Iowa returned to Evanston, site of their runaway win at the 2013 Midlands Championships just a month ago, and picked up another dominant win, this time a 31-6 dual meet triumph over #19 Northwestern. The victory was no surprise; while Northwestern boasts a handful of top-5 talent (Jason Tsirtsis at 149, Mike McMullan at 285), Iowa boasts six wrestlers in the top 5 of the most recent rankings, as well as a few other wrestlers who are ranked in or around the top 10. In short, Iowa has a great deal of quality across their lineup; Northwestern doesn't. That talent imbalance tends to make the outcome of dual meets like this pretty obvious and that was indeed the case again here. Iowa got bonus points at 125 and 133 to open up a 10-0 lead early, then held off upset bids at 141, 157, and 165 to open up a commanding 19-3 lead. The result was academic from there, even before Northwestern registered a forfeit at 174.
The biggest takeaway from the dual (beyond the fact that 285 figures to be one hell of a merry-go-round at both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments) was that two long-absent wrestlers returned to the Iowa lineup tonight, Cory Clark at 125 and Ethen Lofthouse at 184. Clark found himself jumped in the starting lineup pecking order after teammate Thomas Gilman won a title at 125 at Midlands (while Clark had a disappointing showing), while Lofthouse sustained a leg injury in Iowa's dual with Michigan State earlier in the month.
Of the two, Clark's return is the more intriguing by far. As good as Sammy Brooks looked in Lofthouse's absence (and as frustrating as Lofthouse himself can be to watch at times), it always seemed like he was just marking time until the two-time All-American senior was ready to return to the lineup. But what to make of 125? After Midlands, Gilman appeared to have the starting job on lockdown, but some poor performances over the last few weeks (culminating in a shocking first-period pinfall loss to Minnesota's Sam Brancale last week) opened the door for Clark. Clark staked his claim to the spot pretty emphatically tonight, horsing his opponent all over the match on his way to a bonus point victory. If Clark is healthy and has the gas tank to go for a full seven minutes (an issue earlier in the season, but not one that was apparent tonight), he just might get his job back. Either way, Iowa has a very tricky decision to make at 125 now.
NOTE: This dual will air at 9 AM CST on BTN on Monday, February 3rd.
#3 IOWA 31, #19 NORTHWESTERN 6
125: UN Cory Clark MAJ DEC (10-1) UN Garrison White (IOWA 4-0)
133: #3 Tony Ramos FALL (5:24) UN Dom Malone (IOWA 10-0)
141: #9 Josh Dziewa DEC (5-4 OT) UN Pat Greco (IOWA 13-0)
149: #4 Jason Tsirtsis DEC (5-2) #12 Brody Grothus (IOWA 13-3)
157: #2 Derek St. John DEC (8-3) UN Ben Sullivan (IOWA 16-3)
165: #4 Nick Moore DEC (7-3) #7 Pierce Harger (IOWA 19-3)
174: #5 Mike Evans wins via forfeit (IOWA 25-3)
184: #4 Ethen Lofthouse DEC (11-5) UN Jacob Berkowitz (IOWA 28-3)
197: #16 Nathan Burak DEC (3-1 SV) #17 Alex Polizzi (IOWA 31-3)
285: #3 Mike McMullan DEC (3-1 SV) #1 Bobby Telford (IOWA 31-6)
125: As noted already, Cory Clark got the starting nod here -- and he looked very good. He got a solid takedown in the first period and then went to work on the mat. The enjoyable thing about Clark on the mat is that, unlike so many wrestlers, Clark doesn't spend time on the mat just to ride and kill clock -- he spends time there working arm bars, working half-nelsons, trying to turn guys and get back points or pins. He was awfully close to a pin a few times last night. Most encouraging? Clark wrestled seven minutes and didn't look particularly gassed. That was an issue for him earlier in the season and it was a key reason to favor Gilman over him for the starting job here; admittedly, White isn't the toughest opponent and it's one thing to be able to go for one match in a dual meet and another thing to be able to go in multiple matches in a 2-3 day tournament... but this was still a very encouraging sign.
133: Ramos came, he saw, he dominated. Well, he didn't quite dominate from the opening whistle -- he led just 2-1 after the first period and it took him a while to get that first takedown. But Dom Malone apparently didn't have more than 3 minutes of tough wrestling in him because the second period was a takedown clinic (Ramos got 4 takedowns) and the third period was Ramos cranking Malone over and getting a pin. Nothing shocking here.
