The Matchup: #5 Justin Kerber (Cornell) vs. #3 Mike Miller (Central Michigan)
Synopsis: One of the most accomplished wrestlers in the history of the Chippewa program, Miller will enter his swan song as a two-time All-American and one of only five CMU wrestlers to ever advance to a national title bout (which he did as a sophomore @174 pounds). However, as impressive as Miller’s credentials have been throughout his career, the question that remains on the minds of all DI enthusiasts, is how good could he have/can be when fully healthy. Coming off of an injury plagued 2010 that witnessed him go 1-2 in Omaha to miss All-American honors for the first time in his career, Miller continues to be bitten by the injury bug. As of the time that this preview went to press, there was still reason to believe that Miller would be a no-go for tomorrow night’s battle of top-10 teams. Since we have already established how important and possibly scarce the opportunities for wins are going to be for Central Michigan, it is especially important that the face of the program be able to summon the old version of himself to the mat tomorrow; Pitted against a fellow top-5 opposition in the person of Justin Kerber means that anything less will do his teammates and himself no good. After skipping the first two events of the season, it is possible that Miller will experience a little bit of mat rust (any wrestler will tell you that practicing does not compare to the real thing). However, should he be able to shake off the proverbial dirt quickly, this has the makings of one heck of a match…Missing All-American honors by a single victory, Kerber enjoyed another solid season, finishing the year with an overall record of 21-11 despite competing in his third weight class in three years (197 as a freshman; 184 as a sophomore; 165 as a junior). Having balked at the fans request for him to get inked up, Kerber’s goal of becoming beloved starts tomorrow (kidding, of course)…One thing that is not a joke is the level of talent that this native of Iowa possesses. While not one to necessarily light up the scoreboard, the Big Red senior is solid in all three positions and is adept at winning the close ones. Considering that this bout does not figure to be lopsided in either wrestler’s favor, it is this experience that might prove invaluable for the host school wrestler. Having most recently gone an unblemished 5-0 at the Bearcat Open, Kerber’s top notch defense was on display as he successfully shut out all of his opponents in claiming the title. Admittedly, none of the opponents that Kerber defeated last week were close to the caliber of Miller, the mere fact that he has a few matches under his belt might swing the advantage into his favor. In fact, since this entire preview is arbitrary and we get to pick whoever we want (of course we do attempt to get it right 🙂 ), we are going to say that the lack of mat time for Miller will end up being the key factor in a hard fought, close decision going the way of Kerber. Out of fear of sounding cliche, we at LHW cannot emphasis enough how big a Kerber win will be to the Big Red’s cause. If Kerber can halt the momentum created by a Cubberly win, than the outcome of the next match (Lewnes/Bennett) as well as the dual as whole does not figure favorably for the MAC Conference powerhouse….Note: If Miller is not in the starting line-up, look for Kerber to tack on the extra bonus baby, getting the major against reserve Adam Miller (no relation to the starter).
