Our third-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes just knocked Indiana into the snow-covered ditch with a 37-9 beatdown on Senior Night. Now they look to bookend their double-header weekend with a win over the #14 Badgers on Sunday afternoon in Madison, WI.
It’s been two years since we’ve faced the Badgers and they probably still have sour memories following our 33-8 rout in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. There’s been a healthy roster turnover since then, but we’re hoping for a similar result this time around as well.
A win on Sunday (and assuming Penn St emerges victorious over Illinois) will give us an equal share of the Big Ten regular season title. Just to clarify, this is the regular season not conference tournament. If this happens, which it will, this will be the ninth time under head coach Tom Brands that we have either won it outright or shared the title. But we still have to defeat a talented Wisconsin team to add that nice piece of hardware to our trophy collection.
The odds are in our favor.
We narrowly lead the all-time series 77-8-3. The inaugural dual meet was a rip-roaring good time and 8-6 win for us back in 1923. It seems like yesterday, but we’ve been on a roll ever since and in fact, we’ve won the last seven and 38 of 39 in a row. For further good reading about our dominance over Wiscy, please follow this link.
Wisconsin easily represents the toughest challenge we’ve faced since Nebraska a few weeks back. They’re sitting at 8-5 on the season and 3-5 in the Big Ten Conference. Team wise, they’ve been inconsistent all year. Early on they beat Nebraska 22-21 (on criteria), then wrecked their own season and proceeded to lose five consecutive duals, all to Big Ten competition. Ohio St, Rutgers, Penn St, Northwestern, and Minnesota all decided to jump in on the action before Maryland played the mercy card and got Wiscy back into the win column.
They currently have four guys appearing in the Flowrestling rankings: #8 Tristan Moran (141), #11 Cole Martin (149), #2 Evan Wick (165), and #6 Trent Hillger (285). They would have a fifth, but Ryan Christensen (174) hasn’t wrestled since Midlands and has been pulled entire from the rankings, before that he was checking in at #10.
The Badgers are undoubtedly led by their redshirt sophomore, #2 Evan Wick, who is a returning All-American, finishing third last year. Cole Martin and Ryan Christensen are 2x and 3x NCAA qualifiers, respectively.
FYI- if you look closely at their coaching staff in the picture below, you will see former Hawkeye great, Matt McDonough.
We’re sitting plush with the lucky number 13 (8-0 B1G), but we’re eyeing that 14th win on the season to cap off a perfect run through the Big Ten schedule, but Wisconsin’s middle – upper weights stand in our way.
On Friday night we handled Indiana with ease, 37-9, but we didn’t look as sharp as we would’ve liked. We saw some great wrestling, some adequate wrestling, and some really poor wrestling. I’d be remiss to say that if we attempt to repeat some of our sluggish performances, we’re going to struggle to survive this talented Wisconsin squad. We need to get back to the aggressive style that we displayed against Maryland and Indiana, but if we’re timid, lazy on our feet, and don’t improve our finishes on takedowns, things are going to get interesting fast.
There’s going to be some great individual match ups here, but we must take care of business, especially in the weights we are heavily favored in. We’re going to need Spencer Lee, Austin DeSanto, Kaleb Young (if he returns), and Jacob Warner to get us bonus points to lock this thing up. If we stumble along the way, it’s going to be those bonus points that keeps us above the water.
As for those particular match ups, this is going to be a big night for Max Murin, Pag Lugo, and Sam Stoll. All three are going against higher ranked opponents and a win here will go a long way to improving their seed come B1G tourney time, which is only a few short weeks away.
KEY MATCH UPS:
141: #18 Max Murin vs #8 Tristan Moran. To be frank, Murin looked awful last time out against Indiana’s Kyle Luigs. He was in deep and failed to score on eight separate occasions. As Mark Perry said, “That’s 16 points we left off the board,” and that’s not good. Murin failed to score and exposed his back more than once, in fact, the second was the final time that ended the match with him staring up at the lights. Moran is an Okie State transfer and is making the most of his first time in a starting lineup. He pinned #6 Josh Alber (UNI) and #9 Mitch McKee (Minn). He narrowly lost in SV2, 12-10, to #2 Nick Lee (PSU) and most recently a 2-1 decision to #5 Mike Carr (Illinois). So far on this season, we’ve been waiting to see if Murin answers the call after a tough loss and this would be a perfect time to pick up the phone. But will he?
