Today is the first in a series of posts detailing the notable non-Michigan returning wrestlers in the Big 10. Notable means they will have a shot to place at NCAA's this year, so anyone who placed last year or is ranked this year. The first weight class in this series is, what else, 125.
Angel Escobedo, Sr., Indiana: Your 2008-09 Big 10 Champion, Escobedo finished the season with a 26-5 record and a 5th place finish at NCAA's. Already a 3-time All-American, and 2008 NCAA champ, he comes into the season ranked 2nd nationally, and will be the favorite to repeat as Big 10 champ. Against Michigan, really you just have to hope you can get out of it and only give up 3, as 13 of his 26 wins last season were for bonus points, with a whopping 8 pins.
Brandon Precin, Sr., Northwestern: Ok, this ones a little odd, as Precin doesn't show up on the preseason Coaches Poll despite finishing 3rd at Nationals, and knocking off the defending champ, the previously mentioned Mr. Esobedo. I have no idea why, as he was a Junior last year, and has beaten 2 of the top 5 wrestlers, pinning one. In any case, Precin was 2nd at Big 10's, 3rd at NCAA's, and finished with a record of 33-4. For his Career he's a 2 time All-American, and a 3 time All-Big ten performer. Same outlook as Escobedo for Michigan, he's a major threat to get bonus points, with 7 pins and 7 majors last year. I'm baffled by the lack of preseason rankings though, I did a quick google search, and found nothing that said he wasn't wrestling this year, so hopefully it was just a mistake by the voting comittee. It would be a shame to lose such a great wrestler, especially in a year where he should compete for a national title.
Zach Sanders, So., Minnesota: Sanders was a RsFr last year, and he started off his career with a bang. He went 35-7, finishing 5th in the Big 10 and 7th at NCAA's. He comes into the season ranked 4th nationally, and is another big ten wrestler with National Title aspirations. He actually lead the Big 10 in major's and techs last year in his weight class, with 7 and 9 respectively, and notched 6 pins. I hate to be repetitive, but the goal for any Michigan wrestler here would be to just stay off his back and try to hold Sanders to just a decision.
Brad Pataky, Jr., PSU: The first wrestler on this list who isn't a returning All-American, Pataky actually finished higher in the Big 10 tournament last year than Sanders. He wrestled his first season in 05-06, then took 2 consecutive redshirts, one of which was an Olympic redshirt, so last year was his sophomore season. He went 28-9 last year, and finished 4th in the Big 10, qualifying for NCAA's where he did not place. Oddly enough, he was incredibly dominant in the Big 10 dual meet schedule, finishing with a 7-1 record and some very dominant wins over excellent wrestlers. He's not as much of a threat to put up bonus points as the previous 3 wrestlers, but I'm not sure anyone Michigan has will be able to beat him. Pataky starts the year ranked 8th nationally.
Nikko Triggas, Jr., OSU: Triggas is a the first wrestler here who failed to place at Big 10's last year, but he could be more dangerous in a duel meet. Triggas still qualified for NCAA's last year under an at-large bid, but failed to place there as well. Last year he went 22-17, with a whopping 13 pins. He's a very explosive wrestler, in that he can put someone on their back at anytime. He's the first wrestler on this list who I think a Michigan kid has a shot at beating, mainly because he was beaten 17 times last year. Still, it would be a very good thing to get out of this match only giving up 3, or even 4.
B.J. Futrell, So., Illinios: A true freshman last year, Futrell comes into this year ranked 17th nationally, and is coming off a season that saw him take 6th in the Big 10 and qualify for an NCAA bid with a 25-14 record. He did manage to score bonus points 14 times last year, which is an impressive rate, including 6 pins, but I'm willing to bet a lot of those came against weaker competition. Michigans 125 Lb'er might have a chance, but even if he loses I'm confident he won't give up more than a major.
Well, that would be all of the Big 10 wrestlers who come into this season ranked among the top 25 nationally. Obviously, this weight is stacked in conference, and Michigan will have to hope for a Kellen Russel type breakout from Sean Boyle to give them someone who can really hang with the big dogs.