After a short finals/holiday-related break following their 48-3 massacre of UNI, the Iowa wrestling team returned to action this week in the Midlands Championships, a two-day tournament in Evanston, IL that is often considered the strongest* collegiate wrestling tournament outside the NCAA Tournament in March. No, I don't know why you'd hold it on a fucking Tuesday and Wednesday. No, I don't know why you'd hold it in Evanston of all places. It's wrestling, OK -- sometimes you just gotta roll with the quirks. Two years ago, Iowa utterly annihilated the competition, scoring five champions and beating second-place Iowa State by 46 points (185-139). Last year, a sputtering Iowa "only" got three champions and edged Iowa State by just three points (156.5 to 153.5), thanks in no small part to a fairly EPIC collapse on the part of the Cyclones. This year, Iowa eschewed drama and went back to domination, blitzing the field and besting ISU by 24 points (168.5 to 144.5) for a third consecutive Midlands title -- despite missing three former All-Americans** (at least two of whom are guaranteed starters). Ho-hum.
Quick explanation of how the Midlands tourney works: teams designate ten wrestlers as official point-scorers for the team and those are the only wrestlers whose results count towards the team score (and eventual championship). But teams are allowed to enter more wrestlers into the competition than just the point-scorers, one of the things which makes the tournament so useful, since it gives coaches a chance to see how guys react to different opponents and when the proverbial bullets are flying. There is also no limit to how many wrestlers a team can enter in a particular weight class, although it's not too advantageous to have multiple guys at a single weight, since it increases the odds of them knocking each other out and costing the team points. For Iowa, this meant an opportunity to sort through the mysteries at 141 and 157.
Iowa's official point-scorers were: Matt McDonough (125), Nate Moore (133), Dan LeClere (141), Montell Marion (141), Brent Metcalf (149), Ryan Morningstar (165), Jay Borschel (174), Phil Keddy (184), Grant Gambrall (184), and Chad Beatty (197). Also competing (but not scoring points): JJ Krutsinger (125), Mark Ballweg (133), Joe Slaton (141), Derek St. John (157), Matt Ballweg (157), Aaron Janssen (157), Jake Kerr (157), Ethan Lofthouse (174), Luke Lofthouse (197), and Blake Rasing (Hwt).
PROGRAMMING NOTE: The finals of the tournament are going to be shown on tape delay on BTN at 7pm EST on Sunday, January 3rd.
JJ Krutsinger -- 4-2; did not place
L, DEC, 2-3, James Knox (Maryland) GOOD THING HE WASN'T MESSING WITH HIS BROTHER ***
W, PIN (2:15), Mark Johnson (Lincoln College)
W, PIN (4:16), Arsenia Barksdale (Adams St) AW SHIT DON'T BE MESSING WITH FOLKS FROM THE WIRE
W, MAJ DEC, 11-1, Trevor Deardon (ISU)
W, DEC, 8-2, Caleb Flores (UNI)
L, DEC, 3-6, #6 Jason Lara (Oregon State)
#3 Matt McDonough -- 6-0; CHAMPION
W, MAJ DEC, 12-4, Ryan Mango (Stanford)
W, PIN (1:24), Izzy Montemayor (Northern Illinois) THAT IS A STUPENDOUS NAME
W, MAJ DEC, 8-0, John Deneen (Illinois)
W, DEC, 8-3, #6 Ben Kjar (Utah Valley)
W, MAJ DEC, 15-7, #2 Jarrod Garnett (Virginia Tech) IOWA STICKS IT TO VA TECH... AGAIN
W, DEC, 9-7 (OT), #4 Andrew Long (ISU)
Mark Ballweg -- 0-2; did not place
L, DEC, 3-4, Jeff Newby (Utah Valley)
L, PIN (3:51), Nathan McCormick (Missouri)
Nate Moore -- 3-3; 6th place
W, PIN (0:46), Vince Vallez (Triton) FASTEST FALL OF THE ENTIRE TOURNEY (also: where the fuck is Triton?)
