We Must Break You Wonders If The End Is Near

We Must Break You is the weekly round-up of news regarding the Iowa wrestling program, a breakdown of the rankings, and a look ahead to the weekend's action.  Feel free to send any links, tips, suggestions, complaints, or bribes to bhgp.rosswb@gmail.com

In Soviet Russia, mat wrestles you.  The Iowa wrestlers may not have made the trek up 380 to Cedar Falls for the National Duals last week, but they did go on a trip:

It was figurative Siberia this week for the Iowa wrestlers.

Tom Brands told his team early in the week the Hawkeyes were headed to Siberia. He didn’t mean literally, of course.

Which is too bad, frankly.  Lord knows what kind of stories we would have had out of a real trip to Siberia.  After all, look at how weird things got the last time an Iowa wrestler went to Russia...

But, no, the hellish training had a purpose: to beat the 'Pokes this week in Stillwater and extend the school-record dual meet winning streak to 70:

"We’re getting ready for it," Brands said. "It’s not a secret that we have to gear up for it. From the outside looking in, it may be a mismatch by the rankings, by all the chatter out there and how we wrestled at Midlands. But we’ve got to go down there and be ready to put it to some guys because we didn’t do that (at the Midlands) and we need to step up to a bigger challenge and (Oklahoma State is) a bigger challenge."

Oklahoma State will be by far the toughest test yet for Iowa, so if skipping the National Duals and putting the team through a muderous week of training is what it takes to get a win there, well, so be it.

Driving the drinkyvan is never a good idea.  The football team may lead the way in alcohol-related arrests on the Iowa campus, but the wrestling program is a solid number two on that list.  Coincidentally, they're also two of the most successful programs on campus; maybe the basketballers need to stop hitting the practice floor so much and start spending some more time downtown.  (Or not, given how well that worked out for Anthony Tucker last year.)  In any event, the latest wrestler to become a ne'er-do-well under the influence of the booze demon was freshman Mike Evans, who picked up an OWI ticket for tooling around intoxicated in his van near Quad:

Earlier in the morning, at 1:47 a.m., police received a report of three males damaging a bicycle outside of Hillcrest. While investigating the complaint, officers learned that the three males had gotten into a van driven by Evans, who had left the area, according to the police report.

Officers had reason to think Evans would return about 5 a.m. and observed the van return to Hillcrest at 4:54 a.m. to drop off several people, according to the police report.

Driving people around is all well and good, but doing it while drunk is not such a good idea.  As a true freshman, Evans was already redshirting, so it's not like there's any competition he'll be missing (although he may miss out on a few open tournaments this spring), but his practices are probably going to get even more hellish.  Have fun with that and the next time you feel the need to get your drink on, don't get behind the wheel, too.  That's just stupid. 

Rankings like status quo.  Rankings update ahoy:

TEAM: #10 (Intermat) / #10 (NWCA/USA Today) / #9 (d1collegewrestling) / #6 (TheOpenMat)

INDIV (Intermat / TheOpenMat / d1collegewrestling / AWN)
125: Matt McDonough
 (#2 / #3 / #3 / #3)
133: Tony Ramos (n/a* / #12 / #10 / #11)
141: Mark Ballweg (#19 / #16 / #17 / #20)
149: none
157: Derek St. John (#15 / #15 / #19 / #17)
165: Aaron Janssen (#15 / #13 / #15 / #19)
174: Ethen Lofthouse (#16 / #11 / #12 / #17)
184: Grant Gambrall (#16 / #17 / #18 / #14)
197: Luke Lofthouse (#15 / #15 / #15 / #16)
HWT: Blake Rasing (n/a / n/a / n/a / #20)

* Intermat ranks Tyler Clark #11 at 133

Not much movement in the rankings for the Iowa guys, which is hardly a surprise considering that all ten Iowa wrestlers beat overmatched opponents from SIU-Edwardsville last Friday.  What movement there was, though, was a little surprising: Mark Ballweg and Grant Gambrall both recorded pins in around two minutes, only to fall (slightly) in the polls, while Derek St. John notched a drab 9-2 decision victory -- and moved up a few spots.  Such is the fickle nature of the rankings.

The end is nigh?  As noted above, Iowa is taking their school-record 69-meet winning streak on the road to Stillwater, OK this week to take on Oklahoma State.  In case you're curious, that 69-meet winning streak is the second-longest in NCAA history.  The longest winning streak is 76, held by... Oklahoma State.  It should come as no surprise that this meet will be Iowa's toughest test in the streak since, well, the last meet against Oklahoma State.  I talked about it last year in the build-up to the Iowa-Oklahoma State meet, but it's as true now as it was then:

The rivalry with Iowa State is important because it's in-state but in terms of the things that truly matter in wrestling (championships) it's a little brother rivalry, just like football.  Iowa and Oklahoma State are by far the two most dominant programs of all-time in wrestling; Oklahoma State has 34 national championships, while Iowa has 22.  The third-best team, Iowa State, has eight.  That dominance is even more pronounced in modern history: of the past twenty national championships, only three have been won by someone other than Iowa or Oklahoma State (Minnesota in 2001, 2002, and 2007).  (Iowa State's last national championship, for the record, was 1987.  Ha HA.).  These two programs are the alpha and omega of college wrestling.

