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Iowa Wrestling takes on Oklahoma State

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Only one team makes it out undefeated!

Marinelli pays tribute to fallen wrestler and friend, Eli Stickley, during the Wisconsin dual.
Stacy Schiesl Photography

This is it! The Big Mamba Jamba. The Mother of All Duals. The Granddaddy of Wrestling Rivalries. This is a battle of styles. Center of the mat vs edge wrestling. Wear em’ out melee brawl vs the slice and dice bleed out. This is a heavily armored Medieval Knight vs the quick and agile Samurai. This is the Big Ten vs the Big 12. This is our undefeated #3 Iowa Hawkeyes vs their undefeated #3 Oklahoma State Cowboys.

Wrestling worlds will collide when we travel into the south lands as we aim to misbehave and make some waves in Stillwater, OK on Sunday, February 24, at 2PM CT.

BHGP faithful, you read it right. #3 takes on #3. With this week’s new Flowrestling rankings out, OSU has pulled into a dead even tie with Iowa with 74.5 projected tournament points. Is the ranking a bit fabricated to promote this match up? Quite possibly, but it’s freakin’ working.

What’s more, is that this is the final regular season dual for both teams. Hats off to John Smith and Tom Brands for pulling this together, here and now.

The History of All Histories:

With all due respect to what Penn State has been doing over the past decade, these two teams are the original dynasties. They have combined to win 57 NCAA national championships: OSU 34, Iowa 23. Okie State leads the all-time series, 28-22-2, but Iowa has won four of the last five duals.

Oklahoma State dominated much of the 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s. Ed Gallagher coached the Cowboys to a title in the first ever NCAA Championship in 1928. He would go on to claim 11 titles before he retired in 1940, including an incredible record of 138-5-4. Then Gary Kurdelmeier got the ball rolling in 1975 with our first national championship. The following year Dan Gable took over and gut-punched the wrestling landscape for 21 seasons, capturing 16 titles along the way. The Cowboys would snag a handful, here or there, including a fourpeat from ’03-06 (which may or may not have directly or indirectly led to the firing of Iowa head coach Jim Zalesky).

They haven’t won one since 2006 and we haven’t since 2010, but we’re both constantly floating near the top of the rankings, such is the case again. Perhaps the title drought has added to this heated rivalry. Perhaps both teams know that in order for someone to make a serious run, the other team is always going to stand in the way.

If the Cowboys created USA wrestling, then the Hawkeyes revolutionized it. Simply put, these are the two most important dynasties in American wrestling.

Weighing that, this is arguably the biggest dual of the entire NCAA wrestling season and we’re only a few, long, days away.

Here’s a look at the lineup card:

@CodyGoodwin

OKLAHOMA STATE (14-0)

They’re 14-0 overall and 8-0 in the Big 12. They have literally annihilated everyone they’ve encountered this year, save for a 22-15 victory over #20 Iowa State in late January, and most recently, a 19-15 come from behind win against #7 Missouri. Following this dual they’ll compete in the Big 12 tourney, and more than likely, win it for their seventh conference title in a row.

The Cowboys are as stacked up and down their lineup as anybody in the country. They feature nine ranked wrestlers, including six in the top 10 and four in the top five.

They’re led by their redshirt freshman phenom, #2 Daton Fix (133lbs) who boasts a record of 25-1 in his first season on varsity. Complementing him is #4 Nick Piccininni (125lbs), #6 Preston Weigel (197lbs), and #2 Derek White (285lbs).

It’s crazy to think that Fix was considering competing at 125lbs to start the season, which probably, would have left Piccininni without a home. Since he was virtually spared and didn’t get Fixed, he’s been on a tear and currently sits undefeated at 22-0.

What’s crazier is that The Cowboys are currently undergoing a major lineup shift this late in the season, anyways. It appears that they are attempting to add Preston Weigel back into the mix at 197lbs, which requires up to three of their starters to cut weight to lower classes in an effort to make room for him and put their best wrestlers collectively on the mat.

