We Must Break You Hates It When Things Go Catty Wonkus

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

Scheduling made easy.  In case you didn't see the FanShot the other day, there's a bit of good news on the TV front for Sunday's epic Penn State-Iowa clash.  It's still not live (nor even available as a live interwebs stream on BTN.com), but it is airing on a same-day delay at 8:30pm CST on BTN.  They also moved next weekend's dual with Indiana from its original spot (opposite the Super Bowl -- not a great idea) to February 4th at 7pm CST.  Update your calendars accordingly.

When enemies become friends.  Tyler Clark isn't the only former Cyclone to make an impact on the Iowa wrestling program this year -- former ISU All-American Kurt Backes joined the coaching staff this fall to work with the heavier weights.  Judging by Rasing's impressive major decision win last weekend, it's starting to pay off:

Rasing said Backes has supplied plenty of knowledge on how to attack an opponent.

"He talks a lot about pressure," Rasing said. "Pressure, and circling, and really staying on the guy’s head. Even if you’re not shooting, always having pressure on the guy and making him tired. And then you can get to your shots later on."

So how's Backes like coaching for "the enemy"?

"It’s almost addicting coaching at a place like this because it’s such a high level," Backes said. "The fans are great, the coaches are great, the athletes are awesome. [Iowa] is where you want to be if you want to coach and learn and grow."

Yeah, I think he likes it alright.  Suck it, Iowa State. 

Rankings like a shotgun to the face.  Rankings update ahoy:

TEAM: #11 (Intermat) / #8 (NWCA/USA Today) / #9 (d1collegewrestling) / #6 (TheOpenMat)

INDIV (Intermat / TheOpenMat / d1collegewrestling / AWN)
125: Matt McDonough
 (#2 / #3 / #3 / #3)
133: Tony Ramos (#10 / #12 / #9 / n/a*)
141: Mark Ballweg (#15 / #12 / #12 / #12)
149: none
157: Derek St. John (#14 / #13 / #16 / #15)
165: Aaron Janssen (#14 / #14 / #14 / #16)
174: Ethen Lofthouse (#13 / #10 / #11 / #13)
184: Grant Gambrall (#16 / #17 / #16 / #14)
197: Luke Lofthouse (#14 / #14 / #14 / #12)
HWT: Blake Rasing (n/a / n/a / #25 / n/a)

* AWN still ranks Tyler Clark at #10 at 133.  Once again, not much movement.  Everyone either holds firm or moves up incrementally, with Ballweg the Younger and Lofthouse the Elder making slightly bigger jumps with a few services.  And Janssen reappears in the AWN rankings after being AWOL last week.  Rasing also returns to one set of rankings after his major decision win.

FRIDAY: #11 Iowa at #14 Northwestern (7pm CST; VIDEO: live stream on btn,com; RADIO: KXIC, Hawkeye All-Access ($$$)
LIKELY MATCH-UPS (Iowa wrestlers listed first; rankings from InterMat)

125: #2 Matt McDonough (SO, 14-1) vs. #1 Brandon Precin (SR, 25-0)
133: #10 Tony Ramos (SO, 12-3) or Tyler Clark (JR, 6-3) vs. Levi Mele (SO, 14-4) or Bobby Joyce (SR, 8-5)
141: #15 Mark Ballweg (SO, 14-3) vs. Kaleb Friedley (FR, 20-5)
149: Matt Ballweg (SR, 4-3) vs. #13 Andrew Nadhir (SR, 23-3)
157: #14 Derek St. John (rsFR, 11-2) vs. #7 Jason Welch (SO, 20-2)
165: #14 Aaron Janssen (SR, 18-5) vs. Kevin Bialka (SO, 10-10)
174: #13 Ethen Lofthouse (rsFR, 13-4) vs. Robert Kellogg (JR, 3-12) or Brian Roddy (SO, 8-3)
184: #16 Grant Gambrall (SO, 12-4) vs. Aaron Jones (SR, 14-7)
197: #14 Luke Lofthouse (SR, 12-4) vs. John Schoen (JR, 15-7)
HWT: Blake Rasing (JR, 10-3) vs. Ben Kuhar (JR, 11-11)

PREDICTION
125: McD DEC Precin (Iowa, 3-0)
133: Ramos DEC Mele or Joyce (Iowa, 6-0)
141: Ballweg DEC Friedley (Iowa, 9-0)
149: Nadhir DEC Ballweg (Iowa, 9-3)
157: Welch DEC DSJ (Iowa, 9-6)
165: Janssen DEC Bialka (Tied, 12-6)
174: Lofthouse MAJ DEC Kellogg or Lofthouse DEC Roddy (Iowa, 16-6 or Iowa, 15-6)
184: Gambrall DEC Jones (Iowa, 19-6 or Iowa, 18-6)
197: Lofthouse DEC Schoen (Iowa, 22-6 or Iowa, 21-6)
HWT: Rasing DEC Kuhar (Iowa, 25-6 or Iowa, 24-6)

The highlight of the dual (and arguably the entire weekend) is the rematch between Matt McDonough and Brandon Precin at 125.  As the defending national champion, McD entered the year at #1 but lost his top spot after dropping a match to Precin at Midlands.  Needless to say, that loss didn't sit well with McD or Tom Brands:

"I think (Precin is) probably going to come out and try to score on us right away and slow the match down that way. (But) it’s really not about what we predict and whether they follow our prediction or not. It’s about being ready so when they come to you hard, you’re stopping ’em and knocking ’em out hard. It’s about wrestling your match and if things do start going catty wonkus a little bit, you can adjust quicker. Really, when you look at that match it took us about six minutes to adjust in my way of thinking, and the last minute it was almost like panic urgency instead of where you’ve at least got a little bit of the clock to work with."

