(EDIT: Just use this thread as an open thread for the Iowa-OSU dual. - RB)
Of men and monkeys. The last time Iowa lost a dual meet in Big Ten competition? February 18, 2007, to then-#1 Minnesota. Since then they've run off 39 consecutive dual meet wins against B1G foes, including a 4-0 mark this weekend. But Iowa's two duals this weekend, a Friday night roadtrip to Ohio State and a Sunday afternoon delight against at Penn State will be two very stiff tests for Iowa's flawless B1G dual meet mark. One of the things that makes these dual meets so intriguing is the very different ways that each opponent poses a threat to Iowa. Ohio State will challenge Iowa's strengths, while Penn State will challenge their weaknesses.
Ohio State has four top-ten wrestlers, but three of them (133, 141, and 174) are at weights where Iowa also has top-ten wrestlers. Iowa's challenge in the Ohio State dual will be twofold: is their strength stronger than Ohio State's strength? And is their weakness less weak than Ohio State's weakness? (That phrasing was a little awkward, but you catch my drift.) This dual presents a huge number of 50-50 matches, which makes it very difficult to predict the outcome -- but should also make for a dramatic, exciting dual meet.
Penn State, on the other hand, is the funhouse mirror image of Iowa; where our strengths lie in the lower weights, theirs lie in the middle and upper weights. Iowa has three wrestlers ranked in the top-3 from 125-141; Penn State has three wrestlers ranked in the top-2 from 165-184. Iowa figures to be heavy favorites at three weights (125, 133, and 141), while Penn State figures to be heavy favorites at four weights (149, 165, 174, 184). That leaves three weights without a heavy favorite (157, 197, HWT); the outcome at those weights will be vital in deciding the dual and any upsets could be a debilitating blow for either side. And then there's the matter of bonus points. Iowa's recent duals against their other major rival (Oklahoma State) have been marked by a lack of bonus points, but that doesn't figure to be the case on Sunday. McD and Ramos have been bonus point machines this year (McD has bonus points in 16/19 wins, Ramos has bonus points in 14/19 wins), but Penn State has their own bonus point machines: David Taylor (bonus in 17/18 wins), Ed Ruth (16/19 wins), Frank Molinaro (15/19 wins), and Quentin Wright (14/16 wins). Taylor and Ruth are facing top-ten ranked opponents (though that hasn't necessarily stopped them from getting bonus points in the past), but there is a lot of potential for bonus points in this match. It will be critical for Iowa to (a) make the most of their own chances to get bonus points and (b) limit Penn State's chances to get bonus points.
Of course, there's also the matter of some notable monkeys on the backs of Iowa's opponents. Ohio State coach Tom Ryan has never beaten Iowa -- but that puts him in standard company among OSU coaches. Iowa's won 34 straight dual meets against Ohio State and has an overall record of 36-2 against the Buckeyes. Hello, domination. But the more publicized monkey is sure to be the one on Cael Sanderson's back -- he's 0-9 against Iowa (and Tom Brands) as a coach. He never beat him at Iowa State (that includes meetings at the National Duals as well as their annual dual showdown) and he hasn't been able to do it at Penn State, either. Penn State fans -- and probably Sanderson, too -- will no doubt remind us that they got the last laught last year by winning the Big Ten and NCAA titles, and they'd be right. But I'm sure that 0-9 mark irritates Sanderson (who's used to the "0" being on the other side of the win-loss record) and he'd love to finally get a dual meet win over Iowa.
For Iowa, the time for screwing around is over -- it's time to get into shape for the season's final home stretch. Shit gets real in terms of the schedule now: they have a pair of top-ten road tests this weekend, then a home dual with Minnesota (also a top-ten team) next week, and close the season with their last remaining lay-up, a home dual with Wisconsin. Then it's time for the National Duals (or "Mat Mayhem," as it's being called) and after that it's time to get ready for the Big Ten Tournament and the NCAA Tournament.
Let's look at each dual...
#3 Iowa (9-1, 4-0 B1G) at #10 Ohio State (8-2, 2-2 B1G)
Friday, January 20, 6pm CT
TV: video.BTN.com/Hawkeye All-Access ($$$)
RADIO: AM-800 KXIC (free) or Hawkeye All-Access ($$$)
125: #2 Matt McDonough (JR, 19-1) vs. #15 Johnni Dijulius (FR, 13-8)
Dijulius is a decent wrestler, but McD has been really ramping up his performance lately. He took apart a top-ten wrestler in jNW's Levi Mele last week, so I don't forsee him having too much difficulty with Dijulius.