W, DEC, 2-1, #2 Scotti Sentes (Central Michigan)
W, DEC, 3-2, #7 Matt Fisk (Lehigh)
L, DEC, 3-10, #3, Steve Bell (Maryland)
L, DEC, 8-12, #5, Kyle Hutter (Old Dominion)
L, DEC, 1-2 (OT), #1 Nick Fanthorpe (ISU)
#9 Montell Marion -- 4-3; 6th place
W, MAJ DEC, 12-4, Austin Bautista (UW Whitewater) DON'T BE MESSIN' WITH HIS BROTHER **** EITHER
L, DEC, 4-7, #8 Lou Ruggirello (Hofstra)
W, DEC, 7-4, Cole Schmitt (Wisconsin)
W, DEC, 8-3, #2 Dan LeClere (Iowa) HAWKEYE ON HAWKEYE VIOLENCE NOOOOOO
W, DEC, 12-7, #12 Juan Archuleta (Purdue)
L, DEC, 5-10, #4 Joey Slaton (Iowa) NOOOO MORE HAWKEYE ON HAWKEYE VIOLENCE MAKE IT STOP
L, PIN (2:24), #7 Ryan Prater (Illinois)
#4 Joey Slaton -- 5-1; 3rd place
W, MAJ DEC, 12-3, Matt Bradley (Rider)
W, MAJ DEC, 18-5, Alec Hoffman (UNI)
W, DEC, 9-6, #5 Tyler Nauman (Pitt)
L, DEC, 5-6, #1 Jimmy Kennedy (Illinois) AT LEAST HE DIDN'T LOSE TO THIS GUY
W, DEC, 10-5, #9 Montell Marion (Iowa) ENOUGH WITH THE HAWKEYE ON HAWKEYE VIOLENCE
W, MAJ DEC, 9-0, #8 Lou Ruggirello (Hofstra)
#2 Dan LeClere --
W, MAJ DEC, 12-3, Kyle Davis (UC Davis)
W, DEC, 6-3, Dale Fava (Delaware Valley) I DO NOT THINK THAT IS A REAL SCHOOL
L, DEC, 0-6, #7 Ryan Prater (Illinois)
L, DEC, 3-8, #9 Montell Marion (Iowa)
#1 Brent Metcalf -- 6-0; CHAMPION
W, TECH FALL, 22-6, Justin Morrill (Utah Valley) VICTIM #1
W, PIN (3:32), Brandon Wiest (Missouri) VICTIM #2
W, PIN (1:36), Nick Bertucci (Purdue) VICTIM #3
W, MAJ DEC, 12-3, David Cheza (Michigan State) VICTIM #4
W, PIN (3:51), Eric Albright (Pitt) VICTIM #5
W, DEC, 9-2, #2 Kyle Ruschell (Wisconsin) VICTIM #6 -- BUT NO BONUS PTS? SLACKER!
Derek St. John -- 6-2; 5th place
W, MAJ DEC, 11-2, Carl Breitenstein (Williams)
L, MAJ DEC, 0-11, #1 Steve Fittery (American) IS IT UNPATRIOTIC TO BEAT GUYS FROM AMERICAN?
W, MED FFT, Trent Weatherman (ISU)
W, DEC, 7-2, #8 Kyle John (Maryland) TWO FIRST NAMES BOO
W, DEC, 9-6, Lucas Espericueta (Stanford)
W, MAJ DEC, 9-0, #9 Coltan Salazar (Purdue) TWO AWESOME NAMES WOO
L, DEC, 6-9, #5 Keegan Davis (Oregon State)
W, MED FFT, #3 Steve Brown (Central Michigan)
Matt Ballweg -- 0-2; did not place
L, DEC, 2-5, Kyle Dooley (Illinois)
L, DEC, 2-5, Brantley Hooks (Bucknell) TWO LAST NAMES WHA?
