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We Must Break You: Entering Gopher Country

We know Iowa wrestlers like to hunt rabbits -- time to hunt some gophers now.


#4 Iowa (14-1) at #3 Minnesota (11-1)

Date: January 26, 2013
Time: 3:00 pm CT
Location: Williams Arena, Minneapolis
Television: BTN
Line: Minnesota -3.5 (per @MuirOrLess)

Last weekend's duals against the Big Ten's Michigan contingent ended up being something of a breather for Iowa -- two teams that just didn't have the firepower needed to compete with Iowa. Well, that's out the window for Iowa's next three duals: #3 Minnesota, #1 Penn State, and #6 Illinois. Iowa's going to need every bit of their own firepower to show up in order to win these three duals. First up is a trip to Minneapolis (Iowa's fourth straight road dual, in fact) to take on the Gophers, their longtime B1G nemesis.

Iowa's enjoyed fantastic success over Minnesota in recent years -- they won six duals in a row against the Gophers before losing in last year's National Duals semifinals -- but that amounts to squat against one of the most formidable Minnesota teams in recent memory. In many ways, the problem Iowa faces against Minnesota is the same problem they faced against Oklahoma State: how to beat a team that's your inverted doppelganger. Iowa has an advantage at this dual's lower weights, but Minnesota has the advantage at the upper weights. Against Oklahoma State, things snowballed in a bad way for Iowa in the back half of the meet, as a 12-3 advantage after 157 gave way to an 18-12 loss. Unfortunately, not only could the same thing happen here, it's actually more likely to happen against Minnesota. The Gophers should be favored in the last five matches of this meet and in six total. They also figure to have excellent bonus point opportunities at a few weights (149, 184) and one of Iowa's "favored" matches is probably more of a push in reality (141). So yeah, on paper, this dual doesn't look all that friendly for Iowa -- it's going to take a full team effort from the Hawkeyes and probably at least one or two upsets for the Hawkeys to topple the Gophers.


125: McDonough and Thorn have never met before. McD's longtime rival at Minnesota, Zach Sanders, graduated after last year. Thorn started last season as Minnesota's starter at 133 before giving way to Chris Dardanes midway through the year. He's struggled some at 125 (hence the 5 losses), but he hasn't been losing to scrubs (4 of his 5 losses were to Illinois' Jesse Delgado, North Dakota State's Trent Sprenkle, Air Force's Josh Martinez, and Ohio State's Nikko Triggas, all ranked in InterMat's top-12) and he hasn't been getting blown out (those 4 losses were all by 4 points or fewer). Suffice to say, this would be probably be a tough match for McD to get bonus points in even if he was in imperious form right now (which he's not).
McD via DEC (IOWA 3-0)

133: Ramos went 3-0 against Dardanes last season, winning 5-2, 6-1 (on a big move in overtime), and with a pin in 6:50. He widened the gap steadily against Dardanes, although that's also a little misleading -- their second match was tied 1-1 after three periods and the pin in their third match didn't come until 10 seconds remained in the match (although Ramos was leading fairly comfortable before that point, if memory serves). Dardanes is a tough opponent. Ramos has also been much better than Dardanes against common opponents this season. He beat Virginia's George DiCamillo 23-8 (Dardanes beat him 3-1 in overtime), he beat Ohio State's Kyle Visconti 30-14 (Dardanes beat him 14-4), and he beat Oklahoma State's Jon Morrison 3-2 (Dardanes lost to Morrison 3-2). Dardanes also got dominated in his most recent match, a 17-8 loss to Illinois' Daryl Thomas. That said, I still don't see Ramos getting bonus here.
Ramos via DEC (IOWA 6-0)

141: Meanwhile, 141 looks like one of the closest matches of the meet, with #9 Ballweg taking on #10 Nick Dardanes. Ballweg has never faced Dardanes -- Dardanes was Minnesota's starter last season, but Ballweg was stuck behind Montell Marion at this weight for Iowa. Ballweg has been one of the success stories of this season for Iowa, getting off to a 14-1 start, with the only loss being a narrow defeat against #2 Hunter Stieber. I wouldn't quite call his success a surprise -- Ballweg was good at 141 while filling in for Marion two season ago -- but it has been fun to watch. Dardanes also has a loss to Stieber on his record this year, as well as losses to Oregon State's Michael Mangrum, Hofstra's Luke Vaith, and Cornell's Mike Nevinger, all ranked in InterMat's top-20 (all but Vaith are in InterMat's top-6). This figures to be a very tight match that could come down to riding time or a single takedown. I really like the way Ballweg is wrestling lately -- he's showing some nice aggression and energy in his offense.
Ballweg via DEC (IOWA 9-0)

