Welcome to the show. Tom Brands and John Smith are once again your ringmasters for the greatest spectacle wrestling has to offer. Yes, the NCAA and conference tournaments (to say nothing of Olympic and World Championship tournaments) are more important for their results, but The Bout at the Ballpark event is set to eclipse them all in sheer pageantry. Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas will host a jam packed day of wrestling competition. As it was for 2015’s attendance record setting Grapple on the Gridiron, our primary interest in the day’s program focuses on the dual between the Iowa Hawkeyes and Oklahoma State. This year’s event is far more expansive than 2015 however, featuring high school competitors, men’s and women’s international freestyle, and a Greco-Roman match. As it stands now, the full schedule is planned something like this:
12:00 noon – 3:00pm CT // Youth Takedown Tournament
6:30pm // Women’s Freestyle and Men’s Greco-Roman Pairing
8:00pm // Simultaneous Iowa vs Oklahoma State Dual and USA Wrestling vs The World Dual
Exactly who will be wrestling has been through a couple of iterations now. When Bout at the Ballpark was first announced, the USA Men’s freestyle team was to dual the Iran Wrestling Federation in ten weight pairings (there are only six Olympic weight classes but four more were filled in for this event to bring the number to ten, matching the number in American folkstyle). As with most countries in central Asia, Iran has a very strong tradition of wrestling and has competed in the US a surprising sixteen times since 1995. Despite what has been commonplace in the past, “Visa issues” have prevented Iran from attending this event. Likewise, the US Women’s freestyle team was to toe the line against an all Mongolia contingent but they too have bowed out citing Visa troubles. In their defense, Mongolia was not originally slated to compete and evidently had too short of notice to complete the Visa process. Iran and Mongolia have been replaced by a smattering of competitors with more of a Western Hemisphere leaning. The International lineup as it stands is as follows:
Men’s freestyle pairings
57 kg – Thomas Gilman (USA) vs. Darian Cruz (Puerto Rico)
61 kg – Daton Fix (USA) vs. Giusseppe Rea (Ecuador)
65 kg – Joey McKenna (USA) vs. Kamal Begakov (Tajikistan)
70 kg – James Green (USA) vs. Dillon Williams (Canada)
74 kg – Jason Nolf (USA) vs. Mitch Finesilver (Israel)
79 kg – Jordan Burroughs (USA) vs. Nestor Taffur (Colombia)
86 kg – Zahid Valencia (USA) vs. Noel Torres (Mexico)
92 kg – Kollin Moore (USA) vs. Evan Ramos (Puerto Rico)
97 kg – Kyle Snyder (USA) vs. Zbigniew Baranowski (Poland)
125 kg – Nick Gwiazdowski (USA) vs. Zach Merrill (Puerto Rico)
Women’s freestyle pairings
50 kg – Victoria Anthony (USA) vs. Madison Parks (Canada)
53 kg – Jacarra Winchester (USA) vs. Dom Parrish (USA)
57 kg – Helen Maroulis (USA) vs. Karla Godinez Gonzalez (Canada)
62 kg – Kayla Miracle (USA) vs. Ana Godinez Gonzalez (Canada)
76 kg – Victoria Francis (USA) vs. Justina DiStasio (Canada)
97 kg – G’Angelo Hancock (USA) vs. Ahmed Hassan (Egypt)
There are too many world class athletes above to preview individually but two of immediate interest for Iowa fans are former Iowa lightweight Thomas Gilman and current Oklahoma State 133lbr Daton Fix. Puzzlingly, Fix is listed on the probable lineup for Oklahoma State’s folkstyle team also. How he intends to wrestle both matches when the college and international freestyle event are to occur simultaneously can only be explained, in my mind, by having the college dual begin at 133lbs so Fix will wrestle for Okie State first, while the freestyle dual begins at 65kg placing Fix last in the international lineup or vice versa. That will give him perhaps an hour and a half turnaround which is comparable with tournament schedules.
Alas, the only thing Bout at the Ballpark is (narrowly) missing will be women’s college wrestling. Iowa is in the early stages of building the nation’s first power five conference college team as we speak but needed another year of prep to make an event like this one a reality. Of final note on the overall event, it has been hinted that we are seeing a likely trial run for a future NCAA tournament to be hosted at a ballpark or football stadium. This is a huge testament to the growing popularity of college wrestling and, as the schools picked to participate in this event, further acknowledgement that Iowa and Oklahoma State remain the pre-eminent brands and fan bases in college wrestling. The one downer is that viewing this event requires breaking down a paywall to stream live on Flowrestling. Hopefully in the future such events will be more readily available on cable or streaming services. Audio is available at iHeart radio and on the air at AM 800 KXIC.