Weigel has been out since November, so Dakota Geer has been filling in quite admirably, building his ranking to #13 with a record of 17-4. With Weigel back, that leaves Geer on the outside looking in. Well he’s too good for that nonsense. So according to the weight charts from the Missouri dual:

@CPyles8

It looks like both the Smith boys are on their way down as well to make room for Geer at 184. They hope to have this resolved in two weeks for their conference tourney. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your position, that leaves quite the quagmire at 165 once it’s all said and done. Who goes and who sits? Whether it’s Rogers or Smith, that leaves a 2x All-American riding the bench for the post season. Oh...darn.

I honestly don’t know what to make of this nor will I try. BUT, this could be advantageous for Iowa, especially in this dual. Per the 1.5% regulated descent plan, these lads have been cutting weight for a bit now, so there’s a chance they could be in a weaker physical state than normal. Remember Mitch Bowman and how it took him nearly a month to get settled in? Well, they have three guys doing it. Besides ISU (which was never in doubt) they’d been hammering teams all year until they put this plan into motion before their Missouri dual. It nearly cost them and we’re hoping it does this time.

If this works, the Cowboys could be laughing their way onto the podium in March or they could be going home hungry. Literally, hungry.

IOWA (14-0)

We’re also 14-0 on the season following our recent shellacking of Wisconsin. With that win we claimed another B1G dual title, albeit, a co-championship with Penn State. I’m sure, in Tom Brands mind, the ‘18-19 regular season boils down to this very dual anyways. A loss here cannot strip us of that title, but a win would be the ultimate cherry on the ultimate top.

For the most part, our lineup is set for the post season and I can’t imagine Brands throwing us any change ups right before the Big Ten tourney.

The only question mark is that of Max Murin, who now finds himself without a number in front of his name. And following his let down against Indiana’s Kyle Luigs, it’s no wonder he was dropped from the rankings. That now leaves us with eight starters appearing in the rankings, including six in the top ten and four in the top five. Between the two teams that equates to 17 of 20 wrestlers ranked. That’s truly incredible.

Vince Turk got the nod last week instead of Murin, but I expect Murin to be back on the mat this time. He’s spent too much of the season in the starting role and I can’t fathom Brands going in another direction this late. Yes, I know Turk took over 141lbs around this time last year, but the circumstances are drastically different.

Our boys are underdogs in six of the ten matches, which means we’re primed for the upset. This dual, more than likely, will have little to no impact on the B1G seedings, but it could play a major role for the NCAA’s.

Pat Lugo has his eye on a major upset that would launch him back into a top ten ranking, as does Cash Wilcke. These are two weights that are complete tossups that we need to land on our side. Both Lugo and Wilcke have been trending upward and wrestling at a high level, now they need to prove they belong here and wrestle at an elite level.

KEY MATCH UPS:

All 10 matches are key. A stumble here or there by either team and they go home angry. But I’m going to attempt to narrow it down.

125: #2 Spencer Lee vs #4 Nick Piccininni. This match right here is going to tell us whether or not Lee is officially back and officially 100% healthy. As I mentioned, Picc has been on a tear this year, but he’s 0-2 against Lee life time, including getting stuck in last year’s NCAA tourney. I guarantee he’s had this match up circled all season and will be out for blood. If Lee is back to normal, he’s going to be in for a scrap, but it’s one I look for bonus points in, because we need it. If Lee gets the early takedown I expect him to re-bar Picc and turn on the tilt-machine and look for the early fall. But these are big ifs. If Lee struggles in the first period Picc is going to hammer down and make this thing tight down the stretch.

133: #3 Austin DeSanto vs #2 Daton Fix. This might be the biggest match up of the season in any weight class. This is a smooth operator vs an excitable keg of dynamite. Everyone has had this highlighted since the season started because we didn’t quite know how good these two would be. Well, both just keep climbing up the rankings. Fix’s reputation proceeded him and he’s lived up to. And, I guess in a roundabout way, so has DeSanto’s. Daton works through slick, easy moves and Austin through 100% motor and emotion. Fix has had a few close matches this year and has that extra gear at the end, but DeSanto only has one gear and is always in it. Win or lose, I’m interested to see how Austin handles the situation. This is the new biggest match of his life, in one of the hardest environments he’ll ever compete in. He needs to act accordingly and I think he will, but if he can’t, a team point deduction could cost us dearly.

