Iowa won their dual meet on Saturday against Nebraska by a comfortable 22-9 margin. That's the good news. Unfortunately, they also lost just about every match in the dual meet that truly mattered. That's the bad news. The dual meet result was fairly obvious before the meet even got underway; Iowa entered the dual with more quality wrestlers across their entire lineup, meaning that Nebraska would need to pull some upsets at a few weights to pull off a win in the dual meet. That didn't happen.
However, they did win all of the highlight matches of the dual, which is discouraging from an Iowa standpoint. 149, 157, and 174 were the standout matches of the dual, as well as rematches of matches that happened last season. The Nebraska wrestler won the last meeting in all of those matches then... and they won them all today, too. These were costly losses for the Iowa wrestlers for several reasons -- for confidence, for momentum, for seeding at the Big Ten (and NCAA) Tournament -- which made for a dual meet victory that left a bitter taste in my mouth. Add in the fact that several of the wins were frustrating, whether it was Gilman and Telford winning matches without takedowns or Dziewa and Moore failing to finish off major decisions, and this was a dual meet victory that didn't particularly impress.
#3 IOWA 22, #8 NEBRASKA 9
125: #3 Thomas Gilman DEC (2-1) #9 Tim Lambert (IOWA 3-0)
133: #3 Tony Ramos MAJ DEC (15-4) UN Shawn Nagel (IOWA 7-0)
141: #13 Josh Dziewa DEC (9-2) UN Colton McCrystal (IOWA 10-0)
149: #5 Jake Sueflohn DEC (5-2) #13 Brody Grothus (IOWA 10-3)
157: #3 James Green DEC (9-7) #1 Derek St. John (IOWA 10-6)
165: #4 Nick Moore DEC (8-2) UN Austin Wilson (IOWA 13-6)
174: #4 Robert Kokesh DEC (7-3) #6 Mike Evans (IOWA 13-9)
184: UN Sammy Brooks DEC (6-4 SV) #11 TJ Dudley (IOWA 16-9)
197: #16 Nathan Burak DEC (3-1) UN Caleb Kolb (IOWA 19-9)
285: #3 Bobby Telford DEC (2-0) UN Collin Jensen (IOWA 22-9)
125: Can Gilman do some drills with Tony Ramos this week about how to take a freaking shot and get to his opponent's legs? Gilman logged another win over a top-10 wrestler, which is excellent... but it was also another win earned without the benefit of a takedown. Gilman's defense remains exceptional and he did well in earning a quick escape point and riding Lambert well enough to earn a riding time point, but I would breathe a lot easier if Gilman would take (and finish) a few more shots and get to his opponents legs. Winning 2-1 decisions was painful to watch when Ryan Morningstar did it, it's painful to watch when Derek St. John does it, and it's certainly painful to watch when Gilman does it, too. If he wants to contend for Big Ten and NCAA titles, he needs to score points, which means getting takedowns, which means taking shots.
133: Business as usual for Tony. He worked a takedown clinic for most of the first two periods, then spent the third period trying to turn Nagel and get a pin. Nagel responded by doing nothing at all on the mat so earnestly that he earned himself several stalling points. But, hey, he didn't get pinned. A pin would have been nice, but whatever. Tony still dominated this match, as he should have.
141: Dziewa looked pretty good in the early part of this match, using a slick duck under to secure one takedown and later getting some nearfall points off a turn on the edge of the mat. Unfortunately, he got a bit out of position in the third period and gave up a takedown; that plus his own inability to secure another takedown of his own prevented him from getting a major decision that seemed there for the taking. All in all, this was certainly a solid win for Dziewa... but it was right on the cusp of being much better than that and it was frustrating to see him come up short .
149: Grothus is in the midst of a pretty tough stretch of opponents right now, having faced then-#3 Josh Kindig (Oklahoma State) last week and getting #5 Jake Sueflohn this week. He'll follow that up by facing #2 Nick Dardanes (Minnesota), #4 Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern), #12 Eric Grajales (Michigan), and #10 Mitch Minotti (Lehigh) in his next four matches over the next four weeks. Yikes. Going .500 against that level of competition would be a very solid performance for Grothus and, to be fair, he's currently 1-1 against those guys, so he's still right on pace for that .500 record. Against Sueflohn, Grothus rarely looked comfortable. Sueflohn attacked Grothus' legs relentlessly (take note, Iowa wrestlers!) and while Grothus was able to defend several of those attacks, he couldn't stop them all. It was a little curious that Grothus opted to spend the entire third period riding Sueflohn and attempting to turn him and score points that way, but the idea had some merit -- Grothus has been strong on top of late and he did not look very strong in neutral against Sueflohn in this match. Taking the match back to neutral here would have likely given Sueflohn several more excellent opportunities to score points.
157: Ugh. This was the highlight match of the night and,unfortunately, it ended badly for St. John, with a 9-7 loss to Green. The loss snapped St. John's 27-match winning streak and was his first loss overall since... a loss to Green in the Big Ten semifinals last year. Green has proved to be one of St. John's most difficult opponents, losing a pair of razor-thing 6-4 decisions and now beating him 5-4 and 9-7. Green is just a very challenging matchup for St. John, a fact which makes me leery of future showdowns between DSJ and Green later this year.
