Try this on for size: Rutgers, Iowa's opponent tonight, might be the highest-ranked team Iowa faces for the remainder of the regular season. Per InterMat, Rutgers is ranked #12 in the dual meet rankings -- higher than any of the other remaining teams on Iowa's schedule. Now it's possible that a team currently ranked below Rutgers could end up ranked higher later in the season -- Illinois is at #14 and Wisconsin is at #15 -- but still: there's a real chance that Rutgers is the best overall team Iowa sees until February.
Obviously, there are some scheduling things that are also at play here. Iowa typically faces Oklahoma State (currently #6) in January, but that dual was moved to November for Grapple on the Gridiron. As we've lamented many times this year, Iowa doesn't face Ohio State (#8) or Penn State (#1) this year. And while Iowa does face Minnesota this year, the Gophers are a shell of their former self -- currently #20.
But Rutgers is a very solid team -- they have ranked wrestlers at six of ten weights and strong All-America contenders at two weights (141 and 285). Anthony Ashnault (141) might even be a legitimate national title contender this year, especially given the uncertainty at that weight. Their strengths don't particularly overlap with Iowa's -- Rutgers' best weights are probably 141, 165, and 285 and 141 and 165 are two of Iowa's weakest weights. (At 285, Stoll has been promising for Iowa, but hasn't yet earned any significant wins.) Rutgers should win some matches in this dual, but the overall battle should still go to Iowa fairly comfortably.
Hopefully we see Iowa wrestlers look a little more fired up and energetic than they were against South Dakota State last week. This is Iowa's final competition until Midlands (December 29-30 in Evanston, IL), so there will be plenty of time to rest and recharge over the next three weeks. For now, let's see some fiery, aggressive wrestling from the Hawkeyes.
#2 Iowa (7-0) vs #12 Rutgers (9-1)
Date: Thursday, December 10, 2015
Time: 7 PM CT
Location: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Iowa City, IA)
TV/Streaming: BTN Plus
Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network (free); Hawkeye All-Access ($)
Twitter: @IowaWRLive, @IAWrestle
Tickets: Hawkeye Sports
125: #2 Thomas Gilman (JR, 7-0) vs #18 Sean McCabe (JR, 6-3) or UR Josh Patrick (SO, 3-1)
Last year Gilman wrecked McCabe via 25-10 technical fall. This year Gilman is wrestling even better, with bonus points in every win so far this year (four pins, two major decisions, one technical fall). This is not going to go well for Mr. McCabe.
PREDICTION: Gilman via FALL (IOWA 6-0)
133: #3 Cory Clark (JR, 7-0) vs #17 Anthony Giraldo (FR, 7-3)
Clark is still very good, but he's been getting off to some slow starts this season, which has contributed to him having three decision wins on his record in addition to four bonus point wins. Giraldo held Nahshon Garrett to a decision in his loss (6-1), although he also got stuck by Cody Brewer. I could see Clark doing the same, but I think it's more likely that Giraldo stymies him just enough to hold this to a decision.
PREDICTION: Clark via DEC (IOWA 9-0)
141: UR Logan Ryan (RS FR, 6-5) vs #3 Anthony Ashnault (SO, 9-0)
Ashnault has been mowing through his opponents this year, with six of nine wins including bonus points (two falls, three major decisions, and a technical fall). Logan Ryan was able to hold #1 Dean Heil to a decision at Grapple on the Gridiron, but I don't know if he'll be able to do the same with Ashnault.
PREDICTION: Ashnault via MAJ DEC (IOWA 9-4)
149: #2 Brandon Sorensen (SO, 7-0) vs UR Tyson Dippery (SO, 7-3)
Sorensen is another Iowa wrestler with a slow-start problem this year, although he's done well at still earning bonus points in his wins (six of seven wins with bonus points). Dippery hasn't yet lost by bonus points in a match this year -- but he also hasn't wrestled anyone nearly as good as Sorensen yet. It may take until late in the third period, but I think Sorensen gets the major decision.
