The Big Ten portion of Iowa's 2014-15 wrestling schedule came out a few days ago, so now we have a good idea of what a decent portion of Iowa's schedule will look like next year. SPOILER ALERT: It's no walk in the park.
|Friday, Jan. 2, 2015||Rutgers||New Brunswick, NJ|
|Sunday, Jan. 4, 2015||Ohio State||Columbus, OH|
|Friday, Jan. 9, 2015||Michigan State||Iowa City, IA|
|Sunday, Jan. 11, 2015||Maryland||College Park, MD|
|Friday, Jan. 16, 2015||Illinois||Iowa City, IA|
|Friday, Jan. 23, 2015||Northwestern||Iowa City, IA|
|Friday, Jan. 30, 2015*||Minnesota||Minneapolis, MN|
|Friday, Feb. 6, 2015*||Penn State||State College, PA|
|Friday, Feb. 13||Michigan||Iowa City, IA|
* All of these dates are tentative and subject to change, but these two dates in particular are not firm -- the tweets from @Hawks_Wrestling announcing this schedule noted that these meets could occur on any day of those respective weekends (so 1/30-2/1 for Minnesota and 2/6-2/8 for Penn State)
A few things that stand out:
* The Big Ten is indeed going to a 9-meet conference schedule starting next year. I don't recall that an official announcement was ever made, but it makes a great deal of sense; in a 14-team conference, 8 meets per year just isn't enough to see conference opponents on a regular schedule. A 9-meet schedule should make it fairly easy to see every other team within a 2-3 year cycle. Of course, as Iowa fans, we're also already used to a schedule featuring nine dual meets against Big Ten opponents, thanks to last year's Iowa-Penn State non-conference dual meet; the only difference is that next year, all nine dual meets will actually count towards the conference record.
* A 9-meet schedule obviously brings with it an inherent imbalance in home and away meets; next year, Iowa will be on the losing end of that equation, with just four home B1G dual meets. That should flip in 2016 when Iowa will have five home B1G dual meets.
* Absent from Iowa's B1G schedule in 2015: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Purdue. Iowa did face all of those teams in 2014, so there aren't any multi-year absentees among their conference foes.
* It's definitely a challenging schedule for Iowa. Iowa will face three of the other five teams that finished in the top half of the Big Ten in 2014 (Minnesota, Penn State, and Michigan), with Ohio State, who is expected to be very, very good in 2015 and will more than make up for the absence of Nebraska and Wisconsin. To make things even more challenging, Iowa will face three of those four teams on the road (only Michigan will be making the trip to Carver-Hawkeye). Oh, and Iowa will miss out on two of the worst teams in the 2014 season (Indiana and Purdue). The Big Ten is pretty much always a gauntlet in wrestling, but Iowa looks to have an extra-daunting gauntlet to get through next year.
Logistically, it also has some challenges, the biggest being a road dual against Maryland two days after a home dual against Michigan State. I'm sure the Delanybot 9000 had its cold, mechanical reasons for doing that, but it sure would have been nice if that Maryland road trip could have been one of the other weekends during the conference schedule, when Iowa only has a single meet per weekend.
* Ten notable matches (or rematches) that we could see in Big Ten duals next year based on this schedule:
1) 165: Nick Moore vs. Bo Jordan (Ohio State)
2) 125: Thomas Gilman vs. Jesse Delgado (Illinois)
3) 149: Brody Grothus vs. Jason Tsirtsis (Northwestern)
4) 285: Bobby Telford vs. Mike McMullan (Northwestern)
5) 174: Mike Evans vs. Logan Storley (Minnesota)
6) 125: Thomas Gilman vs. Nico Megaludis (Penn State)
7) 174: Mike Evans vs. Matt Brown (Penn State)
8) 197: Nathan Burak vs. Morgan McIntosh (Penn State)
9) 165: Nick Moore vs. Taylor Massa (Michigan)
10) 285: Bobby Telford vs. Adam Coon (Michigan)
* It's certainly no coincidence that Iowa is visiting Maryland and Rutgers in their inaugural seasons in the Big Ten. When it comes to wrestling, Iowa is one of -- if not the -- biggest draw in the game, so it makes sense to bring in Iowa to try and goose attendance and generate some early buzz for the Scarlet Knights in their first year in the conference (especially since they aren't likely to generate a lot of buzz themselves on the basis of their performances). In fact, the Big Ten is not just sending Iowa to Rutgers, they're quadrupling down and sending Iowa, Penn State, Minnesota, and Ohio State (aka, the projected top-four teams in the conference in 2015) to New Brunswick next year. The full Maryland schedule has yet to be released (as far as I know), but it wouldn't surprised me if they were also hosting all (or several) of those teams.
* We have a decent sketch of what Iowa's 2014-15 schedule will look like now. In addition to the nine B1G dual meets, there will be the annual installments of the series with Iowa State (in Iowa City) and Oklahoma State (in Stillwater). Iowa finished up home-and-away series with Lehigh, Edinboro, and Buffalo in 2013-14, so look for those to be replaced by new opponents (although one of them may also be sacrificed for the ninth B1G meet).
The biggest question mark is probably whether or not Iowa will be at the Midlands Championships next year. Based on past history, Midlands will probably take place around 12/26-12/28, the weekend before Iowa heads out east to face Rutgers and Ohio State. A few years ago, Iowa skipped Midlands to prepare for a similar early road trip against Ohio State, so it doesn't seem impossible that they might do the same thing next year. (This year Iowa did wrestle at Midlands on 12/29 and 12/30 ahead of dual meets on 1/3 and 1/4, but those duals were against Purdue and Indiana -- far weaker opposition -- and involved substantially less travel; the Purdue dual was in Bradley, IL and the Indiana dual was a home meet.) That said, Midlands is always a good event and it would be sad to see Iowa skip it again.