This is a monumental day in the short history of the Scrambler here at the Pants, ladies and gents. Not only is it the first time we’ve run it on a Friday, but it’s the first time we’re going the “Choose your own adventure” route. We’re talking about No. 4 Iowa’s dual with No. 2 Penn State tonight at 8 p.m., which we previewed earlier this morning.
Scenario One: Iowa beats Penn State
Those of you freaking out after the Oklahoma State dual can take a chill pill because everything’s going to be fine and dandy. Yes, the Hawkeyes slipped up against the Pokes, but as we saw against the Nittany Lions, that served as a huge wake up call for Tom Brands’ squad. We saw bonus points from wrestlers other than Thomas Gilman. Cory Clark’s shoulder and wrist weren’t an issue at all as he picked up a big tech fall. Alex Meyer got to his offense early, which is an awesome sign moving forward. Brandon Sorensen, Michael Kemerer, and Sammy Brooks wrestled tough as hell against guys at the top of their weight classes.
It’s the second consecutive dual the Hawkeyes have downed Penn State, and all of the sudden the room just got hotter. This is obviously a much needed boost for an Iowa team that was in the dumps a few weeks ago — fingers crossed they carry the momentum through the remainder of the year.
With that said, let’s keep things in perspective and make sure we realize this isn’t an automatic Big Ten Tournament title and doesn’t guarantee victories over Cael’s bunch at nationals. Kemerer’s not necessarily going to beat Jason Nolf every time they compete, nor is that the case for Sammy Brooks and Bo Nickal.
Enjoy this one everyone, it feels great and things are suddenly much brighter.
Scenario Two: Penn State beats Iowa
Sound the alarms, this team has a stupid amount of work to do to in order to be competitive in the postseason. The holes at 165 and 197 are gaping, and there are areas to improve on for basically everyone not named Thomas Gilman. Despite a win, Clark will hopefully get up to the level he’s capable of, Kemerer has a ton of potential but work to do before he gets to the top — it’d be fantastic if that happens this year, but if not, you should be confident it’ll happen down the road.
The gap between Zain Retherford and Sorensen is, um, concerning, but I’m still not convinced the Hawkeye isn’t the second best 49 pounder in the land. We’ll see. Brooks and Sam Stoll are likely capable of being top end All Americans but have to be on to do so. Outside of that, a lot’s going to have to go right for Iowa to be in the thick of things come tournament time.
We probably knew that before this dual and the last, but if this dual didn’t validate the problems with the Hawkeye wrestling squad, I’m not so sure what will. At some point before March, a wake up call will be necessary. Hopefully it comes sooner than later.
Thought this was important to throw out there for all you recruiting nuts — the grown ups on the main SB Nation page had a nice breakdown of how the potential new signing periods could impact the landscape of that entire ball game. Look for more on these effects from our resident ‘crootin experts moving forward.
In other NCAA happenings this week, we may have a mandated 14-week regular season, and in turn, a second bye week. Bye weeks are a special time in the calendar, so everyone is encouraged to enjoy both of them if this ends up passing. Hopefully it does.
Let’s hop back to our previous series in which we offer areas of improvement needed for Hawkeye football position players. We previously discussed wide receivers, so let’s hop over to the other side of the ball and go with defensive backs.
Josey Jewell: Keep doing you, and, uh, yeah that’s about it. Keep being the best linebacker in the Big Ten and one of the best five in the country. Dialing it back a notch on potential targeting calls would be nice, but beggars can’t be choosers.
Ben Niemann: Consistency is key for Niemann in his senior year. He’s a strong defender on the edge but has shown an affinity for poor coverage at times — that’s going to be magnified with the volume any leo in Iowa’s defense sees. If he’s on, Iowa’s defense is a awesome (see: Michigan). If he’s not, it stinks (see: Northwestern, Penn State). In hindsight, it kind of sucks he burned his redshirt to play special teams while learning behind Christian Kirksey and company. I remember a rumor at the time that he was not a happy camper in that regard.
Bo Bower: Somehow, Bower’s 2016 season was not his senior year. Perhaps it’s ignorance on my end, but it seems like Bower was on the team before the 21 ordinance passed. Anyways, Bower and his traps will likely man the weakside for the umteenth consecutive year. This isn’t a bad thing — Bower looks excellent in pads, if his football ability can catch up, this unit would be in great shape.
Jack Hockaday, Aaron Mends: Speaking of looking good in a uniform, these guys are two of the best on the Iowa roster. Remember how Apollo brought Rocky back from the dumps in Rocky III? I’d like to see these two help each other realize their potential after forgettable starts to their careers.
Amani Jones: Live up to the hype. Next year has the potential to be a mess with three well-seasoned seniors graduating, so give us some hope for the future.
Before we’re done here, just wanted to give a quick shout out to the Jay Scheel hype train and Derrick Mitchell, Jr.’s Iowa career. They may not have done a ton on the field, but they sure did make things enjoyable here in the blogosphere.
Thank you, and to steal a Van Morrison lyric, we hope you make things blend.