Iowa held their annual Iowa City Duals event yesterday and, as expected, they steamrolled the competition. Over the course of three dual meets, Iowa wrestlers went 27-3, racking up 21 bonus point wins (which included nine pins and seven technical falls). The three wins extended their school-record unbeaten streak to 80 meets, although that was always going to be a formality with these opponents. So what did we learn from these matches?
1) The usual suspects are just fine. McDonough, Ramos, Marion, and DSJ all cruised through their matches. Collectively, just two of their twelve matches were won with anything less than a major decision (DSJ had a 12-6 decision win over Cornell's Loughlin and Marion had a 10-4 decision win over Iowa Central's Wilbourn). McD had a pair of pins, DSJ had a pair of tech falls, and Ramos did a little bit of everything (pin, tech fall, major decision). It's particularly gratifying to see DSJ picking up essentially right where he left off at the end of last season and dominating opponents; he had a rocky start to last season as injuries took a toll on his performance. He's healthy now and looking great. Meanwhile, Tony Ramos has (unsurprisingly) claimed the starting spot for now ahead of Tyler Clark at 133. As Brands indicated in his informative post-meet interview, an aggressive, risk-taking attitude goes a long way on this team.
2) Telford doesn't wrestle like a heavyweight. The popular opinion of heavyweight matches is that they're boring, slow, plodding affairs -- and, frankly, that opinion is pretty well deserved. Most of them are ponderous. Bobby Telford is evidently out to change that opinion. He had a pair of pins in roughly two minutes and, most impressively, a tech fall against his other opponent. When's the last time you saw a heavyweight tech fall someone? Like Ramos, Telford's aggressive, attack-heavy style has won him the starting job at a disputed weight for now. Time will tell if he's able to keep up this level of excitement against bigger and better heavyweights (I wouldn't hold my breathe for too many more tech falls, frankly), but it's exciting to legitimately be looking forward to heavyweight matches again.
3) Evans is going to be fun to watch. Mike Evans is another wrestler in a hotly disputed spot that has also claimed a starting spot thanks to an aggressive, exciting style (and head-to-head wins over his primary competitor, Nick Moore). He destroyed his competition yesterday with a pair of tech falls and a pin and is looking every bit the mega-hyped prospect he was meant to be when he signed with Iowa a few years ago. The usual caveat about level of competition applies, but thus far he's off to a flying start.
4) 149 is a bigger problem than we thought. Conversely, 149 is looking like a bigger black hole than we ever anticipated it could be before the season. The official AWIY preview of that weight is coming up this week (last one, whew!), but the prevailing wisdom was that between Dylan Carew, Jake Ballweg, or a slimmed-down Jake Kelly we'd be in decent shape at this weight. Not great, maybe, but solid enough that we'd have an NCAA qualifier and be able to grab a few points at the NCAA Tournament. Right now that looks like wishful thinking. Kelly apparently can't make the cut to 149 and Carew is still rehabbing from his double knee surgeries last year (and, if I'm interpreting Brands' comments in the post-meet presser correctly, also struggling with the cut to 149). Ballweg got the nod in all three matches yesterday but failed to impress: he lost twice and barely beat Cornell's Drendel. Given the standard caveat about level of competition, that doesn't bode well for matches here the rest of the season. Hopefully Ballweg was ill or injured or dealing with a bad case of nerves. Hopefully he gets better. If not, Iowa will have to find a better option to man this weight. Grothus didn't wrestle yesterday because the coaches want to preserve his redshirt for now and see he fares in open tournaments, but if Iowa continues to struggle here, burning that redshirt might become very tempting.
Meanwhile, the one weight that we knew would be a problem before the season (197) is still looking a bit problematic. Lira split his two matches yesterday, winning 7-2 against Baker and losing 7-6 against Iowa Central. Those aren't hugely encouraging results, but they're also not terribly surprising ones. I'm not expecting much out of 197 at all; if Lira is able to continue to improve over the course of the season and scrape together a few wins, that'll do nicely.
