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carton daily iowan
Thanks, Topher Carton
The Daily Iowan

Who’s ready for some talk of an exhibition ‘Championship’ series that arguably holds little to no weight? Great! You’ve come to the right place! If you’ve yet to hear, No. 4 Iowa (why Flo still has them behind Ohio State is beyond me, by the way) gets the pleasure of wrestling unranked Edinboro Saturday evening on the road in the NWCA National Duals Championship Series.

Two years ago, the NWCA departed from the tournament style format to introduce this ‘bowl game’ series of college wrestling in efforts to make the nation’s top schools care about the event. The rules were simple: the Big Ten’s best team against the best non-Big Ten team in the land. The second best faces the second best, and so on. If that were the case, the matchups would’ve looked like this.

But, they don’t. A logical system put in place was disregarded because of logistics, apparently, so Tom Brands and company get the good fortune of a trip to the Keystone State at an inopportune time in the season. Nothing we can do about it, so here we are. We’ll dissect this matchup later in the week.

So what to talk about now? The fact Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are taking a hard pass on the event? Brands potentially blocking the Hawkeyes from facing the Hokies? The way this whole series seems wildly forced?

On the flip side, it is neat we get to see No. 2 Penn State take on No. 1 Oklahoma State in Stillwater — if you’re cool paying $20, that is — and a few other fun matchups we wouldn’t regularly see on the regular season schedule.

As is the case with basically everything, the answers live somewhere in the middle.

If nothing else, I’m happy anytime a school with the Fighting Scots as its mascot gets some pub.

What say you, readers? Are the duals worth it?

We’ll keep going with our series thanking the five Iowa seniors for their service to the Hawkeye wrestling program. Thomas Gilman was last week, Cory Clark’s tomorrow, with Sammy Brooks and Alex Meyer on tap for next week. Today, it’s 141-pounder Topher Carton.

It’s not every season we’re lucky enough to watch a senior take the reins and hold down a lineup spot like Topher Carton has been able to for the Hawkeyes in 2016-17. It’s his first year starting, he’s compiled 20 wins, the most recent of which came over No. 10 Colton McCrystal of Nebraska Sunday, and albeit frustrating at times, it’s been a lot of fun watching his progression through his first and only year in a prominent role for one of college wrestling’s most storied programs.

Things weren’t necessarily going to turn out this way. Despite a relative weakness at the weight last season, Carton was unable to win the full time job at 141, only wrestling in five Big Ten duals en route to a 10-5 record during his junior campaign. He was set to compete with freshman Vince Turk for the job this season, but an early injury all but handed the job to Carton, and he has yet to look back. Part of me’s upset for the future — Turk getting meaningful experience this season would’ve been, well, meaningful.

However, another part of me couldn’t be happier to watch Carton claw his way towards getting his. A three-time state champion in Illinois and Iowa, the Quad Cities native isn’t a stranger to winning. Will he be able to do it at the upcoming Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments? Maybe, maybe not — there are better grapplers at the weight than 20th-ranked Carton. But can he be a guy to rattle off a few wins and give Iowa some team points? You betcha.

And for a guy who has told me how important winning a team title is to him, what better way to realize that dream than to give your team a few tallies come March? He’s not the flashiest or best wrestler on the team — he’s probably not even in the top half of the starting lineup, but that’s okay. We could be stuck with a revolving door and no chance of points come the postseason. Instead, we have stability, a guy who puts his head down and works, and an easy story to root for.

Again, the results haven’t always been pretty, but it’s fun to get a glimpse of the journey of a college wrestler who has to fight his way into a lineup — thanks, Topher Carton, for letting us watch yours.

Apologies for writing that Brooks pinned No. 3 T.J. Dudley in Sunday’s win over Nebraska. It was Husker backup Jaquan Sowell, not Dudley.