hamiti was all over Carr’s legs but struggled to earn multiple finishes. However, that is the summary on Carr…incredibly difficult to finish leg attacks on and will make you pay with his reattacks. Hamiti was definitely the more active wrestler last year and I remember yelling at my computer for stalling, but Hamiti will need a takedown or two to win this match I think. With my whole heart I really believe Hamiti can win this match, but he will need to wrestle his best. In terms of match tactics I am not quite sure what the best strategy might be. I would lean to say Hamiti needs to actually limit the exchanges and pick his spots which is not something he generally does, but Carr is excellent in exchanges and out scrambled O’toole several times in their 3 matches last year. No matter what, this will be a huge match that I am fully invested in. If Hamiti gets the win it will be a huge statement for him this season and signify to me that he has jumped levels.
At 174 the Badgers will likely send out either #24 Max Maylor or Josh Otto against #29 MJ Gaitan. I anticipate it will be Maylor. A match the Badgers will certainly need the new Badger will have a great opportunity to show up for his team and his state. Maylor has yet to wrestle this season, but he is an experienced vet spending several seasons in the starting lineup at his previous school Michigan. A nice early season test here for Maylor despite being the favorite.
At 184 Shane Liegel will square off against #5 Will Feldkamp. Feldkamp will surely be the best wrestler Liegel has faced thus far in this long season. An early season test will give us a nice indication of where Liegel stands and what to expect from him this year. Liegel is tough and scrappy. He will need it against Feldkamp. A match where we need to take it one period at a time.
At 197 Mikey Talshahar will put his dukes up against #25 Julien Broderson. Talshahar will be looking to bounce back after last weekend. An opponent like this will be the perfect opportunity!
Finally at 285 we will likely see Pete Christensen against #6 Yonger Bastida. Christensen and Bastida have both moved up from 197 to HWT in their careers. Christensen did not look quite right in his last time out, so this time I expect something different. He will also need to be ready for a battle against Bastida because he is a very tough opponent.
This dual is filled with probably 5-6 different storylines and for that reason I will be invested throughout. The Badgers face a tough test on Sunday and will need a couple of things to fall their way. But never corner a Badger because if you’re looking for a fight they will certainly give you one. Tune in Sunday live at 2pm on UFC fight pass.
#16 Wisconsin Badgers @ #10 Iowa State Cyclones
125: #5 Eric Barnett vs #17 Kysen Terukina
133: Nicolar Rivera vs #20 Evan Frost
141: Felix Lettini vs #22 Jacob Frost
149: #24 Joey Zargo vs Echemendia or #13 Casey Swiderski
157: Luke Mechler vs Cody Chittum
165: #4 Dean Hamiti vs #2 David Carr
174: #24 Maylor or Otto vs #29 MJ Gaitan
184: Shane Liegel vs #5 Will Feldkamp
197: Mikey Talshahar vs #25 Julien Broderson285: Pete Christensen vs #6 Yonger Bastida