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#4 Iowa Wrestling takes on #14 Rutgers

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The Scarlet Knights approach and the Battle of Rutgers looms on the horizon

Darren Miller/ Hawkeyesports

“There is no worse death than the end of hope.”

-King Gable

And the Scarlet Knights have no hope.

The Hawkeyes are back in Iowa City and will battle the #14 Scarlet Knights of Rutgers in Carver Hawkeye Area TONIGHT at 8:03 GT.

This definitely isn’t a rivalry quite yet, primarily because it’s still in the infancy stages, but there will be, without a doubt, Epic Duels Friday night. This will only be the fifth time we’ve faced off with Rutgers and currently we’re 4-0 against them. Three of those have been since they joined the Big Ten Conference in 2014. Our closest margin of victory came last year at 23-15. This year, it could be even more lopsided. Just the way we like it.

Rutgers is an up and coming program that seems to be improving every year since joining our elite conference. Their first year in they finished tied for 31st as a team at the NCAA tournament and have steadily climbed since then going as high as 11th last season. This year, they’re eyeing their first official top 10 team finish and they may have the talent to do just that.

#14 RUTGERS (7-3)

Rutgers sits at 7-3 on the season with their biggest win coming last week when they knocked off #18 Wisconsin, 17-16 and then immediately turned around and got smoked two days later by #3 Oklahoma State, 26-5. They also dropped duals to #8 Minnesota and Utah Valley University earlier in the year.

They currently have four ranked guys on Flowrestling, but they’re led by their returning NCAA finalist, #3 Nick Suriano (133lbs). The same Suriano that Spencer Lee beat in that very same final, 5-1. Joining Suriano at the front lines is 3x All-American #2 Anthony Ashnault (149lbs). Ashnault missed all of 2017 with an injury and was granted a sixth year of eligibility. Barring another setback, he will become Rutgers’ first 4x AA.

Rounding out the other ranked guys are: 2x NCAA qualifier #15 John Van Brill (157lbs) and 3x qualifier #18 Nick Gravina (184lbs). That’s if Gravina even goes, he’s only wrestled three times this year. BTW- Ashnault, Van Brill, and Gravina are all graduate students.

#4 IOWA (7-0)

So we’re back from our victorious conquest of Minnesota, in which we claimed the land as a northern territory for the United States of Hawkeye Wrestling. I’m sure they’re not happy about it, but then again, the winners control history. And we controlled them. Completely.

Unfortunately, we dropped one place in the rankings and fell to #4 behind Penn St, Ohio St, and Okie St. More than likely it’s because Spencer Lee lost to Sebastian Rivera (NW) and therefore the projected team points shifted and allowed Okie St to jump us. This can and hopefully will be remedied when we face Northwestern on January 27.

For the most part we saw some nice improvement from our guys. Spencer Lee held #7 Sean Russell scoreless, 4-0. Kaleb Young rebounded from a Midlands finals defeat with a dramatic win over a ranked opponent. In fact, let’s pause and watch it again

Lugo dominated a very solid #19 Tommy Thorn, 14-0. Cash Wilcke looked closer to the Cash Wilcke we want to see full time, Warner got back on track with a win (even though he was sluggish in the 3rd), Austin DeSanto continued to roll as he obliterated #8 Ethan Lizak, and Alex Marinelli notched his fifth pin on the season.

Improvement is starting to materialize because we’re noticeably trending in the right direction, but we need to stay focused because we cannot take Rutgers lightly. According to Wrestlestat we’re favored in six of the ten matches with four of them being heavy favorites. Cash Wilcke, Mitch Bowman, and more than likely, Aaron Costello could be in toss up matches so it’s all the more important that Lee, Murin, Marinelli, and Warner come away with bonus points to help compensate for some inevitable bumps along the road.

Like wise, Pat Lugo and Austin DeSanto are going to face two of the best guys in the country, Anthony Ashnault and Nick Suriano, respectively, and though I truly think they can win or in the event of a loss, keep it close, there is always the possibility of things getting out of hand rather quickly. Again, bonus points will win the day for us, as always.

I personally don’t think there’s much of a chance that we lose this dual, but it could certainly mess with our comfort level if some of our guys don’t take care of business the way they should.

Key Matchups:

125: #2 Spencer Lee vs Shane Metzler. Lee is coming off a hard-fought, 4-0 win, against #7 Sean Russell (Minn). This time around he faces Metzler and should throttle him. In fact, Metzler lost by a 16-5 major decision to Russell a couple weeks back, so there is little reason why Spencer Lee couldn’t or shouldn’t tech or pin him. If we start at 125lbs we need Lee to come out and start the fire, because it only gets more difficult from here.

133: #8 Austin DeSanto vs. #3 Nick Suriano. This is a heavyweight main card fight at one of the lightest classes. This is without a doubt the biggest match of the entire dual and it should be a fun one. Tom Brands agrees:

Austin is flying high on cloud nine coming off his dominating win over then #8 ranked Ethan Lizak. On the flipside, Suriano was ranked #1 last week when he fell in a bewildering fashion to then #6 Daton Fix (tOSU). Suriano lost 3-2 in TB-2 to a hands to the face call…really? ADS and Suriano will easily eclipse the five total points. This match will have fireworks.

Either way, Suriano is the real deal. You can’t get more realer than him, but we do have Hawkeye tradition on our side. Suriano has only lost five times in his career with two of those coming to Iowa. Last year in the finals against Spencer Lee, 5-1 and two years ago to Thomas Gilman when he wrestled for PSU, 3-2.

