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This is it: Showdown Sunday for all the B1G marbles.  Iowa got off to a hot start yesterday, going 12-1 in the early rounds and getting nine guys into the semifinals.  Unfortunately, they came crashing back to earth in that round while Penn State had a very nice semifinal round, which leaves things almost even headed into Sunday's action.  PSU has a 1.5 point edge on Iowa, with 5 wrestlers in the finals and 4 still alive in the consolation bracket.  Iowa has 4 wrestlers in the finals and 5 still going in the consolation bracket. (Minnesota has 3 finalists and 6 in the consolation bracket, but they're also about 15 points back of Iowa and Penn State; they need a lot of wins and a lot of Iowa and Penn State losses.)  

Session III (consolation semifinals, 7th-place match) gets going at 1pm.  Session IV (1st-, 3rd-, and 5th-place matches) gets going at 3pm.  

TV: BTN (3pm CST)
AUDIO: 800 KXIC (free), Hawkeye All-Access ($$$), TheOpenMat (free)
liveblog: Andy Hamilton
updated standings/brackets: Penn State Wrestling Club

1) Penn State - 110.5 (5 finalists/4 in consos)
2) Iowa - 109 (4 finalists/5 in consos)
3) Minnesota - 96.5 (3 finalists/6 in consos)
4) Wisconsin - 78.5
5) Michigan - 67.5
6) Northwestern - 53
7) Illinois - 51
8) Ohio State - 49
9) Purdue - 44.5
10) Michigan State - 35
11) Indiana - 32

133: (3) Tony Ramos vs. (8) Ian Paddock (OSU) Ramos beat him 5-2 earlier this year
141: (2) Montell Marion vs. (5) Andrew Alton (PSU) Marion beat him 11-9 earlier this year
149: n/a; done
165: (4) Aaron Janssen vs. (6) Dan Yates (MICH) Janssen beat him 11-4 earlier this year
174: (5) Ethen Lofthouse vs. (3) Scott Glasser (MINN) Glasser beat him 7-5 earlier this year
184: (3) Grant Gambrall vs. (1) Travis Rutt (WIS) They haven't wrestled before.

(1) Matt McDonough vs. (2) Brandon Precin (jNW) They split two earlier meetings: Precin won 3-1, McD won via fall
157: (2) Derek St. John vs. (1) David Taylor (PSU) Taylor beat him 12-4 earlier this year
197: (2) Luke Lofthouse vs. (1) Trevor Brandvold (WIS) Brandvold beat him 4-2 last year
HWT: (3) Blake Rasing vs. (4) Tony Nelson (MIN) Rasing beat him 4-2 earlier this year

The usual rules of open threading apply: no porn, no piracy, no slurs and suchlike.  Game on.  More extensive thoughts on yesterday/last night after the jump:

* McD = machine.  We've said it many times before, but still: how can you not be in awe of what he's been doing lately?  After running roughshod over the Big Ten in dual meet season (7 pins in 8 matches), he's picked up exactly where he left off, with a pair of pins so far at the Big Ten Tournament.  He's barely wrestled five minutes total this entire tournament... but that's just because he's been pinning guys so quickly.  Absolutely unreal.  Of course, his toughest match is still to come today with the rubber match with Precin.  Precin has been a riddle McD's struggled to solve all season; he was totally confounded at Midlands and only won at the jNW dual because he managed to hit a big move out of nowhere on Precin.  It's almost impossible to bet against McD when he's wrestling so well -- but Precin will be a very tough hurdle for McD to surmount to earn his first Big Ten Championship.

* Coffee is for closers.  The recurring theme in all of Iowa's losses last night (sans 184, where Gambrall struggled almost the entire match) was a failure of Iowa wrestlers to deliver in the clutch, whether that meant getting a late escape or a late takedown or just making something happen.  Historically, it's been Iowa wrestlers who have been so good at finishing matches and getting wins -- and that was the case earlier in the day in the quarterfinals, when Iowa finished strong in most of their matches to go 12-1 in the early action and set themselves up with 9 semifinalists.  Maybe they simply used up all of their mojo then because they had very little in the tank Saturday night.  Three matches went to OT -- and Iowa lost every single one of them.  The most painful loss of the bunch was Marion's loss to Thorn at 141, a match he had firmly in control with a little over a minute to go in the third period... only to lose to a last-second takedown in regulation and a takedown in overtime.  It was eerily reminiscent of his loss to Kellen Russell earlier in the season (and also his close win over Thorn earlier in the season).  But Ramos, Janssen, and Ethen Lofthouse will all be feeling pangs of regret for not being able to take advantage of opportunities to win their matches late, too.