149: #16 Pat Lugo vs #11 Cole Martin. Both of these guys are 2x NCAA qualifiers looking for their first podium finish. Lugo has looked much better over the past month, raising his record to 13-6 following an awful start to the season. Whereas, Martin has been considerably more consistent other than a rough patch in late December/ early January. Martin has a solid win over #12 Brady Berge (PSU), 8-7, but other than that he’s mostly beaten the guys he should and lost to the guys he should. However, he’s only lost once by bonus points and that was to #3 Micah Jordan (tOSU). Lugo has been wrestling with a renewed intensity and has been racking up bonus points while doing it. This is a great opportunity for Lugo to punch himself back into a top 10 ranking.
165: #2 Alex Marinelli vs #3 Evan Wick. Wick ruined Marinelli’s season last year in the NCAA’s. Marinelli got revenge this year at the Midlands. Now Wick looks to return the favor that The Bull returned to him. Honestly, this is becoming a great rivalry between these two and it’s a match that everyone, even outside this dual, will be watching. It will have huge seeding implications as well. Whoever wins this stands a chance for the #1 seed going into the B1G’s, as well. The Bull needs to come out and wrestle smart like he did against Wick a couple months back. Get those early takedowns and avoid disaster and a big throw. The Bull will be on bottom at some point, so it’ll be nice to see if he improves and can find an escape in there, something he previously hasn’t done. The Bull is the bull, but Wick is going to be seeing red and will come at him with everything he’s got.
174: Mitch Bowman vs Ryan Christensen. Even though Christensen hasn’t wrestled since the Midlands he’s still #10 in a few other rankings. Bowman is looking better each week and finally got a solid win on Friday at his new weight. He knocked off Jacob Covaciu (IN), 3-1, in the closing seconds. On the flipside, Christensen was building up to a nice season before he medially forfeited out of the Midlands and hasn’t been seen since. He’s a very good wrestler, as his previous ranking would indicate. If he makes his return against Bowman in their last home dual of the season, he’s going to be pumped up and eager. Bowman needs to match his intensity early on and wrestle smart. He must avoid a big move and back points in the first period and then grind Christensen down before taking over in the 3rd. This seems to be Bowman’s recipe to success and he needs to dial it up perfectly to come out on top in this one.
285: #8 Sam Stoll vs #6 Trent Hillger. Stoll is looking better as well, but he still has a way to go. This match against Hillger will show us exactly where he is closing out the conference season. Hillger is a redshirt freshman who debuted at #19 and won his first 14 matches of the season and has climbed all the way to #6. He as some good wins, especially over #17 Jake Gunning (Buffalo) and most recently, Youssif Hemida (Maryland), but he’s also lost against all the elite the heavyweight class has to offer. And most would usually consider Sam Stoll an elite. Stoll needs to wrestle smart and get to his offense. A win here would more than likely give him a #3 seed going into the B1G’s and that’s what he wants and needs.
125: #2 Spencer Lee (15-1) vs Ethan Rotondo (14-6)
133: #3 Austin DeSanto (15-1) vs Jens Lantz (11-12)
141: #18 Max Murin (12-5) vs #8 Tristan Moran (19-6)
149: #16 Pat Lugo (13-6) vs #19 Cole Martin (15-8)
157: #7 Kaleb Young (14-3) vs Garrett Model (8-9)
165: #2 Alex Marinelli (18-0) vs #3 Evan Wick (24-1)
174: Mitch Bowman (6-4) vs Ryan Christensen (14-5)
184: #14 Cash Wilcke (16-3) vs Mason Reinhardt (17-10)
197: #4 Jacob Warner (12-2) vs Beau Breske (10-6)
285: #8 Sam Stoll (8-1) vs #6 Trent Hillger (18-4)