Dual of the Year

Ben Askren and Matt Dernlan break down their picks for the best dual, match, rivalry, upset, top wrestler, pinner, scrambler, freshmen, most exciting, and overall best wrestler. They start by Askren giving his opinion on the best dual of the year. After narrowing it down, he chose Ohio State vs Michigan. Dernlan chose the same dual as his best dual of the year. Two undefeated top-five ranked rivals battling it out every step of the way is hard to beat for dual of the year. Dernlan talks about the back and forth with Michigan starting strong winning at 125 and 133 lbs then Ohio State winning 141 and 149 lbs. Overall, this dual had an exciting build up and came through with a thrilling dual that is well deserving of the best dual of the year.

Best Match (7:10)

Askren’s top three includes Spencer Lee vs Nick Piccininni, the first Anthony Ashnault vs Matthew Kolodzik, and both Austin DeSanto vs Nick Suriano matches. Number one for Askren was Lee vs Piccininni. Partially because he was there live and witnessed the energy in the stadium and from Coach John Smith when Lee got pinned. Dernlan says his number one pick is Sebastian Rivera vs Spencer Lee at the BIG 10 finals. He enjoyed the lead-up to the match and the storylines attached to the rematch. It lived up to the hype with Lee looking like he was going to get the win then Rivera getting the takedown in overtime.

Best Rivalry (11:03)

Top three for Askren were Jason Nolf vs Tyler Berger, Mark Hall vs Zahid Valencia, and Sebastian Rivera vs Spencer Lee. Dernlan says this year’s best rivalry has to be Mark Hall vs Zahid Valencia. These are two wrestlers that are so high level but have really different wrestling styles. Valencia puts an emphasis on his offense while Hall is so good as a defensive wrestler. With opposing styles it’s a battle of who can impose their will. Askren also picks this rivalry. He likes that they each won one match and can’t wait for them to keep battling next year. Some other honorable mentions include Daton Fix vs Nick Suriano, Austin DeSanto vs Daton Fix, and Vincenzo Joseph vs Alex Marinelli.

Best Upset (17:35)

Sebastian Rivera vs Spencer Lee, Max Dean over Myles Martin, Chip Ness over Shakur Rasheed are just some of the crazy upsets this season produced. Dernlan says the Max Dean upset over Myles Martin in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships has to be the upset of the NCAA tournament. Askren talks about Sebastian Rivera beating Spencer Lee at Midlands as a potential upset of the year. Going into that match, Lee looked untouchable and Rivera hammered him the entire match. Dernlan agrees and picks Rivera vs Lee as upset of the year. Askren picks Martin vs Dean because he had low interest in the match because he figured Martin would dominate Dean.

Best on Top (22:03)

When Dernlan was deciding the best wrestler from the top position he considered wrestlers  aside from those who used singular moves that could end the match. He looked at their ability to ride out their opponent, who could get multiple turns, and had a more diverse top game. For him, that wrestler was Anthony Ashnault. Opponents had to earn every single point against Ashnault and he didn’t give anything away. Askren says his pick is Spencer Lee. He believes if

he could find the statistic for total turn points, number one would be Lee.

Best Pinner (26:57)

Askren’s top picks include Jason Nolf, Bo Nickal, Jaydin Eierman, and Daniel Lewis. Dernlan’s pick for best pinner is Nickal. He says Lewis has a terminal top game but overall he has to go with Nickal for best pinner.

Best Scrambler (28:33)

Nolf, Nickal, Hall, Eierman and Yianni Diakomihalis all make Askren’s top list. Askren is a scrambler innovator, his funky style has been adopted by many of today’s top wrestlers. He says Diakamihalis has it all, the ability to scramble and to win. Dernlan agrees and what solidified his pick was the fact that Diakomihalis could out scramble the number two best scrambler, Eierman. Askren worked with Diakomihalis when Diakomihalis was in about 7-8th grade. He says even then Diakomihalis was one of the best in the country.

Best Freshmen (32:08)

Askren says there are only three wrestlers that should be considered. Daton Fix, Mekhi Lewis, and Gable Steveson. Dernlan agrees but says out of those top guys, Steveson stands out. Steveson led the country in wins with 36 and was one of the most talked about wrestlers throughout the year. Askren picks Fix because of the weight class he was in. 133 lbs this NCAA tournament was an all time toughest bracket. Fix only had one loss on the season as well leading up to the tournament.

Most Exciting (34:54)

Dernlan says this was one of the easiest categories for him to pick. For him, when Dom Demas wrestles he knows it’s going to be exciting. When Diakomihalis wrestles defensively against someone he knows that opponent must be dangerous. Askren says because of Demas’ performance at NCAAs he is also his most exciting wrestler.

Overall Best Wrestler (39:42)

If you’re talking about this season alone, Askren says his best wrestler pick is Bo Nickal and Dernlan agrees. Askren says in the past eight years there has always been a handful of standout wrestlers that are in the conversation for Hodge from the beginning of the year. Looking at next year, Askren isn’t sure who that dominate wrestler could be. Dernlan is interested to see how Diakomilhalis, Lewis, and Valencia do next year.


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Ben Askren and Matt Dernlan host the RUDIS Wrestling Podcast. Askren, World Champion, and Olympic Wrestler joins in official partnership as a content provider for all things RUDIS. Matt Dernlan joins from years of experience in D1 college coaching at Binghamton, Clarion, and Penn State University.

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