BHGP THURSDAY Q&A: All About Iowa-Penn State Wrestling

Reese Strickland-US PRESSWIRE

We're talkin' wrestling!

It's Thursday, so that must be Q&A time, right? It's me, RossWB, filling in for your usual Thursday Q&Aer, the inimitable Adam Jacobi, with a special Iowa-PSU wrestling Q&A extravaganza. (Well, extravaganza might be overselling it slightly.) Adam will be back soon to answer your non-wrestling related questions.

Without further ado...

We're doomed! Doooomed! DOOMED!

ahem.

Nah, Iowa's got a shot to win this dual meet for sure. Looking at things weight-by-weight:

125: PSU advantage
133: Big Iowa advantage
141: PSU advantage
149: Slight PSU advantage?
157: Iowa advantage
165: Big PSU advantage
174: Toss-up
184: Big PSU advantage
197: Slight PSU advantage?
285: Iowa advantage

I've got Iowa clearly favored at three weights (133, 157, 285) and a toss-up at another weight (174; Evans and Brown split their two matches last year). Obviously, they need to win all of those matches and then steal a match (or two) where PSU is favored. That's not inconceivable -- PSU's freshman wunderkind pulled off a big upset at home last weekend, when Zain Retherford toppled Ohio State's Logan Stieber at 141... who's to say Iowa's freshman wunderkind (Cory Clark) couldn't pull off a big upset at home this weekend and take down Penn State's Nico Megaludis? Or maybe the upsetter becomes the upsettee this week and Dziewa scores the biggest win of his career and beats Retherford. 149 and 197 have been bugaboo weights for Iowa for several years, but Penn State doesn't have great and/or totally healthy options at those weights right now, so an upset is plausible. Obviously, Iowa's the underdog in this dual... but that was largely true last season, too, and then KICK WHAM GO IOWA AWESOME.

Better health would be a good start. For all the hand-wringing about Iowa's NCAA performance last season, the biggest issue was probably just bad luck: McD was seriously limited by a shoulder injury (as he was all season) and Telford sustained a tournament-ending knee injury in his first match. That's two of the guys we would have expected to go deepest in the tournament and rack up a lot of points for the Hawks and they were compromised and/or eliminated almost from the word "go." That's a pretty big problem.

But Iowa also needs to wrestle better in tournaments. Ever since Penn State nipped Iowa for the Big Ten title four years ago, one of the consistent gaps between the teams has been bonus points. Penn haz 'em, Iowa doesn't. Iowa needs to be more aggressive from the opening whistle and they need to be less willing to settle for easy decisions (or, worse, just hanging on for close decisions). They need to turn 6-7 point decision wins into major decisions. They need to be putting guys on their backs and getting pins. Penn State does that on a pretty consistent basis and that's why their trophy case has been filling up over the last few seasons. Until Iowa is able to get on their level, I'm not sure we'll be adding any of the trophies we covet to our own trophy case.

My immediate reaction after watching Retherford knock off #1-ranked Logan Stieber (and Tony Ramos' personal nemesis) last Sunday was "Fuuuuuuuu----." I thought 141 would be more of a toss-up match in this dual, but if Penn State has a guy who can beat Stieber, things just got a whole lot harder for Iowa. But after thinking about it this week, I don't think an upset is pants-on-head crazy. Retherford is a freshman and he's never wrestled in an atmosphere like Carver's going to have on Saturday night -- that doesn't mean he'll freeze up or anything, but it's a little different when there's 15,000+ people yelling at you and rooting for you to lose. Dziewa is a good wrestler and this is a big opportunity for him to prove himself at this weight. I still think Retherford is the favorite here -- that win over Stieber was a big "the hype is deserved" moment for him -- but I also think it's very possible that Dziewa can get him.

I'm going to defer to Tony on this one:

Telford has only wrestled six matches with a total mat time of 13 minutes and 12 seconds. The only opponent to take him to a full match was Buffalo's James Benjamin where he put up some points winning by major decision 16-3. Lung capacity shouldn't be an issue even with the little mat time he has had this season. Two words all you need to know Junior and Heavyweight.

Perhaps a little pre-game lubrication? Football isn't the only sport you can tailgate for, you know. Admittedly, the forecast for Saturday calls for temps in the 20s, so that may be a bit nippy to be throwing back a few outside. (Although probably still warmer than it was for, say, the Michigan football game.) Luckily, there are a few places not too far from CHA where you can do your pre-game festivities in warmth, like The Wig and Pen. Or Stella -- perhaps you've heard of it.

