#3 Iowa hosted #5 Oklahoma State at Carver-Hawkeye Arena last night and despite the close rankings, both on the team level and the individual level, and the recent history of tight results in this series (it was just a few years ago that Oklahoma State ended Iowa's 84-meet unbeaten streak by beating them on the tiebreaking criteria after the teams tied 15-15 in the dual), this one wasn't close. Iowa won 8 of 10 matches and cruised to a 24-6 win in the dual...or did they?
While the final result was a lopsided rout in favor of Iowa, there were several matches along the way that were anything but lopsided. Six matches were decided by two or fewer points, including one decided in sudden victory (Nick Moore's big win over #2 Tyler Caldwell). Even Ramos' decisive-looking 8-2 win over #1 Jon Morrison was just 3-2 in the third period before a big move (and near-pin) by Ramos widened the gap. Hell, Iowa even won two matches (157 and 285) without scoring a single takedown. In fact, takedowns were a bit passe last night; reversals were the "it" scoring move of the night, especially for Oklahoma State.
Oklahoma State had twice as many reversals (4) than takedowns (2).— K.J. Pilcher (@kjpilcher) January 11, 2014
REAL TALK: that's not a good stat. You're not going to win many dual meets when your team scores two takedowns combined.
Iowa was just behind Okie State in the reversal count, though, with 3 reversals. A reversal provided the winning margin in St. John's narrow victory over #2 Alex Dieringer and almost half the points in Chris Perry's 5-4 win over Mike Evans at 174 (4 of 9 total points). The action from neutral may have been fairly lackluster all night (Iowa only had 11 takedowns all night and most of those came from Sammy Brooks and Nathan Burak at 184 and 197), but the action on the mat was pretty frenetic.
#3 IOWA 24, #5 OKLAHOMA STATE 6
125: #3 Thomas Gilman DEC (4-2) #16 Eddie Klimara (IOWA 3-0)
133: #4 Tony Ramos DEC (8-2) #1 Jon Morrison (IOWA 6-0)
141: #14 Anthony Collica DEC (5-3) #9 Josh Dziewa (IOWA 6-3)
149: #15 Brody Grothus DEC (9-5) #3 Josh Kindig (IOWA 9-3)
157: #1 Derek St. John DEC (2-1) #2 Alex Dieringer (IOWA 12-3)
165: #5 Nick Moore DEC (3-1 SV) #2 Tyler Caldwell (IOWA 15-3)
174: #2 Chris Perry DEC (5-4) #6 Mike Evans (IOWA 15-6)
184: UN Sammy Brooks DEC (7-1) #16 Nolan Boyd (IOWA 18-6)
197: #11 Nathan Burak DEC (8-3) UN Jordan Rogers (IOWA 21-6)
285: #3 Bobby Telford DEC (2-1) #15 Austin Mardsen (IOWA 24-6)
125: Gilman got the nod over Cory Clark at 125 for Iowa and continued his winning ways, although it wasn't easy -- Gilman notched just one takedown (in the first period) but used a strong ride and an escape to put up 4 points, which was enough to beat Klimara here. Gilman's defense remains outstanding (he has good hips and his strength is a great asset in fighting off takedowns), but his offense from neutral remains a bit of a work-in-progress. Still, the future -- and present -- of 125 is looking very bright for Iowa right now.
133: You're not beating Tony freaking Ramos at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It's just not happening. Tony looked locked in from the opening whistle in this one and he put together a much stronger effort than he did in his losses to A.J. Schopp and Joe Colon; now if we can just get him to wrestle like this in matches away from CHA. Ramos finished the match strong (with a very close pin attempt; would have been nice if the ref had actually been in position to make that call...), but he does need to work at widening the gap earlier in the match against guys like Morrison, Schopp, and Tyler Graff. Tony's best defense is his offense and sometimes against those opponents he seems a little too cautious.
141: And now we reach the only real disappointment of the night for Iowa. Dziewa got taken down early in the match, but he rebounded to get an escape and a takedown late in the period to take a 3-2 lead in the match. And then he spent the better part of the second and third periods getting ridden like a mule. Collica reversed a Dziewa ride in the second period and rode him out, then rode him the entire third period when Dziewa took down in an ultimately futile effort to get an escape. Collica put on some solid rides in both periods, but Dziewa's inability to get an escape was maddening -- he spent too much time slowly rolling around on the mat with Collica, trying to get a reversal. Last night may have been the Night of the Reversal, but sometimes you just need to be decisive and get an escape and try to score from your feet. Dziewa didn't do that and he suffered a deserved loss as a result. Iowa has several wrestlers lately who seem to be figuring things out and are picking up solid wins, like Brody Grothus and Nick Moore. Unfortunately, Dziewa isn't one of those guys. Let's hope he can turn things around soon.
149: On the flip side, now we reach Iowa's most pleasant surprise of the night (although there was some definite competition for that distinction, too). Remember when we were all gnashing our teeth and tearing out our hair (metaphorically speaking, I hope) about Iowa's woes at 149 lbs.? I do, because it was happening as recently as two weeks ago, when all three of Iowa's entered 149ers lost in the second round at Midlands. Since then they've hardly lost at all, especially the current man of the moment, Brody Grothus, who's now won nine of his last ten matches. That many wins at 149 would be cause enough for celebration, but that streak has included wins over then #2 Jason Tsirtsis and current #3 Josh Kindig, easily the best wins Iowa has recorded at this weight since You Know Who (not Voldemort) was here.