141: Max Murin vs #14 Kaid Brock. Both of these guys have been inconsistent this year, but it’s a bit more alarming considering Brock is a 2x AA. He’s lost three of his last five, likewise Murin has dropped three of his last six. Both are looking to right the ship at the perfect time and get things moving in the right direction. Brock is definitely beatable, but Murin has yet to rise to the challenge and claim that signature win. He has the talent, but he needs to wrestle the perfect match for the first time this season in order to do it. If he’s going to do it, then this is the time.

157: #7 Kaleb Young vs Wyatt Sheets or Jonce Blaylock. This is one of our only true favorable match ups. We really need Young to come out and get the job done here. If he stumbles and drops this match, we more than likely drop this dual. In fact, KY needs to have his bonus point pants on and come out with at least a major decision. It’ll be tough though.

165: #2 Alex Marinelli vs #11 Chandler Rogers. As noted, this could potentially be Rogers last match of the season following the wonky weight cuts by his heavier teammates. Rogers is out to prove he belongs. On the other hand, Marinelli has been utterly dominant and looks to close out the regular season undefeated for the second consecutive year. The question is, after an emotional win against #3 Evan Wick (Wisconsin), can he find that same fire and passion and energy a week later?

174: Mitch Bowman vs #7 Joe Smith. This is a really tough bout for Bowman, but a win here could virtually give him a lock and an at-large bid to the NCAAs. Point being, he really needs this. Smith is passing through 174 and on his way to 165lbs. Bowman was cutting during Midlands and looked sluggish for several weeks, but has rebounded nicely over the past four duals. Whereas, Smith has lost three in a row, all to top 10 guys. He’s going to come out on fire in the first period, which seems to be Bowman’s weak spot. If Bowman can survive the first and keep it close, he stands a chance to wear Smith down and pull off the late upset. We’ll see what both these guys are made of. The loser of this match may not make the NCAA’s…

285: #7 Sam Stoll vs #2 Derek White. White has one loss on the season and that was an 8-2 beat down against #1 Gable Stevenson (Minn) at the beginning of the season. Since then he’s won 22 in a row and without a doubt, a favorite to win his 23rd. With that being said, Stoll beat White last year in SV1, 6-4, which probably gives White even more motivation to right that wrong. On the other hand, Stoll has been struggling mightily most of the year. His knees just aren’t there, but he’s out there battling. The Big Man can hang with anybody in neutral, but he has to find a way out on bottom and I fully expect White to choose top and try to ride Stoll out. As I said in the Wisconsin recap, we don’t need Stoll to be as good as he once was, but we need him as good once, as he ever was. And this ever was is Sunday afternoon.

After all the jargon I have thrown at you, Wrestlestat has us winning this dual, 22-10. I wish I was eating and drinking whatever they are serving, but my confidence isn’t quite that high. This is going to be an absolute dogfight and I expect to chew off all 20 of my nails.

PROJECTED LINEUP:

125: #2 Spencer Lee (16-1) vs. #4 Nick Piccininni (22-0)

133: #3 Austin DeSanto (16-1) vs. #2 Daton Fix (25-1)

141: Max Murin (12-5) // Vince Turk (14-1) vs. #14 Kaid Brock (13-6)

149: #11 Pat Lugo (14-6) vs. #6 Kaden Gfeller (20-3)

157: #7 Kaleb Young (15-3) vs. Wyatt Sheets (15-10) // Jonce Blaylock (16-6)

165: #2 Alex Marinelli (19-0) vs. #11 Chandler Rogers (12-3)

174: Mitch Bowman (7-4) vs. #7 Joe Smith (14-4)

184: #14 Cash Wilcke (17-3) vs. #11 Jacobe Smith (22-3)

197: #4 Jacob Warner (14-2) vs. #6 Preston Weigel (4-0)

285: #7 Sam Stoll (8-2) vs. #2 Derek White (21-1)