Use this as your open thread for the dual (and anything else this evening), too. -- ross
#4 Ohio State (6-0) vs. #5 Iowa (10-0)
Date: January 4, 2013
Time: 7:04 pm CT
Location: Carver Hawkeye Arena; Iowa City, IA
Television: BTN / Hawkeye All-Access, video.BTN.com (online)
This is a big dual meet for Iowa -- a very big dual meet. Ohio State is Iowa's most difficult opponent by far this season. Iowa's toughest opponent in their first ten duals was Virginia, currently ranked #20 with a 6-2 record. Ohio State is ranked #4 and poses a much bigger threat to Iowa. Of course, this shouldn't be news to anyone who remembers last year's dual meet results -- Ohio State posted one of the most shocking results of the year when they thrashed Iowa, 21-9, their first dual meet win over Iowa since the LBJ administration. The bulk of that team is back on this year's team as well, so yes: they are very good and a very real threat to beat Iowa.
That loss was one of the worst of Brands' tenure at Iowa and one that clearly still rankles him; he's spoken about this meet since the schedule was set this past summer and it certainly seems like a dual that he's had scheduled for a very long time. He ended Iowa's near-constant affiliation with the Midlands tournament (for this year, at least) in order to make sure Iowa was as prepared as humanly possible to take on Ohio State tonight. Make no mistake: this is a win that Brands wants very much.
Revenge aside, though, this is a critical dual for Iowa in the bigger picture, too. For several Iowa wrestlers -- Ramos, Ballweg, Evans -- this is their first taste of an elite-level opponent this season. For others -- Kelly, Telford, Lofthouse -- it's a match against a ranked wrestler who should provide solid competition. Iowa has looked good so far this year, but they've also rarely been tested by any of their early opponents -- that changes tonight. These results are also significant for future seeding decisions. It's an elementary point to make, but wins get you better seeds. Seeds aren't the be-all, end-all, of course, and ultimately if you want to achieve your goals and win trophies, you'll probably have to beat tough opponents... but there's also no reason to make it harder than necessary for yourself.
This is also a meet where the order of the matches could be more important than normal. Iowa would probably prefer to start at 125; with McDonough manning that spot, Iowa always has a great shot of winning (and getting bonus point) and getting the meet started on the right foot. Ohio State would probably prefer to start at 133 or 141; they'll be favorites at both weights and strong results there could enable them to open up a 6-0 (or greater) lead early on, which would deflate the Iowa crowd and possibly plant a seed of doubt in the minds of the Iowa wrestlers. Results have a way of snowballing at times. That stretch of matches from 133-149 is pretty big for Iowa; Iowa won't be favored in any of those matches and three straight losses could embolden Ohio State and lead them to another win over Iowa. Conversely, a win or two for Iowa in those matches could open the floodgates for a massive Iowa win.
Let's look at things weight-by-weight...
125: McD hasn't wrestled since the first meet of Iowa's East Coast swing in December (illness and/or rotation kept him out of the lineup in the other two duals), but he's looked good so far this year: eight wins, and bonus points in seven of 'em. Triggas was out of Ohio State's lineup for the last two years (a regular redshirt in 2011 and an Olympic redshirt in 2012); he's a solid wrestler, but he's not at McD's level. They have one common opponent on the season, Hofstra's Steve Bonnano; McD majored him 10-2, while Triggas beat him 1-0. McD will win and should get bonus points.
133: This is the proverbial heavyweight title fight of the dual: #1 vs. #2. Stieber and Ramos clashed three times last year, with Stieber coming out on top in all three encounters. But Tony got closer in each match, going from a 7-0 loss in the dual to a 5-2 loss in the Big Ten Tournament finals to a 4-2 loss in the NCAA Tournament semifinals. He looked very close to cracking the puzzle that is Stieber in the NCAAs, but just couldn't quite get it done. Since then, Tony has only gotten better: 10-0 and bonus points in all 10 matches this season. Of course, Stieber hasn't been resting on his laurels, either: 15-0 and bonus points in all 15 matches. Neither wrestler has faced the stiffest competition: Ramos' lone win over a ranked wrestler was a 22-8 major decision win over #15 George DiCamillo (Virginia), while Stieber's best wins have been a 12-1 major decision win over #7 Nathan McCormick (Missouri) and a pin in 4:26 against #16 Shelton Mack (Pittsburgh).