That said, Iowa-Penn State duals have become a pretty easy sell even for non-wrestling diehards. Carver's going to be chock-full of fans (hopefully 15,000+), the atmosphere is going to be electric, and soft-serve goes just as well with wrestling as it does basketball. Plus, the proverbial fur is usually flying in Iowa-Penn State duals -- both teams are on the more aggressive, offensive-heavy side of the continuum, so there should be a fair amount of action on display Saturday night, as opposed to an Iowa-Oklahoma State dual, which can be a frustrating watch, what with all the deliberate, measured, methodical action stalling on display from the Pokes.

Oh jeez. That's a good question. Unfortunately, I don't know and the Iowa media guide doesn't seem to track that information. I don't know of any websites that track Iowa's all-time results, either, although I imagine that would be a fun (and useful!) undertaking for some intrepid Iowa fan...

The best I can do is provide the five fastest pins in the series dating back to 2004 (that's as far back as the results on Hawkeye Sports go):

5) 2010: Brent Metcalf pinned Frank Molinaro in 3:56
4) 2009: Brent Metcalf pinned Colby Pisani in 2:18
3) 2005: Mark Perry pinned Jarrad Turner in 2:02
2) 2007: The future Mr. Wonderful, Phil Davis, pinned Rick Loera (Iowa) in 1:17
1) 2005: Tim Haas pinned Lucas Magnani (Iowa) in 1:01

FUN FACT: Brent Metcalf pinned his opponent in all three career dual meets against Penn State (he pinned Bubba Jenkins in 2008).

It is NOT sold out yet! You can buy tickets here. Tickets are $15 for adults, $8 for people under 18, and FREE for UI students and kids 5 and under. Buy tickets now if you haven't done so! Help Iowa try to get the dual meet attendance record back from Penn State.

As far as how big of an impact the crowd can have... it's hard to say, but they can certainly help. Iowa has some younger, less-experienced guys in the line-up, like Clark at 125, Dziewa at 141, and Burak (or Brooks) at 197; maybe the energy of the crowd gives them a little extra confidence. Some guys really seem to feed off the crowd, like Ramos, but he would be going full bore in an empty arena, too -- that's just how he's wired. Sometimes a big, energetic crowd can psych out the opposition, but I don't know how likely that is with this Penn State squad -- they have some very experienced guys like Nico, Taylor, Ruth, Matt Brown, and the Altons (if they wrestle). I don't think they're going to be spooked by 15,000 yelling and screaming Iowa fans, unfortunately.

Ah, yes, 149 and 197. Those two weights have given Iowa a lot of grief in recent years. Just when we thought we might have the 197 problem licked for a while after Nathan Burak's promising freshman campaign last year, we run into a new hurdle with him being out of commission with an injury/illness/ailment of some sort. Health hasn't been an issue at 149, but finding a capable wrestler that can, you know, win a few matches has been annoyingly difficult. I think the future is bright for those weights -- Brandon Sorensen is the latest hope for the future for Iowa at 149, and at this point there's no reason to think that he can't do a bang-up job for Iowa at that weight after he redshirts this season.  There's also no indication that Burak's mystery ailment is career-threatening, so he should still have some good years ahead of him at Iowa (and I still hold out hope for his return this season).

But looking ahead like that doesn't necessarily help us out much on Saturday night. I think Kelly gets the call at 149. Grothus has had a few chances to stake his claim this year but he still looks like the same old Brody: not enough effective offense from neutral and not enough good defense to keep matches close, either. That's not a good combination. Kelly isn't a thrilling option and while Iowa doesn't always opt for the safest choice when it comes to disputed starting spots, I think safety-first is the call here. Kelly can probably keep the match closer and, who knows, maybe Saturday night is the night he finally gets that big takedown and scores a key win for the Hawks! Dare to dream, Hawkeye fans, dare to dream. As for 197, Tony thinks Brooks gets the nod there once again and that Burak still isn't ready to return. I'm happy to defer to his knowledge here. Brooks faces some obvious challenges as a 184er wrestling up a weight and Morgan McIntosh will be a steep hill for him to climb if that's who gets the nod for Penn State here (and it sounds like he will), but Brooksy has been a real bright spot for Iowa's lineup so far this year.

* * *

That's all for this week, folks. If you enjoyed this, let me know -- in the comments here or on T witter. I'd be happy to put together another Q&A mailbag (Tweetbag?) for Big Tens and the NCAAs -- or maybe even Midlands if there's interest there.

Also, if you've got any ideas for Iowa-Penn State photoshops/MS Paint masterpieces that you want to see, post 'em in the comments. We're working on an Iowa-PSU photoshop thread for tomorrow afternoon and we can always use a few more ideas...

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