St. John has an almost peerless ability to hip out of trouble and avoid takedowns from his opponent, but he's best when guys try to score on him with slower-developing shots or out of scramble situations. That's not how Green's offense works, though: Green's shots are quick, explosive displays of power and technique; witness Green's first takedown of the match, a seriously impressive blast double (the announcers made note of the fact that Green has been training with Jordan Burroughs and when he hits shots like that it's easy to see what he's learned from those training sessions).
I knew St. John was in trouble as soon as Green was able to score that takedown because it meant DSJ was going to have to chase the match, which is a difficult spot for him to be in. Sure enough, he had to be more aggressive in his own offensive attempts, which opened him up to more takedowns from Green. In the past, St. John was able to beat Green by out-hustling him and using his superior cardio to turn the tide in the third period (and/or overtime), but Green's cardio looked plenty good on Saturday. Potential clashes with Green at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournament are concerning. The only good news is that there's a pretty good shot that they'll remain on opposite sides of the bracket from one another at both tournaments, meaning that they wouldn't meet until the finals (and giving Green more opportunities to slip up before a showdown with St. John).
165: The only disappointment out of this match was that Moore wasn't able to score another takedown in the third period and get a major decision. He absolutely bossed the match otherwise and displayed some of the slick, confident takedowns that have become a staple of his offense lately. It just would have been nice to finish off that major decision.
174: Ugh -- again. This match reaffirmed an unpleasant reality at this weight: Mike Evans has become a gatekeeper at 174. He's ranked sixth, which is an utterly fair ranking for him at the moment. He's unbeaten against anyone ranked below him (with all but two of those wins coming with bonus points attached), but he can't beat the guys in the top 5 at this weight. (He does own career wins over Matt Brown and Robert Kokesh, ranked #s 3 and 4 at this weight, but they've also each beat him twice in a row at this point, so I think it's fair to say that they appear to have his number.) Evans has now lost six matches in a row to the Howe/Perry/Brown/Kokesh/Storley quintet, which is a sobering stat. Evans is clearly good enough to be an All-American at this weight (again, he pretty much dominates everyone ranked lower than him), but it would be foolish to write him any higher than 6th on the podium right now, based on his struggles against the top guys at this weight.
Evans' problem is the problem that afflicts too many of the wrestlers on this Iowa team at times: not enough offense from neutral. This was one of five matches in this dual where Iowa essentially scored zero takedowns (I say "essentially" because DSJ did score a takedown against Green, but it came in the final seconds of the match and was ultimately meaningless). They won two of those matches (125 and 285), but the overall trend is discouraging. Fpr Evans, the biggest issue is on his feet; he just has a very tough time scoring from there against top guys. Until he can do that more consistently, it's going to be very hard to expect him to start beating the guys perched above him int the rankings at 174.
184: Sammy Brooks got the nod again and yet again he notched a victory over a ranked wrestler. Not too shabby for a redshirt freshman backup. Brooks gave up an early takedown to Dudley ("GET THE TABLES!") and then spent much of the rest of the match trying (and failing) to score a few takedowns of his own before finally sealing the deal on a solid shot late in the third period and then grabbing the match-winning takedown in sudden victory. Along the way, he had several close calls but Dudley displayed some impressive scrambling ability in fighting out of some of Brooks' shots (reminiscent of what Brooks himself has done against his opponents in his last few matches).
Dudley looked a bit like the James Green of a year or two ago here (and, no, not just because both wrestlers are black): an explosive athlete with some gas tank issues. His takedown was an impressive display of skill and athleticism, but he definitely seemed to run out of juice in the third period and overtime, which enabled Brooks to catch him and beat him. I haven't seen anything indicating why Brooks got the nod again in this match, although it's possible that Lofthouse's "tweaked" knee is giving him more difficulty than we've been led to believe. (That's purely speculation on my part, though.)
197: Ho hum. Burak's takedown in the closing seconds of the second period proved to be the difference in this match, an upper-weight match devoid of much in the way of exciting offense. Wins are better than losses (duh), but it would be comforting if Burak could win a bit more decisively than this, especially against unranked opposition.
285: Hey, remember when Bobby Telford actually took shots and went after legs last week? Cherish those memories because Telford was back to the shaved bear snore-fests that typify all too many heavyweight matches this week. Tie-up, forehead rubbing, tie-up, forehead rubbing, rinse and repeat. Telford's points came off an escape in the second period and a riding time point gleaned from riding Jensen the entire third period. Wins are nice; wins where wrestlers actually show a bit of offense are even better. Bobby can beat guys like Jensen wrestling like this. He cannot beat guys like Tony Nelson wrestling like this. If he wrestles like this against Nelson in next week's Iowa-Minnesota dual, he will lose. End of story.
NEXT: Speaking of... Iowa's off until facing Minnesota in a highly-anticipated showdown at Carver-Hawkeye Arena next Saturday afternoon (1 PM CST, BTN). They're going to need to wrestle much better than they did against Nebraska if they want to knock off the Gophers next week.