Well... that went well. I expected Iowa to beat Oklahoma State on Sunday and I even thought there was a good chance that they would do so convincingly. I did not expect them to so utterly thrash the Cowboys... but that's exactly what happened. Iowa won the first five matches of the dual meet and opened up a 19-0 lead to effectively put the dual to bed at the halfway mark. That Iowa did so in Stillwater was even more remarkable; Iowa hadn't won in the home of the 'Pokes since 2009. That Iowa was able to rack up 30 teams points was even more extraordinary; Iowa hadn't scored that many against Oklahoma State since a 31-3 victory in 1995. Nor was this one of those "deceptively close blowouts" where one team manages to pull out a slew of close matches; only one of Iowa's wins came by fewer than three points. This was a good old fashioned beatdown; to do it against Iowa's biggest historical rival only made it sweeter.
Most of my trepidation about Iowa's chances in this dual was centered around the lower and middle weights; Thomas Gilman and Josh Dziewa were favorites on paper at 125 and 141, respectively, but seemed like they could be vulnerable to upsets given their tendency to wrestle tight matches; instead they won via a major decision and fall. Brandon Sorensen and Mike Kelly were underdogs on paper at 149 and 157, respectively, but they went out and notched solid decision wins for Iowa. If Oklahoma State was going to upset Iowa, they were going to have to do so with wins early; instead Iowa slammed the door emphatically on those upset hopes.
The only real disappointment of the day for Iowa was Sammy Brooks at 184. Brooks had opened up a solid 5-0 lead in the second period of his match against #17 Nolan Boyd and then went for the killshot -- he tried to use an upper body throw to put Boyd on his back and get a pin (or at least back points). Alas, it backfired badly on Brooks -- he got put on his own back and was lucky to escape the period down 6-5 and not pinned. Brooks was unable to get another takedown in the third period to win the match. Even though he lost, I'm loathe to criticize Brooks too much -- the aggression that ended up costing him the match is hardwired into his DNA. It's what makes him so much fun to watch and it's big part of what's made him so successful. More often than not, if he keeps that aggressive approach, it's going to lead to good things for him (and for Iowa). Brooks will need to wrestle a little bit smarter, perhaps, and pick his spots to go for broke, but ultimately we don't really want him to change his approach. (Iowa also lost at 165, but that was fully expected -- even moreso after Nick Moore was surprisingly rested in favor of backup Patrick Rhoads. Mark Ironside suggested that Moore was rested here to help him get ready for the key B1G duals he has coming up.)
Speaking of aggression... that's something that's been in frustratingly short supply among Iowa wrestlers at times this season (and over the last few years), but it was on full display in this dual. Thomas Gilman has often looked tentative at times over the last year and a half when it comes to letting his offense fly from neutral, but he absolutely took it to Klimara -- and didn't let up until the final whistle. Cory Clark jumped on Gary Wayne Harding early and kept attacking and grinding for more points. Josh Dziewa got down early to Dean Heil, but used a hard ride in the second period, and a takedown and a pin off a cow catcher in the third period to complete a comeback victory. Jeva has a tendency to keep his offense close to the vest, so it was encouraging to see him cut loose a bit more here. Brandon Sorensen followed up his win over a top-5 opponent (Hunter Stieber) last week with an even more impressive win over a top-5 opponent (Josh Kindig) this week. He controlled the match from start to finish and looked tremendous. Like Dziewa, Mike Kelly got down early in his match, but battled back with a series of reversals and takedowns to earn a win. Kelly isn't the quickest or the slickest wrestler, but he grinds as well as anyone and he doesn't quit.
Mike Evans is another Iowa guy who's looked tentative from neutral at times, but he was able to convert an early takedown against Jordan Rogers. Once he got the match to the mat, Evans was able to really go to work, unleashing a series of tilts and turns to rack up nearfall points by the bushel. Another quick takedown in the second period led to more of the same and a quick end to the match. This was Evans at his very best. Burak added a workmanlike decision for Iowa at 197, using a pair of early takedowns to build a lead, then defending skillfully (with the splits, no less!) and getting a final takedown in the third period to lock up the victory. Finally, Bobby Telford ended the meet with yet another win (his fifth straight!) over a top-10 opponent, using an early takedown to get a narrow win over #4 Austin Marsden. That was the only takedown of the match, but Telford was the more aggressive wrestler throughout the match; he came close to another takedown early in the first period and generally had better opportunities than Marsden to score in the second and third periods.
This was, hands down, Iowa's finest performance of the season. Outside of a backup at 165 and Brooks' snafu at 184, Iowa looked very good up and down the lineup. They were aggressive, active, scored bundles of points, and rarely quit trying to score until the final whistle. That is the Iowa wrestling that we like to see. The key for Iowa now is making sure that a performance like this doesn't become an aberration, but the norm. If Iowa is able to wrestle like this on a consistent basis... then the ceiling for this team is very, very high. Performances like this mean that Iowa might need to make room for some new additions to the trophy cabinet in March... but only if Iowa can wrestle this way consistently. This was a fantastic win for Iowa, but it needs to be the start of a sustained run of excellence, not a a one-off blip. In the meantime, though... suck it, Okie State. What did you think of things, John Smith?
#1 IOWA 30, #8 OKLAHOMA STATE 7
125: #5 Thomas Gilman MAJ DEC (15-5) #11 Eddie Klimara (IOWA 4-0)
133: #5 Cory Clark DEC (10-5) UN Gary Wayne Harding (IOWA 7-0)
141: #8 Josh Dziewa FALL (6:27) #20 Dean Heil (IOWA 13-0)
149: #5 Brandon Sorensen DEC (6-1) #2 Josh Kindig (IOWA 16-0)
157: #16 Mike Kelly DEC (9-6) #12 Anthony Collica (IOWA 19-0)
165: #1 Alex Dieringer MAJ DEC (20-8) UN Patrick Rhoads (IOWA 19-4)
174: #2 Mike Evans TECH FALL (16-1) #18 Jordan Rogers (IOWA 24-4)
184: #17 Nolan Boyd DEC (9-6) #7 Sammy Brooks (IOWA 24-7)
197: #6 Nathan Burak DEC (7-3) UN Luke Bean (IOWA 27-7)
285: #1 Bobby Telford DEC (4-3) #4 Austin Marsden (IOWA 30-7)
Iowa returns to action on Friday against #13 Illinois. The dual marks Iowa's return to competition in Iowa City for the first time since December 6. The dual begins at 7 PM Central and will be televised on Mediacom 22.