Aaron Janssen -- 2-2; did not place
W, MAJ DEC, 9-1, Brantley Hooks (Bucknell)
L, DEC, 4-6, Tyson Reiner (UNI)
W, DEC, 3-1, Anthony Jones (Michigan State)
L, DEC, 3-9, #8 Kyle John (Maryland)
#10 Jake Kerr -- 3-2; did not place
W, DEC, 8-3, Kyle York (Wisconsin)
L, PIN (2:15), Lucas Espericueta (Stanford)
W, DEC, 3-1, Brantley Hooks (Bucknell)
W, DEC, 10-4, Sean Bilodeau (Lehigh)
L, DEC, 4-8, Hadley Harrison (Clarion)
#3 Ryan Morningstar -- 5-1; 3rd place
W, MAJ DEC, 11-0, Ben Boudro (Michigan State)
W, DEC, 4-1, Joe Barczak (Illinois)
W, DEC, 3-1 (OT), Mike Galante (Lehigh)
L, DEC, 2-3, #2 Jon Reader (ISU) READER HAS HERPES IT SAYS SO ON THE INTERWEBS IT MUST BE TRUE
W, DEC, 4-1, #9 Tyler Grayson (Central Michigan)
W, DEC, 4-2, #4 Nick Marable (Missouri)
#1 Jay Borschel -- 5-0; CHAMPION
W, PIN (2:05), Bryan Panzano (Harvard)
W, MAJ DEC, 9-0, Alex Caruso (Lehigh)
W, DEC, 4-3, #9 Robert Hamlin (Lehigh)
W, DEC, 9-3, #5 Duke Burke (ISU)
REVENGE REVENGE REVENGE CONTINUED PWNAGE
W, DEC, 6-1, #2 Ben Bennett (Central Michigan)
Ethan Lofthouse -- 3-2; did not place
L, DEC, 5-9, Jarion Beets (UNI)
W, DEC, 3-2, Dave Sullivan (Pitt)
W, DEC, 5-2, Ben Jordan (Wisconsin)
W, MAJ DEC, 16-5, Sam Engelland (UW Osh) CLEARLY A FICTIONAL SCHOOL
L, DEC, 4-5, Colby Covington (Oregon State)
#3 Phil Keddy -- 4-2; 4th place
W, DEC, 9-4, Ty Vinson (Oregon State)
W, MAJ DEC, 18-6, Gabe Youel (North Central)
W, DEC, 8-3, Nick Palmieri (Michigan State)
L, DEC, 1-7, #2 Mike Cannon (American) BEATING A GUY FROM AMERICAN = TREASON, CLEARLY
W, DEC, 3-2, #4 Louis Caputo (Harvard)
L, DEC, 1-7, #1 Max Askren (Missouri) HIS HAIR LACKS THE AWESOMENESS OF HIS BROTHER'S HAIR
Grant Gambrall -- 5-3; 6th place
W, DEC, 10-5, Derek Skala (St. Cloud)
L, DEC, 2-3, #4 Louis Caputo (Harvard)
W, MAJ DEC, 14-5, #10 Josh Patterson (Binghampton)
W, DEC, 3-2, Travis Rutt (Wisconsin) HE'S STUCK IN A -- KILL ME
W, DEC, 4-1, Nick Palmieri (Michigan State)
W, DEC, 5-4, #9 Zack Giesen (Stanford)
L, TECH FALL, 1-16, #1 Max Askren (Missouri)
L, DEC, 0-5, #4 Louis Caputo (Harvard)
#5 Chad Beatty -- 5-1; 3rd place
W, MAJ DEC, 18-5, Niko Brown (Tennessee-Chattanooga)
W, MAJ DEC, 18-7, Vince Bordi (San Francisco State)
W, DEC, 3-2, Joe Kennedy (Lehigh) ZOMBIE JOE KENNEDY STILL HAS ELIGIBILITY? MOTHER OF GOD
L, DEC, 1-4, #1 Jake Varner (ISU)
W, DEC, 6-2, Patrick Bond (Illinois) NO, I WILL NOT MAKE A CHEAP JAMES BOND PUN
W, DEC, 6-3, #4 Trevor Brandvold (Wisconsin)
Luke Lofthouse -- 2-2; did not place
W, DEC, 8-5, Jay Hahn (Bucknell)
L, DEC, 1-7, #6 Brent Haynes (Missouri)
W, DEC, 8-4, Dustin Bauman (UNI)
L, DEC, 1-2, Eric Simaz (Central Michigan)
Blake Raising -- 2-2; did not place
L, DEC, 2-3, #3 David Zabriskie (ISU) TOO BAD THIS STILL HAPPENED, BIG DAVE
W, MAJ DEC, 15-4, Allyn Plattner (Luther)
W, MAJ DEC, 9-0, Jake Norman (Illinois)
L, PIN (1:29), Eric Thompson (ISU)
BUT WHAT'S IT ALL MEAN?
* Brent Metcalf remains really, really, really good. Just had to get that out of the way.
* Matt McDonough has been -- by far -- the most pleasant surprise of the season thus far. Coming into the year, 125 was an unknown quantity and it was reasonable to expect a step back after a pair of solid years from Charlie Falck; instead McDonough has been perhaps the second-most consistent wrestler on the team (behind Brent Metcalf, Destroyer of Worlds and Taker of Souls, naturally) and has been a phenomenal sparkplug for the entire team. He nearly always gets things started off on the right foot and his relentless hustle and drive (he overcame a sizable deficit in the finals against Long) should be an inspiration for everyone else on the team.
