NOTE: I'll have an open thread later tonight for the Iowa-Nebraska meet.
TOM BRANDS! PELVIC THRUSTS!
If it's genetically possible (and maybe even if it's not), you've just been impregnated through your monitor. Congratulations!
The 197 Situation. Grant Gambrall's move to 197 this year hasn't been without controversy or criticism, but it doesn't sound like it's changing anytime soon. At least Gambrall seems to know what he needs to do to improve:
"It’s not going as well as I’d like it to be, but it’s just something I have to work on in my wrestling," said Gambrall, who suffered post-concussion issues that kept him off the mat for months causing his weight to climb to more than 200 pounds. "I’ve got to get back to what I was doing when I was having success last year and that’s getting to offense and finishing right away, taking advantage of every second on the mat."
On the other hand, he goes on to say that he doesn't think strength (and his lack thereof at 197) is a problem for him, which seems questionable after seeing him to struggle to finish shots against guys for weeks now at 197. Still, best of luck to him getting this sorted out.
The doctor and the wrestler. Did you know Vinnie Wagner is juggling being on the Iowa wrestling team with being in med school?
The course is called Thermodynamics, and the name alone sounds like a class fully capable of melting your brain.
"It made my head hurt every single day," Vinnie Wagner said. "Probably my least favorite class in college."
There's not a ton of new information about Wagner in that article, but it is a nice brief profile of the less-renowned members of the Iowa team.
We're talkin' rankings. It's been a while since we took a look at the rankings -- over a month, in fact. So let's take a look at how the world o' college wrestling (or at least the Iowa-centric part) has changed since then.
This is what it looked like when last we looked in December:
This is what it looks like now:
Iowa participated in (and won) the Midlands Championships during that span, and also wrestled Indiana and Oklahoma State in dual meets. McD has risen slightly since last time, thanks to a steady stream of wins (and a loss by Illinois' Jesse Delgado). Ramos fell slightly after losing to Virginia Tech's Devin Carter in the Midlands finals, but moved right back up in the rankings after his big win over Okie State's Jordan Oliver last week. Marion tumbled to the #3-5 range after losing to Oklahoma's Kendric Maple in the Midlands finals, which is probably about right for now. Mike Kelly has established himself as Iowa's leading option at 149, but his lack of significant wins has kept him from moving too far up the rankings. St. John holds firm at #2, despite not wrestling since the UNI dual in December due to injury.
Despite suffering a few losses at Midlands, Mike Evans has moved up a few spots in the rankings and is lurking outside the top-8. Conversely, Lofthouse's losses in the Midlands final and at the Okie State dual have seen him move down the rankings a few spots. Wagner has replaced Gambrall as the ranked wrestler at 184, although he's only checking in at the very bottom of the rankings for now (NOTE: his Intermat ranking should be n/a, not #2). Gambrall is ranked at 197 by all the services now, although he's fairly low-ranked due to his unimpressive showings at 197 thus far. And Telford's ranking has remained largely unchanged, despite losses in the Midlands finals and at the Okie State dual.
We're talkin' Huskers. Now we enter the preview portion of our post, beginning with Iowa's Friday night dual with Nebraska.
When Nebraska entered the Big Ten, the expectation was that they'd do well immediately in football, baseball, and volleyball, but struggle in some others -- notably basketball and wrestling. They've had a rocky start in hoops (9-7 overall, 1-4 in B1G play), but they're 10-0 in wrestling and coming off an impressive dual meet victory over Ohio State a week ago. They're not the pushovers some expected them to be; if Iowa wins to get started on a new dual meet winning streak and erase the taste of that rotten loss to Oklahoma State, they're going to need to wrestle well.
#4 Iowa (7-1) at #8 Nebraska (10-0)
Friday, January 13; 7pm CT
RADIO: KXIC-800 (free), Hawkeye All-Access ($$$)
TV: BTN (tape-delayed until 9pm CT)
125: #2 Matt McDonough (JR, 17-1) vs. UN Shawn Nagel (SO, 5-11)
Bad news for Nebraska: their most overmatched wrestler takes on Iowa's best wrestler. This one could -- and should -- get ugly. It's been a little while since McD got a pin, but I think he gets back in the groove here.
McD PIN Nagel (Iowa 6-0)
133: #2 Tony Ramos (SO, 17-1) vs. #18 Ridge Kiley (JR, 11-6)
Kiley sports an unimpressive overall record and hasn't faced a lot of top guys at 133 (just Ohio State's Logan Stieber), but he's been able to keep things close most of the time. On the other hand, Ramos has been earning bonus points against damn everyone he's faced this year and he should be riding a tidal wave of confidence after beating Jordan Oliver last week (and being named co-Big Ten Wrestler of the Week). I think he pours it on late here.
