(TFJ to Youtuber fence11post for putting that up.)
Northwestern entered Friday's dual as a fairly solid underdog in seven matches, meaning they were going to need to spring a few upsets to have any hope of winning the dual. When their best wrestler got pinned in the first match of the evening, their upset hopes were dealt a critical blow. When Iowa got a second pin two matches later, jNW's upset hopes went on life support. And when their second-best wrestler went down in defeat to give Iowa an 18-3 lead heading into intermission, well, their goose was cooked and Iowa was able to extend their unbeaten streak to 72 consecutive duals, which includes a 30-meet winning streak in Big Ten duals.
Iowa 31, Northwestern 9
125: #2 Matt McDonough FALL (6:11) #1 Brandon Precin (Iowa, 6-0)
133: #10 Tony Ramos DEC (9-3) Levi Mele (Iowa, 9-0)
141: #15 Mark Ballweg FALL (2:49) Kaleb Friedley (Iowa, 15-0)
149: #13 Andrew Nadhir DEC (11-4) Matt Ballweg (Iowa, 15-3)
157: #14 Derek St. John DEC (4-2) #7 Jason Welch (Iowa, 18-3)
165: #14 Aaron Janssen DEC (3-0) Kevin Bialka (Iowa, 21-3)
174: #13 Ethen Lofthouse MAJ DEC (18-7) Brian Roddy (Iowa, 25-3)
184: #16 Grant Gambrall DEC (8-2) Aaron Jones (Iowa, 28-3)
197: John Schoen win via FORFEIT (Iowa, 28-9)
HWT: Blake Rasing DEC (10-4) Ben Kuhar (Iowa, 31-9)
It was a strong performance from most of the Iowa wrestlers, especially for Mark Ballweg, Derek St. John, Ethen Lofthouse, and Blake Rasing. In Friday's preview, I noted that this was a big weekend for DSJ, with matches against a pair of top-ten opponents; so far he's off to a great start, as his win over Welch was almost certainly his best win of the season. Meanwhile, Ballweg, Lofthouse, and Rasing faced lesser opponents, but it was still heartening to see them look so dominant and so aggressive. All three were in funks around the time of Midlands, but they've been coming on strong in January, which is very exciting to see.
The headline match for the evening was the opener, pitting the top two wrestlers at 125 against one another in a rematch from the Midlands final. Precin edged McD 3-1 in that match so this was McD's chance for revenge. It was a decidedly strange match. For two periods, it looked like a repeat of the Midlands match: Precin got an early takedown to get the lead, amassed a ton of riding time, and used rock-solid defense to fend off McD's shots. Early in the third period, McD was effectively down 4-0 and it seemed as if Precin was shaping up to be a puzzle he just couldn't solve. And then, to paraphrase one of the internet's finest memes, PIN OUT OF FUCKING NOWHERE. He used a tight headlock to whip Precin to the mat and quickly picked up three nearfall points, followed by the pinfall seconds later. It was a stunning (and welcome) turn of events, but it didn't shed much light on what a potential rubber match between the two would be like.
Through two matches (and almost six periods), Precin has managed to stymie McD's offense like no one else: McD has managed all of one takedown on him and I'm not sure we can count on him to trap him in a shock pin next time. The win should give McD some confidence for their (seemingly inevitable) rematch, though, and is big for seeding purposes. It would be very good for McD to get Precin and Arizona State's Anthony Robles on the same side of the bracket at the NCAA Tournament so that he wouldn't have to go through both guys in his title defense -- far better to let one of them knock the other out.
* Another solid showing for Ramos. He kept up the pressure on Mele and while he couldn't pick up any bonus points, his aggressive approach led to a comfortable decision win. I still think he gets the nod over Clark for the match with PSU's Andrew Long on Sunday.
* Mark Ballweg is making it really, really hard for Montell Marion to reclaim his spot at 141 lbs. Mark Ballweg entered the year as a redshirt freshman with no expectations and a general perception that he was one of the weakest links on the team. Three months later, he's 15-3, knocking on the door of the top-ten, and tied for the team lead in pins (7) with McD. He had a dip in form at Midlands (including an ugly 14-2 major decision ass-kicking that eliminated him from the competition), but he's turned things on since then, with bonus points in three of his four wins, including a pair of pins. His out-of-nowhere success is reminiscent of McD's run a year ago, and while I don't think Ballweg's story is going to end in a national championship (not yet, at least), every impressive win he picks up makes it seem like an All-America finish is very possible.
* On the other hand, the continuing struggles of his older brother (Matt) at 149, makes me wish it was possible that either Mark or Marion could bump up a weight (that doesn't seem to be under consideration right now, unfortunately) because 149 remains the gaping void in the line-up. It's not often that you see a match nearly end in a major decision after a scoreless first period, but Ballweg couldn't have kept Nadhir off his legs in the final two periods if he'd had a machine gun. Needless to say, it didn't fill me with great confidence that Ballweg could keep things to a decision against PSU's Frank Molinaro on Sunday.
* As noted above, this was a big, big win for DSJ, because Welch is legit (top overall recruit in 2008, #7 at 157 this year). It wasn't a dominating performance, but after some of the lackluster efforts DSJ produced earlier in the season, we'll settle for wins right now. He's still letting guys get to his legs too easily, but he does display great defense in those situations and he has an uncanny ability to come out on top in wild scramble situations (which is how he picked up his first takedown). In fact, that scrambling ability and his more laconic, funky style makes it easy to draw comparisons to Jay Borschel; I hope his Iowa career is as successful as JayBo's was. Most impressive was the fact that he didn't seem gassed in the third period and the fact that he was able to shoot and pick up a last-second takedown to secure the win.
* A solid win for Janssen, but a 3-0 decision win over a guy with a .500 record isn't exactly impressive. It would be nice to see Janssen pick up the pace a bit.
* Lofthouse is another wrestler who's been making strides over the course of the season and really improving. The most exciting thing about his performance last night was his aggressive attitude: he was cutting Roddy loose and getting takedowns almost at will. The downside is that he was pretty gassed at the end of the match and he got a little sloppy at one point and allowed Roddy to get a takedown that briefly cut the lead to 8-7. But that non-stop attacking approach is what we like to see, so it's nice to see Lofthouse embracing that -- he just needs to fine-tune the rest of his game.
* Not much to say about Gambrall's win over Jones: solid, but unspectacular.
* It's unclear why Luke Lofthouse couldn't go at 197 and Iowa had to forfeit that weight. The radio guys were speculating that it might have been the flu. Hopefully he's able to go at PSU, because Iowa badly needs a win from him in that dual.
* And another impressive, aggressive effort from Rasing. The opponent wasn't very good, but earlier in the season Rasing was also facing so-so competition and not looking this impressive. He's finally looking for his offense more and using his massive bulk to his advantage in riding guys. Hopefully his recent performance gives him some much-needed confidence against some of the better opposition he'll face coming up.
NEXT: Penn State on Sunday (1pm CST, on BTN at 8:30pm CST). Get your popcorn ready.