The time of year is upon us, Hawkeye fans. Iowa’s set to wrestle in the Big Ten Tournament this weekend in Bloomington, Indiana. We’ll get two days of madness and craziness in Assembly Hall — it should be a wonderful time. In the coming days, we’ll look ahead at the tournament, potential matchups for Hawkeye grapplers, and more.
The tournament pre-seeds were released Monday, with Iowa having a No. 1 in Thomas Gilman, three No. 2s (Brandon Sorensen, Michael Kemerer, Sammy Brooks), a 3 (Cory Clark), two No. 5s (Joey Gunther, Alex Meyer), a 6 (Topher Carton), and a 7 in Cash Wilcke. Heavy is the only weight they missed.
Anyways, let’s take a peek at potential matchups for the first half of the lineup today, and the back half later in the week. Even though they may not hold — brackets will be released Friday — we’re operating under the assumption they will.
125 — Thomas Gilman, No. 1
This has been said before, but this is absolutely Thomas Gilman’s title to lose. If only eight guys end up going per the seeds, the senior will draw Ohio State’s Jose Rodriguez, followed by the winner of Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak and Michigan’s Connor Youtsey. From there, second-seeded Nick Suriano of Penn State or perhaps No. 3 Tim Lambert of Nebraska would be waiting in the finals.
We don’t need to remind you, but will anyway, of Gilman’s undefeated mark this season, with his last loss coming in last year’s NCAA Finals. He’s 19-0 against the field and should be able to win this tournament with relative ease. We saw some issues wrestling from the bottom at the back end of the season, particularly before he pinned Lizak, but that feels like nitpicking at this point.
We all know how effective and dominant Gilman can be. With Suriano on the other side of the bracket, there’s no reason he shouldn’t get to the finals, and frankly, no reason he shouldn’t win the first and only Big Ten Championship of his career.
133 — Cory Clark, No. 3
Well, this’ll be interesting. Clark’s been on the mend with a shoulder injury for the majority of his senior year, and enters a fairly top-heavy bracket after an up-and-down senior campaign. If my math and understanding of seeding is correct, Clark will get Northwestern’s Jason Ipsarides to begin things, and Billy Rappo of Maryland in the bout after. He has yet to face either.
Assuming he escapes unscathed, we’ll be in for a banger of a semifinal against top-seeded Nathan Tomasello, whom Gilman stuck in last year’s tournament in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. At 11-3 against the field, Clark doesn’t have the mat experience you may think a senior would against this group — a potential Tomasello matchup is no exception. It’ll be a joy to watch Clark’s methodical, wear-you-down style against Tomasello’s high-tempo wrestling.
If we get a healthy Clark, I don’t see a reason he can’t repeat as Big Ten Champion at 133. Unfortunately, that’s a huge if.
141 — Topher Carton, No. 6
To be honest with you, I have no idea who Carton’s going to draw to open things up — any help with the wrestling version of bracketology, hoops bracketology, bowl selection, or general life direction would be appreciated. Particularly the last one. But, I can tell you he’ll probably get No. 3 Tommy Thorn assuming he wins his first matchup, and if history holds true, will be dropping to wrestlebacks following that juncture.
Minnesota’s Thorn has downed Carton twice — a 6-3 decision at the 2014 Luther Open and a 3-2 decision to close the dual in Minneapolis earlier this season. As has been the case with Carton this year, that bout will likely be a tight one, with his success depending on his ability to close matches.
The final thought on Carton — I would love to see him wrestle second-seeded Jimmy Gulibon of Penn State again, not only because it means he’d be a semifinalist, but because I really think he’d get the best of Gulibon given another shot. Carton had that match won but gave it away in the third period with an atrocious display on the mat — hope we get to see the highly-touted Gulibon-Carton II.
149 — Brandon Sorensen, No. 2
Sorensen will likely lead off against No. 7 Eric Barone of Illinois, followed by the winner of Ohio State’s Micah Jordan and Wisconsin’s Andrew Crone in the semifinals. Of course, it’s likely to be third-seeded Jordan, whom the steady Sorensen bested when the Buckeyes came to town about a month ago. No easy task, but I’d be just as shocked as you to not see him in the finals against No. 1 Zain Retherford of Penn State.
Sorensen took Retherford deep into the woods during their match at Carver earlier this season and eventually losing a 9-8 decision in the second set of tiebreakers. In that bout, Sorensen showed pace and was incredibly tough, hopefully setting the tone for the remainder of their fights together. To that point, his results to Retherford were uncompetitive 4-0 and 9-1 losses in 2016’s Big Tens and NCAAs.
Taking guys down and letting it fly is the best way for Sorensen, or anyone, to go about things. If he does that, there’s at least a fighting chance he’ll get to the top of the podium.