(This post can also serve as your open thread for the semifinals and finals of the NWCA National Duals today. Iowa-Minnesota gets going at 2pm and the finals are at 6pm. There's radio coverage on Hawkeye All-Access and KXIC 800 AM, and video coverage via live internet stream at www.livesportsvideo.com)
A week ago, Iowa entered the Ames regional of the NWCA National Duals tournament with a chance of getting a pair of rematches: a semifinal date with UNI and a finals date with Iowa State or (snicker) Wisconsin*. In the end, there were no rematches on the menu -- Iowa thumped Virginia Tech in the semis and eased past Oregon State in the finals. The "no rematches" run ends today, though: no matter who Iowa faces in the semis, finals, or consolation finals this weekend in Stillwater, the ensuing dual will be a rematch of a dual from earlier this season. Iowa went 2-1 in those duals, beating Minnesota and Illinois and losing (on a tiebreaker) to Oklahoma State, but all three duals were so close that it wouldn't take much to imagine results that went the opposite way. Which is a long-winded way of saying: good luck trying to predict the outcome today.
* OK, that was never happening because there's no way this year's Wisconsin team was beating one of the other teams in that regional, let alone two. But it was a technical possibility!
The only one of those three Iowa's guaranteed to face is our dreaded neighbors to the north. If Iowa beats Minnesota, they'll likely face Oklahoma State in the finals. If they lose to the Gophers (ugh), they'll more than likely face Illinois in the consolation finals.
One of the subplots of all the rematches this weekend is that they're really just setting the stage for... more rematches at the Big Ten Tournament in two weeks. That's just the way it goes when 75% of the final four comes from the Big Ten and each team has a number of guys ranked highly at their respective weights. At 125, McDonough and Sanders are almost certainly on a collision course to a meeting in the Big Ten finals (and, quite possibly, in the NCAA finals as well). Ramos figures to see either B.J. Futrell (Illinois) or Chris Dardanes (Minn) at Big Tens. There's also a chance that Marion could see Nick Dardanes (Marion) at Big Tens (though they also might be on opposite sides of the bracket). At 149, Dylan Ness (Minn) and Eric Terrazas (Illinois) could tussle at Big Tens, while we could see Round 3 between Evans and Cody Yohn (Minn) at 165, too. Ethen Lofthouse may face either Jordan Blanton (Illinois) or Logan Storley (Minn) again at 174, just as Grant Gambrall might see Kevin Steinhaus (Minn) again at 184.
But let's look at each potential opponent. First up: Minnesota.
#4 Iowa (13-3) vs. #3 Minnesota (12-3)
125: #1 Matt McDonough (JR, 25-1) DEC #2 Zach Sanders (SR, 23-1) (Iowa 3-0)
133: #3 Tony Ramos (SO, 24-2) DEC #8 Chris Dardanes (RS FR, 21-5) (Iowa 6-0)
141: #5 Montell Marion (SR, 22-2) DEC #8 Nick Dardanes (RS FR, 17-5) (Iowa 9-0)
149: #10 Dylan Ness (RS FR, 17-6) DEC UN Mike Kelly (RS FR, 14-9) (Iowa 9-3)
157: UN Nick Moore (RS FR, 12-7) or UN Derek St. John (SO, 12-2) DEC UN Alec Ortiz (SO, 11-9) (Iowa 12-3)
165: #6 Mike Evans (RS FR, 22-4) DEC #14 Cody Yohn (JR, 15-7) (Iowa 15-3)
174: #8 Ethen Lofthouse (SO, 18-6) DEC #5 Logan Storley (FR, 21-3) (Iowa 18-3)
184: #7 Kevin Steinhaus (SO, 23-4) DEC UN Vinnie Wagner (SR, 9-8) or UN Grant Gambrall (JR, 7-7) (Iowa 18-6)
197: #7 Sonny Yohn (SR, 20-4) DEC UN Tomas Lira (SO, 11-10) or UN Vinnie Wagner (SR, 9-8) (Iowa 18-9)
HWT: #4 Tony Nelson (SO, 22-2) (Iowa 18-12) DEC #14 Bobby Telford (RS FR, 20-5) (Iowa 18-12)
Weights where Iowa is favored: 125, 133, 141, 157, 165
Weights where Minn is favored: 149 (big), 174, 184, 197 (big), HWT
This is a difficult dual to project because you can make a fairly good argument for either opponent in almost every single match. McD has never lost to Sanders and is the obvious favorite at 125... but Sanders is very good and it's not impossible to imagine him pulling the upset. The Dardanes twins came very, very close to knocking off Ramos and Marion at the dual a few weeks ago. Ness is the clear favorite at 149 after this bonus point win last time, but Kelly held his own until Ness was able to spring a big move on him. Moore had a solid bonus point win over Ortiz last time, but he's been so inconsistent this year that it wouldn't be a stretch to see him lose to Ortiz in a rematch. Evans is another pretty clear favorite, but Yohn has talent and if Evans wrestles the way he has on occasion this year (vs. Ohio State or Oregon State, for instance), he could falter. Storley beat Lofthouse a few weeks ago, but Lofthouse controlled the first half of that match. Gambrall is expected to go at 184 today and Steinhaus is 2-0 against him, but Gambrall can be very tough at 184. 197 is the one weight where I have a hard time seeing a reversal of outcomes; Iowa's options are just too weak there to beat Yohn. Nelson is a solid favorite at HWT, but we know Telford is good, too.
I ended up not opting for many upsets in my prediction (just Lofthouse at 174, based on his strong performances of late), but again: it would not surprise me to see different results at pretty much every weight here. These teams are very closely matched. Bonus points could also play a factor (last time they gave Iowa the margin of victory). I didn't predict any here, mainly because I expect a lot of cagey, cautious wrestling and few opportunities for bonus points. But they could play a factor in the outcome here, especially at 149 and 197.