McD MAJ DEC Dijulius (Iowa 4-0)
133: #2 Tony Ramos (SO, 19-1) vs. #4 Logan Stieber (RS FR, 18-1)
Here's the showcase match for this dual, as well as a potential Big Ten Tournament final (and NCAA Tournament semifinal?) rematch. Stieber is an excellent wrestler -- he handled Devin Carter (6-1), the only wrestler who's beaten Ramos this year and he's destroyed Purdue's Cashe Quiroga (a solid wrestler) twice. This will be a good test for Tony... but he's been answering every test (sans the Carter match at Midlands) brilliantly so far this year. I can't pick against him now.
Ramos DEC Stieber (Iowa 7-0)
141: #3 Montell Marion (SR, 17-1) vs. #7 Hunter Stieber (FR, 17-3)
This might be the other showcase match of the dual, with the younger Stieber brother taking on the unpredictable Marion. Stieber notched one of the season's most surprising wins (a 6-5 takedown of Michigan's Kellen Russell) earlier in the year, but he was also beaten badly by Nebraska's Jake Sueflohn (10-2), who Marion just beat last week. Marion probably had his best performances of the year last weekend -- that Marion is the one that needs to show up here. I think he will.
Marion DEC Stieber (Iowa 10-0)
149: UN Mike Kelly (RS FR, 12-5) vs. #16 Cam Tessari (FR, 14-5) or UN Alex Gordon (RS FR, 4-7)
This one depends a lot on the match-up; if it's Gordon, Kelly should have an excellent opportunity to add another B1G win to his resume, but if it's Tessari it will be a much tougher proposition. That said, Tessari isn't a worldbeater and his best win on the season is probably his late pin of Minnesota's Dylan Ness last weekend. This will be a very winnable match for Kelly, regardless of who OSU sends out. I just don't have that much confidence in Kelly yet.
Tessari DEC Kelly (Iowa 10-3)
157: UN Nick Moore (RS FR, 10-6) or #2 Derek St. John (SO, 11-0) vs. UN Josh Demas (RS FR, 15-6)
The official Iowa release doesn't list DSJ as being available for this dual, but I've heard that he will be available. Of course, if he does wrestle the question becomes -- how healthy is he? How sharp is he? How good is he now? If he goes, I think he wins a fairly close match. If he doesn't go, I think Moore-Demas is basically a toss-up, but I'd probably have to lean Demas because Moore has struggled so much this year.
DSJ DEC Demas (Iowa 13-3)
165: #6 Mike Evans (RS FR, 18-2) vs. UN Derek Garcia (FR, 10-7)
Here's a rare mismatch in Iowa's favor and it's imperative that Evans takes advantage and takes Garcia behind the proverbial woodshed. I think he'll do enough to get a major.
Evans MAJ DEC Garcia (Iowa 17-3)
174: #9 Ethen Lofthouse (SO, 10-3) vs. #8 Nick Heflin (SO, 18-2)
Yet another primetime showdown in this dual; don't be surprised if we see several rematches from this dual in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament. This should be a close match: despite his gaudy record, Heflin doesn't blow out many opponents (only 2/18 wins have included bonus points) and Lofthouse rarely gets steamrolled. Edge to Heflin because he's at home and Lofthouse has looked like a different wrestler away from CHA.
Heflin DEC Lofthouse (Iowa 17-6)
184: UN Jeremy Fahler (RS FR, 8-4) or UN Vinnie Wagner (SR, 6-5) vs. #10 C.J. Magrum (JR, 14-3)
Wagner will try hard and keep it close for a while, but he'll go down in the end.
Magrum DEC Wagner (Iowa 17-9)
197: UN Grant Gambrall (JR, 7-4) or UN Tomas Lira (SO, 8-6) vs. UN Andrew Campolattano (FR, 12-7)
Gambrall can win this match -- it's definitely doable. On the other hand, that means he'll need to be more active than he's been in pretty much every match and actually take more than one shot per match. Let's just say I don't have much faith in that happening right now.
Campolattano DEC Gambrall (Iowa 17-12)
HWT: #12 Bobby Telford (RS FR, 14-4) or UN Blake Rasing (SR, 12-4) vs. #15 Peter Capone (SO, 12-7)
Telford is in the midst of a giant funk (four consecutive losses), which raises the possibility of Brands shaking things up and giving Blake Rasing an opportunity to strut his stuff. Either way, I think Telford either shakes off his losing streak or Rasing picks up a big win for the team.
Telford/Rasing DEC Capone (Iowa 20-12)
This meet could swing OSU's way, though: just flip the results at two of these four weights -- 133, 141, 157, and HWT -- and Iowa picks up a second loss to an OSU team this year. On the other hand, it wouldn't take much to see Iowa wins at 149 or 197, either, which could pave the way for a comfortable Iowa win. This one is hard to call.