Precin is very, very good and he already has a win over McD... but I think McD gets his revenge here to set up a rubber match at the Big Ten Tournament.  

The other interesting match is at 157, with DSJ taking on the 7th-ranked Jason Welch.  This is a big weekend for DSJ -- he's got a pair of matches against top ten competition, so we'll definitely see if his recent improvement is just a mirage.  DSJ could really use a big win or two to boost his confidence (not to mention his seed at the Big Ten Tournament).  jNW's only other ranked wrestler is Andrew Nadhir (#13) at 149; considering that he's facing the weakest guy on Iowa's roster, that's one match jNW should feel pretty good about.  Iowa should be favored at pretty much every other weight and there are definite opportunities for bonus points at a few weights, like 174 (if Kellogg does) or 165 and HWT (if Janssen and Rasing can get their offense going).  It should be a fairly comfortable win for Iowa; jNW has some definite horses in the lower weights, but their guys at the upper weights are definitely outclassed by Iowa's options there.

SUNDAY: #11 Iowa at #1 Penn State (1pm CST; VIDEO: BTN @ 8:30pm; AUDIO: KXIC or Hawkeye All-Access ($$$)
LIKELY MATCH-UPS (Iowa wrestlers listed first; rankings from InterMat)

 125: #2 Matt McDonough (SO, 14-1) vs. #11 Brad Pataky (SR, 7-2) or Eric Caschera (SR, 13-7)
133: #10 Tony Ramos (SO, 12-3) or Tyler Clark (JR, 6-3) vs. #5 Andrew Long (SO, 6-0)
141: #15 Mark Ballweg (SO, 14-3) vs. #5 Andrew Alton (FR, 24-2)
149: Matt Ballweg (SR, 4-3) vs. #5 Frank Molinaro (JR, 19-2)
157: #14 Derek St. John (rsFR, 11-2) vs. #3 David Taylor (FR, 25-0)
165: #14 Aaron Janssen (SR, 18-5) vs. Jake Kemerer (FR, 13-7)
174: #13 Ethen Lofthouse (rsFR, 13-4) vs. #2 Ed Ruth (FR, 23-1)
184: #16 Grant Gambrall (SO, 12-4) vs. #6 Quentin Wright (SO, 10-2)
197: #14 Luke Lofthouse (SR, 12-4) vs. Nick Ruggear (FR, 14-7)
HWT: Blake Rasing (JR, 10-3) vs. #5 Cameron Wade (JR, 21-3)

My initial thought about this meet was that Iowa had very little chance of pulling off the upset.  That it was a reversal of the situation we'd seen the last few years, when a young, inexperienced team challenged an Iowa team loaded with talent and experience.  But that's not quite accurate here.  There's no question Penn State has the talent -- their gaudy season records speak for themselves -- but they don't have the experience.  And the difference between their guys and the Iowa guys might not be as pronounced as it appears on first glance.  Iowa should be solid favorites in three matches (125, 165, 197) and it's absolutely imperative that they win them (and get bonus points if at all possible).  They'll be underdogs in the seven other matches, but there's reason to have hope that they might be able to steal 1-2 of them.  It's also important that Iowa keeps their losses (and there will definitely be some) to decisions.  Bonus points could prove absolutely critical to this dual.

(I'm not going with 100% or 0% for anything below because there's no such thing as an absolute in these matters.)

125: McD should win against whoever PSU sends out, although he has a much better shot at getting bonus points (possibly as many as a fall) if it's Caschera and not Pataky.  
LIKELIHOOD OF IOWA WIN: 98%.  LIKELIHOOD OF BONUS POINTS FOR IOWA: 66%

133: This is one of two weights where Iowa appears to have their best shot at pulling off an upset.  Andrew Long (who you may remember as McD's frequent rival at 125 last year) has taken over this spot since becoming eligible at the start of the second semester.  He's very good, but not unstoppable and he doesn't have a lot of experience yet this year.  I think Ramos gets the nod over Clark because this seems like a match where Iowa will need some offense to have a shot.
LIKELIHOOD OF IOWA WIN: 30%.  LIKELIHOOD OF BONUS POINTS FOR IOWA: 1%

