Mark Ballweg's very timely double-leg takedown. - Darren Miller (Hawkeye Sports)
Suck it, Gophers.
A little over a year ago, Iowa took on one of their most bitter rivals in a tight, closely contested dual that finished in a 15-15 tie after all ten matches. The meet went to tiebreaker criteria and on that day the rival won, by virtue of more match points (54-51). Saturday Iowa took on one of their most bitter rivals in a tight, closely contested dual that finished in a 15-15 tie after all ten matches. The meet went to tiebreaker criteria and total match points was again the decisive criteria -- but this time it swung in Iowa's favor (41-33).
Iowa and Minnesota each won five matches on Saturday and each was a decision and nothing more. Iowa came out on top because they were more dominant in their five decision wins than Minnesota was in their five decision wins. That's just how the tiebreaker cookie crumbles.
In truth, both teams could rue missed opportunities and officiating decisions that cost them potential major decisions (which might have removed tiebreakers from the equation). The ref was slow to call a stalemate at the end of Tony Ramos' match at 133, denying him a restart and another shot for a takedown that would have locked up a major. On the other hand, the ref seemed a bit quick to call a stalemate at the end of Nick Moore's match at 165, which allowed Cody Yohn (who had been flat on the mat and virtually motionless) another shot to escape or notch a reversal (exactly what he did). But Minnesota could feel free to gripe about the fact that Dylan Ness was only given two nearfall points in one sequence where he seemed to spending a lot of time putting Mike Kelly on his back. Ultimately, Iowa seemed to be the ones pushing the pace most of the time and seeking more opportunities to score, so getting the benefit of the doubt via the tiebreaker seemed like a just result for Iowa.
125: Honestly, a 6-3 decision win for McD wasn't all that different from what I expected out of this match before the meet. Thorn has kept the score close against several top wrestlers this year, so I wasn't surprised that he was able to do the same against McDonough. It was a little alarming that McD gave up the first takedown and had to fight back, but he battled back brilliantly, going from 2-0 down near the end of the 2nd period to an eventual 6-3 win. Not a great win, but certainly not a bad one.
133: Tony Ramos has been phenomenal this season, but perhaps the most frustrating aspect of it has been his lack of opportunities to face top-ranked wrestlers. This was only Ramos' second match against a top-10 opponent. He wrestled to a cagey, 3-2 decision win in his first match against a top-10 opponent (#4 Jon Morrison of Oklaoma State), but here he looked more like the aggressive, attack-happy Tony Ramos that we've come to know and love. Ramos had some close calls with Dardanes last season, but he's been increasing the gap between them with every match and that was true again here -- he was never really in much danger from Dardanes, while he was able to finish off several shots -- and was damn close to getting a takedown at the end of the match that would have led to a meet-winning major decision. Not getting the major was a bummer, but Tony definitely wrestled well in this match.
141: The quietest success story on the Iowa team kept up his winning ways with a narrow decision win over the other Dardanes brother. It would have been nice to see Mark take a few more shots before the ultimate match-winner late in the third, but he expertly fended off Dardanes' own shots and when the time came he managed to convert a beautiful shot into a clutch takedown. Overall, a nice showing from Ballweg.
149: The remit here was the same as it was when Iowa took on Oklahoma State a few weeks ago: just don't get majored (or worse). And, well, Mike Kelly did that -- he only lost 8-2. So... hooray? It was still not an impressive showing for Kelly at 149 at all. Ness is a good opponent, of course, but Kelly still got horsed around too easily and, as noted above, could have easily given up more points during a scary sequence where Ness seemed to have Kelly on his back a lot.Kelly did a decent job of battling for a reversal at a few points, but ultimately this weight still looks like a real black hole for Iowa.
157: DSJ won comfortably but wasn't even close to scoring a major decision, which is frustrating. Zilverberg isn't a no-hoper, but Iowa really needs a guy ranked #1 in the country to be putting up more points against unranked competition. If St. John isn't able to ride an opponent and turn him, he needs to be cutting him and shooting for more takedowns. St. John has some very slick shots when he actually goes to his offense.
