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WE MUST BREAK YOU: #2 IOWA VS #11 ILLINOIS WRESTLING PREVIEW + OPEN THREAD

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Iowa heads east for an interesting encounter with the Illini.

Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports

#2 Iowa (8-0, 2-0 B1G) vs #11 Illinois (8-1, 1-1 B1G)

Date: Friday,  January 8, 2016
Time: 7 PM CT
Location: Huff Hall (Champaign, IL)
TV/Streaming: Illinois website (here)
Radio: Hawkeye Radio Network (free); Hawkeye All-Access ($)
Twitter: @IowaWRLive@IAWrestle
Tickets: n/a

The Iowa wrestling team heads back into the dual meet grind with a pair of road road duals this weekend in the land of Lincoln, one of which looks potentially tricky and one of which looks like a total walkover.  The walkover will be on Sunday against Northwestern, a dual where only 3-4 matches may be remotely competitive.  The tricky-looking dual is tonight, against Illinois in Champaign.  Like half the Big Ten, Illinois is coached by former Hawkeyes, Jim Heffernan (a four-time All-American at Iowa) and Mark Perry (also a four-time All-American, as well as a two-time national champion), who would love to get a win over Iowa.  Unlike half the Big Ten, though, Illinois has a good enough to make that a realistic goal.  This is a strong Iowa team, but it's not without holes and Illinois is capable of exploiting those holes -- and even snatching a few upsets away from some of Iowa's strengths.

Unfortunately, this dual isn't on BTN or available online through BTN Plus or BTN2Go. It looks like a stream should be available on Illinois' website here, but I can't guarantee that.

In the words of Tom Brands, let's hope for some KA-BOOM from the Iowa wrestlers tonight:

125: #2 Thomas Gilman (JR, 12-0) vs. UR Francis Edelen (FR, 1-8)

This is not a weight where Illinois is capable of snatching an upset.  Remember when Illinois had two-time NCAA champion Jesse Delgado at this weight?  Yeah, he's gone now. Gilman started the season with 10 straight bonus point wins before settling for a pair of decisions in the final two rounds of the Midlands.  He'll start a new bonus point streak tonight.

PREDICTION: Gilman via FALL (IOWA 6-0)

133: #2 Cory Clark (JR, 11-0) vs. #7 Zane Richards (JR, 14-0)

This, on the other hand, is a weight where Illinois could grab an upset.  Clark medically forfeited out of the second day of competition at the Midlands as a precautionary measure, but he is expected to wrestle this weekend.  If he's not 100%, though, Richards is good enough to trip him up.  Clark went 2-1 against Richards last year, beating him 4-2 in the Midlands final and 8-2 in the consolation bracket at the Big Ten Tournament, but losing to him 6-5 in the Iowa-Illinois dual. I'll take Clark to edge a close match, but this is a definite toss-up.

PREDICTION: Clark via DEC (IOWA 9-0)

141: UR Topher Carton (JR, 7-4) vs. UR Brock Ervin (FR, 6-3)

Good news: Brody Grothus is competing for Iowa at 141 lbs!  Bad news: he's not doing so here (or against Northwestern on Sunday).  Grothus is making his long-awaited debut for Iowa at his new weight, but he's doing so at the Pat Flanagan Open in Dubuque.  If he's healthy enough to wrestle, I'd prefer to see him wrestling in the duals than against D3-level competition at that open, but hey -- in Brands we trust, right? As for this match... it looks like another toss-up.  I gave Iowa he benefit in the last one, so I'll go with Illinois here.

PREDICTION: Ervin via DEC (IOWA 9-3)

149: #2 Brandon Sorensen (SO, 14-0) vs. UR Kyle Langenderfer (SO, 5-4)

Fresh off his Midlands triumph, is Sorensen primed for a letdown here?  Nah.  He went 2-0 against Langenderfer last year and won comfortably both times (11-5 at the Iowa-Illinois dual and 11-2 at the NCAA Tournament). The bigger question is whether he can get bonus points here.  I say yes.

