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Iowa Wrestling needs a Shakubuku

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We’re in a painful, capricious place and we need perspective

OSU’s Nick Piccininni pins Iowa’s Spencer Lee in the Oklahoma St. vs Iowa Dual
Austin Bernard, OWrestle.com

Immediately on the heels of the butt-kicking we received by The Cowboys, the internets and twitter-tweeters blew up claiming this season as a bust. Shouting to the heavens, “Stick a knife in us. Throw in the towel. Fit us for a pine box!” Whatever your saying is: we’re done for. We’re over.

But are we? I don’t see any post season results recorded. I don’t see any post season accolades handed out to anyone. Oh that’s right, we’re not there yet. Perhaps the win/loss records won’t favor us, perhaps certain guys won’t reach the podium, and perhaps Penn State will sweep all the awards. The last part of that sentence is probably true, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be successful in our own right. It doesn’t mean we can’t exceed or at least match our preseason expectations. Yes, we got our ass thoroughly handed to us, but that’s not how we’re going to remember this season.

Yeah, well, Trez, that ain’t the Iowa Wrestling Way!

Yeah, well, now we sound like those pesky Nebraska fans that still re-live their glorious days from the 90’s. Do we still wear our Nirvana shirt (under a flannel long sleeve) with stonewashed-ripped jeans and oversized combat boots? To the fans that are still in that position, open your eyes and take a look at this new (it’s been nine years) wrestling landscape we find ourselves in. We’re no longer the lead horse in this race, we haven’t been in awhile. But we are the one digging the spurs in, trying to come from behind, foaming at the mouth, inching closer and closer…

This is a position we haven’t been in since the early 1970’s. This is a position we didn’t care about until Gary Kurdelmeier and Dan Gable made us care. At least we still care.

Okay. We started off this season, knowing full well, we weren’t going to win a national title. We came in, knowing full well, we were battling for second place with Ohio State and Oklahoma State. And after our only regular season loss to Okie State, nothing has changed. Absolutely nothing. Everyone knew, full well, going into that dual we may come out on the losing side. So then why are we all upset?

Yes, that loss damped and possibly made us realize that the Big Ten Co-Champs title that was gifted to us per an easy schedule, was just that, a gift. But that still changes nothing for future events. Sometimes a late season beat down can reshape a team and make them stronger just as it did last year and we’re hoping history repeats in 2019 as well.

In case we forgot what happened in 2018, we finished the regular season 12-3, good enough for 5th in the Big Ten and 7th overall ranking in the country. We then proceeded to fall apart in the Big Ten tourney where we placed 4th… exactly 27.5 points behind the 3rd place team, Michigan.

What happened in the 11 days between the B1G’s and the NCAA’s? Our wrestlers received what the movie Grosse Pointe Blank calls a “Shakubuku.”

A swift, spiritual kick to the head that altered their reality forever.

Iowa adjusted and became hyper-focused. We went on a mission of redemption and found it. We went on to record 30.5 bonus team points and finished in 3rd place. No one expected us to find our offensive mean streak, but we did. Will that happen again this year? I can’t say for sure, but this team clearly has the talent to do it again.

For many the expectations of this season have shifted to the gutter, but I’m here to encourage us all to keep them alive and well. Here’s a quick, crappy, comparison I created examining our preseason rankings, both individual and team projected points, to that of our current position.

*These are based entirely off the FloWrestling rankings and the team rankings didn’t release until January*

The red indicates a downward trajectory in the rankings (ex: 1st to 3rd), whereas the yellow shows a positive gain (ex: 17th to 7th.) We have five wrestlers that have dipped in the rankings as opposed to four that have gained ground, but what I want you to consider is, that everyone outside of Sam Stoll, is still floating around the same position for the guys that have dropped. That includes some hard losses and some nice wins. Three of the five (Lee, Lugo, and Stoll) were considered All-American threats and that hasn’t changed.

PS: Lugo was named Big Ten Conference Wrestler of the Week following his upset over Okie State’s Kaden Gfeller.

On the flipside, Austin DeSanto, Kaleb Young, and Jacob Warner have all exceeding the preseason expectations and shot themselves up firmly into the All-American conversation. These were guys that were on the bubble or straight up, on the outside looking in. Not anymore.

Now, taking a gander at the team ranking and projected points, we have lost ground. That is primarily due to Spencer Lee’s drop from 1st to 3rd and Sam Stoll’s plummet from 1st to 7th. This is less than ideal, of course, but it’s only a difference of 1.5 team points. And considering Iowa, tOSU, and OSU are all separated by 3.5 points it’s pretty amazing we’re still in the mix with the fall of our two preseason title favorites, Lee and Stoll. Perhaps that’s why people are so upset because we’re no longer favored at those two weights. Well, tough shit. This is what happens in wrestling.

The NCAA wrestling qualifier allocations released on Friday and the Big Ten has 78 auto bids.

Here’s a brief breakdown:

125: 9

133: 8

141: 9

149: 6

157: 9

165: 9

174: 8

184: 8

197: 5

285: 7

Here’s a quick list of our guys in the Big Ten rankings, only.

While these haven’t been updated per date, I cross-checked with the overall rankings and nothing has changed

Spencer Lee: 2nd

Austin DeSanto: 2nd

Max Murin: 8th

Pat Lugo: 3rd

Kaleb Young: 5th

Alex Marinelli: 2nd

Mitch Bowman: 9th

Cash Wilcke: 5th

Jacob Warner: 3rd

Sam Stoll: 4th

If these guys wrestle to their individual seeding that only leaves Bowman without an auto bid. Personally, I’ll take these odds any day, every day. Unfortunately for Bowman, that only leaves a handful of at-large bids at 174lbs once the other conferences are factored in. If he hopes to be a qualifier again this year, he needs to get it done at the B1G’s. I think he will.

Ladies and gentlemen, our Hawkeye skyline might be gloomy, but it’s far from the being the thunderstorm we think it is. Despite the injuries and illnesses, and “the swarms of scorpions, famine, pestilence, plagues of boils, the Coralville Reservoir turning to blood, and the Seventh Seal being opened,” we’re probably doing better than we should. This has been a trying year, that’s for sure, but it ain’t over till’ it’s over!

Oklahoma State may have gifted us something a win could never do. Anger. Revenge. Pain. These are all motivations we’re going to use. This is the Shakabuku this team needed to wake up.

Besides, I think John “Bluto” Blutarsky said it best