wrestling maryland suriano

Penn State’s Nick Suriano tries to get a hold of Michael Beck during the match between Penn State and Maryland at Rec Hall on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. The Nittany Lions defeated the Terrapins 45-6.

The biggest news circulating the wrestling world in recent days has been the transfer of former Penn State and Rutgers wrestler Nick Suriano to Michigan.

Suriano was one of, if not, the most talented wrestlers to ever come out of the state of New Jersey, going undefeated during his tenure in high school while winning four individual state titles in the process, as well as four team titles with Bergen Catholic.

The New Jersey native went on to continue his success in college following a tumultuous and injury-plagued first year at Penn State. Following the 2016-17 season, Suriano transferred to Rutgers where he moved from 125 to 133 pounds and won an NCAA championship in 2019.

After a two-year hiatus from competing collegiately, Suriano’s return is immensely important from a competition standpoint within the Big Ten.

The former NCAA champion’s success in international and local events during his two-year hiatus shows his wrestling abilities are still what they were in the past and have potentially grown.

Suriano will most likely fit into the 125-pound spot on the Michigan roster but could wrestle at 133 pounds.

Regardless, his transfer has made predicting potential Big Ten, or even NCAA, team championships considerably more interesting.

The Wolverines have now joined what was previously a clear-cut two-team race between Iowa and Penn State for both titles.

Prior to Suriano’s transfer, Michigan looked like it would start junior Jack Medley at 125 pounds, who is ranked as the 7th-best wrestler at 125 in the Big Ten and 16th-best nationally, according to Intermat.

Suriano has yet to be ranked, but could easily be slotted within the top five or even be ranked second overall behind only Iowa’s Spencer Lee, who defeated Suriano in the 2018 NCAA championship match at 125 pounds.

While this move may not help the Wolverines defeat Penn State or Iowa in a dual meet setting — as Michigan likely would have won the 125-pound bout against Penn State and don’t wrestle Iowa in a dual in 2021-22 — it will certainly help the team in a tournament setting like the Big Ten or NCAA championships by greatly increasing the maize and blue’s point-scoring ceiling.

A legitimate three-way race for a conference title is something that hasn’t been seen too often in the Big Ten, given the dominance of Cael Sanderson’s group throughout recent history, Ohio State’s success for a brief period and Iowa’s current resurgence to national prominence.

Even Sanderson acknowledged the nature of how competitive the conference will be and expressed his excitement about it as well, following Suriano’s transfer.

“I think it's exciting. [There are] a lot of great teams, a lot of great individuals. I think that's why we do this — just to compete against the best competition that we can find,” Sanderson said. “It's fun to be in a competitive conference where multiple teams are working hard and have the support, the talent and the staff to be competitive.”

While duals between Penn State and the other contending squads may still be over a month away, with the Big Ten Championships even further, both Iowa and Penn State’s wrestlers will face a true litmus test in the near future with the National Duals held in Florida from Dec. 20-21.

The reigning national champions, Iowa, and second-place finishers, Penn State, will face a number of the top programs from around the country including Missouri, Arizona State, NC State and Cornell.

While this tournament may not show much in regards to the several national champions residing in both teams' rosters, it will give fans some insight into the ability of some of the less prominent wrestlers on both squads when stacked up against tough national competition.

Michigan did not earn an invite to the event as only the top two finishing teams from each conference in last year’s NCAA championships were invited; however, the maize and blue will face off in a dual against No. 7 Arizona State on Jan. 3.

Regardless of the three teams’ performances over the ensuing weeks, each squad is sure to continue to improve throughout the season, building up to what could be one of the most entertaining Big Ten seasons in recent history.

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