A rivalry is renewed.
#4 IOWA (5-0) VS. IOWA STATE (0-1)
Date: December 1, 2012
Time: 7:30pm CT
Location: Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City, IA
Television: Mediacom 22; video.BTN.com/Hawkeye All-Access
Line: lol you can't bet on college wrestling
There was a time when this dual meet was arguably the toughest meet on Iowa's schedule, when this meet was a clash between two titans of the sport, and when this meet was dripping with national significance and ranked wrestlers facing off against ranked opponents. That time ended when Cael Sanderson took his talents to State College, PA. Since ol' Cueball left his alma mater in the lurch to ride the bounty of local talent to back-to-back NCAA championships at Penn State, Iowa State has been in a tailspin -- and it doesn't seem like they'll be emerging from the muck anytime soon.
It's possible that Iowa will skunk Iowa State tomorrow night. It really is possible that Iowa will win every single match in the dual and that the final score will wind up looking like the sort of lopsided number we see Iowa hang on the likes of Iowa Central and Cornell College. There isn't a single weight where Iowa State has a decided advantage; at best, there are a handful of weights where they have slight advantages or where there's no advantage for either side (ye olde "PUSH"). I don't actually think that Iowa will shut out Iowa State -- I think they'll win a match, maybe two -- but still: the fact that it's even legitimately possible is staggering. What a stunning decline for this rivalry.
As far as the meet itself... I expect McD and Ramos to overwhelm their opponents and pick up bonus points for Iowa. Ballweg-Goettl should be a more competitive bout and it will be a nice measuring stick match for Ballweg; if he's as good as we think/hope he is, he should win this match. Iowa's woes at 149 have been well-documented, but Iowa State apparently might be down to their third-string option at this weight on Saturday night; I think Iowa's 149er (whether it's Kelly, Grothus, or Rhoads) can score a win. St. John should roll over Molina (or Trent Weatherman, if he gets the nod at 157 instead), meaning that the score at the halfway point could easily be around 20-0 in favor of Iowa.
Moreno has a 6-0 record, although he hasn't faced anyone of particular quality yet. Moore has a 3-0 record (officially), although he also hasn't faced anyone of particular quality, so this should be a solid match. That said, I'm pretty high on Moore at 165, so I think he'll win easily here. At 174, Mikey England, a fringe top-20 guy, should provide a decent test for either Gambrall or Evans. It seems like Brands is leaning toward Gambrall getting the nod in this match, but Evans will be weighing in at 174, so... you never know. I'm curious to see who goes at this weight -- and how good he looks. Beard is another low-end top-20 guy, but he should be one of the tougher guys Lofthouse has faced since moving up to 184; how well Ethen does against him may tell us a little bit more about what to expect from him at his new weight. 197 is the one weight where Iowa State has its clearest advantage; Kyven Gadson is a solid wrestler who would probably be ranked higher if he wasn't returning from an injury that kept him out of action for almost all of last season; if he's recovered well, he beats whoever Iowa sends out at this weight (likely Burak, although Tomas Lira and Jeremy Fahler are also listed on the "Probable Lineups" card). On the other hand, if he's still rusty or not yet in-shape, the Iowa wrestler will have a definite shot here. This is the one match where I lean Iowa State, though. At heavyweight, Telford faces his first ranked opponent of the season in Gibson; Gibson is a big guy, so we should get to see if all that weight training Bobby did in the off-season will pay off.
I don't think the upper weights will be as much of a blowout for Iowa as the lower weights -- I'd still favor Iowa in most of the matches, but bonus points figure to be harder to come by. Still, the end result for this dual should be an Iowa rout. On current quality alone, this isn't much of a rivalry.
WEIGHTY MATTERS OF SIGNIFICANCE. The big news out of Iowa this week was the fact that Mike Evans has moved up to 174, seemingly on a permanent basis.
Iowa coach Tom Brands said "right now" the Hawkeyes envision sophomore Mike Evans, the starter last year at 165 pounds, will stay at 174 after bumping up a class last week for the Iowa City Duals.
"The biggest thing with the situation of him moving up is he went down too fast (during the preseason) and it affected his body in a lot of different ways, not just the nutrition and the way he cut his weight," Brands said. "And he’s grown, too, from last year. He’s going to have to be more disciplined."
This move doesn't come as a huge shock; based on message board scuttlebutt the cut to 165 has been tough for Evans (notably, he didn't wrestle there as a HS senior - he wrestled at 174/184 instead) and if he's grown even more since last year, it's not hard to see why the cut to 165 might have become untenable for him. Evans' move clears the way for Moore to become Iowa's unquestioned starter at 165 and should give us an excellent opportunity to see if he can live up to his blue-chip hype. (For the record, I'm excited to see what Moore can do at his natural weight class.) But that takes care of 165 -- what about 174?