Ramos MAJ DEC Kiley (Iowa 10-0)
141: #3 Montell Marion (SR, 15-1) vs. #6 Jake Sueflohn (FR, 16-3)
And here's our first match of the evening that figures to be competitive -- maybe. I say "maybe" because only six of Sueflohn's matches this year have been decisions -- he either wins big (several major decision wins) or loses big (he's lost twice by major decision and once by fall). Both major decision losses came to top-five opposition (Kellen Russell and Michael Mangrum); suggesting that perhaps he's still a cut below the elite at this weight. Before the season, we assumed Montell Marion was certainly among those elite, but so far several of his performances this year haven't lived up to that standard. If Marion is off or sluggish, he could easily lose this match.
Sueflohn DEC Marion (Iowa 10-3)
149: UN Mike Kelly (RS FR, 11-4) vs. UN Brandon Wilbourn (FR, 9-5)
Wilbourn is Nebraska's another true freshman in the lineup, but he hasn't quite reached the same heights that Sueflohn has. This is a match that Mike Kelly really needs to win. He was thrown into the deep end at 149 and he's wrestled tight matches against good wrestlers like Jake Patacsil and Jamal Parks, but he needs more actual victories and fewer moral victories -- especially against an unranked true freshman like this.
Kelly DEC Wilbourn (Iowa 13-3)
157: UN Nick Moore (RS FR, 10-4) vs. #10 James Green (FR, 20-3)
Green has a flashy record, but several of those wins have come against lesser competition; he has just three wins over ranked wrestlers (two over Steven Monk and one over George Ivanov). Moore has struggled at times since moving down to 157, so a win here would be a nice confidence boost. I don't feel comfortable picking the upset, though.
Green DEC Moore (Iowa 13-6)
165: #9 Mike Evans (RS FR, 16-3) vs. #3 Robert Kokesh (RS FR, 18-2)
Now we come to the spotlight match of the meet. Kokesh has followed up a dynamite redshirt season with a strong season this year (18-2, including a win over current #2, Shane Onufer). Like everyone else at 165, he's probably just battling for the honor to be David Taylor's victim in the NCAA Finals, but hey - someone's gotta do it. Evans has been good in his own redshirt freshman season, but he's struggled against top competition and his lack of offense on his feet doesn't make me optimistic about his chances here.
Kokesh DEC Evans (Iowa 13-9)
174: #11 Ethen Lofthouse (SO, 8-3) vs. #20 Tyler Koehn (JR, 13-5)
After a narrow loss to Chris Perry last week, Ethen gets a chance to rebound this week against Koehn, a solid wrestler, but one who Lofthouse should beat. If he's anywhere near as good as those top-10 rankings say he is, Ethen wins this match.
Lofthouse DEC Koehn (Iowa 16-9)
184: UN Jeremy Fahler (RS FR, 8-4) or UN Vinnie Wagner (SR, 5-4) vs. #7 Josh Ihnen (JR, 13-2)
This one could get a bit ugly -- for Iowa. Ihnen is a very good wrestler and a strong possibility to be an All-American this year. It's not clear who will get the nod for Iowa, although Wagner seems like a good bet. I'll be happy if he can keep this to a decision.
Ihnen DEC Wagner (Iowa 16-12)
197: #19 Grant Gambrall (JR, 6-3) or UN Tomas Lira (SO, 8-6) vs. UN James Nakashima (SR, 12-5)
Like Kelly at 149, this is a match Gambrall really needs to win -- for the meet and for his own confidence. Nakashim is a solid wrestler and one who could absolutely beat Gambrall if he's not sharp. But I'm going to put my faith in Gambrall one more time -- hopefully it's rewarded.
Gambrall DEC Nakashima (Iowa 19-12)
HWT: #8 Bobby Telford (RS FR, 14-2) vs. #9 Tucker Lane (SR, 16-2)
Finally, the "other" spotlight match of the dual and a virtual toss-up. Lane has more experience (and more wins against top-20 competition) this year than Telford, whose momentum has stalled a bit since Midlands. On the other hand, Bobby's lone losses are to Jarod Trice (a top-5 guy if he wasn't redshirting) and Alan Gelgoaev (an actual top-3 guy). Still, I'm betting on Bobby ending his two-match losing streak here.
Telford DEC Lane (Iowa 22-12)
22-12 looks like a pretty solid victory for Iowa, but in there are several close matches here. Iowa is a heavy favorite at 125 and 133 and Nebraska looks like a big favorite at 184 and 157. The other six matches look pretty even and I wouldn't be surprised to see them go either direction. This won't be a cakewalk.
