The 2019-20 Wisconsin Badgers Wrestling Season Preview (According to Twitter)

The Twitterverse is never short on opinions. So, earlier this week, I decided to pose some Wisconsin wrestling prop bets to my followers in the form of poll questions. While I won’t even attempt to boast that I collected anything near a proper sample size, there was more than enough feedback for some interesting early-season fodder.

Thank you to everyone who took time to respond.

Below you’ll find a summary of the results followed by a breakdown of each individual prop.

According to the respondents, here are some truths about the 2019-20 Wisconsin wrestling team:

  • Will have four or more All-Americans
  • Will win six or more Big Ten duals
  • Will finish third or better as a team at the Big Ten Tournament
  • Will have six or more NCAA qualifiers
  • Will finish fifth or worse at the NCAA Tournament
  • Seth Gross will wrestle 11 or more matches during first semester
  • Eric Barnett won’t redshirt this season
  • Patrick Spray will wrestle fewer than two matches at least two weight classes higher than where he’s listed
  • Is more likely to have no national champions than to have two

 

Prop: Total number of UW All-Americans in 2020

O/U: 3.5

Twitter mob’s pick: Over (67%)

Nate’s take: This line may have been a tad soft. The way I see it, given relative health, UW has three sure-fire All-Americans in Gross, Evan Wick, and Trent Hillger. Taking the over here assumes someone makes a decent jump from a year-over-year standpoint.

The two top-candidates are pretty clearly Cole Martin and Tristan Moran, who were both national qualifiers a year ago. Both wrestlers begin the season ranked No. 11 nationally by FloWrestling at their respective weight classes.

From a tournament perspective, this Badgers squad will go as these two go. Are they capable of making the podium? Yes. Is it a forgone conclusion? Given the quality of the competition, I’d say it’s anything but.

 

Prop: Dual meet wins this season

O/U: 12.5

Twitter mob’s pick: Push

Nate’s take: Any time I project dual win totals for UW, I figure they are going to win one dual they probably shouldn’t and lose one they probably should win.

But with a team ranked fifth in the country to begin the season, there’s not a lot of room to play in that space.

Then come lineup considerations. Some teams prioritize duals or, at the very least, don’t under-emphasize them. Others focus solely on March and getting the most out of each individual wrestler at the end of the season, duals be damned. At many programs, this approach varies given the particular mix of talent on the roster.

If you forced me to pick, I’d take the over. Just barely over, but over. This a 12- or 13-win team as it sits right now.

 

Prop: Big Ten dual wins this season

O/U: 5.5

Twitter mob’s pick: Over (59%)

Nate’s take: Of Wisconsin’s nine conference duals, five are against nationally-ranked foes. Three of those duals come against a team beginning the season ranked third or higher in the country.

UW enters the season fifth in the national team rankings. If you take all of the conference duals they are “supposed” to win, that puts them at a conference record of 6-3 for the year. Seems straightforward enough.

For the sake of being devil’s advocate, the Badgers are a pretty thin team from a dual meet roster perspective. The effectively only have one viable backup at 133, 141, and 149 (Dom Dentino). And there are a fair number of question marks at 174, 184, and 197.

Heck, there’s a real chance Wisconsin is regularly starting a pair of true freshman in Eric Barnett and Peter Christensen.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m bullish on this team. But it wouldn’t take a lot of bad luck to change the fortunes of this club as a dual meet team.

 

Prop: Big Ten Tournament team finish

Options: Third or better/Fourth or worse

Twitter mob’s pick: Third or better (69%)

Nate’s take: I found this result particularly interesting.

If you take the national rankings to heart, Wisconsin begins the year as the fourth-best team in the Big Ten behind Penn State, Iowa, and Ohio State (in that order).

Picking third or better is implies UW is a better tournament team than one of those top three. Flo’s NCAA Tournament projections have a significant gap between Penn State/Iowa and the rest of the field.

So that leads to the question: Will Wisconsin end up being a better tournament team than Ohio State?

Again, it depends largely on health and the performances of Moran and Martin (and one more X-factor we’ll get to in a moment).

 

Number of 2020 national qualifiers

O/U: 5.5

Twitter mob’s pick: Over (75%)

Nate’s take: You all felt strongly about this one, which probably means I was a softy when it came to setting the line.

Personally, I believe this number to be six or seven.

The five guys we’ve discussed so far are all national qualifiers, in my book. Here comes the X-Factor: Garrett Model.

I am extremely excited to see what this season holds for him. He thrived with the opportunities he had a year ago and showed tremendous heart. If he continues progressing, he has the potential to become a monster. I think he’ll make it to the dance this year.

 

Prop: NCAA Tournament team finish

Options: Fourth or better/Fifth or worse

Twitter mob’s pick: Fifth or worse (62%)

Nate’s take: Given the popular opinion on where the team should finish at Big Tens, this one threw me for a bit of a loop.

Now I understand, there may be a slight difference in the pool of respondents for each question. However, it’s fascinating to me that, overall, the expectation is that Wisconsin will finish higher than its ranking within the conference, but the same or lower than its ranking nationally.

This could suggest some folks feel the Big Ten is a bit overrated coming out of the gates, which is possible I suppose.

It could also signal some skepticism of UW’s ability to finish strong.

Personally, I see the Badgers somewhere around fifth or sixth place come year’s end.

 

Prop: Seth Gross first semester matches

O/U: 10.5

Twitter mob’s pick: Over (56%)

Nate’s take: I am genuinely curious to see if Gross is on a pitch count. Either due to the weight cut or out of concern for his health.

Maybe I’m still jaded from the end of the Barry Davis era when no one of any clout wrestled until roughly February.

However, seeing how thin the Badgers are in the lower weights, I’m having an increasingly difficult time seeing Gross missing too many matches this year. Yes, it is possible Dentino could get some work at 133. And one of the 125-pounders could move up as well, But I think Gross is a full-go this year.

 

Prop: Eric Barnett attached matches

O/U: .5

Twitter mob’s pick: Over (59%)

Nate’s take: It’s been a hot minute since 125 was consistently a productive weight class for Wisconsin.

And I don’t think Eric Barnett is your average true freshman. For what it’s worth, he made the trip to San Diego for Friday’s trio of duals. In my opinion, you don’t drag him all the way out to the California coast if he’s not going to compete.

 

Prop: Patrick Spray matches at a weight class at least two above his roster weight

O/U: 1.5

Twitter mob’s pick: Under (81%)

Nate’s take: Yes, this is a wordy prop. Yes, I was trying to be funny.

But in all seriousness, Spray was listed at 157 last year (still is, as a matter of fact) and wrestled five (FIVE!) matches at 174 pounds a year ago.

He doesn’t seem to be immediately in the mix at 157 this season. But given UW’s young, emerging core of talent at 174, I don’t see the need for him to be pressed into service at the upper weights.

 

Prop: 2020 individual national champions

O/U: 1

Twitter mob’s pick: Under (82%)

Nate’s take: We all know Gross is the popular pick to win it all at 133 this year. He’s even listed as Flo’s No. 1 pound-for-pound college wrestler in the country. But is anyone else ready to step atop the podium?

Wick has proven he can beat top-contender Alex Marinelli of Iowa at 165. And he’s certainly able to run with No. 1 Vincenzo Joseph of Penn State. But can he top those guys when it counts? Maybe.

I firmly believe Wick will be an NCAA finalist before his time in Madison is through, but I have my doubts this year is the year.

Hillger has a promising trajectory at heavyweight. But I think he’ll be waiting in the wings for a little while yet.

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