5) Gambrall's return remains a work in progress. Of course, the reason Lira wrestled just twice yesterday instead of all three matches was because Grant Gambrall made a surprise return to the team and manned the 197 spot against Cornell. Apparently that's not meant to be a permanent move, but simply a means of easing him back into the lineup, while also giving his backups (Fahler and Wagner) some reps. Gambrall is still our best option (by far) at 184 and our only hope of making a dent in that brutally loaded weight. All indications are that his recovery from a concussion is going well -- just a little slowly. But that's okay -- we need him in February and March, not November and December.
6) Lofthouse bounced back nicely. Finally, after having one of the few disappointing performances for a Hawkeye wrestler at last weekend's Lindenwood Open, Ethen Lofthouse bounced back nicely yesterday and might have been Iowa's most impressive performer. He had a pair of quick pins (2:38 and a team-best 1:06) and a dominating tech fall win. That's a bit more in line with what we expected to see out of an experienced, returning starter like Lofthouse this year. Well done, EL.
Iowa 47, Baker University 3
125: Matt McDonough FALL (3:51) Bo Newport (Baker) Iowa 6-0
133: Tony Ramos FALL (4:34) AJ Gassman (Baker) Iowa 12-0
141: Montell Marion FALL (4:28) Philip Henes (Baker) Iowa 18-0
149: Jarrell Price (Baker) DEC (5-3) Jake Ballweg Iowa 18-3
157: Derek St. John TECH FALL (20-4, 5:13) Nathan Sommer (Baker) Iowa 23-3
165: Mike Evans TECH FALL (19-3, 5:10) Jake Price (Baker) Iowa 28-3
174: Ethen Lofthouse FALL (2:38) Clarence Jordan (Baker) Iowa 34-3
184: Jeremy Fahler MAJ DEC (9-1) Parker Owen (Baker) Iowa 38-3
197: Tomas Lira DEC (7-2) Jake Nowak (Baker) Iowa 41-3
HWT: Bobby Telford FALL (2:17) Dylan Berg (Baker) Iowa 47-3
Iowa 42, Cornell College 0
125: Matt McDonough MAJ DEC (13-3) Timothy Hood (Cornell) Iowa 4-0
133: Tony Ramos TECH FALL (26-10, 6:41) Tigue Snider (Cornell) Iowa 8-0
141: Montell Marion MAJ DEC (17-7) Michael Buhr (Cornell) Iowa 12-0
149: Jake Ballweg DEC (5-2) Nathan Drendel (Cornell) Iowa 15-0
157: Derek St. John DEC (12-6) Nicholas Loughlin (Cornell) Iowa 18-0
165: Mike Evans FALL (2:53) Joe Hambleton (Cornell) Iowa 24-0
174: Ethen Lofthouse FALL (1:06) Brent Hamm (Cornell) Iowa 30-0
184: Vinnie Wagner MAJ DEC (21-8) Andrew Roberts (Cornell) Iowa 34-0
197: Grant Gambrall DEC (4-3) Alex Coolidge (Cornell) Iowa 37-0
HWT: Bobby Telford TECH FALL (19-3, 6:01) Carl Gaul (Cornell) Iowa 42-0
Iowa 38, Iowa Central Community College 6
125: Matt McDonough FALL (2:55) Jacob Colon (ICCC) Iowa 6-0
133: Tony Ramos MAJ DEC (17-6) Brandon Wright (ICCC) Iowa 10-0
141: Montell Marion DEC (10-4) Terrel Wilbourn (ICCC) Iowa 13-0
149: Edwin Cooper (ICCC) DEC (3-2) Jake Ballweg Iowa 13-3
157: Derek St. John TECH FALL (18-0, 6:17) Joe Winkler (ICCC) Iowa 18-3
165: Mike Evans TECH FALL (16-0, 6:20) Colin Hewitt (ICCC) Iowa 23-3
174: Ethen Lofthouse TECH FALL (19-4, ???) Jahwon Akui (ICCC) Iowa 28-3
184: Jeremy Fahler MAJ DEC (12-4) Cristian Mays (ICCC) Iowa 32-3
197: Kolton Kersten (ICCC) DEC (7-6) Tomas Lira Iowa 32-6
HWT: Bobby Telford FALL (1:53) Lonnie Brown (ICCC) Iowa 38-6
NEXT: Iowa wrestles Illinois at 7pm CT next Friday.