Iowa's third trip to Ann Arbor this academic year to take on Michigan finally lead to their first win Friday night, crushing Michigan 33-10 in a dual meet at the Cliff Keen Arena (although I use the term "arena" loosely in that context; the practice room in Carver- Hawkeye Arena might seat more than that glorified gym did last night). It turns out if we just compete in the sport we're really good at AND field a national championship-contending team while you send out a team loaded with inexperienced freshmen, then yeah -- we can bitchmake you in a sport! Huzzah!
On paper, this looked the tougher of Iowa's two duals in the Giant Mitten State, but it turned into an Iowa romp early on -- Iowa led 13-0 after the first three matches, and while Eric Grajales turned things around for Michigan with a 12-3 major decision win at 149, Iowa responded by winning the next five matches, scoring 20 match points in the process, thanks to technical falls from Derek St. John and Ethen Lofthouse. The dominant display the Hawkeyes put on was part good wrestling from them (for the most part the Iowa wrestlers were very aggressive and attacking all night long, which was a refreshing sight) and part overmatched competition from Michigan. Two of their better wrestlers, Camryn Jackson at 141 and #13 Taylor Massa at 165 sat out this dual due to injury and Michigan ended up starting three freshmen, plus a small handful of other inexperienced wrestlers.
125: Again, something's not right with McD at the moment. He's never beaten Boyle by less than a major decision in the past and now he beats him by an 8-2 decision? Strange. Boyle's gotten better in the last few years -- but not that much better. McD is still very good, but it's odd to see him as anything other than "The Man" for Iowa.
133: Meanwhile, Tony Ramos is stating a pretty good case of his own to be "The Man" for Iowa -- a first-period pin? Now that's doin; work, Tony. Well done. Getting back points (or pins) has been an issue for Tony at times this season, so it's good to see him getting it done here, even if Bruno was very overmatched.
141: Ballweg dug himself an early hole after giving up a big move to Hillock -- and then roared back to win via major decision. That is what we like to see -- not the "giving up a big move early," of course, but the fact that Ballweg didn't let it get him down. Instead, it seemed to motivate him and he worked a takedown clinic on Hillock. Excellent work from a man who's quietly become one of Iowa's most consistent wrestlers.
149: Grothus got the nod over Kelly here, but it's hard to know why, unless Kelly was suffering from the same flu bug that felled Bobby Telford. Neither Grothus nor Kelly are fantastic options at 149, but Kelly has shown more offense this year than he did last year, as well as an ability to grind out wins -- and avoid getting blown out in losses. Kelly held Jordan Oliver to a decision last week; Grothus got majored by Grajales this week (and was probably a bit lucky it wasn't worse, given as much time as he spent on his back in this match). Not a good sign. Grothus struggled to get to his offense and looked helpless to counter some of Grajales' offense, especially on the mat.
157: One guy who didn't struggle to get to his offense last night? Derek St. John. He was a takedown machine against Zeerip, throwing in some nearfall points for good measure on his way to the tech fall. It was very encouraging to see him wrestle with so much energy and aggression. We know DSJ's defense and counter-wrestling are stellar, but it's nice to see him showcase some strong offense from neutral as well.
165: The expected Moore-Massa showdown was a no-go thanks to a Massa injury, so Moore picked up an easy win over Brancheau. Moore largely controlled the match from start to finish; the only real disappointment was his inability to get bonus points. He had the score at 8-2 (or effectively 8-2, thanks to riding time) for much of the third period, but wasn't able to get one more takedown that would have given him a major decision. Worse, he didn't even seem to be pushing too hard for that takedown.
174: How did Mike Evans respond to his first loss of the season (against Chris Perry last weekend)? With a dominant 9-1 win over a wrestler ranked on the fringe of the top-10 at 174. This was the showcase match of the meet... and Evans turned it into a one-sided rout. He scored a handful of solid takedowns on Yates and then proceeded to ride him viciously (and for an incredibly long time; this match went seven minutes, and Evans may have had at least six minutes of riding time). He wasn't quite able to get him turned for back points (though he came very near on a few occasions -- and a friendlier ref might have been inclined to give him some), but he utterly dominated this match. Fear the 'Stache.
184: Like several Iowa wrestlers (DSJ, Moore, Ballweg on occasion), Ethen Lofthouse has a tendency to wrestle overly conservatively and defensive at times. It can be a little maddening to watch. But every now and then he'll cut loose (usually when facing a lesser opponent), which is exactly what he did on Friday night. Lofthouse was positively an offensive dynamo against Thomas, racking up takedowns and cranking him for the nearfall points that locked up his tech fall. Granted, Thomas was incredibly inactive (so inactive he got docked a point for stalling in the first period and gave up another in the second) so Lofthouse seemed to be wrestling a practice dummy at times, but still, kudos to Lofthouse for not just sitting on a lead or building up meaningless riding time. He stayed aggressive and was rewarded with a tech fall.
197: Nathan Burak's roller-coaster season continues, although it's very fun to see him steadily improving. Burak picked up his second win over a ranked wrestler this month, on the heels of some narrow losses against other good wrestlers at 197. In this match, he showed some good offense against Huntley, as well as some good defense and fast thinking when he shucked Huntley on a shot attempt and then was able to immediately turn it into points of his own. I'm sure Burak will continue to have his ups and downs this season, but he's looking better and better and it no longer looks like a complete pipe dream for him to potentially qualify for the NCAA Tournament and maybe score a point or two.
285: Iowa forfeited this match, which seemed incredibly strange until we learned that Bobby Telford had the flu and had puked four times on the way to Michigan. Ick. Get well soon, Bobby!
Overall, a solid performance from Iowa. Michigan was overmatched at almost every weight, but Iowa showed a ruthlessness and an attacking mindset that's been lacking far too often this season. Iowa picked up bonus points in five of the eight matches they won, including two tech falls and a pin. That's the kind of dominance we like to see out of Iowa wrestling.
NEXT: Iowa heads to East Lansing to take on Michigan State at 1pm CT on Sunday, January 20.