* On the flipside, Phil Keddy has been -- by far -- the least pleasant surprise of the season thus far. Going into the season, he seemed like the second-most "sure thing" on the team, but he's been anything but that so far. He's already suffered a few surprising losses this season and he was handled with ease by Cannon and Askren in this tournament. There are rumors that he's battling some injuries, and if that's the case maybe he needs to take some time off to get healthy for the stretch run (based on this tournament's results, Gambrall would be an adequate replacement for a few dual meets). If his struggles aren't the result of injuries, then they're more concerning because they indicate that he needs to develop some new tricks.
* Nate Moore wrestled as the lead guy at 133 in place of Dan Dennis (rehabbing an ankle injury) and did a pretty solid job, beating a pair of seeded wrestlers and barely losing a tight contest to the #1 seed (ISU's Fanthorpe). He looks like a promising talent for the next few years and he should definitely be in the mix at one of the lower weights next year.
* It appears that 141 has finally shaken itself out. If Slaton has his grades and his disciplinary issues in order, he looks like the best option there -- which is no surprise, really. He was national runner-up at 133 two years ago and his talent on the mat has never been in question. It's just been those pesky off the mat issues (weight maintenance, grades, run-ins with Johnny Law)... if he can get those handled, he would be a very welcome addition to an already fearsome line-up. If his problems persist, Marion looks like the best alternative. LeClere's been game all year, but Marion beat him at wrestle-offs and again here and simply had a better all-around showing (although losing by pinfall in the 5th place match was not so good). 141 has been a virtual black hole for Iowa at nationals for two years in a row now, and while we've still won a pair of national titles without much production from that spot, it would be nice not to have to make it three years running.
* On the other hand, 157 remains every bit as muddled as it's been all year. Janssen apparently struggled with weight-cut issues after the holidays (mmm turkey) and it showed in his lackluster results here. Not that Kerr or Ballweg were any better (rough showing for the Ballweg family here: 0-4). The much-hyped true freshman, St. John, was probably the best of the bunch (he did get a pair of wins over ranked opponents), but two of his wins came via medical forfeit and he was pretty inconsistent in general. Whether or not his redshirt gets definitively yanked (he was able to compete in this tournament and still keep it) will depend on (a) whether or not it seems obvious that he can get more points for the team at the NCAA Tournament than the other guys and (b) whether or not we're really going to need those team points to win a third-straight national title. If the answer to those questions is "yes," bye-bye redshirt. If it's not... seeya in 2010-2011, Derek.
* Meanwhile, at the other settled positions, things continued pretty much as expected. Borschel continues to regain his form from a few years ago. He remains one of the most dependable guys on the team;
and it was nice to see him avenge his loss to Burk from the ISU dual a few weeks ago. It's the same old story with Morningstar: lots of close matches, win some, lose some. But that's what's going to happen if you wrestle everything so close to the vest. I wonder if his parents just mainline ulcer medication. The only really troubling aspect is his recent losses to Reader, after beating him repeatedly last year. Maybe they're just two evenly matched guys and the matches just happen to be going Reader's way this year, but it would be nice if Ryan could flip that script when/if they meet again. At 197 Chad Beatty remains a solid option who can't get past Jake Varner (no shame in that, though). Sadly, he did bring the only potentially really bad news of the tournament -- he injured his knee in the 3rd place match and was barely able to finish the match. If it's a serious injury, that would really cut into Iowa's margin of error at the NCAA Tournament. As for the heavyweights... well, they're just marking time until Dan Erekson is ready to go again. We're not going to get many points out of Raising or Johnson this year, so hopefully the Danimal gets back into the swing of things soon.
SO WHAT'S NEXT?
The next competition is the National Duals (which, as the name implies, is a series of dual meets to determine who the best dual meet team in the nation is) in Cedar Falls, IA on Jan. 9-10. Iowa is -- surprise, surprise -- the defending champion. After that, dual meet season heats up with a vengeance as Oklahoma State (the last team to beat Iowa in a dual meet, way back in early 2008) comes to Carver on Jan. 16, followed by conference season (@ Michigan on Jan. 22 and Purdue on Jan. 24). The Okie State dual will be on BTN; the others will not.
*-- Even if Oklahoma State, Minnesota, and Ohio State routinely no-show the event. Pussies.
**-- Dan Dennis (133), Joe Slaton (141, though he was All-American at 133), and Dan Erekson (Hwt); Dennis and Erekson would start for sure if they were healthy
***-- Not actually his brother.