Grothus won last night with a quick takedown off the whistle (so nice for Iowa to be delivering those for once, instead of just being on the receiving end) and then used some tremendous rides over the next seven minutes to secure a pretty emphatic win. Like Ramos, he also came painfully close to locking in a pin (and, again, the ref looked a bit out of position...), but those back points gave him a comfortable lead in the match that helped lock up the win. There are still flaws to Grothus' game -- for one thing, he can get a bit too high on those rides, which makes him susceptible to reversals (Kindig scored two reversals on Brody) -- but after the misery of the last three years at 149, I think it's enough for us to just sit back and enjoy the ride here. Let's wait until March until we really start fretting over flaws or the ability to make a run in the Big Ten or NCAA Tournaments -- for now, just winning feels pretty damn good. And beating legitimately good 149ers feels even better.
157: DSJ gonna DSJ, right? A close, low-scoring match against a top-5 opponent? You don't say. To be sure, I'm not complaining. Dieringer is a very tough opponent, quite possibly the second-best wrestler at 157 behind St. John, and a guy who's incredibly difficult to score on. And St. John wrestles a LOT of close matches; after almost four years, I'm pretty much used to that, especially since DSJ ends up winning the vast majority of those matches. We're not going to change who DSJ is at this point. He's not going to be an offensive dynamo. He's not going to be a bonus point-scoring machine. That's OK. He's going to look laconic, he's going to find semi-unconventional ways to score points (he beat Dieringer in last year's NCAA Tournament without the benefit of a takedown and did it again last night, thanks to a reversal late in the second period), and he's going to use his amazing defensive skills to keep other guys from scoring on him. Look, if we can spend 15 years extolling the virtues of Ferentzball, we can enjoy DSJ, too. We only have a few months left with him in black and gold.
165: Finally! We've always known that Nick Moore had talent: he was a top recruit 4 years ago for a reason and he didn't go undefeated in high school and win four state championships by accident. But he'd had trouble converting that success to victories in college, especially against top opponents. But lately the worm seems to be turning on that front for Nick Moore. He beat Michigan's Taylor Massa (a likely top 5-10 guy at 165 if he wasn't redshirting this year) at Midlands and now he has a win over Tyler Caldwell, the #2 guy at 165. He came up just short against North Dakota State's Steven Monk (also a top-5 guy at this weight), but the pattern seems clear: Moore is just as good as the top guys at this weight, with one obvious exception. But look: everyone is playing for second behind David Taylor here. That's fine. But it's becoming increasingly clear that there's no reason it can't be Moore lining up across from him in the NCAA finals in a few months. This match wasn't terribly exciting and there's an obvious danger to relying on getting just one scoring move to win a match (just ask Caldwell, who tried the same approach -- and lost), although it's a strategy that's served DSJ well for a long time, too. So, yes, more action and more offense would definitely be much appreciated... but for now it's just good to see Nick Moore actually winning some of these matches for once. That's a great sign of progress.
174: So, so close. Mike Evans' quest for another win over one of the top guys at 174 continues apace, but damn if he didn't come achingly close to picking it up here, against the defending national champion at this weight, no less. Perry opened the match with a bang and a quick takedown, but Evans was able to turn the tables on Perry and score a reversal, before Perry got a reversal of his own. That was it for most of the scoring, a few escapes aside. But Evans was able to get in deep -- very deep -- on Perry in the third period and had him stacked up in the closing seconds; unfortunately he couldn't secure the pin (which would have made the crowd explode) or finish the takedown. Evans is still trailing behind the top guys at this weight, but this was a better effort from The 'Stache than his loss to Penn State's Matt Brown a few weeks ago and the gap seems to be getting closer. He should get cracks at Minesota's Logan Storley and Nebraska's Robert Kokesh before the end of the season; hopefully he's finally able to get a breakthrough win there.
184: Ethen Lofthouse sat out this match with a "tweaked knee" sustained in last weekend's win over Michigan State, per the broadcast team. In his absence, we got another glimpse of Iowa's future at 184 lbs... and it was good. Sammy Brooks got the call in Lofty's absence and he put together an excellent 7-1 win over the #16 guy at 184. Brooks displayed some incredible defense early on, scrambling out of some very close takedown attempts by Boyd and then showed off some strong and clever offense later on, racking up several takedowns and riding Boyd well. Brooks already looks like he could be a top 10-15 184er (at least), so it will be very exciting to see what he can do with a full-time role at this weight next year (especially since 4 of the top 5 guys at this weight are seniors; holy open weight class, Batman...).
197: A solid win, but one that could have been so much more. Iowa didn't have a lot of opportunities for bonus points in this dual -- despite the final result, Okie State does have several very good wrestlers -- and this was clearly one of them with the Pokes' regular starter at this weight, #12 Blake Rosholt, sitting out the dual because of an injury. In his place OSU sent out Jordan Rogers, a top recruit a few years ago... at 184 lbs. And he's still a 184er; he was strictly a fill-in here and Burak had a very noticeable size advantage. He used that to horse Rogers to the mat on a few takedowns and it's an advantage he should have done more with by cutting Rogers loose and going for more takedowns and trying for a major decision. Again, it was still a solid win for Burak, but it could have been a decisive one. Alas.
285: Yawn. This was a thoroughly snooze-inducing way to end the dual meet, with Telford winning 2-1... on a penalty point obtained when Okie State's Mardsen grabbed Bobby's headgear and dragged it over his face. Meh. I'm not sure if Bobby's knee is still bothering him or not, but he looked very stiff last night and his offense was... well, half-assed would be putting it kindly. He wasn't even able to put a solid ride on Mardsen. I hope Telford gets right soon because Iowa needs him at full speed if they want to make noise at the Big Ten or NCAA Tournaments.
NEXT: Indiana visits CHA on Sunday afternoon; it will not be pretty.
BONUS! Video highlights, courtesy Hawkeye Sports:
And, yes, the best highlight of Telford's match really was him getting an escape. Seriously.