Prediction: Kerber wins by decision
Projected Team Score: 16-3 Cornell
The Matchup: #1 Mack Lewnes (Cornell) vs. #4 Ben Bennett (Central Michigan)
Synopsis: In a match that we are calling the present versus the future, 174 is without a doubt the marquee match-up of the dual. Both All-Americans @174 last season (Lewnes= National runner-up; Bennett=6th), this bout is something of a contrast of style. With Lewnes and Bennett are both excellent in all three positions, it has been our observation that they differ in terms of where they are most dominant. A polished takedown artist, not many people can (actually 40 of 41 opponents) match the offensive firepower of the senior from the state of Maryland. Undefeated (40-0) heading into last season’s National title match, Lewnes’s junior campaign concluded on a rather sour note as he not only lost the takedown battle, but was also effectively ridden by eventual champion Jay Borschel of Iowa. Time spent on bottom might prove prominent in this match as Bennett has long been known for his prowess on top. In fact, rather than mix words, we’ll say like it is, the kid is a pure beast from top. Therefore, the winner of this match will likely be the one who successfully forces the other to wrestle his style. The longer the bout takes place from neutral, the more it has to favor the current top-ranked wrestler in the nation, Lewnes. However, if Bennett can remain solid on defense and turn this into a low scoring affair, his chances of pulling the minor upset increase by leaps and bounds. The 2010 MAC Freshman of the Year, Bennett completed his RS frosh year with an overall record of 26-8, including a conference title and a runner-up finish at the Midlands among his many honors. The highest ranked underclassmen in the nation, we are calling Bennett the future because he is one of only a few ranked wrestlers who are not members of the senior class. Therefore, going by how easily he cruised to a NHSCA Senior National title in 2009, it would appear that he is quite a bit more advanced than his grade level peers. In fact, calling attention again to Mike Miller’s national runner-up finish in 2009, it was a loss to Bennett in the wrestle-off that ultimately caused Miller to jump to 184 last season. Can the super soph make it wins over returning finalists in back-t0-back years? He totally can, but we don’t feel that he will. If his opponent was anybody other than Lewnes, we would throw our support toward Bennett. However, there is a reason why Mack is the present. 81-3 in his last 84 matches (including 5-0 at the Bearcat Open), Lewnes is a monster. He is quick, he is technically sound, and he is mentally tough. When he takes the center of the mat, he is not looking for the win, he is looking for domination; and, if his 67 bonus point victories are any indication, he usually finds all that he is seeking….While this match will be close, we cannot help but give the edge to the more experienced and thus far accomplished student-athlete from the host school. We see it in the area of 4-2, 6-3.
Prediction: Lewnes wins by decision
Projected Team Score: 19-3 Cornell
The Matchup: #4 Steve Bosak (Cornell) vs. Chad Friend (Central Michigan)
Synopsis: In what goes down as the unofficial scary thought of the week, Rob Koll wrote in a press release that in his opinion, Bosak is the most improved wrestler on the team. What makes this statement frightening is that the Cornell junior was not too bad to begin with. Going 29-15 in his first year as a regular member of the starting line-up, Bosak went from a steady and capable wrestler at the start of the season to an absolute All-American candidate by year’s end…So remarkable was the transformation during the duration of the season that Bosak came one victory short of earning his way onto the podium in Omaha…And, if what Koll says is true (and knowing Rob, it more than likely is 100 percent accurate), the best is still to come for this talented specimen from the Keystone State. Bosak has quickly become LHW’s darkhorse pick for the national title. Already, he is showcasing his ability to be dominant, outscoring all four of his opponents by a margin of 42-1 (including a 8-1 decision over CAA champion Nate Schiedel) to win the title at last weekend’s Bearcat Open. A talented tilter, Bosak has the ability to turn a single takedown into a double-digit move by racking up multiple sets of near-fall points. While lacking in machismo, perhaps his opponents would be better served just bellying out and taking as many stall points as possible before being DQed (ok, slight exaggeration; we do not actually advocate this strategy)….Lined up opposite him will be former 2x NJCAA All-American, Chad Friend, who will be making his ’10-’11 Chippewa debut in this dual. Down from the 197-pound weight class that saw him finish at the Junior College National runner-up in 2008, Friend redshirted last season, finishing as the bronze medalist as the Cleveland State Open. While again, we have nothing but the utmost amount of respect for the CMU wrestler, if we have learned nothing else, it is that it is wise to respect a streak, and currently, there might not be a hotter wrestler in the land than Steve Bosak. In case you have already forgotten, 42-1 margin in scoring last weekend. For this season, we feel that bonus points are a safe bet. Will this be the nail in the CMU coffin? Regretfully, we conclude that the correct answer is an emphatic YES.
