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Iowa Wrestling: Q&A with Cowboys Ride For Free on No. 12 Oklahoma State

Five important questions. Five important answers.

2017 NCAA Div I Wrestling Championships Session One Photo by Hunter Martin/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

Our Iowa Hawkeyes close out the regular season Sunday night when we play host to No. 12 Oklahoma State. Brandon Cain from Cowboys Ride For Free reached out to me and offered an afternoon peace treaty for a quick Q&A session.

If you’d like to see our side of events please head over HERE and check it out.

Trez: Everyone out there knows who Daton Fix is and why the USA World Team Member isn’t wrestling this season. Please tell us a little a bit about his replacement, Reece Witcraft, and the job he has done filling in at 133lbs. And looking ahead, where does Witcraft fit in next season when Fix returns? Because, he looks like a good one to me.

BC: OSU head coach John Smith described Witcraft perfectly after the Bedlam dual when he said, “don’t get up and go get a Coke because you may miss something with that kid.” Witcraft has Greco experience and likes his throws, but sometimes his positioning can be off and he’ll end up on his back. He’s improved his low singles attacks and has been mixing them in with throws.

Witcraft’s status is up in the air pending Kaid Brock’s medical redshirt status. If Brock returns, Witcraft will redshirt and OSU’s first three weights will be Fix, Brock, Kaden Gfeller (out for rest of 2020 season with knee injury) OR Dusty Hone.

Trez: Despite the loss to UNI, you’re quietly having a very solid season and so far are flying under the radar. You feature four former All-Americans in the starting lineup: Nick Piccininni (125lbs), Boo Lewallen (149lbs), Joe Smith (174lbs), and Dakota Geer (197lbs). To make a serious push for a team medal a couple more guys need to step up. Who are the other likely candidates that could find the podium in March?

BC: Travis Wittlake (165) is the most likely candidate to earn All-American status. He’s won three of his four matches against ranked opponents with his lone loss, 4-1, to Stanford’s Shane Griffith at the Southern Scuffle. Wittlake is looking at the match against Alex Marinelli has a good gauge to see how good he can compete against top-tier competition.

Wyatt Sheets (157) and Anthony Montalvo (184) will probably come up short of the podium.

Trez: If that 19-15 loss to UNI was the low point, you certainly seem to have rounded the corner and gotten back to your winning ways. You’ve won six consecutive duals over a very narrow four week span and seem to be firing on all cylinders. You’re 49-11 in individual matches during this run, what has led to the turn around?

BC: The two main reasons for the turnaround are the quality of competition (South Dakota State, Air Force, Oklahoma) hasn’t been great and bonus-point wins from top guys at weights where the other team is weak. The duals at No. 16 Iowa State, and against No. 24 Missouri and OU were a bit dicey early on, but the Cowboys used a late surge and/or key wins in each one. Six and four straight wins against ISU and Mizzou, respectively, and a 15-point swing in three matches against OU after trailing 6-3.

Trez: Spencer Lee vs Nick Piccininni. Though they respect each other, there’s no shortage of bad blood between these two rivals. Lee owns the head-to-head series, 3-1. Picc embarrassed Lee by pinning him in the dual last year, then Lee throttled him in the NCAA semifinal. Two of the last three matchups have ended in a pin. How do you see this one turning out? Are we in store for another six point swing?

BC: Piccininni trailed 6-3 after two periods in the semifinals with Lee getting an escape at the buzzer. Lee then locked riding time, and Piccininni escaped and came close to a takedown with 50 seconds remaining then Lee stuffed a shot attempt with four seconds left and got two swipes for a decision win.

Lee, however, is a notch above everyone else this season and takes this one by major decision.

Trez: On paper, Iowa is favored in every matchup. But we know we can throw those rankings out the window when these two teams clash. If the Cowboys are going to make a season defining statement in Iowa City, how are they going to do it and where are the wins coming from?

BC: OSU could win the dual with six victories and not getting tech’d or pinned at heavyweight. That’s all highly unlikely to happen. If there is a big upset in the dual, it’d be Dusty Hone over Max Murin at 141. The Cowboys’ wins will realistically come at 149, 157 and 184.

There we have it. Thanks again to Brandon and Cowboys Ride For Free for lining this up for us.

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