* Escape escape escape.  Aside from an inability to finish matches well, the other recurring problem for Iowa last night was an inability to get out from underneath.  It's pretty elementary, but still: you cannot get ridden for an entire period and expect to be in good position to win a match.  Marion got ridden the entire second period -- that point was what sent him to OT.  Lofthouse also got ridden the entire second period -- that point ended up costing him the match.  Gambrall got ridden the entire second period, which put him behind the eightball the rest of the match. Those were all essentially two-point swings -- you don't get a point for escaping and your opponent is effectively guaranteed a point for riding time.  You aren't going to win too many close matches giving up two points like that. 

* Saved by the upper weights.  The results of the matches at the final two weights (197, HWT) last night -- two Iowa wins and a Penn State loss -- were immense and the reason the title chase is a virtual dead heat tonight.  Uncle Luke and Blake were able to secure at least second-place points for Iowa (an extra 12 total points from the 6 each they would have gotten from securing at least a 6th place finish if they had lost those semifinal matches) and Nelson's upset of Cameron Wade kept Penn State from getting 6 more points themselves.  Flip the results of those weights and PSU has an almost 20-point lead heading into today's action.  That would probably be an insurmountable hill for Iowa to climb.

* Going beyond expectations.  PSU's quest for a conference championship has received a massive boost from Quentin Wright, who's contributed four wins (two with bonus points) and made it all the way to the finals.  Pretty good for an 8-seed; he picked a hell of a weekend to stop being shitty.  Conversely, no one on Iowa's team is exceeding expectations -- except maybe Blake Rasing.  And even he hasn't had to beat anyone seeded higher than himself to reach the finals.  If you look at the semifinal results, Iowa won in four of the five matches where they were the higher seed (125, 157, 197, HWT), lost all four matches where they were the lower seed (133, 165, 174, 184), and lost one match where they were the higher seed (141).  Unfortunately, "performing to expectations" won't necessarily win you the title.  It's especially true because Iowa had an excellent chance to win every match in the semis (except perhaps 184) and could have scored massive upsets at 165 and 174.

* The gameplan.  So what does Iowa  need to do to win?  It's all pretty obvious stuff, but obvious or not, it's still true:

-- Win their own matches.  Particularly in the consolation bracket, where Iowa has the opportunity to score more points since they have more guys down there -- and guys who are higher-ranked and will be favored to get to 3rd/4th place.  In that regard, the Marion-Alton match at 141 is critical for Iowa.  Iowa not only needs to secure 3rd/4th place points there -- they need to prevent PSU from doing the same.  Consolation points could prove especially vital because Iowa will be hard-pressed to match (let alone top) PSU in points in the finals.  Iowa will be favored in just two matches (125, HWT), but neither will be easy.  Conversely, PSU will be solid favorites in probably three finals (149, 157, 174), underdogs in one (184), and a slight favorite in the other (133).  

-- Root for Penn State losses.  Well, duh.  Not just in the obvious Iowa-PSU head-to-head matches (there are only two of those -- Taylor and DSJ and Marion and Alton -- and we obviously want Iowa wins there), but also in every match PSU has today.  Our Big Ten bros can really do us a solid today but beating our cummerbund-clad challengers.  In some cases that's more likely (Kevin Steinhaus beat Quentin Wright 10-1 earlier this year) than others (Eric Grajales lost earlier matches to Frank Molinaro 6-2 and 8-3), but hey: you never know.  So give us a hand, B1G bros.

-- Get bonus points.  Easier said than done, of course, and getting the win is the most vital thing... but if there's a shot to get bonus points, please get 'em.  Thus far, McD and DSJ are the only Iowa guys to get bonus points in more than one match -- McD has a pair of pins and DSJ has a pin and a major decision.  Those extra points could come in real handy.

Full finals listing if you're curious:

125: (1) Matt McDonough (Iowa) vs. (2) Brandon Precin (jNW)
133: (1) Andrew Long (PSU) vs. (2) Tyler Graff (Wisco)
141: (1) Kellen Russell (Mich) vs. (3) Mike Thorn (Minn)
149: (1) Frank Molinaro (PSU) vs. (6) Eric Grajales (Mich)
157: (1) David Taylor (PSU) vs. (2) Derek St. John (Iowa)
165: (1) Andrew Howe (Wisco) vs. (2) Colt Sponseller (OSU)
174: (1) Ed Ruth (PSU) vs. (2) Nick Heflin (OSU)
184: (2) Kevin Steinhaus (Minn) vs. (8) Quentin Wright (PSU)
197: (1) Trevor Brandvold (Wisco) vs. (2) Luke Lofthouse (Iowa)
HWT: (3) Blake Rasing (Iowa) vs. (4) Tony Nelson (Minn)

I told you scratch is the way to go with the Big Ten Tournament.  8 1-seeds in the finals, 7 2-seeds.  There are always a few upsets, but don't bank on a lot.  

5 finalists: Penn State
4 finalists: Iowa
3 finalists: Wisconsin, Minnesota
2 finalists: Michigan, Ohio State
1 finalist: Northwestern
0 finalists: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Purdue