Prediction: Bosak wins by major decision
Projected Team Score: 23-3 Cornell
The Matchup: #1 Cam Simaz (Cornell) vs. Craig Kelliher (Central Michigan)
Synopsis: Since the eye strain is likely beginning to set in after reading this unabridged version of ‘War and Peace”, we will be brief in our analysis of this match, saying that we feel it will go very similar to the bout that preceded it. Coming out of a top flight program like Apple Valley, it would be foolish to totally disregard the ability of a talented freshman like Kelliher. However, at present time, we feel that the gap in experience is going to be too difficult to overcome for the Chipp wrestler. To his credit, Kelliher, who won the starting job by defeating teammate Jeff Beebe 4-3 in the wrestle-off has been a steady presence for CMU early into the new season. Kicking off his RS freshman campaign with a fourth place finish at the Eastern Michigan Open, Kelliher gained valuable experience this past weekend, going 2-2 at the Michigan State Open with his losses coming to the eventual champion and the eventual bronze medalist….Simaz, the 2x All-American for the host school is the second of Cornell’s top-ranked wrestlers (joining Lewnes). Focused on proving that he is every bit deserving of the top spot in the polls, Simaz began his junior season in much the same fashion that he capped off his sophomore campaign, by taking no prisoners (4-0 w/two pins, a MD, and a decision over the #15 wrestler in the nation) in brining home yet another individual title for the Ithaca, NY based institution at the Bearcat Open. A bonus point sniper throughout his career, the native of Michigan whose older brother, Eric, actually competed for the Chippewas, has tallied extra points in 54 of his 81 career victories. We expect him to add to that list tomorrow. The only unanswered question is whether it will be a major, a tech, or a fall that gets credited to his resume? Thinking conservatively and having a great deal of admiration for Jackson’s AV program, we will call it a major that just misses match termination (18-4, 17-3 type of result).
Prediction: Simaz wins by major decision
Projected Team Score: 27-3 Cornell
The Matchup: Oney Snyder (Cornell) vs. #2 Jarod Trice (Central Michigan)
Synopsis: To be perfectly honest, Cornell has so many big boys that are around the same level, that there is no way of knowing which one will be called into duty tomorrow night. However, going off of the results of the Bearcat Open, we are giving the nod to Oney Snyder whose third place finish was the highest among the Big Red heavies…Snyder, who entered 2010/2011 with a career losing record of 6-11 has seemingly turned a corner as a junior, as evident by his solid showing last weekend. If it is not the unofficial namesake of Cornell (check out that head of hair) who gets the starting job, look for sophomore Stryker Lane to be the one seeing action. The younger brother of accomplished University of Nebraska heavyweight, Tucker Lane, it could be said that winning is in the genes for the resident of Redvale, Colorado…The victor in seven of his first nine college matches, Lane is not your typical boring, lethargic 285-pounder. Like big bro, this is a guy that despite his size, can really move, thus resulting in offense as proven by his earning bonus points in five of the aforementioned seven career wins (only two of which came by pin)…Working against either CU heavyweight is the fact that they are matched up against one of the favorites for the NCAA crown in 2011, Jarod Trice. An All-American last season, finishing eighth in Omaha, Trice recently represented the country at the FILA University World Greco Championship. In addition, he has been named as a participant in the NWCA All-Star Classic, further recognizing him as one of the top guns in the nation at 285….The champ at the Midlands tournament last season, Trice defeated the eventual NCAA titlist to earn his spot atop awards platform. During this same tournament, he also defeated #3 ranked wrestler/former Junior World Freestyle gold medalist Dom Bradley (Missouri). Hence, there is no questioning the talent of this impact big man….As much as we would like to say that one of the Big Red’s young heavyweights will send the fans home singing a happy tune, to do so would be to ignore the facts of the match. In the last bout of the evening, we give CMU their second win, something to build off of as I am sure they did not come to Ithaca expecting the dual to be as one-sided as it appears it might be. Showing belief in either Snyder or Lane, we say that while he remains in control the entire time, Trice does not earn bonus points (unless he catches them on their backs). A 7-2, 8-3 type decision has a nice feel to it.
Prediction: Trice wins by decision
Projected Final Team Score: 27-6 Cornell