There's simply no comparison.  Iowa State and Minnesota are important rivals because they're successful programs from border states (or within the state itself) and programs like Wisconsin and Penn State are budding rivals because they're building powerful, title-contending teams.  But none of them compare to Oklahoma State.  Iowa and Oklahoma State are the two most dominant programs in history of the sport -- and no one else is remotely close.  They measure greatness against each other's accomplishments.  That they also wrestle in styles that are a bold contrast (Iowa emphasizes aggression and constant attacking, while Oklahoma State emphasizes strong defense and opportunistic attacks) only serves to highlight the dichotomy between the two programs.

Iowa's won two of the last three against the 'Pokes (including the last time they met in Stillwater), but as Okie State coach John Smith pointed out, both teams will be fielding very different teams this year:

"There will be a lot of new faces in this dual. That is different from last year. We have five, possibly six freshmen starting for us on Sunday and they have several guys that have not wrestled in an Oklahoma State-Iowa dual meet. For that reason I think that it is going to be very competitive."

Smith also isn't going to pretend that this is any other dual, either:

"It’s personal. We have been behind them the last several years. In most years to get to the top, it’s likely you have to go through Iowa. I think that this dual is important from that standpoint. They have won the last three years and for us to move toward our ultimate goal at the end of the season, this dual meet becomes a little more significant. We know that they are ranked 10th, but I don’t think we look at rankings right now. I don’t think they have anything to do with the outcome at the end of the season."

As always, ultimate glory for the Iowa wrestling team is based on their success in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments; a non-conference dual meet like this isn't going to settle anything except bragging rights.  What it will tell us is where this team is at right now, though -- how much have they improved since that lackluster showing at Midlands?  Do they have what it takes to mount a serious defense of their national championship? 

LIKELY MATCH-UPS (Iowa wrestlers listed first; rankings from InterMat)

125: #3 Matt McDonough (SO, 12-1) vs. #8 Jon Morrison (rsFR, 14-3)
133: Tony Ramos (SO, 8-3) or #11 Tyler Clark (JR, 4-2) vs. #1 Jordan Oliver (SO, 13-0)
141: #19 Mark Ballweg (SO, 12-3) vs. #13 Josh Kindig (FR, 16-4)
149: Matt Ballweg (SR, 3-2) vs. #9 Jamal Parks (JR, 15-2)
157: #15 Derek St. John (rsFR, 9-2) vs. #16 Neil Erisman (SR, 3-2)
165: #15 Aaron Janssen (SR, 18-3) vs. #13 Dallas Bailey (FR, 16-2)
174: #16 Ethen Lofthouse (rsFR, 11-4) vs. #10 Mike Benefiel (JR, 7-3)
184: #16 Grant Gambrall (SO, 11-3) vs. #14 Chris Perry (rsFR, 13-4)
197: #15 Luke Lofthouse (SR, 11-3) vs. #3 Clayton Foster (SR, 11-0)
HWT: Blake Rasing (JR, 8-3) vs. Blake Rosholt (RS FR, 3-3)

A quick look at the rankings should let you know that winning this meet is going to be a tall order for the Hawks.  According to the rankings, they're underdogs in all but one match (125) and sizeable underdogs in 3-5 matches (133, 149, 197, and arguably 141 and 174), with the remaining 4-6 matches being virtual toss-ups (157, 165, 184, HWT).  Assuming Iowa is unable to score any big upsets, they'll need to win all of the toss-up matches and avoid giving up bonus points in any of the matches where they're sizeable underdogs.  That's asking a lot of a young team facing a hostile environment.  Plenty of outright good teams have struggled to go into Stillwater and pick up a win; asking a team with as many issues as this Iowa team to do so may be too much.

PREDICTION:

125: McD MAJ DEC Morrison (4-0, Iowa)
133: Oliver DEC Ramos (4-3, Iowa)
141: Kindig DEC Ballweg (4-6, Okie State)
149: Parks MAJ DEC Ballweg (4-10, Okie State)
157: Erisman DEC DSJ (4-13, Okie State)
165: Janssen DEC Bailey (7-13, Okie State)
174: Benefiel DEC Lofthouse (7-16, Okie State)
184: Gambrall DEC Perry (10-16, Okie State)
197: Foster DEC Lofthouse (10-19, Okie State)
HWT: Rasing DEC Rosholt (13-19, Okie State)

That would indeed be the end of the 69-meet winning streak.  I certainly hope I'm wrong (hey, I was wrong about picking Mizzou in the Insight Bowl), but the current form of this team (notwithstanding the relatively meaningless massacre of SIU-Edwardsville last week) doesn't lend itself to having much faith in them.  I just can't see them winning any of the big upset weights (133, 149, 197) and, frankly, they'll be doing well to keep those to just decision losses if possible.  141 and 174 are closer and Ballweg the Younger and Lofthouse the Younger have both had periods of solid wrestling in them this year, but I'm still not sold on either pulling off an upset in hostile territory.  That leaves the toss-up weights; I picked Iowa to win three of those and even that could be pushing it.  It's impossible to have confidence in DSJ right now.  Hopefully Janssen's senior experience overcomes Bailey's raw talent.  Gambrall-Perry could go either way; a flip of the coin said Gambrall.  Rasing could and should beat Rosholt, but you never know what to expect from him.  Could Iowa win or draw this dual?  Sure, but it would require a performance unlike anything we've seen from them all year.

The meet itself is at 2pm CST on Sunday; ESPNU will be airing tape-delayed coverage from 4:30-7:00pm CST on Sunday (same time as the Iowa-Minnesota men's hoops game and the NFL playoffs, so not exactly an ideal time there).  KXIC (AM 800) has the radio call, as does Hawkeye All-Access ($$) over the interwebs.  I'm sure there will be some liveblogs, too; we'll link something on Sunday. 

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