#3 Iowa (9-1, 4-0 B1G) vs. #1 Penn State (7-1, 3-1 B1G)
Sunday, January 22, 1pm CT
TV: BTN (same-day delay at 9pm CT); no live video coverage
RADIO: AM-800 KXIC (free), Hawkeye All Access ($$$)
125: #2 Matt McDonough (JR, 19-1) vs. #8 Nico Megauludis (FR, 16-4)
Nico is good and certainly potentially good enough to hold this match to a decision... but McD seems to be on a mission right now. And, as we've seen in the OSU match, he knows how to answer the bell when the pressure is on for him to help out the team. The team needs bonus points from him and I think he'll get them.
McD MAJ DEC Megaludis (Iowa 4-0)
133: #2 Tony Ramos (SO, 19-1) vs. UN Frank Martellotti (SO, 6-1)
A year ago, Ramos scored the biggest win of his young career at this dual in the shocking upset of Andrew Long. Long is gone, though, and his replacement isn't nearly as good. Ramos should be able to pick up bonus points for Iowa here, too.
Ramos MAJ DEC Martellotti (Iowa 8-0)
141: #3 Montell Marion (SR, 17-1) vs. UN Bryan Pearsall (JR, 10-6)
Again: Iowa needs bonus points out of these first three weights to have a chance at winning this dual. The more the better. If the Marion that wrestled this past weekend turns up again here, he should be able to get some for Iowa.
Marion MAJ DEC Pearsall (Iowa 12-0)
149: UN Mike Kelly (RS FR, 12-5) vs. #1 Frank Molinaro (SR, 19-0)
Molinaro has been on a tear this year and looks like the odds-on favorite to win the national title. Kelly has had his struggles since taking over 149 permanently and frankly just holding this to a decision would be an accomplishment. He'll need to wrestle as well as he did against Jake Patascil in the Midlands to have a chance here. I think Molinaro takes him apart, unfortunately.
Molinaro MAJ DEC Kelly (Iowa 12-4)
157: UN Nick Moore (RS FR, 10-6) or #2 Derek St. John (SO, 11-0) vs. #8 Dylan Alton (RS FR, 14-4)
This could be a crucial swing match for the dual. If DSJ can go (and is healthy/sharp/etc.), Iowa will have a great chance to win it -- although it wouldn't be a shock to see Alton pull off the upset (especially if DSJ is, as you might expect, a little rusty). If Moore goes, I think Alton definitely wins. My hunch is DSJ wrestles and wins a very close match.
DSJ DEC Alton (Iowa 15-4)
165: #6 Mike Evans (RS FR, 18-2) vs. #1 David Taylor (SO, 17-0)
Evans is riding high after a triumphant performance against Nebraska's Robert Kokesh last week but he'll need to wrestle the match of his life here (although there's also some talk that Taylor has injured ribs and might not be at full-strength here, which would help Evans a lot) to beat Taylor. The way for him to beat Taylor is to attack quickly and aggressively and ride him hard. I just can't see that happening.
Taylor MAJ DEC Evans (Iowa 15-8)
174: #9 Ethen Lofthouse (SO, 10-3) vs. #2 Ed Ruth (SO, 19-0)
And here's one of the dual's lone ranked v. ranked showdowns. Ethen came achingly close to beating him a year ago at Big Tens, but I have a hard time seeing that happen again right now. Maybe if the dual was at CHA, where Ethen seems to draw additional power, he'd have a chance. But here and now in Happy Valley? I don't see it. Ruth has been on a monstrous tear and I think he'll take Ethen apart.
Ruth MAJ DEC Lofthouse (Iowa 15-12)
184: UN Jeremy Fahler (RS FR, 8-4) or UN Vinnie Wagner (SR, 6-5) vs. #2 Quentin Wright (JR, 16-2)
This might be the biggest mismatch of the entire weekend, frankly. Wright is going to destroy whichever guy Iowa sends out there. It would be very helpful if they could hold that loss to a decision, but I don't have much confidence in that. Wright is an excellent pinner (he's got nine so far this year) and I think he'll get another one here.
Wright FALL Wagner (PSU 18-15)
197: UN Grant Gambrall (JR, 7-4) or UN Tomas Lira (SO, 8-6) vs. #12 Morgan McIntosh (FR, 12-5)
Again, another match Gambrall could win... but you've seen his recent matches -- do you have faith in him? I didn't think so.
McIntosh DEC Gambrall (PSU 21-15)
HWT: #12 Bobby Telford (RS FR, 14-3) or UN Blake Rasing (SR, 12-4) vs. #6 Cameron Wade (SR, 16-4)
Another match Iowa could win... but based on recent results, it's too hard to see it happening.
Wade DEC Telford (PSU 24-15)
Needless to say, I hope I'm wrong here. I hope Iowa pulls another shocking upset the way they did a year ago and makes me eat a gigantic portion of crow. But PSU seems like a particularly bad match-up for Iowa and I think they'll take full advantage of that and hand the Hawks their most comprehensive loss in five years.