There's no great magic trick involved in beating Stieber, but doing the things you need to do to beat him (get a takedown or two, stay out from underneath him) are much easier said than done. To win, Tony needs to be aggressive and push the pace and wear down Stieber-- but do so prudently; he can't do anything that gives Stieber an opportunity to capitalize on a mistake and score points of his own. If he can get an early takedown (or just a takedown in the first period), that would be huge. And he needs to go neutral in either the second or third periods when he has the choice -- Stieber rode him like a carousel horse when they met last year, so the best thing Tony can do to win this time (and in the future) is to avoid that position as much as possible. I think Tony can beat Stieber and I think he will beat him at some point this season. But until I see him do it, I don't feel bold enough to pick him to win.
141: This weight features the second of three matches between wrestlers ranked in the top-10; it might also be the biggest match of Mark Ballweg's career so far. That's a bold statement, but Stieber is also the best wrestler Mark has faced in either of his stints as Iowa's starter at 141. He didn't face a ton of highly-ranked guys two years ago while he filled in for Marion and he hasn't seen many ranked opponent this year, either. And the ones he has faced -- #15 Luke Goettl (Iowa State), then-#18 Anthony Salupo (Lehigh), and #18 Luke Vaith (Hofstra) -- aren't on the same level as Stieber, #2 and 18-0 (10 bonus point wins). We'll get a much better idea of how good Ballweg can be at 141 after this weight. If ever there was a time for Carver magic to propel an Iowa wrestler to an upset win in this dual, this would be the match. I just can't see it happening against Stieber, who hangs in the considerable shadow of his national champion brother, but who's pretty damn good in his own right.
OHIO STATE 6-4
149: This is another match that's a direct rematch from last year's dual; Tessari beat Kelly there, 9-4. Tessari may not wrestle here (Ian Paddock is also listed as an option for OSU at this weight) and he's struggled mightily this year: 7-6, although many of those losses have come against quality opponents. This match is a great measuring stick for Kelly, who's looked impressive in the early going this season and is riding a six-match winning streak. His only losses have been against ranked (or would-be ranked) wrestlers, like Oklahoma State's Jordan Oliver and Josh Kindig, and he owns a win over a ranked wrestler (Shane Welsh of Lehigh). Tessari will be the toughest opponent he's had since the Okie State boys at the beginning of the season. I think he snatches a win for Iowa.
157: Another match where revenge is on the menu. A year ago, St. John made his first attempt to return from his knee injury against Josh Demas and Ohio State. It went badly: he reinjured his knee (and missed another month) and lost 7-3 to Demas, one of the matches that swung the dual in OSU's favor. St. John is healthy and wrestling great this year, so he should have little difficulty flipping that result -- and then some.
165: Moore inherited the 165 spot after Mike Evans moved up to 174; thus far, the results have been mixed. He's 6-2 on the season, although both losses were to ranked wrestlers (#9 Corey Lear, Bucknell; #17 Mark Lewandowski). The good news here? Moore's opponent is likely to be an unranked true freshman, Mark Martin. Martin has a solid record (14-6), but he's not on par with the wrestlers that have beaten Moore this year. Moore wins comfortably.
174: This weight features the third of three matches between opponents ranked in the top-10 -- that is, if Tom Ryan doesn't hold Nick Heflin out of this match against Mike Evans. He's been known to do that in the past to protect his wrestlers' seeds and Heflin has missed a fair amount of action this year for undisclosed reasons, so it's certainly possible he doesn't wrestle here. That said, hopefully he does wrestle here and hopefully he's close to top form, because if he is, he'll provide an excellent measuring stick for Mike Evans at his new weight. Evans has looked good so far, but he's faced overmatched competition for the most part. Heflin presents an opportunity for Evans to record a true statement win, the sort that could rocket him up the rankings at 174 and establish him as a bona fide contender here. I think Evans gets the job done.
