We knew Iowa was going to wallop Montana State Northern on Friday night -- that's exactly what you'd expect to happen when a top Division I team takes on an NAIA team. So the fact that Iowa won 51-0, with bonus points in eight matches and six pins, was no surprise. What was a surprise was just how fun the dual was. There was a little grumbling in some corners about why Iowa was using a competition date on an NAIA team -- how would that help prepare them for the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments? I was a little confused myself. And who knows whether or not this dual will have any effect -- positive or negative -- on Iowa's efforts a month from now.
But as an outreach effort and as an event by itself, this dual meet is a giant win -- for Iowa, for Montana State Northern, and for wrestling. The crowd in Havre was loud, passionate, and enthusiastic throughout the night, even when their wrestlers were getting clobbered and taken to the mat at will (which was often). The Montana State Northern announcers on the free livestream made available by MSUN were exuberant and excitable -- and wildly entertaining. They were unabashed homers for their guys and they struggled with identifying Iowa wrestlers and pronouncing names correctly -- but they were also hilarious and just added to the general good vibes of the event. And the MSUN wrestlers wrestled fearlessly and without not conservatively -- they went for things, even if it wound up backfiring on them. This dual was far more entertaining than watching Iowa steamroll a team like Michigan State or Northwestern in front of an 80% empty gym with wrestlers going through the motions and just trying not to get pinned.
As for the Iowa wrestlers... I don't know how much you can take away from these matches. There were some good wrestlers on the MSUN team, but it's hard to know how to really rate them in comparison to Division I competition. Gilman, Clark, Sorensen, Cooper, Brooks, and Stoll looked good flattening their opponents and winning via falls (props to Stoll for winning the quickest -- Iowa's leading pinner this season needed fewer than two minutes to put his opponent on his back). Cooper took the longest to get his fall (6:42), but he put on a takedown clinic before that point, eventually wearing his opponent down. He also continued his recent habit of scoring takedowns immediately off the opening whistle, which has become a fun trend -- hopefully he keeps it up even as the opposition gets more challenging.
Patrick Rhoads wasn't able to finish his opponent with a pin, but he did pick up a technical fall after overwhelming his opponent with takedowns. It's nice to see him wrestling with some confidence in his offense. And Nathan Burak got one of Iowa's two decision wins on the night, but he was also up against probably MSUN's best wrestler, #1-ranked Garrett DeMers (and his outstanding mustache). A bonus point win would have been nice, but Burak was in control all match and displayed some sharp takedown skills.
The only two Iowa wrestlers who really struggled were Brody Grothus and Alex Meyer, whose performances here didn't do a lot to get us hyped up for the possibilities of them making deep runs a month from now. Grothus did end up winning via major decision and rebounded well after a bad start -- he went down 2-0 early and narrowly avoided getting put on his back. But that bad start was the result of something we've seen time and again from Brody -- he tries to go for a big upper body throw, only it backfires and he winds up in a bad position as a result. He was able to get out of danger here and turn things around, but that might not be the case against stiffer opposition. But Brody is who he is at this point -- maybe we just have to accept that as a big part of his style and hope that it works out for him more often than not.
Meanwhile, Meyer dug himself an even bigger hole -- he was down 6-0 early after getting thrown and very nearly put on his back and pinned (he did give up four near fall points) -- but he did eventually dig himself free with the help of a few takedowns, a reversal, and some hard riding. His opponent (Willie Miller) is another one of MSUN's better wrestlers and he seemed particularly adept at finishing big throws ("He'd rather throw ya than know ya," as the announcer memorably exclaimed at one point), but it was still a bit alarming. On the other hand, it was also a throwback to the Meyer of last year, who'd often dig himself deficits before finally getting going and pulling off a comeback win. It does make for some exciting matches, I suppose.
Still, I don't want to read too much into the results from Meyer and Grothus -- both guys did wrestle well after bad starts and, hey, sometimes shit just happens. Maybe those performances were precursors to disappointment a month from now, but maybe they were just slightly off nights. Overall, Iowa looked good and put on a fun show -- that'll do nicely for a Friday night.
|125||#2 Thomas Gilman||FALL (2:31)||#5 Quintel Fuchs||IOWA 6-0|
|133||#3 Cory Clark||FALL (3:30)||UR Blake Ivie||IOWA 12-0|
|141||UR Brody Grothus||MAJ DEC (13-3)||#5 Matt Weber||IOWA 16-0|
|149||#2 Brandon Sorensen||FALL (2:18)||#11 Drake Randall||IOWA 22-0|
|157||#18 Edwin Cooper, Jr.||FALL (6:42)||UR Brandon Weber||IOWA 28-0|
|165||UR Patrick Rhoads||TECH FALL (26-11)||UR Andrew Bartel||IOWA 33-0|
|174||#10 Alex Meyer||DEC (11-9)||#5 Willie Miller||IOWA 36-0|
|184||#11 Sammy Brooks||FALL (3:48)||UR Dace Fisher||IOWA 42-0|
|197||#4 Nathan Burak||DEC (8-3)||#1 Garrett DeMers||IOWA 45-0|
|285||#7 Sam Stoll||FALL (1:56)||#2 Toby Cheff||IOWA 51-0|
All rankings for Montana State-Northern wrestlers are NAIA rankings. All rankings for Iowa wrestlers are from Intermat.
Might as well watch a few pins, right? (These highlights have the audio from Steven Grace and Matt McDonough, not the audio from the MSUN announcers.)
Here's Sorensen's pin at 149:
Sorensen fall in Havre, Montana https://t.co/DF6EQvqFzi— Hawkeye Wrestling (@Hawks_Wrestling) February 13, 2016
Here's Brooks taking out his opponent:
Sammy Brooks settles in for a fall https://t.co/1nnj0Pmfoa— Hawkeye Wrestling (@Hawks_Wrestling) February 13, 2016
And here's Stoll finishing the night off with another pin:
Sam Stoll wins body locks https://t.co/URV8v8W5zu— Hawkeye Wrestling (@Hawks_Wrestling) February 13, 2016
NEXT: Iowa returns home for their final dual meet of the season as part of the NWCA National Duals next Monday night (yes, Monday night). The opponent is still TBA, but should be set later this weekend.