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IOWA 39, PURDUE 4: OUR MOST HAPLESS RIVAL

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Iowa returned home but kept the lopsided wins coming in a dual meet season that's been overflowing with them.

Blowouts have been a fact of life for Iowa in dual meet season this year.  Ever since their narrow 18-16 win over Oklahoma State in the season-opening Grapple on the Gridiron dual meet, Iowa has rolled up lopsided win after lopsided win.  Leaving aside their dual meet wins over Grand Canyon, Iowa Central Community College, and Cornell College -- who aren't Division I-caliber opposition -- Iowa had rolled over their eight dual meet opponents prior to Purdue by a combined score of 255-67, or an average dual meet score of 32-8. (Take out the close call against Oklahoma State and the average score becomes 34-7 for Iowa.)

And, sure, on one level this isn't entirely new for Iowa.  They've been one of the most dominant programs in the sport for decades and they've plowed over countless teams in dual meets.  But outside of Oklahoma State no one on this schedule has made Iowa sweat or have to dig deep and work for their wins.  Illinois had Iowa tied at 12-12 after six matches, but Iowa was favored to win the next four matches -- and that's precisely what they did, cruising to a 26-12 win. South Dakota State scored 15 points against Iowa (more than any opponent except Oklahoma State), but that included an Iowa forfeit at 197 lbs that gave SDSU six free points in a match Iowa would have been favored to win. An Iowa win there would have made the dual meet score 31-9, or pretty typical for Iowa this year.

And, sure, we knew going into the season that these would be the likely results for Iowa this year.  We knew that when the schedule was released and it didn't include Penn State.  Or Ohio State.  Or even Michigan, who's emerged as the Big Ten's fourth-best program this season.  It did include a dual with Minnesota, who can usually be counted on for a good scrap, but this is the weakest Minnesota team in ages, so even that seems likely to be another Hawkeye blowout. Without those tests against good teams -- without those duals against opponents who can get the juices flowing -- this season feels a little hollow.  Junk food is nice, but an all-junk food diet is not.

And I thought about all this as Iowa cruised to another low-energy blowout win over an overmatched opponent and wondered what effect it was having on the Iowa wrestlers.  Is a steady stream of cupcakes and patsies dulling their edge?  Is that why they so many guys seem a half-step slower or a touch more lethargic in these recent duals?  is it just too hard to get suitably fired up when you're facing a steady stream of middling opponents?  I don't know.  But it seems like it could be a factor; I just hope it doesn't wear Iowa down or leave them ill-prepared when the pressure ratchets up in the tournaments that truly matter in March.

Anyway.  So Purdue entered this match with all of one ranked wrestler (per InterMat).  A blowout was expected -- and a blowout was duly delivered by the Hawkeyes in fairly workmanlike fashion.  Iowa won all five matches before intermission, jumping out to a 21-0 lead at the break behind a technical fall from Thomas Gilman, a major decision from Cory Clark, decision wins from Brody Grothus and Brandon Sorensen, and a stunning defensive fall from Edwin Cooper.  Purdue won the first match after intermission (which featured their aforementioned ranked wrestler), but Iowa again finished strong, winning all four matches and scoring bonus points (a Brooks major decision at 184, a Burak technical fall at 197, and a Stoll pin at 285) in three of the four bouts. When the dust settled Iowa had an easy 39-4 win and a record that sat at 12-0 overall and 6-0 in the Big Ten.

125 #2 Thomas Gilman TECH FALL (23-8) UR Ben Thornton IOWA 5-0
133 #3 Cory Clark MAJ DEC (12-0) UR Luke Welch IOWA 9-0
141 UR Brody Grothus DEC (6-0) UR Danny Sabatello IOWA 12-0
149 #2 Brandon Sorensen DEC (8-2) UR Alex Griffin IOWA 15-0
157 #16 Edwin Cooper, Jr. FALL (2:37) UR Doug Welch IOWA 21-0
165 #7 Chad Welch MAJ DEC UR Burke Paddock IOWA 21-4
174 #12 Alex Meyer DEC (8-4) UR Jacob Morrissey IOWA 24-4
184 #7 Sammy Brooks MAJ DEC (14-4) UR Tanner Lynde IOWA 28-4
197 #3 Nathan Burak TECH FALL (22-7) UR Drake Stein IOWA 33-4
285 #8 Sam Stoll FALL (4:04) UR Tyler Kral IOWA 39-4


A few thoughts on each weight...

125: Thomas Gilman continued his tour of destruction against weaker opponents, smashing Ben Thornton via 23-8 technical fall behind ten takedowns, an escape, a riding time point, and a penalty point.  Gilman took him down with ease, though once on the mat he wasn't able to turn him for back points (or a fall).  Still, he kept up the pressure and got a technical fall -- job done.

133: Cory Clark jumped out a 6-0 lead in the first period behind a takedown and a 4-point near fall, but wasn't able to seal the deal with a pin.  He added a takedown apiece in the second and third periods, as well as an escape and a riding time point to finish off the comfortable 12-0 major decision win.  A pin or technical fall would have been nice, of course, but Clark controlled the match from start to finish and looked sharper and more aggressive than he has the last few weeks; perhaps he's finally regaining his early season form after the knee injury he sustained around Midlands.