149: As recently as a few weeks ago, I thought the name of the game for Iowa at this weight was just damage limitation: against an NCAA finalist like Ness, Iowa just needed to avoid giving up big points and letting Minnesota get bonus points out of this weight. But Ness has struggled this year while dealing with a knee injury and in his most recent match he got dominated, 11-3, by Illinois' Caleb Ervin. This is not "NCAA runner-up" Dylan Ness. Unfortunately, as last weekend showed, Iowa still doesn't have much at this weight. Ness might be ripe for an upset now (if his knee and conditioning improve, he should be much tougher at Big Tens and NCAAs), but Iowa doesn't seem to have anyone at 149 who can pull that off. So the name of the game is probably still damage limitation. Ness isn't afraid of rolling around with an opponent if he thinks he might be able to score big points -- don't let yourself get pinned, Kelly (or Grothus).
Ness via MAJ DEC (IOWA 9-4)

157: And so we hit the last match of the meet where Iowa will be favored to win. Welp. The good news is that DSJ will be a pretty heavy favorite over Zilverberg. The bad news is that he hasn't always been fantastic at getting bonus points against guys like that. Still, Zilverberg isn't quite the sort of super-athletic opponent who can give DSJ trouble. I think he'll get Iowa's lone bonus points of the meet here.
DSJ via MAJ DEC (IOWA 13-4)

165: The next two weights are critical for Iowa's upset hopes. I have very little faith in Iowa's shot at grabbing an upset win at 184 or 285 (as we'll discuss shortly), but 165 and 174 offer much greater opportunities for Iowa. At 165, Nick Moore is facing Cody Yawn -- er, Yohn. Yohn has six losses, but most of those are to InterMat top-20 opponents: Oklahoma State's Tyler Caldwell, North Dakoa State's Steven Monk, Virginia's Nick Sulzer, and Illinois' Conrad Polz. But he's also lost to unranked competition (Appalachian State's Zach Strickland). For the most part, Yohn beats the guys below him on the pecking order and loses to the guys ahead of him on the pecking order. On paper, Nick Moore seems to sit below him on the pecking order -- but he has a chance to prove otherwise in this match. Yohn isn't an offensive dynamo (he has bonus points in 8 of his 17 wins, but three of those were against opponents from Concordia) and Moore can be frustratingly un-offensive as well, so this could be a boring match. I think Moore can definitely win it... but I don't yet have the confidence to pick him to actually do so.
Yohn via DEC (IOWA 13-7)

174: This weight is Iowa's other big opportunity to score a solid upset win -- Storley is #2 and Evans is #6. The 'Stache already has one win over a #2-ranked wrestler this year (former #2 Nick Heflin of Ohio State) and he took #1 Chris Perry to the limit a few weeks ago. Storley also lost a tight decision to Perry (7-6) and he has a pinfall win over #3 Matt Brown, a 13-2 major decision win over Heflin, a 3-1 win over #4 Robert Kokesh, and a controversial 6-5 win over #8 Jordan Blanton. He's a very, very good wrestler having a very, very good season. Evans will probably need to wrestle his best match of the season to beat Storley. Which he could very well do. But on the road, in a hostile environment... I just can't pick Evans to get the win here yet.
Storley via DEC (IOWA 13-10)

184: Steinhaus is an absolute beast, one of the biggest 184ers I've ever seen. Lofthouse still looks like a jumped-up 174er at this weight. Size isn't everything... but it does matter, especially against an opponent who can use his size effectively, like Steinhaus. To say nothing of the fact that Ethen hasn't exactly impressed too much this year. I think there's a better chance that Steinhaus gets bonus points here than I think that Ethen can get a win.
Steinhaus via DEC (TIE, 13-13)

197: 165 and 174 look like Iowa's best shots at an upset in the upper weights, but they aren't the only shots at an upset -- 197 also looks like potential upset territory, mainly thanks to Nathan Burak's steady improvement at this weight. Burak had some real struggles at this weight early on after getting the starting nod, but he's come on strong since then, winning 4 of his last 6 matches, including two wins over ranked opponents (Ohio State's Andrew Campolattano and Michigan's Max Huntley). Schiller has been solid in his first year as a starter -- he also beat Camp and his only losses are to Penn State's Quentin Wright, Missouri's Brent Haynes, and Oregon State's Taylor Meeks (all top-11 opponents, per InterMat). This will be a big test for Burak. I don't think he's up to it yet.
Schiller via DEC (MINN, 16-13)

285: I don't think Bobby has ever even come close to scoring on Nelson (he lost a pair of 2-0 defeats to Nelson last year). He's also coming off a weekend where he sat out while dealing with the flu. Needless to say, I don't have a ton of optimism about Bobby here.
Nelson via DEC (MINN, 19-13)

I hope I'm wrong in these predictions, of course. I hope Moore, Evans, and/or Burak can surprise me and turn this thing around for Iowa. But on paper Iowa doesn't match up that well with this year's Gopher crew.

Feel free to use this as your open thread for the dual as well. The usual open thread rules apply: no links to illegal online streams, no porn, no slurs, no politics, no religion, etc.