141: Dziewa damn near won this match three times; the third time was the only one that actually counted, though. He scrambled around Greco for the winning takedown as time expired in the third period -- only to have that takedown taken away after video review (it seems like he probably didn't get the takedown quite before time expired). He scrambled around Greco again for another seemingly-winning takedown as time expired in sudden victory -- but, again, the clock ran out before he could secure the takedown. Maybe start those takedowns a few seconds earlier, Dziewa! He finally did get the win in the overtime periods, getting an escape in his 30-second period and holding Greco down for the entire 30-seconds in the other period. Dziewa wasn't at his sharpest here -- he got caught by Greco for an early takedown and his own offense was a little suspect (all of it came from countering Greco's shows, rather than any of his own shots) -- but he held on for the win. That'll do for now.
149: Grothus' month from hell concluded with a third-straight loss in his third-straight match against a top-5 opponent at this weight. B1G life, B1G challenges, y'all. Tsirtsis was the aggressor from the opening whistle in this match; Grothus was able to fight his way out of several deep shots, but he couldn't get out of trouble for the entire match. After nearly getting a takedown in the final seconds of the first period (it was originally given, then taken away on video review), T-shirt did get one in the second period, and then a second takedown on a big slam in the third period. Grothus didn't offer much on the attack in this month and he could probably use a match against lesser opposition to rebuild some confidence; unfortunately, his next match is against Michigan's Eric Grajales... another top-10 opponent.
157: This match featured the rare sight of St. John wrestling a guy nearly as lanky as himself; this match was all arms and legs. If Jay Bilas had been calling this match, he would have spent seven minutes raving about wingspan. Anyway. DSJ bounced back from back-to-back losses with a no-fuss decision win, exactly as I expected. He grabbed a pair of easy-looking takedowns in the first period, then got stymied by Sullivan until the third period. Then again, the news that St. John is not exactly an offensive dynamo is not particularly shocking, I'd guess.
165: This was also a decent return-to-form for NIck Moore; he won last week, but didn't look very good in doing so, winning an ugly 3-2 decision over Danny Zilverberg. He looked much more solid against a potential All-America wrestler in Harger this week, using a solid first period takedown and another in the third to get a 7-3 victory. There was a hairy moment in the third period when he got dinged for a locked hands call and gave up a reversal that tied the match up at 3-3 on the scoreboard... except the score was effectively 5-3 because he was able to get a quick escape (Harger was never going to be able to hold him down very long) and maintain his riding time point. In all, this was a solid performance out of Moore.
174: The people of Evanston were denied the sight of The 'Stache's magnificent mustache in action; they were the true losers here.
184: Lofthouse made his long-awaited return to the lineup and he looked pretty fired-up in his first match back in almost a month. Lofty got a pair of takedowns in the first period (no, really!) and then another pair of takedowns in the second period (no, seriously!) and he even cut Berkowitz in the third period to go for another takedown to secure the major decision (for real!). He didn't get that final takedown, but hey -- the aggression and willingness to attack that was on display by Lofthouse in this match was gratifying to see. Berkowitz isn't very good, but it's still good to see that Lofthouse didn't just set up shop and try to win 4-1 or something.
197: The first of two matches decided by a single takedown in overtime; this was the one that went Iowa's way. Burak came the closest to getting a takedown in regulation -- he had one, but he was out of bounds when he finished it -- so it was probably appropriate that he got the winner in sudden victory. Still, it would have been nice to see him be a bit more aggressive on his feet in regulation; Burak seemed to be content to hand-fight and butt heads for too much of the first three periods.
285: The second of two matches decided by a single takedown in overtime; this was the one that didn't go Iowa's way. I expected more offense out of this match; McMullan has typically been one of the more attack-minded heavyweights in recent years and a guy with some great takedowns. We know Bobby has some strong offense when he pulls it out of storage. But we did not get an attack-happy match last night; we got shaved bears dancing. Same old heavyweight shit. McMullan probably deserved to win; of the two, he was a bit more attack-oriented. You've got strong offensive skills, Bobby -- trust 'em. Instead, we're going to see yet another new #1 atop the heavyweight rankings this week (probably McMullan).
NEXT: Iowa heads home for Senior Day to entertain Michigan on Sunday, February 9th at 2 PM CST.