141: At last!  The man, the myth, the much-talked-about Brody Grothus made his long-awaited debut in the starting lineup at 141 lbs, wherein he looked... OK.  He looked a lot like the Grothus we saw at 149 lbs, frankly: overly reliant on upper body throws for his offense and prone to letting guys get to his legs too easily.  He didn't look substantially bigger or stronger at 141 than his opponent, although his lankiness should be just as much of an asset at 141 as it was at 149; if nothing else, it makes it easier for him to work his way into stalemates when opponents do get to his legs. Hopefully Grothus' performances improve as he gets more time on the mat and his conditioning improves and he gets more comfortable at 141 lbs; on present form, Grothus looked fine, but not exactly like the difference-maker we were hoping to see at this weight.

149: Brandon Sorensen has been one of Iowa's best wrestlers this season, but of late he hasn't looked quite as dominant.  He labored a bit to a 6-3 decision win over Wisconsin's Andrew Crone last week and struggled at times this week to expand his score and get bonus points.  He won with a comfortable 8-2 decision and didn't look bad, but it was still a bit underwhelming when you know that he's capable of much more.  He struggled to string attacks together at times and wasn't a hammer on the mat, which is unlike him.  Still, if you're going to have a mini-slump, now's the time to do it, given the level of competition.  Let's just hope he's back to his best as March approaches.

157: In a dual meet where the ref was frustratingly unwilling to call too many stall calls, even when Purdue wrestlers were content to hang out and do a whole lot of nothing, he was more than happy to call a lightning-quick defensive touch fall when Cooper and Doug Welch were rolling around on the mat late in the first period.  It seemed to be technically the correct call, but it's the sort of thing that many refs may have let go. It's nice for Cooper to pick up a pin and get some bonus points, but I don't know that there's much to take away from this match. Cooper was down 1-0 after a technical violation, got in a scramble, and got a defensive fall call when Welch's shoulders touched the mat for a second.  Not the sort of situation we're likely to see very often.

165: Burke Paddock got the nod for Iowa at 165 and it looked like a very inspired choice early on, when Paddock used a great upper body throw to whip Chad Welch (the third of three brothers competing for Purdue last night) to the mat.  He took Welch to the mat with such jarring force that the Purdue man needed to take a bit of injury time to recover.  But recover he did -- and the match was all downhill for Paddock after that.  Paddock actually got in deep on another takedown attempt moments later, but Welch countered.  Rather than bail out, Paddock kept pushing to get the takedown himself... only to get taken down and put on his back for a quick 4-point near fall.  Welch added on a few more takedowns after that and a turn late to add a few more near fall points to lock up the major decision; he looked to be clearly the better wrestler after Paddock's fast start.  Paddock did show some promise, though; hopefully increased experience helps him smooth the rough edges in his game.

174: The Alex Meyer Experience rolls on at 174 and, frankly, it's not getting much easier to watch.  On Friday night he was never able to pull away and win convincingly against an opponent that, frankly, isn't that good. He grabbed a takedown in the first... but couldn't do much with Morrissey on the mat.  He added an escape in the second to go up 3-0, but then quickly gave up a takedown to cut his lead to 3-2.  He got a reversal late on to bring his lead back to 5-2... then gave up another takedown early in the third period to cut his lead to 5-4. An escape and a late takedown of his own made things 8-4, but this was anything but a confident, assured performance.  As he has so often this year, Meyer looked tentative and uncertain at times; the confident, aggressive wrestler that stormed back to record memorable wins last season has been nowhere to be found.  Iowa badly needs that Alex Meyer to show up this year -- and fast.  On present form, Meyer seems like a better bet to go 2-2 at the NCAA Tournament (or worse) than he does to earn All-America honors.

184: Sammy Brooks hit the mat immediately after Meyer (to the tune of "Paint it Black;" and here I didn't think it was possible for me to like him any more than I already did) and went about erasing the bad taste left by the 174 lb match. Brooks was able to control the match from start to finish against a weaker opponent, scoring a quick takedown and opening up a 4-1 lead in the first period and then pouring on the pressure and making it 9-2 in the second period.  He added a few more takedowns and a riding time point in the third period to lock up a 14-4 major decision win; that was good, but it was a touch disappointing that he wasn't able to get any back points or work for a technical fall or pin.

197: Nathan Burak's superb senior season continued with another dominant blowout win of a weaker opponent, as he really pushed the pace from the opening whistle and never stopped looking for scoring opportunities.  He ran a takedown clinic, racking up nine takedowns with a variety of smooth offensive attacks, but was also able to do a little damage on the mat and pick up some near fall points, too.  After a late takedown put Burak up 20-6 and in position to get a technical fall with the riding time point coming his way in 20 seconds, the coaches urged him to simply keep his opponent on the mat. Burak either didn't hear them or ignored them, though, and gave his opponent an escape.  No matter -- he just stayed on the attack and was rewarded with a takedown in the final seconds that locked up a 22-7 technical fall.  It's been a lot of fun to see such an offensive, attacking Burak this year.

285: The first half of the dual ended with a surprising pinfall (via Edwin Cooper), so Sam Stoll decided to end his half of the dual with a pinfall of his own.  Given Stoll's pinning prowess (he's the current team leader in that category, with seven), seeing Sammy stick an opponent was far less surprising -- but no less gratifying.  Stoll was in control from the start, using a slick inside trip to get an early takedown and then going to work on top.  Kral held out in that position for a while, but ultimately Stoll would not be denied -- he horsed Kral over and got the pin to end the dual.

Highlights:

NEXT: Iowa heads to Lincoln to take on #11 Nebraska (9-3, 3-3 B1G) on Sunday (2 PM CT, BTN Plus) in what should be a more interesting match-up than we've seen the last few weeks.