PREDICTION: Sorensen via MAJ DEC (IOWA 13-3)

157: #16 Edwin Cooper, Jr. (SR, 7-5) vs. #1 Isaiah Martinez (SO, 15-0)

Just don't get pinned, Edwin.  I would be satisfied if Cooper held this loss to a technical fall. I would be very pleasantly surprised if he was able to hold it to a major decision.  Suffice to say, I expect bad things here.  Martinez is an absolute monster.  He's the defending national champion, he hasn't lost in college yet, and 12 of his 14 wins this year have been via technical fall or fall.

PREDICTION: Martinez via TECH FALL (IOWA 13-8)

165: UR Patrick Rhoads (SR, 6-5) vs. #7 Steven Rodrigues (SR, 13-1)

Rodrigues began his career at 141, but it seems like 165 suits him much better.  He was middling at the lower weight, but a potential All-American up three weights. (He must have been eating, like, a cracker and a sip of water to make it down to 141.)  Rhoads has looked impressively scrappy (especially when he was able to grind out a 7th place finish at Midlands), but Rodrigues appears to have too much firepower for him.

PREDICTION: Rodrigues via DEC (IOWA 13-11)

174: #10 Alex Meyer (JR, 12-2) vs. #5 Zac Brunson (JR, 13-0) or UR Isaac Reinemann (FR, 5-6)

A year ago in this dual, Meyer scored a thrilling last-second come from behind pinfall win over Brunson.  That win (along with a few others) led us (and many others, to be fair) to expect big things from Meyer this season when he became the full-time starter.  So far the reality hasn't lived up to those expectations.  It's not clear if Meyer is battling an injury or illness or what, but he hasn't had the same spark that he had in his appearances last year.  So if Brunson does wrestle tonight, I don't feel at all good about Meyer's ability to make it two in a row over him.  If Reinemann gets the call, though, Meyer should get the win.  For Illinois to win this dual, they need Brunson, so I think he wrestles tonight.

PREDICTION: Brunson via DEC (ILL 14-13)

184: #8 Sammy Brooks (JR, 13-2) vs. UR Jeff Koepke (SR, 12-2)

Koepke has a nice record (and is a fringe top 20 guy according to a few rankings), but he doesn't really have any high quality wins.  He and Brooks wrestled each other in high school so there is some familiarity there -- but both guys have improved and developed quite a bit since then (especially Brooks).  I think Sammy gets back on track after a frustrating Midlands showing and has a comfortable decision win.

PREDICTION: Brooks via DEC (IOWA 16-14)

197: #3 Nathan Burak (SR, 12-0) vs. UR Andre Lee (FR, 10-4)

Burak seems confident and is wrestling as well as he has at any point in his career. I think he goes about his business again here and gets a solid, workmanlike win for the Hawkeyes.

PREDICTION: Burak via DEC (IOWA 19-14)

285: #8 Sam Stoll (RS FR, 12-2) vs. #19 Brooks Black (SO, 11-3)

Black came to Illinois with a ton of hype -- he was one of the top heavyweight recruits in the 285 lb class in 2013 (and a top-ten overall recruit) -- but he hasn't lived up to it yet. He went 18-16 a year ago and failed to come close to All-America honors.  He's 11-3 this year, but doesn't have any really notable wins yet.  Still, this is heavyweight and one move could be all it takes.  Stoll has been wrestling well lately, though, and I'd favor him to be the one to get that decisive move.

PREDICTION: Stoll via DEC (IOWA 22-14)

22-14 looks like a solid Iowa win, but there are some definite toss-up weights in this dual -- 133, 141, 174, and 285.  I split them two apiece for Iowa and Illinois, but if Illinois can get them all, they'll almost certainly take the dual meet.  (If Iowa takes them all, then the dual should be a laugher in favor of Iowa.) Likewise, I feel good about Iowa at 184 and 197, but if something crazy happens there, then Illinois might not need to flip all of the toss-up weights in their favor.  Suffice to say, this is an intriguing dual meet and one where the usual result (an Iowa victory) is not a foregone conclusion.

Go ahead and post results and updates in the comments; my availability may be somewhat limited tonight.

The usual rules apply.