184: Ethen has adjusted to his new weight pretty nicely: 9-1, with the lone loss coming against #5 Robert Hamlin (Lehigh). He's also scored bonus points in 7 of those 9 wins, which is great to see. Courts was a highly touted recruit a few years ago (#16 overall, per InterMat; #12 overall, per d1collegewrestling) and he's had a solid season as RS freshman (16-6), but he's not a top wrestler at this weight just yet. This match will probably be closer than we'd like, but ultimately Ethen takes care of business.
197: Burak lost three of his first four matches after earning the starting nod at 197, but he's since won two of this last three matches (getting bonus points in one of them, to boot) and looks to hopefully be turning a corner of sorts this season. Unfortunately, Camp feels like a step too far for Burak at this stage of his career. Camp is 12-5, but 4 of those losses have been to #1 Dustin Kilgore (he's going to be seeing Kilgore in his nightmares for months). He's a talented, explosive athlete who should contend for All-America honors; I'll be satisfied if Burak can just keep this loss to a regular decision. I don't think he'll succeed.
285: Bobby slid into the top-4 with Jarod Trice's loss in the Midlands final last week, but he'll face his toughest challenge yet in this match. Capone is good, but not great: #13 with a 13-3 record. That is better than anyone Telford has faced while amassing his 10-0 record (which includes six bonus point wins), though. These two didn't wrestle at the Iowa-OSU dual a year ago and Rasing beat Capone, 7-3. If Bobby is as good as we think he is, this is a match he wins fairly comfortably.
23-10 would be a comfortable win for Iowa, but that's by no means assured; I projected Iowa to pull upsets at 149 and 174 -- that might not happen, which would push things to a nail-biting 17-16 win for Iowa. And Ohio State could snatch upsets at 165, 184, or 285, which could certainly shake things up. So, yes, I think Iowa wins and I think Iowa wins fairly smoothly... but I can see some obvious potholes for Iowa, too, and things could easily get much rockier for them.
#21 Purdue (9-2) vs. #5 Iowa (10-0)
Date: January 6, 2013
Time: 5:00 pm CT
Location: Carver Hawkeye Arena; Iowa City, IA
Television: Mediacom 22 / no online streams
To be the best of my knowledge, video.BTN.com/Hawkeye All-Access isn't doing an online stream for this dual, but it will be televised by Mediacom. Which is annoying, unless you're a Mediacom customer. Hooray for you guys. In any event, I'm not going to do a full write-up for this dual. If Iowa-Ohio State is a five-course meal, this is the after-dinner dessert -- it's a satisfying way to polish off the meal, but it's not a full-blown meal in its own right. Purdue isn't a bad opponent, but they don't have the strength across all ten weights to seriously challenge Iowa. It doesn't help that most of their best wrestlers, like Eppert and Quiroga, are at weights where Iowa has far superior options.
125: Thomas Gilman, who is probably Iowa's third-stringer at 125 this year, beat Eppert 14-4 earlier this year. McD via mauling. This could easily be a pin.
133: Ramos and Quiroga have never met before, but I expect Tony to make their first encounter a rude one.
141: Nelsen is no match for Ballweg.
149: This is one of the matches Purdue has a shot at winning; Lupo is 14-0, though he hasn't faced great competition. Against common opponents, Kelly has been a bit more impressive -- he beat Matt Spataro (Hofstra), 14-2, while Lupo beat him, 7-3. I like the way Kelly is wrestling now.
157: Churchard is really no match for DSJ.
165: As noted earlier, Moore has done well at 165 against unranked opponents.
174: Welch majored Evans' Iowa teammate, Kris Klapprodt, earlier this season; the 'Stache will get some revenge on Klapp's behalf here.
184: Alex Meyer, a true freshman at Iowa, has two wins over Kissel this season; I think Ethen will be fine here.
197: This is a rough-looking weekend for Burak; I think Atwood gets Purdue's only points of the day.
285: Iowa has to get one pin in this dual, right? I'll say Bobby gets it.
Again, use this as your open thread for the Iowa-Ohio State meet. I'll get a new thread up for the Iowa-Purdue dual.