As expected, the Iowa wrestlers manhandled UNI last night (38-4) to run their dual meet unbeaten streak to 83 in a row, one shy of the NCAA record. The 38-4 scoreline narrowly missed my prediction (36-3), although the end result was the same: UNI won the one match they were expected to (184) and Iowa won the rest, usually handily (only two of the Iowa wins were by less than a major decision). (They also got the benefit of a medical forfeit at 174, although Ethen Lofthouse would have been heavily favored to get a bonus point win there anyway.) Still, the fact that it was a rout for the good guys doesn't mean that the dual was devoid from news -- far from it, in fact.
#1 IOWA (6-0) DEF. UNI (1-3), 38-4
184: #5 Loder MAJ DEC (13-2) Wagner (UNI 4-0)
197: Gambrall DEC (7-3) Kettman (UNI 4-3)
HWT: #7 Telford MAJ DEC (12-0) Beale (Iowa 7-4)
125: #3 McDonough MAJ DEC (10-1) Aarhus (Iowa 11-4)
133: #2 Ramos MAJ DEC (15-5) Jauch (Iowa 15-4)
141: #1 Marion MAJ DEC (18-8) Noble (Iowa 19-4)
149: Dziewa MAJ DEC (14-6) Welter (Iowa 23-4)
157: #2 St. John DEC (3-1) Bonin (Iowa 26-4)
165: #15 Evans FALL (1:10) Banach (Iowa 32-4)
174: #8 Lofthouse wins by MEDICAL FORFEIT (Iowa 38-4)
* Grant Gambrall might really be staying at 197. It wasn't a big surprise to see Gambrall out there at 197 last night -- he'd been listed as an option there in virtually every meet all season -- but it was a surprise to hear post-meet chatter about him staying at that spot for the rest of the season.
The returning all-American and third-place NCAA finisher last year at 184 pounds moved up a weight class and is projected to stay there this season.
Gambrall found himself weighing over 200 pounds for the first time in his life as he battled an injury in the offseason that kept him out of workouts. But because the Hawkeyes are still looking for their ideal lineup and have some shakiness in the 197 spot, Gambrall found himself falling comfortably into place at the heavier class.
I don't think this move is by any means guaranteed (Brands, in particular, seemed to be hedging his comments about it in the post-meet presser). If it is a permanent move, Gambrall has some work to do, both from a conditioning standpoint and a strength standpoint; he still looks too small to be able to hang with the best 197ers. 197 is a less imposing division than 184, nationally, but this still seems like a move that would make Iowa weaker, on the whole. With Gambrall at 184 and Lira at 197, they have a likely top-5 guy at 184 and a guy who might be able to get into the 15-20 range at 197. With Fahler/Wagner at 184 and Gambrall at 197, they have two guys who might be able to get into the 15-20 range at 184 (although I'm less certain of that, given the strength of that weight) and a guy who might be in the 10-15 range at 197 (which is a total guess). Obviously Gambrall needs to do what's best for him and his health, but for Iowa's sake I hope he's either able to get down to 184 -- or get much bigger, stronger, and frankly better at 197.
* Derek St. John got injured. Midway through the second period of his match with David Bonin, St. John appeared to injure his knee. The match was stopped and it seemed like St. John might have to forfeit the match, but after a bit of rest St. John did manage to finish the match, hanging on for a slim 3-1 decision. His movements looked pretty stiff, though, and he appeared to be in definite pain as he was leaving the mat. Hopefully it's not a serious knee injury (as of this writing, there was no word on the severity) and he'll be good to go the rest of the season because Iowa needs him to be a big point-scorer at the NCAA Tournament in order to have a shot at the title (especially if we can't count on a top-8 finish for Gambrall at 184). The good news is he has three weeks until the next event (Midlands), so he should get plenty of time to rest and recuperate.
