What is Dispatches from Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an blogger for an opposing team; he (or she) answers. A truly revolutionary idea, no? Today: rcv73 from On The Banks, SB Nation's fine blog for all things Rutgers.
1) Iowa fans probably aren't too familiar with Rutgers wrestling, but they've been having a very nice season so far -- 9-1 including wins over four ranked teams, including a big win over Cornell at the Grapple at the garden event a few weeks ago. Give us a brief recap of the season so far for Rutgers if you can.
RCV73: Just like you folks do, Head Coach Scott Goodale began the Rutgers Duals a few years ago. Low pressure for the home team, but an opportunity for local teams, including D3, to wrestle the big kid on the block. And voila, you're 3-0. The Northeast Duals two weeks later saw the only loss of the season against Oklahoma, 19-18. Giving up a pin and a major was the difference. My post after the loss to the Sooners opened with, "Every point. Every bout. That's what it's all about as you wrestle at the highest level. Rutgers took two of three matches against ranked opponents at the Northeast Duals, but came within a point of making it a sweep." At the same time, the day also included two wins against ranked opponents -- a huge road win over three-time defending PAC-12 champs Oregon State pushed the rankings for the Knights. And here we are.
2) Has there been any discussion from head coach Scott Goodale or the wrestlers about wrestling in Carver-Hawkeye Arena this year? Are they nervous? Excited? Both? There should be a pretty big crowd at CHA for this dual. The atmosphere at the RAC last year was a lot of fun, so I'm excited to see Iowa return the favor this year.
RCV73: A comment he made after the Cornell match signified how, I think, he views this type of match in Iowa. "We want to wrestle the best teams, we want to go to different environments, and we want to wrestle programs like Cornell. It's important to wrestle these big matches. There's a long way to go, we've just got to keep getting better." Based on that, I'd say the team is excited about going to "Mecca". But I don't think nerves will kick in. Rutgers was sixth in the nation in attendance so the team has wrestled in front of good size crowds. Not 43,000 in Kinnick, but.....
3) What's the match of the dual in your opinion? For the most part, Iowa's best wrestlers are at different weights than Rutgers' best wrestlers, it seems.
RCV73: Right, both have six ranked wrestlers. And only at 125 and 133 are there match ups of ranked opponents. At 125, Sean McCabe just entered the rankings last week and your Tom Gilman is No. 2. The same happens at 133, with Cory Clark at No. 2 and Anthiony Giraldo at 17. Those two could really be important for the Knights. We've had a few tough bouts, but I think the key is (here's insight) avoiding the bonus points. That's what hurt RU against Oklahoma. As you say, Rutgers' strength has been at the lower weights, including 2015 All American Anthony Ashnault at 141 (No. 3). The Knights need to keep things close where there is a ranked match up and crank it up with Ashnault, Perrotti (165), and Lewis (157)
4) Rutgers seems strongest at some of the lower weights -- four of their six ranked wrestlers are at 125 (#18 Sean McCabe), 133 (#17 Anthony Giraldo), 141 (#3 Anthony Ashnault), and 157 (#17 Richie Lewis). What should Iowa fans expect from those weights?
RCV73: Well, I may have hinted at that in the previous questions (tell me when I'm supposed to read ahead!) Ashnault is a machine; he's relentless and goes for the kill. Lewis also has been an attacking force. And he knows something about you folks; he was a two-time JUCO All-American at Iowa Central. Giraldo is a redshirt freshman and is now ranked. That's uncharted territory for Rutgers.
5) Rutgers looks weaker at the upper weights -- only two of their final five wrestlers are ranked, 165 (#12 Anthony Perrotti) and 285 (#6 Billy Smith). What should Iowa fans expect from those weights?
RCV73: Perrotti was an All American in 2014. He's moved up a weight this year and I think is stronger for it. He's physical and carries the blue collar mindset of the rest of the team. Five of his eight wins are bonus point wins. Billy Smith is, to me, very methodical and driven. He isn't flashy but he plays the Energizer bunny. And he, too, goes for the bonus points; six of eight wins earned additional points.
6) OK, prediction time -- how do you see this dual meet going?
RCV73: As I played this out on paper, I wanted to puh a match or two towards Rutgers, but I think the Hawkeyes get off to a strong start, and the early mini-run gets stopped by Ashnault. Rutgers picks up a couple in the middle with Lewis and Perrotti. But your strength at the top pulls Iowa away. Billy Smith will win but it won't be enough. Iowa takes six bouts and wins the match 22-16.
Thanks for being a good sport, rcv73, but I still hope your team gets mollywhopped tomorrow night. You can check out the OTB crew at On The Banks. You can also follow OTB on Twitter at @OTB_SBNation.The Iowa-Rutgers dual meet is in Iowa City, IA on Thursday, December 10, and is scheduled to start at approximately 7:00 pm CT, with TV/streaming coverage from BTN Plus.