It also leaves the Hawkeyes with two returning NCAA qualifiers at 174. Brands said all-American Grant Gambrall is the guy there, for now.
"Evans will dress and weigh in and we’ll see what happens there," Brands said. "That’s a situation where they haven’t been head-to-head and we’re looking for a guy to emerge there. The Virginia meet is not an indication of what Gambrall is capable of, but it’s kind of like he’s in the same mold a little bit. … We want him to emerge from that. He looks better in the room, maybe more of a spark to be offensive and aggressive and score points, but it’s got to translate too."
It seems like Gambrall is still the starter at 174 -- for now. I think he'll have a fairly short leash, though, and if he struggles Brands will turn to Evans. He had some nice things to say about Gambrall and his potential in that quote, but the problem is he's been saying the same things about Gambrall off and on for the last two years. Gambrall has had ample opportunities to strut his stuff and impress; unfortunately, he has regularly failed to do so (that one magical 3rd place finish in the NCAA Tournament aside). But in years past there's also been a lack of options behind Gambrall; no matter how inconsistent he was at 184 or 197, he was still hands-down the best option Iowa had at that weight. That may no longer be the case with Evans also lurking at 174. I think this move will either light a fire under Gambrall and give us the best, most consistent Gambrall yet -- or it will pave the way for him to hit the bench. He wouldn't be the first talented starter to give way to an underclassmen (see: Clark, Tyler and Rasing, Blake).
The big question is what this move means for Iowa's NCAA point potential. Does Iowa have a better lineup with Evans-Gambrall-Lofthouse at 165-174-184 or with Moore-Evans-Lofthouse at 165-174-184? Or Moore-Gambrall-Lofthouse? I would discount that possibility -- I think Iowa's best lineup includes Mike Evans (which means I also think that he will take over the 174 starting spot at some point this season). It really depends on how well Moore looks at 165 and how well Evans looks at 174, and we won't know the answer there until we see them in action at those weights. I like Evans' potential to finish higher than Gambrall at 174, though, and I'm very high on Moore's potential at 165. I'm cautiously optimistic about this move.
WACKY MISMATCHED TAG TEAM PARTNERS. Meanwhile, the Register also spilled the beans on the growing bromance between Iowa head coach Tom Brands and Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson, two long-time enemies who've found common ground in their opposition to the proposed changes to the National Duals/NCAA Tournament.
A plot line continues to develop as college wrestling’s season hits stride — the Iowa State at Iowa dual is Saturday — with two unlikely allies slugging it out on the same side of the mat. News flash: Iowa coach Tom Brands and Penn State coach Cael Sanderson are ... well ... just a little bit chummy.
It might fall short of Hatfields hugging McCoys or cats and dogs sharing a condo, but the melting tensions would be the envy of even the most stubborn 1960s-era Russian and American military leaders debating about Cuba.
Brands and Sanderson joined forces this year to shape and steer possible changes to the National Duals, helping sideline a plan that would have affected the current structure of the eight-decades-old NCAA championship. The proposal would have shifted how team title-winners are decided (individual points at the championship in March) to a dual tournament event in February.
Two of the most iconic names in the sport suddenly found themselves aligned, leading a group shouting, "No — over my dead singlet."
Both Sanderson and Brands have been outspoken opponents of the proposal to make the National Duals a true national tournament (and, more importantly, decide the NCAA national team champion) and apparently their shared dislike of that concept has led to them spending more time together. I don't share their strong opposition to this plan -- and neither does Dan Gable, for that matter -- but I do think it could be tweaked and improved. But I'm sure we'll have plenty of time to discuss any changes that are proposed or actually implemented in the future -- let's get back to the really troubling stuff: Brands and Sanderson texting each other like BFFs.
"Funny story ... it got really heated in an early vote," Brands said of talks this summer that led to a summit meeting last month in Chicago. "I sent (Sanderson) a text that said, ‘Let’s get this stuff over with so I can go back to hating you.’ "
YES, PLEASE. This team-up just feels unnatural and wrong. It's like finding out that Megatron and Optimus Prime hang out together and have a few beers in-between episodes of Transformers. Or like finding out that Cobra Commander and Duke are on a league bowling team together. Or like any number of WWE tag teams featuring partners who hate each other but are forced to team up. It's just not right. Get back to hating each other, Tom and Cael. Restore the natural order.