165: In my preview, I noted that Iowa was going to be the underdog in the last five matches of this dual, which meant that they would need to pull an upset just to tie things up at five matches apiece. I identified 165 and 174 as Iowa's best shots at pulling off an upset. Thanks for making me look smart, Nick Moore! I'm not sure what clicked for Nick Moore over the last few meets -- and I really hope it's a true change and not just a blip -- but this is the Nick Moore that I was excited about watching when it became apparent that Mike Evans was moving up to 174. This is the Nick Moore that dominated the prep ranks at Iowa City West and earned renown as a blue-chip recruit. Moore's offense looked great and he wasn't afraid to shoot -- and keep shooting. He pushed the pace and kept looking for points, something he's struggled to do at times this year. He was also a hammer on top, turning Yohn for some much-needed back points and riding him incredibly hard in the third period. He should have rode him out that entire period and picked up an 8-0 major decision win, but a combination of a questionable stalemate call from the official and a brainfart from Moore upon the restart led to a reversal for Yohn. That was really the only blemish for Moore in an otherwise very strong showing. More of this, please, Nick.
174: This was the other match in the upper weights where I felt Iowa had a good shot to pull off an upset. Unfortunately, this match, like Burak's near-miss at 197 and the almost-major decisions at 133 and 165 were part of the series of horseshoe matches Iowa wrestlers put on the board on Saturday: close, but not all the way there. This match, like the Chris Perry match a few weeks ago, confirmed that Mike Evans isn't far behind the top guys at 174; the next step is actually beating guys like Perry and Storley. I think he definitely can beat those guys -- and hopefully he proves me right at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. Evans was the victim of a reversed takedown call after instant replay (which became even more costly when Storley grabbed a takedown of his own seconds later) and was very, very close to getting a match-winning takedown in the final seconds, but he just couldn't quite untangle himself from Storley. The two things he needs to work on before facing guys like Perry an Storley again: finish those shots when he gets in deep on an opponent and be tougher on top. It's weird to say that Evans needs to be tougher on top, considering that he's often an absolute hammer in that position, but against Storley, Perry, and Nick Heflin, Evans has struggled to control guys on top and given up quick escapes or reversals, which is problematic. Evans is very close to the top of the heap at this weight -- he just needs to break through.
184: Sigh. As frustrating as Iowa's struggles at 149 are, they're at least somewhat understandable -- Iowa's talent at that weight is severely depleted. Iowa's struggles at 184 are also frustrating but Iowa can't really fall back on the "lack of talent" point here. Ethen Lofthouse may not be a national title-contending threat, but he's not a scrub. Which is why it's so maddening to see him turtle up and wrestle so passively at times. Steinhaus was always going to be a difficult opponent for Ethen to beat... but he's impossible to beat when Ethen is so reluctant to shoot. He kept the score from escalating into a major decision, but Ethen should be better than that.
197: The rise of Nick Moore over the past few meets has been one of the most pleasant surprises for this Iowa team; the steady improvement of Nathan Burak at 197 has been the other most pleasant surprise for this team. Burak came up short in this match, but it sure as hell wasn't for lack of trying. Ethen Lofthouse's biggest problem is his inability to commit to a shot; Burak's biggest problem is his inability to finish a shot. He was looking a bit Luke Lofthouse-ish at times on Saturday in his ability to get to an opponent's leg but then be unable to finish. That was frustrating to see, but Burak still looks worlds better than he did just 4-6 weeks ago. He's really making strides this season; if continues to do so, the future will not only be bright in the long term (he's just a freshman after all, so he could have three years as a starter ahead of him), but also in the short term (he doesn't look remotely intimidated by ranked opponents right now and he's been right there with several of them, which could bode well for him at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments).
285: Bobby, Bobby, Bobby, can't you see -- sometimes your inactivity just hypnotizes me... Sigh. This match was a virtual carbon copy of Bobby's matches with Nelson last year: three minutes of nothing in the first period, followed by a Nelson escape in the second or third and a ride-out of Bobby in the other period. There was a slight difference this year -- Nelson gave Bobby a meaningless escape with 6-7 seconds left in the third period -- but for the most part this was the exact same fucking match Bobby wrestled (and lost) against Nelson a year ago. The refs really ought to penalize Nelson for his stall-tastic spiral rides (he just hangs on guys and doesn't really try to improve his position or work for nearfalls), but more than anything I really, really hope that Bobby chooses not to go underneath Nelson the next time they wrestle. An escape just isn't going to happen. I'd much rather see Bobby work from neutral and try to tire Nelson out and score a takedown that way. Granted, that would require Bobby to actually take more shots, but he was in pretty deep on one of Nelson's legs in the first period of this match -- the odds of something good happening for Bobby seem much better from neutral than on the mat being ridden by Nelson.
NEXT: Oh, just a showdown with a little team named "two-time defending national champion Penn State." No biggie.