* 149 is still an unbelievable mess. With Mark Ballweg (starter at 149 in the previous two duals) and Mike Kelly unable to compete due to NCAA weigh-in rules (Brands wants Ballweg to wreste at 141 at Midlands, and to do so and be in accordance with the NCA rules he had to weigh in at 141 last night; Kelly was .3 pounds over 149 last night, but should be fine to wrestle there at Midlands), Tom Brands turned to... yet another 141er to fill the void: redshirt freshman Josh Dziewa (pronounced "Jeva," in case you were wondering). This was almost certainly just a stop-gap move, though; Dziewa appears to be a natural 141er and looked pretty small at 149. He had some slick moves and looked good (at least until he gassed out in the third period), but his performance is more meaningful for what it says about 141 next year (there should be a good battle between Dziewa and Ballweg for the starting spot) than 149 this year. In the meantime, Midlands will still figures to be the decider for the 149 starting spot. Per Brands' post-meet presser, Kelly and true freshmen will definitely be competing in the 149 bracket, as well as 1 or 2 other guys (Jake Ballweg, Dylan Carew, Ethan Owens, perhaps a Trizzino).
A few quick weight-by-weight thoughts:
125: A better showing than what he had last week, but McD still doesn't look quite as sharp as we're used to seeing him look. He spent a lot of time trying to turn Aarhus for a pin, but aside from a nice cradle near the end of the second period, he never really came close. He might have been better-served to cut him and just run a takedown clinic on him.
133: Speaking of takedown clinics... Ramos followed up his stellar performance last weekend with another dominating showing against Jauch. It took him a little while to get going (it was only 2-0 Ramos after the first period), but once he broke Jauch (in the second period), he was able to just pour on the points. Very nicely done.
141: Marion apparently decided to follow Ramos' lead and also put on a takedown clinic. He looked fine, although a little uninspired at times (he also let Noble get to his legs a little too easily at times, if you wanted to quibble). The frustrating thing about Marion's season so far is that he hasn't even been remotely tested by anyone -- he's way, way better than anyone he's faced. Hopefully Midlands gives him a few more interesting tests.
149: See above. Dziewa acquitted himself well, though, for only his third or fourth college match, especially up a weight and for his first match "under the lights." He definitely looks too small to be a full-time guy at 149 (I'm afraid a guy like Molinaro would just smother him) and he gets a little too wild and dangerous with some of his shots, but he also seems to have that Mark Perry-like ability to come out on top in a wild scramble, which is always nice to have. He wrestles a funky style, but he should be fun to watch if he's able to win the 141 spot next year.
157: St. John wasn't exactly dominating the match prior to his injury, but he did appear to be in control. Bonin is a guy who's given him fits in the past, though, and that appeared to be true again last night. Maybe he's just not a good match-up for DSJ. In any event, the biggest issue here is DSJ's health -- hopefully he's fine.
165: Dear god, Evans is vicious as hell on the ground. He needs some work on his feet and attacking from neutral positions, but when he gets a guy on the mat he is mean. I predict we'll be seeing quite a guys opt to take neutral against Evans rather than take down and try for an escape. After nearly dismembering Banach, the pin was virtually academic. Oh, and he did it all in about a minute. Once he develops an handful of solid takedowns, he's going to be very, very difficult to beat.
184: For the first 30-60 seconds of the match, Wagner looked pretty good: he got a takedown and he was fending off Loder's shots pretty well. Unfortunately, the remaining six minutes of the match didn't go so well. Loder is a returning All-American and a top-5 guy at this weight so there's no shame in losing to him, but at the very least Iowa needs to be able to hold losses at this weight to a decision. That extra bonus point conceded here didn't matter against a team like UNI, but against a Penn State or an Oklahoma State or a Minnesota? It could be crucial.
197: See above. Gambrall looked better than in his previous match this season and it was encouraging to see him suck it up and turn on some offense when he needed to do in the third period, but he still has quite a ways to go to be a high-quality option at this weight.
HWT: As I predicted, Telford had much better luck getting his aggressive, attack-happy style going against an overmatched opponent and the results were... entertaining, to say the least. It's been a while since heavyweight matches were this much fun to watch. That said, it's worth noting how much Telford has improved in just the span of a year; last year, he beat Beale 6-4 at an event -- this year he dominated him, 12-0.
NEXT: The Midlands Championships at Evanston, IL on 12/29 and 12/30. I'll try to preview that in a few weeks.