We're talkin' Wildcats. Finally, our second preview, focusing on Sunday's dual meet with Northwestern.
On the other hand, this dual looks much more favorable for an Iowa rout.
#4 Iowa (7-1) vs. #17 Northwestern (5-1)
Sunday, January 15; 1pm CT
RADIO: KXIC-800 (free), Hawkeye All-Access ($$$)
TV: Mediacom 22 (free), video.BTN.com/Hawkeye All-Access ($$$)
125: #2 Matt McDonough (JR, 17-1) vs. #7 Levi Mele (19-2)
Mele is a good wrestler who's been tearing through opponents this year (eleven bonus point wins, including eight pins)... but he's lost to the two best wrestlers he's faced (Jarrod Garnett and Jesse Delgado) and now he faces a Matt McDonough who's been looking better and better with each outing.
McD MAJ DEC Mele (Iowa 4-0)
133: #2 Tony Ramos (SO, 17-1) vs. UN Jameson Oster (FR, 8-7)
An unranked true freshman with a barely above .500 record against Ramos? Bring on the points.
Ramos TECH FALL Oster (Iowa 9-0)
141: #3 Montell Marion (SR, 15-1) vs. UN Colin Shober (RS FR, 11-6) or UN Pat Greco (RS FR, 9-8)
If Friday's match is an opportunity for Marion to prove his bona fides against another high-quality wrestler, this match presents an opportunity for him to prove his ability to dominate a lesser opponent, whether it's Shober or Greco. Hopefully we get a double dose of "good Montell" this weekend.
Marion MAJ DEC Shober/Greco (Iowa 13-0)
149: UN Mike Kelly (RS FR, 11-4) vs. UN Kaleb Friedley (SO, 13-6)
Friedley is a solid wrestler, but not a particularly great one -- in other words, he's probably about on Mike Kelly's level. I think Kelly rides the CHA support to a nice win.
Kelly DEC Friedley (Iowa 16-0)
157: UN Nick Moore (RS FR, 10-4) vs. #3 Jason Welch (JR, 12-0)
If not for Derek St. John's injury, this would have been the spotlight match of the meet, with the national #2 taking on the national #3. Alas, St. John still isn't back, so we won't get a chance to see if he can build upon his 3-0 lifetime record against Welch. Welch figures to be too much for Moore.
Welch MAJ DEC Moore (Iowa 16-4)
165: #9 Mike Evans (RS FR, 16-2) vs. UN Pierce Harger (RS FR, 13-6)
"Pierce" is a really, really perfect name for a jNW wrestler, isn't it? Harger is coming off a win over nationally ranked Ben Jordan (who Evans has also beat), but I think Evans takes care of business here.
Evans DEC Harger (Iowa 19-4)
174: #11 Ethen Lofthouse (SO, 8-3) vs. #9 Lee Munster (RS FR, 15-4)
Since 157 isn't the spotlight match of the meet (due to DSJ's injury), this match becomes the biggest match on the docket. It's also a rematch of the Midlands finals from a weeks ago, won by Munster in a pretty convincing 7-3 decision. Munster was a blue-chip recruit and a big-time talent, so his emergence this year isn't a huge surprise. I hope Lofthouse can avenge his Midlands defeat, but Munster just looked flat-out better than he did in that match.
Munster DEC Lofthouse (Iowa 19-7)
184: UN Jeremy Fahler (RS FR, 8-4) or UN Vinnie Wagner (SR, 5-4) vs. UN Marcus Shrewsbury (JR, 2-7) or UN Robert Kellogg (SR, 2-8)
A lot of uncertainty in terms of the participants of this match, but it really shouldn't matter: Iowa should win and Northwestern should lose. Hell, six of Kellogg's loses have involved bonus points, so this could even be a rare opportunity for Fahler or Wagner to post a big win for Iowa.
Fahler/Wagner DEC Shrewsbury/Kellogg (Iowa 22-7)
197: #19 Grant Gambrall (JR, 6-3) or UN Tomas Lira (SO, 8-6) vs. UN John Schoen (SR, 11-9)
Gambrall only beat Schoen by the skin of his teeth at Midlands a few weeks ago (3-1 in sudden victory), so this figures to be a very tight match. I think Gambrall edges it again.
Gambrall DEC Schoen (Iowa 25-7)
HWT: #8 Bobby Telford (RS FR, 14-2) vs. #19 Mike McMullan (RS FR, 14-6)
And here we have yet another rematch of a very close Midlands match -- Telford won that match 4-2 in sudden victory. Telford's had some struggles of late and McMullan is a quality opponent, but if Telford is really going to vie for All-America honors this year, this is the sort of match he ought to win.
Telford DEC McMullan (Iowa 28-7)