#2 Iowa (9-0, 3-0 B1G) vs Northwestern (1-5, 0-1 B1G)
Date: Sunday, January 10, 2016
Time: 2 PM CT
Location: Welsh-Ryan Arena (Evanston, IL)
TV/Streaming: BTN Plus
Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network (free); Hawkeye All-Access ($)
Twitter: @IowaWRLive, @IAWrestle
Let's cut to the chase here: Northwestern isn't very good this year. The Wildcats fired their longtime head coach, Drew Pariano, just days before the start of the 2015-16 season; shockingly, this proved to be a pretty inauspicious sign for their season. The reasons why Pariano was fired have remained somewhat unclear, but it's certainly had a detrimental effect on the team that Northwestern has put on the field this year.
A problem for Northwestern in recent years has been a lack of depth across the lineup; they list 20 wrestlers total on their roster page. For comparison, Iowa's roster page lists 37 wrestlers. That lack of depth has manifested itself in the form of Northwestern taking a stunning number of forfeits this year. They've taken a forfeit four times at 149 lbs, three times at 157, and five times at 197. They forfeited all three weights in two separate dual meets, against Rider and SIU-Edwardsville. Shockingly, they lost both duals; it turns out that it's a big problem to spot your opponent an 18 points in a dual meet. They don't have quite so many holes in their lineup right now, but it's still a weak-looking lineup. But let's break things down.
125: #2 Thomas Gilman (JR, 13-0) vs. UR Garrison White (SR, 9-5)
Gilman faced White at last year's Iowa-Northwestern dual -- and tech falled him. Gilman has been absolutely ferocious against weaker opponents this year and I expect more of the same here.
PREDICTION: Gilman via TECH FALL (IOWA 5-0)
133: #2 Cory Clark (JR, 11-1) vs. UR Dominick Malone (SR, 15-4)
Clark did not look quite right against Illinois on Friday night and, frankly, if he's not healthy, I think I'd prefer to see Iowa give him the day off and eat a forfeit at this weight than run him out and risk exacerbating an injury. Iowa needs Clark too much in March to risk him in a January dual meet that they're going to win handily. I hate seeing teams take forfeits -- and as an Iowa fan, I especially hate seeing them take a forfeit -- but Clark's health shouldn't be risked. But if he is fit enough to wrestle, I think he'll grind out an ugly decision.
PREDICTION: Clark via DEC (IOWA 8-0)
141: UR Topher Carton (JR, 8-4) vs. UR Jameson Oster (SR, 8-2)
Carton beat Oster via medical forfeit at Midlands, but it seems likely that he'll actually have to wrestle Oster this time if he wants to get a win. Oster has had decent but not spectacular results this year and this feels like a toss-up match, given Carton's own inconsistencies. I'll give Northwestern the nod here.
PREDICTION: Oster via DEC (IOWA 8-3)
149: #2 Brandon Sorensen (SO, 15-0) vs. #3 Jason Tsirtsis (JR, 5-2)
And now we have the unquestioned Match of the Meet, with Sorensen and T-shirt squaring off for the fifth time in the last two years. Sorensen won the last meeting (a 3-1 win in overtime in the Midlands finals a few weeks ago) and overall their series is tied 2-2. That would make this the rubber match, if not for the fact that these two could square off two more times this season (at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments), to say nothing of their likely matches next year (unless one of them moves up to 157). Historically, their matches have been very tight, cagey, and low-scoring -- it's hard to see why that would change now, although it would be great to see Sorensen get an early takedown and see if that changed the formula of the matches. Sorensen was able to finally score that elusive takedown on Tsirtsis at Midlands -- can he do it again? I'm saying yes, although this is very much a toss-up match.
PREDICTION: Sorensen via DEC (IOWA 11-3)
157: #16 Edwin Cooper, Jr. (SR, 7-6) vs. OPEN
Northwestern lists no one at this weight, so: free points for Cooper.
PREDICTION: Cooper via FORFEIT (IOWA 17-3)
165: UR Patrick Rhoads (SR, 6-6) vs. UR Luke Norland (FR, 3-6)
Norland has had a rough go of things this year and while Rhoads isn't a world-beater, if he wrestles smartly, he should erase the bad taste of his major decision loss on Friday night.
PREDICTION: Rhoads via DEC (IOWA 20-3)
174: #10 Alex Meyer (JR, 13-2) vs. UR Mitch Sliga (SO, 11-4)
Hopefully Meyer got some confidence back with the takedown-fest he put on display in his win on Friday night; Sliga is a better opponent than who Meyer faced on Friday, but if Meyer wrestles with the same mindset that he did in that match, he should have no problem taking care of Sliga. Of course, wrestling with that sort of aggressive mindset has been a problem for him this year, so...
PREDICTION: Meyer via DEC (IOWA 23-3)
184: #8 Sammy Brooks (JR, 14-2) vs. UR Regis Durbin (FR, 4-8)
There aren't enough guys named Regis in the world now, frankly. But Regis is not gonna have a good time on Sunday. I think Brooks gets back to his bonus point-scoring ways here.
PREDICTION: Brooks via TECH FALL (IOWA 28-3)
197: #3 Nathan Burak (SR, 13-0) vs. UR Jacob Berkowitz (JR, 3-4)
Berkowitz has a losing record, but he hasn't been blown out in any of his matches so far. Burak will win, but I think it will just be a comfortable decision rather than a bonus point win.
PREDICTION: Burak via DEC (IOWA 31-3)
285: #8 Sam Stoll (RS FR, 13-2) vs. UR Conan Jennings (FR, 4-10)
NORTHWESTERN HAS A HEAVYWEIGHT NAMED CONAN. I repeat: NORTHWESTERN HAS A HEAVYWEIGHT NAMED CONAN. This is tremendous. Alas, this Conan isn't much of a destroyer. But Sammy Stoll is. And I think Stoll puts Conan to the sword -- figuratively speaking, of course.
PREDICTION: Stoll via FALL (IOWA 37-3)
Again: Nothwestern is bad. Iowa should score a lot of points today and win comfortably. Sorensen-Tsirtsis will be interesting. But beyond that... well, I hope you like seeing dominant displays from Iowa. (Which you probably do if you're on this blog, frankly.)
The usual rules apply.
I'll try to post updates and results in the comments, but anyone else is free to do the same.