And Another One Bites The Dust: Iowa Wrestling Dominates Ohio State, 33-3

Under most circumstances, beating the two-time reigning national runner-up 33-3 would be cause for considerable celebration.  But this isn't "most circumstances" -- this Ohio State team is a shadow of the squad that pushed Iowa at the NCAA Tournament the past few years (especially two years ago, when they nipped at Iowa's heels until the very end).  Like Iowa, they're rebuilding this year.  Unlike Iowa, they didn't have quite as much talent in reserve, a problem that has been exacerbated by a spate of injuries that has eliminated most of their best wrestlers from the line-up.  It was still a good win (the 34th straight over the Buckeyes), but as soon as you saw Blake Rasing getting a major decision win you knew it was going to be a long day for the Buckeyes.

RESULTS
184: #17 Grant Gambrall DEC (10-3) C.J. Magrum (Iowa, 3-0)
197: #15 Luke Lofthouse DEC (6-4) Peter Capone (Iowa, 6-0)
HWT: Blake Rasing MAJ DEC (12-1) Zach Stolarsky (Iowa, 10-0)
125: #3 Matt McDonough FALL (4:37) Bo Touris (Iowa, 16-0)
133: Tony Ramos DEC (5-2) #16 Ian Paddock (Iowa, 19-0)
141: #16 Mark Ballweg MAJ DEC (10-2) Randy Languis (Iowa, 23-0)
149: Matt Ballweg MAJ DEC (12-3) Mike Fee (Iowa, 27-0)
157: #15 Derek St. John DEC (9-3) Sean Nemec (Iowa, 30-0)
165: #8 Colt Sponseller DEC (5-3, OT) #16 Aaron Janssen (Iowa, 30-3)
174: #14 Ethen Lofthouse DEC (3-1) #12 Mike Heflin (Iowa, 33-3)

In general, it was a strong showing from the Iowa wrestlers.  They notched four bonus-point wins, displayed great aggression in almost every match, and were routinely pushing the pace in the third period.  That was most evident in the Ballweg and Rasing matches, where they were simply cutting their opponents and going for takedown after takedown to secure a major decision.  (The same could be said for McD, but that's the way he approaches damn near every match, so there was no revelation here.)  Iowa went 2-1 against ranked opposition, with both wins being nominal upsets (though Ramos, while unranked this week, has basically been alternating with Tyler Clark in the #10/11 spot in Intermat's rankings, which would probably make him a slight favorite on Paddock).

That said... it's unwise to read much into these results beyond the improved attitude and approach displayed by the Iowa wrestlers.  Outside of Sponseller and probably Paddock/Heflin, none of these guys are going to be in Philadelphia at the NCAA Tournament.  Most of them won't even be any more than opening round fodder in the Big Ten Tournament.  There were a slew of overmatched opponents and the Iowa guys throttled them.  On the other hand, they didn't exactly impress against the few legit-ish opponents.  After an early takedown, Ramos seemed to get entirely too defensive until a takedown in the final seconds that locked up the win.  Lofthouse didn't get the winning takedown until the final seconds of his match.  Janssen started strong but faded late, giving up a takedown in the final forty seconds to tie the match (and another in OT to lose).  It was frustrating to see him be unable to get an escape after that third-period takedown.  

My intent is not to rain on the parade of this dominant win because there were some very encouraging things about it (particularly the aggressive attitude and the ability to finish strong in most matches).  On the other hand, it doesn't really change much about the perception for the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments.  Past Iowa teams earned respect and confidence by beating quality opponents; until this year's team does the same, it's sensible to be a little skeptical.  But they're on the right path now and we'll get a better indication of their ability to compete against top competition soon.

A few brief weight-by-weight thoughts:

184: I got mixed up about the start-time of the dual, so I missed Gambrall's match.  Sounds like he did well, though.

197: See above.

HWT: Great showing by Rasing.  His opponent wasn't very good, but in the past we might have just seen Rasing lay on him rather than push the pace as much as he did.  Hopefully Rasing brings that same action-oriented attitude to his upcoming matches.

125: What more can you say?  He did exactly what he should have done against a weak opponent: mauled them mercilessly and got maximum bonus points.  Now we'll see if he's been able to solve the Precin problem.

133: Solid start from Ramos and he did a nice job of escaping a tough ride from Paddock in the second period... but it took a long time.  Maybe next time Ramos should go neutral since being on his feet plays to his strengths more.  It also would have been nice to see him be a bit more aggressive.  He has a nice shot -- use it.

141: Another very solid effort from the younger Ballweg.  He took him down fairly easily and then spent the bulk of the first period trying to turn him for a fall (or at least nearfall points).  It was a little frustrating not to see him let him up and go for more takedowns when it was apparent that he wasn't having much luck turning him, but he did just that in the next periods and got enough takedowns to get the major decision.  Well done and it will be a little disappointing if Ballweg is forced out of the lineup for Montell Marion's return.

149: Like Rasing's win, this was an out-of-nowhere bonus point victory.  Ballweg has stabilized things at this weight, which is nice.  It's startling to realize that last year Iowa and Ohio State had the two best wrestlers in the nation at this weight and this year they're forced to rely on guys like Fee and Ballweg, two guys who will probably end the year with losing records.  Change can be a bitch.

157: In general, a much stronger showing by DSJ than we've seen, but he still isn't quite as aggressive as he couold be. He also lets guys get to his legs way too easily -- that was the main reason he wasn't able to get a major decision  and it makes for some pretty hairy situations in his matches.  He has a remarkable ability to get out of those situations and wind up with a takedown himself, but it still doesn't seem like a very sound approach in general.

165: A solid showing in general, but he didn't push things enough early and ran out of gas late.  He needed to find that extra gear to get the escape at the end of the match.

174: Lofthouse has quietly been stringing together wins, which is good to see. They haven't been very pretty wins, but he seems like he just needs to develop confidence at this point so any wins are good wins.  Hopefully he's able to open up the offense a bit more going forward.

NEXT: 1/28 at Northwestern (7pm CST, bigtennetwork,com), 1/30 at Penn State (1pm CST, tape-delayed until 8pm CST on 1/31; not sure if btn.com will have a live stream on 1/30)

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