#4 Iowa (13-3) vs. #5 Illinois (16-2)
125: #1 Matt McDonough (JR, 25-1) DEC #6 Jesse Delgado (RS FR, 26-4) (Iowa 3-0)
133: #3 Tony Ramos (SO, 24-2) DEC #4 B.J. Futrell (JR, 24-3) (Iowa 6-0)
141: #5 Montell Marion (SR, 22-2) DEC UN Daryl Thomas (JR, 13-10) (Iowa 9-0)
149: #19 Eric Terrazas (SR, 20-7) DEC UN Mike Kelly (RS FR, 14-9) (Iowa 9-3)
157: UN Nick Moore (RS FR, 12-7) DEC UN Jackson Morse (SO, 10-10) (Iowa 12-3)
165: #6 Mike Evans (RS FR, 22-4) DEC #12 Conrad Polz (JR, 17-2) (Iowa 15-3)
174: #8 Ethen Lofthouse (SO, 18-6) DEC #9 Jordan Blanton (JR, 21-3) (Iowa 18-3)
184: UN Vinnie Wagner (SR, 9-8) or UN Grant Gambrall (JR, 7-7) DEC UN Tony Delgado (SO, 18-8) (Iowa 21-3)
197: #18 Mario Gonzalez (SO, 18-6) DEC UN Tomas Lira (SO, 11-10) (Iowa 21-6)
HWT: #14 Bobby Telford (RS FR, 20-5) DEC UN Pat Walker (JR, 12-14) (Iowa 24-6)
Weights where Iowa is favored: 125, 133, 141 (big),165, 174, HWT
Weights where Illinois is favored: 197
Toss up: 149, 157, 184
On paper, this dual would appear quite slanted in Iowa's favor. But... Delgado could beat McD again at 125, Futrell could beat Ramos (as he had done in every meeting until this season) at 133, Blanton could beat Lofthouse at 174, Illinois could win all three toss-up weights (149, 157, and 184), and Polz could upset Evans at 165. It would take several of those things happening for Illinois to win, making it a big of a worst-case scenario, but we've seen worst case scenarios play out this season: see the damnable Ohio State dual.
But if Iowa and Illinois do meet up tonight, I think Iowa will prevail fairly comfortably. Ramos and Lofthouse are 2-0 against their respective opponents and while that doesn't mean they'll always beat Futrell and Blanton, they're certainly worthy favorites today. I think McD will avenge his loss to Delgado and that Marion will win comfortably against Thomas. I think Moore will get a big win for himself against Morse and that Evans will continue his hot streak against Polz. I think Gambrall will get his first win of the year at 184 and that Telford will regain some of his December form against Walker. That is, if Iowa and Illinois do tangle tonight. If not...
#4 Iowa (13-3) vs. #1 Oklahoma State (14-0)
125: #1 Matt McDonough (JR, 25-1) MAJ DEC #13 Jon Morrison (SO, 17-5) (Iowa 4-0)
133: #1 Jordan Oliver (JR, 18-1) DEC #3 Tony Ramos (SO, 24-2) (Iowa 4-3)
141: #5 Montell Marion (SR, 22-2) DEC #12 Josh Kindig (SO, 12-7) (Iowa 7-3)
149: #2 Jamal Parks (SR, 24-0) DEC UN Mike Kelly (RS FR, 14-9) (Iowa 7-6)
157: #12 Albert White (SR, 22-5) DEC UN Nick Moore (RS FR, 12-7) or UN Derek St. John (SO, 12-2) (OSU 9-7)
165: #6 Mike Evans (RS FR, 22-4) DEC UN Dallas Bailey (SO, 13-9) (Iowa 10-9)
174: #3 Chris Perry (SO, 20-0) DEC #8 Ethen Lofthouse (SO, 18-6) (OSU 12-10)
184: UN Vinnie Wagner (SR, 9-8) or UN Grant Gambrall (JR, 7-7) DEC UN Chris McNeil (SR, 10-4) (Iowa 13-12)
197: #8 Blake Rosholt (SO, 16-2) or UN Cayle Byers (SR, 15-3) DEC UN Tomas Lira (SO, 11-10) (OSU 15-13)
HWT: #2 Alan Gelogaev (JR, 15-1) MAJ DEC #14 Bobby Telford (RS FR, 20-5) (OSU 19-13)
Weights where Iowa is favored: 125, 141,165
Weights where Okie St is favored: 149, 157, 174, 197, HWT
Toss up: 133, 184
What does Iowa need to do to beat Okie State if they draw them in the finals?
* They need to win the three weights they're clearly favored at (125, 141, and 165) and get bonus points if at all possible.
* They need to win the two matches that are a toss-up (133, 184).
* And it wouldn't hurt if they pulled an upset at one of the weights where Okie State is favored (149, 157, 174, 197, HWT); 157 and 174 look like the best bets, since Moore and Lofthouse were competitive with White and Perry last time.
What do I think will happen?
* They'll win at 125, 141, and 165, but only McD will get bonus points with a major decision in the last few seconds.
* They'll split the toss-up matches, with Gambrall notching a win at 184, but Oliver evening up the series with Ramos at 1-1. Why pick Oliver over Ramos this time? He's at home, in better shape now than he was in early January, and should have an even bigger advantage thanks to the weigh-in rules -- he'll have a lot more time to rehydrate and bulk up for this match than he had did at the dual meet.
* And I think Okie State will sweep the matches they're favored in, with the Mad Russian getting another major decision at HWT. He has too much offense for Telford, I'm afraid. Iowa will be doing well to avoid bonus points at 197, too.
Needless to say, I hope I'm wrong with this prediction if we get Iowa-Okie State in the finals.