PREDICTION: Sorensen via MAJ DEC (IOWA 13-4)
157: UR Edwin Cooper, Jr (SR, 3-2) vs #17 Richie Lewis (JR, 7-0) or UR John Van Brill (RS FR, 6-4)
Cooper has been on the cusp of some wins over ranked wrestlers -- he lost 14-11 to #15 Chance Marsteller, 8-6 to #20 Lou Mascala, and 6-5 to #8 Cody Pack -- but hasn't been able to get over the hump yet, mainly due to mental mistakes. Lewis is undefeated, but hasn't faced any opponents of note (fun fact: he did beat Raider Lofthouse, brother of Ethen Lofthouse and nephew of Luke Lofthouse). This is a complete toss-up match but one that definitely seems winnable for Cooper if he wrestles smarter than he has in past losses. Still, until he does that, I'm not going to pick him to win.
PREDICTION: Lewis via DEC (IOWA 13-6)
165: UR Patrick Rhoads (SR, 2-2) or UR Burke Paddock (RS FR, 6-4) vs #12 Anthony Perrotti (SR, 8-1)
Rhoads and Paddock have been alternating matches in the starting lineup so far this year; if that holds true, it would be Rhoads' turn to start here. As it happens, Rhoads has also been the guy against the tougher opponents, too. Either way, we haven't seen enough from either Iowa guy to predict an upset here.
PREDICTION: Perrotti via DEC (IOWA 13-10)
174: #3 Alex Meyer (JR, 6-1) vs UR Phil Bakuckas (JR, 5-3) or Anthony Pafumi (JR, 1-1)
Bakuckas wrestled Mike Evans last year and lost 5-0 to The 'Stache. Meyer is yet another member of the Slow-Start Squad, although he's wrestled a little better lately. I don't think see bonus points for Meyer, but he should take a solid decision win.
PREDICTION: Meyer via DEC (IOWA 16-10)
184: #8 Sammy Brooks (JR, 7-0) vs UR Nicholas Gravina (SO, 7-2) or UR Anthony Messner (SO, 5-4)
The only other top 184er Gravina has faced is #1 Gabe Dean and he lost via major decision (13-5) in that match. Brooks has been on an absolute tear this year and I expect him to take Gravina for a ride in the Tilt-A-Whirl in this match. Brooks has won four matches via fall and two via technical fall (the other was via forfeit), so bonus points are certainly in the offing here.
PREDICTION: Brooks via TECH FALL (IOWA 21-10)
197: #4 Nathan Burak (SR, 6-0) vs UR Hayden Hrymack (SR, 7-3)
Burak was a scratch against South Dakota State last Friday (this whole weight was a scratch in fact -- Iowa forfeited the weight, which is very atypical for Brands), but it sounds like we should expect him to go in this dual:
"Burak will be in the lineup," Brands said. "We were careful with him last time, we didn't need him. He could have gone, but he will definitely be in the lineup this week."
Hrymack got pinned by Sammy Brooks in this dual last year (at 184) and Burak has been better at earning bonus points this year (bonus points in 5 of 6 wins), so this could be another bonus point opportunity. I think Burak wins a comfortable decision.
PREDICTION: Burak via DEC (IOWA 24-10)
285: UR Sam Stoll (RS FR, 6-1) vs #6 Billy Smith (SR, 8-2)
This is one of the most intriguing matches of the dual. Stoll has looked excellent since his season-opening loss to #4 Austin Marsden, rattling off four pins and wins via DQ and forfeit (Stoll has earned six points in each of his wins so far this season), but he hasn't faced any notable heavyweights in that span, either. Smith is a very solid heavyweight, although his wins haven't been over notable heavyweights, either. This is a great test for Stoll and a nice measuring stick for how he stacks up against an All-America-caliber heavyweight. If he wins, it's going to get easy to get very excited about Stoll's prospects this year. Still... I think Smith ekes out the win.
PREDICTION: Smith via DEC (IOWA 24-13)
I'll be posting results in the comments.
The usual rules apply.