Iowa returned to action for the first dual meet in three weeks on Friday night and picked up right where they left off, using a late surge to pull away from Illinois and win 26-12. The final score was lopsided and while Iowa did control the meet (Iowa won seven of ten matches), the dual was tied at three wins apiece (and on the scoreboard, 12-12) after six matches. The Illini were in position to pull the upset over Iowa, if they could get a few upsets in the upper weights. That didn't happen. (The absence of one of their best wrestlers, Zac Brunson at 174, didn't help their upset efforts.)
It was a dual meet that featured a lot of bonus points (five of ten matches), a lot of action, and a lot of scoring -- although most of the scoring came in one-sided matches. Three of the five matches involving bonus points were heavily lopsided technical falls and the other two were blowout major decisions. There were a few close matches, most notably the showdown between Cory Clark and Zane Richards at 133 (the only match featuring two top ten wrestlers), which was tied 3-3 before Richards scored the winning takedown early in sudden victory overtime. But in the end, Iowa's lineup had too much qualify from top to bottom for Illinois.
|125||#2 Thomas Gilman||TECH FALL (22-5)||UR Francis Edelen||IOWA 5-0|
|133||#7 Zane Richards||DEC (5-3 SV)||#2 Cory Clark||IOWA 5-3|
|141||UR Topher Carton||DEC (5-4)||UR Brock Ervin||IOWA 8-3|
|149||#2 Brandon Sorensen||MAJ DEC (16-4)||UR Kyle Langenderfer||IOWA 12-3|
|157||#1 Isaiah Martinez||TECH FALL (21-5)||#16 Edwin Cooper, Jr.||IOWA 12-8|
|165||#7 Steven Rodrigues||MAJ DEC (12-4)||UR Patrick Rhoads||TIE 12-12|
|174||#10 Alex Meyer||TECH FALL (24-9)||UR Isaac Reinemann||IOWA 17-12|
|184||#8 Sammy Brooks||DEC (6-1)||UR Jeff Koepke||IOWA 20-12|
|197||#3 Nathan Burak||DEC (13-6)||UR Andre Lee||IOWA 23-12|
|285||#8 Sam Stoll||DEC (2-0)||#19 Brooks Black||IOWA 26-12|
125: As expected, Gilman wrecked shop on Edelen, picking up a technical fall in three minutes (!), thanks to the new 4-point near fall. I predicted a pin for Gilman and while that didn't happen, it wasn't for lack of trying -- Gilman whipped Edelen over three separate times and appeared to have him dead to rights for the fall 3-4 different times, only for Edelen to somehow wriggle free and keep his shoulders off the mat. That was pretty impressive.
133: The only real disappointment of the night for Iowa, as Clark dropped a close one to Richards. Richards beat him in this same match a year ago (while Clark beat him at Midlands and the Big Ten Tournament), so we knew this was a possible outcome. Clark didn't look quite himself, frankly -- he wasn't able to get any really good attacks off from neutral and, surprisingly, he also struggled to ride Richards. If Clark's knee is still bothering him, he should probably take a little more time off -- Iowa needs him as close to 100% as possible if they're going to mount a real run at Big Ten and NCAA titles in March.
141: Carton got momentum right back on Iowa's side in the next match, grinding out a 5-4 win thanks to a stall call on his opponent for fleeing the mat in the closing seconds. Carton gave up a takedown early, but wrestled pretty well after that and scored a nice takedown of his own. Ervin was one of a few Illini wrestlers who seemed to have gas tanks the size of a soup can, so it wasn't particularly surprising (or undeserving) for him to lose on a stall point.
149: Sorensen celebrated his Midlands championship by completing smashing Langenderfer. He's wrestled him three times and the margin of victory has gotten bigger every time. Sorensen looked incredibly confident in his attacks and didn't hesitate to cut Langenderfer loose and try for more takedowns. It was an impressive, dominant showing by one of Iowa's best wrestlers this season.
157: A technical fall loss was what I expected from Cooper going up against #1 Isaiah Martinez and a technical fall loss was exactly what I got. Martinez is simply too good in all areas. He's a legitimately breathtaking talent, with an unreal combination of strength, explosiveness, and technical skill. He moves fluidly and strings together attacks brilliantly. It wasn't fun to see an Iowa wrestler get dominated, but it's impossible not to tip your hat to Martinez. He's sensational.
165: Rhoads had a solid showing at Midlands, but this was not a particularly good follow-up -- Rodrigues looked better from minute one and completely controlled the match, eventually grabbing a major decision. He looks much better up at 165 from 141 and Rhoads had no answers for him.
174: Meyer's potential rematch with Zac Brunson looked to be one of the highlights of this dual, but with Brunson still nursing an injury, that rematch will have to wait until at least the Big Ten Tournament. Instead, Meyer faced Brunson's inexperienced understudy, Isaac Reinemann... and drilled him. Meyer scored 10 takedowns in the match and put on absolute clinic. There's not a lot to take away from a match as lopsided as this against a weak opponent, but it was nice to see Meyer with an attacking mindset on the mat. Too often this year he's seemed content to sit on one or two takedowns and try to grind out low-scoring wins. Seeing him push the tempo and score, score, and score was a nice change of pace. Hopefully we see more of this mindset against better opponents.
184: Speaking of guys who could use a jolt in the attacking mindset department... I didn't expect to have to say that this season about Brooks, but he seemed flat in this match. He got an early takedown and rode Koepke hard and that was more than enough points to win the match for him, but he didn't really offer much in terms of attacking output until he finally went after Koepke in the final seconds and got a late takedown. We know that Brooks has some excellent offense, so it's discouraging to see him sit back and refrain from pulling the trigger.
197: Meanwhile, Burak continued his very strong senior season, blitzing a talented, but inexperienced opponent in Lee. Burak is another guy who in years past has been content to get a takedown or two and ride that to victory, but he was constantly looking to score in this match and displayed a nice variety of attacks. He finished one takedown short of a major decision, but seeing Burak wrestle like this was very fun to see. If he keeps this up, he's going to put together a really wonderful senior season.
285: Finally, in the dance of the shaved bears, Sam Stoll continued to show off his improved mat skills, using a punishing third-period ride on Brooks Black to pick up a riding time point and a 2-0 win. Stoll rode Black the entire period and was fairly active on top, too, often looking to try and run an armbar and put Black on his back. On the other hand, neither guy did a thing in the first period and it would be nice to see a little more attacks from neutral from Stoll.
NEXT: Iowa heads a few hours north in Illinois for their second trip to Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston in the span of two weeks. The last time they were there they brought home a MIdlands title. The stakes will be a little lower on Sunday (2 PM CT, BTN Plus), but Iowa should leave Evanston victorious again -- this time with a dual meet win over Northwestern.