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Iowa Wrestling: No. 1 Hawkeyes host No. 4 Ohio State

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Nothing makes inclement weather worthwhile like a Buckeye beat down.

@Hawks_Wrestling

edit note: I use Flowrestling rankings, because that’s what BTN and BTN+ broadcast during duals/ tournaments.

First and foremost, I must apologize to you loyal readers. This preview will be shorter than normal because I’ve hit the road for 1,000 mile trek to Iowa City to attend this upcoming dual in person. If lady luck is on my side, not only will I be going to this Ohio St dual, but if I can fenagle some tickets I’m going to try and stick around for the Penn State dual on Jan. 31 as well.

Last week we touched on the difficulty of the upcoming schedule before we knocked off #10 Nebraska, 26-6. Now we’re upping the ante and taking on #4 Ohio State inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. If the forecasters are right, we could be getting dumped on with snow, but the environment inside CHA is going to be absolutely lit. So here’s to hoping that their trip to Iowa is as miserable as possible, filled with a devastating beat down followed by a long bus ride home.

This is a 91 year old rivalry that’ll add another fun chapter Friday night. We’re 39-4 all-time against the Buckeyes, but we got throttled, 22-12, the last time we faced them in 2017. We’re 15-1 against them on our home grounds with their lone win coming in Iowa City in the inaugural meeting back in 1929.

PROBABLE LINEUP:

Hawkeyesports.com

OHIO STATE (7-1):

Tom Ryan’s Buckeyes have been on a roll since their championship run in 2015, never finishing below 3rd since then. While they thankfully graduated some all-time greats such as Nathan Tomasello, Bo Jordan, Miles Martin, and Kyle Snyder, they still boast a formidable lineup that could cause us some serious problems if we don’t bring our A-game.

With those guys finally gone they still have two returning All-Americans that are both ranked #1 at their respective weight classes: Luke Pletcher (141lbs) and Kollin Moore (197lbs). While they don’t have the overall dual strength of past years, those two will significantly boost their tournament expectations and can set them up for a deep run in March. They have six other wrestlers appearing in Flowrestlings top 20 including #6 Sammy Sasso (149lbs) and #8 Kaleb Romero (174lbs).

They’re 7-1 on the season with their lone loss coming to Virginia Tech, 21-15. That early season loss resulted in some lineup shakeups that have helped them corral a pair of wins over #6 Arizona State and #3 Wisconsin that has gotten them back on track.

IOWA (7-0):

Despite our undefeated record and our win over a solid Nebraska squad, we were anything but sharp in our performance against them. In fact, we were collectively flat-footed and failed to execute in a handful of matches in a handful of key moments that made the dual much more dramatic than it should have been.

This has been a key point that Tom Brands has been making all season: get to the offense early and often. Don’t allow the score to be close at the end. There’s simply no reason for it.

The Cornhuskers also had a sound game plan to hand fight, control the ties, slow the matches down, and keep the score close and try to capitalize late. We should expect to see that same strategy in full effect from here on out. At least until we make the proper adjustments and force teams to find an alternative. Ohio State is more than capable of doing just that and unless we get an early lead we could be in a dog fight in several of these bouts.

On paper we’re favored in 7 of the 10 matches. #3 Max Murin (141), #1 Pat Lugo (149) and #4 Jacob Warner (197) all find themselves in underdog situations, which could be beneficial if used as proper motivation.

Per the usual, we must find bonus points in the matches we are favorites in. Last week we only had one bonus point win. This week we can’t live that dangerously and need to win that battle. Spencer Lee should spot us the typical five or six points, but if DeSanto can rebound from his offperformance against Nebraska and find a way to bonus up the blue-chip recruit, #20 Jordan Decatur, would be a huge boost as well. Mix in Kaleb Young, Alex Marinelli, and Tony Cassioppi, we should be able to pull away late.

Wrestlestat predicts a 29-9 Hawkeye victory.

KEY MATCHUPS:

141: #3 Max Murin vs #1 Luke Pletcher. Mad Max has retained his #3 ranking even after taking a beat down from Nebraska’s Chad Red. Unfortunately, this will be a tougher test as he faces off with Pletcher, a 2x All-American. Pletcher has placed 4th in back-to-back season and hasn’t taken a bad loss in almost three seasons. He’s wrestling the best he ever has and with Max’s troublesome offensive showing last week, this may have disaster written all over it. However, Max seems to up his game and wrestle more aggressively when he’s the underdog. If he can wrestle smart AND be aggressive, it’s not absurd to think he could find a way to pull off the upset. This could be the match he needs to finally turn the corner and take it to the next level.

149: #1 Pat Lugo vs #6 Sammy Sasso. Even with the higher ranking, Lugo finds himself the dark horse as well. This is in large part due to the fact that Sasso won their only previous contest at last year’s Midlands, 6-4, in SV1. Lugo has improved this year, especially with this take down conversions, but how much? When Lugo has active feet, he has elite defense, but sometimes he gets passive out there and this isn’t the match that can afford any sort of brain fart. However, if he’s able to control the ties and pound the hands, I like his chances of setting up a shot and finding a takedown or two to secure the win.

edit note: FWIW- Wrestlestat has Sasso #2 and Lugo #3, despite Lugo’s win over #1 Austin O’Connor (UNC). They create an Elo rating/ algorithm based off win %, opponent’s win %, opponent’s opponent’s win %, and bonus point rate to create a projected score outcome.

184: #9 Abe Assad vs #24 Rocky Jordan. Assad made his CHA debut last week and immediately made his name known to the NCAA landscape with a big time win over former #4 Taylor Venz. It was an emotionally charged match so it’ll be interesting to see how he responds, especially against a wrestler of Jordan’s pedigree. There’s no reason to doubt Abe and I’m fully on the Assad Express, but the competition will keep getting tougher from here on out we’ll see if he can keep the energy up and focus dialed in.

197: #4 Jacob Warner vs #1 Kollin Moore. Warner is coming off a big time let down last week in a match that saw little to no offense and 100% laziness in the closing moments. If there was ever a time for someone to explode for a career defining win, now would be that time. Kollin Moore, on the other hand, has been peaking all year will exploit any passiveness when he sees it and will use that to blow open a match before it’s even started. He’s 18-0 on the season with an 83% bonus rate. Bottom line, this is a huge uphill battle for Warner. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility for a win, but it will take a Herculean effort to do so.

PROJECTED LINEUP:

125: #1 Spencer Lee (9-0) vs Malik Heinselman (9-11)

133: #2 Austin DeSanto (11-1) vs #20 Jordan Decatur (9-4)

141: #3 Max Murin (10-1) vs #1 Luke Pletcher (18-0)

149: #1 Pat Lugo (13-0) vs #6 Sammy Sasso (16-2)

157: #4 Kaleb Young (10-2) vs Elijah Cleary (13-7)

165: #2 Alex Marinelli (13-0) vs #12 Ethan Smith (13-7)

174: #3 Michael Kemerer (7-0) vs #8 Kaleb Romero (12-2)

184: #9 Abe Assad (18-3) vs #24 Rocky Jordan (22-4)

197: #4 Jacob Warner (10-3) vs #1 Kollin Moore (18-0)

285: #3 Tony Cassioppi (12-0) vs #23 Gary Traub (17-3)