Suriano is tough as nails in all phases of his game, but he’s especially talented at scoring points of off poor shots and then uses counter-shots to rack up those points. He’s a great rider, he escapes quickly, and his neutral defense rivals that of Lee’s. Oh and he has a gas tank that’s right up there with DeSanto, so he isn’t going to fade late. If Austin is going to win he’s going to have to dig deep and wrestle smart. Can he? Yes. Will he? Probably not, that’s a tall task to ask any true sophomore, but if there is another guy in the country not named Daton Fix that can beat Suriano, it’s Austin DeSanto.

149: #16 Pat Lugo vs. #2 Anthony Ashnault. Lugo’s first year in a Hawkeye singlet has been tough, he’s seemingly running the gauntlet every weekend and things aren’t getting any easier this time around, either. Ashnault is about as good as they come, as noted before, barring another injury, he’s going to become a 4x AA. But, if Lugo wants to become one himself, he has to prove he can wrestle with the elite and that starts here and now.

Lugo has a good a shot, but he needs to create some angles, be confident in himself, and let it rip. He often times gets hung up after shooting and lets his momentum die, thus getting stuck in a bad position constantly trying to come out the backdoor to finish his TD’s. It’s a problem that continually plagues him with #1 Matt Kolodzik so it’ll be nice to see if there’s some improvement with another guy that many think is on the Kolo’s level. Also, Lugo seems to bottle up and slow it down when he’s facing the top tier guys, let’s see if he abandons that game plan and attacks early. He needs to if he wants to win.

157: #5 Kaleb Young vs. #15 John Van Brill. Last week Young wrestled a slow and methodical match, but he struggled to find his offense until the he that monumental throw with about 15 seconds left. Brill isn’t an otherworldly opponent, so it’ll be nice to see KY snag a couple first period takedowns to get the momentum rolling in the right direction.

Brill has never bested an Iowa wrestler in his career. He’s lost twice by major decision to Michael Kemerer, a close 3-2 defeat to Edwin Cooper back in 2016, and recently to Jeren Glosser at the Midlands. Considering Glosser beat the snot out of him 9-2 one would think Young has a serious advantage over him. It would be another step in the right direction to if we can come away with bonus points here.

174: Mitch Bowman vs. Willie Scott // Joseph Grello. When Bowman found himself down 7-1 last week again #12 Devin Skatzka (Minn), he wrestled like a man possessed and almost made a heroic comeback. He needs to remember that urgency and apply it when that first whistle sounds. Furthermore, he needs to wrestle smarter and be mindful of his mat awareness, he’s giving up far too many cheap near fall points early in matches.

Bowman could either face Willie Scott or Joseph Grello. Grello, for starters, is far from elite, but he’s a solid opponent that Bowman can beat, and beat big. Bowman and Grello have two common opponents on the year, Skatzka and Andrew Morgan (Campbell), they lost to both by decision.

If you recall, Scott beat Bowman 6-4 at the Midlands. I’d like to think that Mitch is eager for another crack at him and a shot at redemption. Mitch is more than likely still adjusting to 174lbs, after all he’s only been there for a few weeks. Perhaps after some more acclimation time he’s finally ready to kick the tires and light the fires. It’d be great to see him come out and steamroll either one of these guys, because I truly believe he can. Now he needs to believe it too.

184: #17 Cash Wilcke vs. #18 Nick Gravina. Gravina has been dealing with an injury that has kept him sidelined for a better portion of the year so far, but he seems to finally be getting healthy. As I noted before he’s a 3x NCAA qualifier and heading into his senior year he’s looking to cap off his career with a podium finish, which makes him hungry. IF he goes in this dual it’ll be a great test for Wilcke to see where he stands in the overall competition.

Like a couple of the other Rutgers guys, Gravina has stuggled with Hawkeye wrestlers in the past. He’s 1-5 on his career against the good guys: 0-3 against Sammy Brooks, 0-1 against Nick Moore when he was down at 165lbs, but last year he went 1-1 against Mitch Bowman.

On paper Wilcke clearly has the upper hand, but that doesn’t mean diddly this time around. He needs to come out firing quick and often. I don’t want to hear Tom Brands yelling, “Don’t let him slow you down. Shoot!”. If he can come out guns blazing there’s no reason to think he can’t put up bonus points, but that’s a big if. Until he proves he can do this on a consistent basis I’m afraid these types of matches will remain in the “Toss Up” category.

PROJECTED LINEUP:

125: #2 Spencer Lee (10-1) vs. Shane Metzler (7-9)

133: #8 Austin DeSanto (11-1) vs. #3 Nick Suriano (14-1)

141: #19 Max Murin (9-2) vs. Peter Lipari (6-7)

149: #16 Pat Lugo (8-5) vs. #2 Anthony Ashnault (15-0)

157: #5 Kaleb Young (12-1) vs. #15 John Van Brill (13-7)

165: #2 Alex Marinelli (12-0) vs. Stephan Glascow (5-4) // Anthony Oliveri (3-7)

174: Mitch Bowman (4-3) vs. Willie Scott (11-4) // Joseph Grello (9-5)

184: #17 Cash Wilcke (11-2) vs. #18 Nick Gravina (2-1) // Jordan Pagano (3-3)

197: #5 Jacob Warner (6-2) vs. Matt Corentti (11-7) // Max Wright (4-3)

285: Aaron Costello (6-4) vs. Christian Colucci (9-7)

Hawkeyes! The gift of glory is yours by right. But the glory we seek resides not in some distant land, it’s in Carver Hawkeye Arena, and in our actions on this day! If this be our destiny, then so be it. But let history remember, that as Hawkeye men, we chose to make it so!

-King Cable at the Battle of Rutgers