Moving on to the Iowa-centric portion of the event we can embrace the excitement of a non conference opponent tucked into the tail end of Iowa’s Big10 schedule and the renewal of a fantastic rivalry with Oklahoma State. The Cowboys lead the all-time series 29-23-2 and have 34 national titles to Iowa’s 24, but Iowa has been steadily gaining in both categories over the past few decades. This meeting is one more opportunity for Iowa to draw nearer to taking the series lead and for the state of Iowa to make a clean sweep of OSU this year. ISU and UNI both defeated OSU previously this Winter and The University of Iowa is in a strong position to make its home state 3-0.
Nothing has impacted OSU more this year and opened the door of victory for Iowa’s schools than the absence of AJ Ferrari. The 197 NCAA champ was injured a few weeks ago in a car accident and has not been in the lineup. He is not slated to compete in this dual though the first update since his accident came out February 10th and leaves open what seemed at the time of the crash the unlikely possibility he may return before the end of this season. Iowa’s Warner will miss out on a shot at the champ but a few Hawkeyes have important resume improving and padding opportunities in this dual as tournament season draws near. Drake Ayala is high on that list but he too has missed action recently and is listed as an “Or” in the lineup. DeSanto shares the 133 slot with Shriever once again but it’d be a bit shocking for him to not go against Fix in a nothing to lose, everything to gain match.
125: #12 Trevor Mastrogiovanni (OK State) OR Cooper Birdwell (OK State) vs Jesse Ybarra (Iowa) OR #10 Drake Ayala (Iowa)
133: #2 Daton Fix (OK State) vs #3 Austin DeSanto (Iowa) OR Cullan Schriever (Iowa)
141: #17 Carter Young (OK State) vs #2 Jaydin Eierman (Iowa)
149: #18 Kaden Gfeller (OK State) vs #10 Max Murin (Iowa)
157: #14 Wyatt Sheets (OK State) vs #13 Kaleb Young (Iowa)
165: #7 Travis Wittlake (OK State) vs #5 Alex Marinelli (Iowa)
174: #10 Dustin Plott (OK State) vs #2 Michael Kemerer (Iowa)
184: #9 Dakota Geer (OK State) vs #16 Abe Assad (Iowa)
197: Gavin Stika (OK State) vs #3 Jacob Warner (Iowa)
285: Luke Surber (OK State) OR Austin Harris (OK State) vs #2 Tony Cassioppi (Iowa)
133: #2 Daton Fix (OK State) vs #3 Austin DeSanto
This is the big one. Fix is 2-0 vs ADS but only by razor thin margins of 2-0 and 3-2. There has only been one takedown in both of their matches combined. DeSanto’s pace has accelerated if anything this year and he’s improved every time out over the past two seasons. After another learning experience getting shut out on takedowns by RBY in the Penn State dual, it feels like he’s about to find the key to unlock another level vs his top tier competition. Fix’s attention will be split between freestyle and folkstyle on the same night. DeSanto’s time is now.
165: #7 Travis Wittlake (OK State) vs #5 Alex Marinelli
Marinelli can’t catch a break. This is his fifth consecutive ranked opponent. He has previously met Wittlake and won but only by a 3-2 score. If Marinelli brings his usual high pressure offense and Iowa is blessed with a ref who has actually read the section of the rulebook titled “stalling”, The Bull will likely be ok here. If Oklahoma State, a program whose style of wrestling can generously be described as “edge of mat”, is allowed to do their thing, this night may be tedious and frustrating.
184: #9 Dakota Geer (OK State) vs #16 Abe Assad
If Ayala and DeSanto both make appearances, this is the only match in which Iowa is a significant underdog. Assad hasn’t had a very obliging schedule this year for improving his ranking but this match fits the bill. Geer is not an insurmountable opponent like #1 Aaron Brooks or an unranked guy he’s expected to beat that won’t add to his resume. From a dual perspective, Iowa doesn’t need Assad to win at this weight assuming we carry the weights where we’re favored and don’t lose every toss-up. From a Big10 and NCAA tournament perspective though, Iowa absolutely has to get wins like this from Assad and other fringe AA candidates like Murin and Young for team titles to be realistic.
Opponent: #12 Oklahoma State
Dual time: 8PM God’s Time (Central) // Saturday February 12th, 2022
TV and Streaming: Flowrestling
Radio: iHeart radio and on air at AM800 KXIC
Location: Globe Life Field // Arlington, Texas