141: There have been persistent rumors that Marion would be making his season debut this weekend, but there's been no official confirmation of that so we're going to operate under the assumption that Ballweg will again be getting the nod.  (It's also unclear what to expect from Marion anyway -- he hasn't wrestled against top competition outside of the Iowa training room all year.)  Ballweg has been a pleasant surprise and a steady improver all season, but Alton has been an absolute monster.  I'll be pretty happy if Ballweg can just keep it to a decision.
LIKELIHOOD OF IOWA WIN: 5%.  LIKELIHOOD OF BONUS POINTS FOR IOWA: 1%

149: Ballweg the Elder has solidifed this weight a bit, which has been nice.  I don't think that will be enough to get it done against Molinaro, but I think he has a pretty good shot at keeping the loss to just a decision.  
LIKELIHOOD OF IOWA WIN: 1%.  LIKELIHOOD OF BONUS POINTS FOR IOWA: 1%

157: DSJ's tough weekend continues with Taylor.  He beat him in freestyle competition over the summer, which is one reason to have a little optimism.  Unfortunately, watching both DSJ and Taylor over the course of the season should probably curb a lot of that optimism.  Taylor has hit the ground running as a redshirt freshman while DSJ has stumbled.  I hope DSJ surprises me, but I'm not betting on it -- although I do think he avoids being embarrassed.
LIKELIHOOD OF IOWA WIN: 10%.  LIKELIHOOD OF BONUS POINTS FOR IOWA: 1%

165: Finally, another match where Iowa will actually be favored.  Janssen really needs to take care of business here.  A bonus point win would be absolutely huge. 
LIKELIHOOD OF IOWA WIN: 75%.  LIKELIHOOD OF BONUS POINTS FOR IOWA: 25%

174: Yet another tough match-up for Iowa; like Taylor, Ruth has really hit the ground running as a redshirt freshman and has been the most impressive guy at 174 lbs. behind ISU's Jon Reader all season.  Lofthouse has been steadily improving after a rough December, but beating Ruth right now may be asking a lot.
LIKELIHOOD OF IOWA WIN: 5%.  LIKELIHOOD OF BONUS POINTS FOR IOWA: 1%

184: And here's the other match where Iowa appears to have its best shot at an upset.  Wright is very good, but he's been slowed for much of the year by a shoulder injury, so it's unclear what condition he's in at the moment.  Gambrall has been inconsistent, but he's shown flashes of brilliance; we could really use another one on Sunday.
LIKELIHOOD OF IOWA WIN: 35%.  LIKELIHOOD OF BONUS POINTS FOR IOWA: 1%

197: The third and final match where Iowa will be a definite favorite and another one where they really need to (a) take care of business and (b) get bonus points if possible.  Lofthouse has been pretty consistent about beating lesser opponents and he's also done a reasonably good job of getting bonus points on them, too.  Let's hope that trend continues.
LIKELIHOOD OF IOWA WIN: 75%.  LIKELIHOOD OF BONUS POINTS FOR IOWA: 50%

HWT: Behind 133 and 184, this is probably the best shot for an Iowa upset.  Wade has been good and certainly more consistent than Rasing, but there's a fairly high degree of unpredictability in heavyweight matches (since so many come down to "who will be able to get that one decisive takedown?") and Rasing should be as confident as he's ever been after his impressive win last week.  Wade is a huge leap up in quality from the OSU guy Rasing was throwing around, but at least he should be in the right mindset to pull off the upset.
LIKELIHOOD OF IOWA WIN: 25%.  LIKELIHOOD OF BONUS POINTS FOR IOWA: 1%

So after laying out the case for a possible Iowa upset, do I see it happening?  Unfortunately, I can't quite bring myself to call it.

PREDICTION
125: McD DEC Pataky or MAJ DEC Caschera (Iowa, 3-0 or Iowa, 4-0)
133: Long DEC Ramos (Tied, 3-3 or Iowa, 4-3)
141: Alton DEC Ballweg (PSU, 6-3 or PSU, 6-4)
149: Molinaro DEC Ballweg (PSU, 9-3 or  PSU, 9-4)
157: Taylor DEC DSJ (PSU, 12-3 or PSU, 12-4)
165: Janssen DEC Kemerer (PSU, 12-6 or  PSU, 12-7)
174: Ruth DEC Lofthouse (PSU, 15-6 or PSU 15-7)
184: Gambrall DEC Wright (PSU, 15-9 or PSU, 15-10)
197: Lofthouse MAJ DEC Ruggear (PSU, 15-13 or PSU, 15-14)
HWT: Wade DEC Rasing (PSU, 18-13 or PSU, 18-14)

Momentum could be an important factor as well; if the meet starts at 125, there's a chance for Iowa to get off to a very strong start with a bonus point win from McD and an upset from Ramos/Clark.  That could give Iowa the fuel to pull off the upset in the meet -- we've seen early upsets play a key role in some of Iowa's big wins over Iowa State and Oklahoma State in recent years.  In any event, this meet should be a doozy -- it's been sold out at Penn State for weeks and they've declared it a "Whiteout" event.  Let's hope Iowa can spoil this "Whiteout" just like the football team did the last time PSU pulled this stunt for an Iowa game.

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