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#2 IOWA TO FACE #4 NORTH CAROLINA STATE IN NATIONAL DUALS CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES

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Iowa gets ready for #ACCtion to hit Carver-Hawkeye Arena next week.

Rachel Jessen (Iowa Wrestling Photos)

Iowa put on a cherry on top of an undefeated regular season in dual meet competition with a 51-0 smashing of Montana State Northern last Friday night, but there's still one dual meet to go before we can fully turn our attention to the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. That dual meet is part of the new-look NWCA National Duals -- or the NWCA National Duals Championship Series as they're calling it now.  I explained how the new set-up works last week, but in a nutshell it's a bit like importing the BCS to college wrestling -- or like staging a Big Ten-ACC Challenge-type event in wrestling, only one of the matches is for a nominal championship.  Despite going 16-0 in dual meet competition, Iowa isn't one of the two teams in that nominal championship match -- Penn State went 15-0 this season and since they've been ranked ahead of Iowa all season, they were selected to represent the Big Ten in that nominal championship match.  They'll be facing #3 Oklahoma State, the highest-ranked team outside the Big Ten (and who Iowa memorably defeated way back at the beginning of the season at the Grapple on the Gridiron).

But what about Iowa?  Who did the Hawkeyes draw for their National Duals Championship Series opponent? Iowa drew #4-ranked North Carolina State, who went 22-1 this year and finished second in the ACC behind #5-ranked Virginia Tech.  Virginia Tech beat NC State in a dual last weekend to win the ACC, but still finished behind the Wolfpack in this week's rankings. Iowa has a 4-0 lifetime record against North Carolina State, with the most recent meeting coming in the 2007-08 season.  Iowa won that dual, 37-9.

1984-85: Iowa d. North Carolina State, 40-6
1990-91: Iowa d. North Carolina State, 37-7
2006-07: Iowa d. North Carolina State, 38-9
2007-08: Iowa d. North Carolina State, 37-9

Iowa and North Carolina State did not wrestle a dual this year, but they were both at Midlands earlier this season and there were several head-to-head showdowns between Hawkeye and Wolfpack wrestlers there.

149: Brandon Sorensen FALL (4:07) Jake Deangelo (NCST)*
157: Thomas Gantt (NCST) MAJ DEC (17-6) Edwin Cooper, Jr.
184: Sammy Brooks DEC (8-7) Pete Renda (NCST)
197: Nathan Burak DEC (8-2) Michael Boykin (NCST)
285: Nick Gwiazdowski (NCST) MAJ DEC (10-1) Sam Stoll

*Deangelo has not been NC State's regular starter at 149 this year, so odds are that Sorensen likely won't see him again at this dual.

North Carolina State is a good opponent and they bring some variety to the dual meet schedule, but they were my third choice among Iowa's possible opponents for this dual.  Virginia Tech and Missouri were the other choices and each would have offered a more competitive (and less predictable) dual meet overall, as well as several opportunities for Iowa wrestlers to improve and/or cement their seeds for the NCAA Tournament.  By comparison, the North Carolina State match-up looks far more predictable and there aren't many ranked opponents that could really boost the seeding possibilities for Iowa wrestlers -- at least, not without pulling off a pretty sizable upset.

Iowa will be hugely favored at 125, 133, and 149, and pretty solid favorites at 174, 184, and 197, while North Carolina State will be big favorites at 141, 157, 165, and 285. The closest thing to a toss-up weight is probably 184, which is one of the four weights that features a ranked versus ranked match-up: #10 Sammy Brooks versus #16 Pete Renda. 157, 197, and 285 also feature ranked versus ranked match-ups (285 is even a match-up of top 10-ranked heavyweights, #7 Sam Stoll versus #1 Nick Gwiazdowski), but all three of those weights were also contested at Midlands -- and decided in pretty lopsided fashion. In fact, the biggest intrigue in this dual might be how much guys like Cooper and Stoll have improved -- they got manhandled by Gantt and Gwiazdowski back at Midlands, but both guys have wrestled much better since then.  How much have they closed the gap on Gantt and Gwiazdowski? Could they grab career-defining upsets?  We'll find out.

The full set of match-ups in the National Duals Championship Series is as follows:

Friday, February 19: #15 Iowa State (10-5) at #18 Minnesota (9-8)
Saturday, February 20: #7 Lehigh (13-2) at #13 Rutgers (15-5)
Sunday, February 21: UR Appalachian State (11-4) at UR Indiana (6-6)
Sunday, February 21: #6 Missouri (13-2) at #11 Nebraska (10-5)
Sunday, February 21: #5 Virginia Tech (15-2) at #8 Michigan (13-2)
Sunday, February 21: #3 Oklahoma State (12-2) at #1 Penn State (15-0)
Monday, February, 22: UR Edinboro (8-9) at #9 Ohio State (10-3)
Monday, February 22: #4 North Carolina State (22-1) at #2 Iowa (16-0)

Yes, the Iowa dual is on Monday night, not Saturday or Sunday.  I don't know exactly why that is, although I would assume it's because Carver-Hawkeye Arena is in use on those days and not available to host the dual meet.  (Iowa does have a women's basketball game on Sunday afternoon.)

And no, I don't know exactly what would happen if Oklahoma State were to pull off the upset against Penn State while Iowa defeated North Carolina State.  Oklahoma State-Penn State is nominally the "championship dual meet," but I don't know that there's a contractual obligation for the coaches to vote the winner of that dual meet as #1 in the polls/the national champion (as is the case in college football with the Coaches Poll and the BCS/College Football Playoff winner). It would certainly be logical to vote Iowa #1 in that scenario... but then again, very little about this event follows traditional logic.

* * *

One benefit of this dual?  It gives Iowa an additional chance to set another attendance record -- over 100,000 in total attendance over the course of a season.

Here's Iowa's attendance figures for home dual meets so far this year:

2015 16 Iowa wrestling attendance

Iowa's total attendance to date is 91,269. If they can get at least 8,732 folks to attend this dual next Monday night, they can crack over 100,000 in total attendance for the season -- which would be another nice feather in our cap. The fact that the dual is on Monday night rather than a weekend night is going to make that a little bit harder, but hey -- if 8500 fans can turn out to watch Iowa grind Purdue and Indiana into paste, hopefully that many will also turn out to watch Iowa take on a much better opponent in North Carolina State.

I'll have a full preview of this dual later in the week.