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IOWA 38, NORTHWESTERN 3: JUST ANOTHER BEATDOWN

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Iowa's undefeated season kept on rolling with a dominant win over Northwestern.

Iowa's dual meet with Northwestern on Friday night always figured to be a lopsided affair -- it's never a good sign when the other team is willing to forfeit a weight and hand Iowa six free points -- but it was even more one-sided than all but the most partisan observers could have expected. Iowa won nine of ten weights -- only Mike McMullan's overtime win over Bobby Telford at heavyweight prevented Northwestern from being skunked completely -- and picked up bonus points at four weights (five, if you include the forfeit at 174), including two technical falls, a pin, and a major decision.  This was such a one-sided ass-kicking that Northwestern didn't even record their first takedown until the ninth match of the night (197 lbs).  Prior to that, all of their points came via escapes -- most of which were freely conceded by Iowa wrestlers... so they could go score more points on their jNW opponent. The dominant, (mostly) aggressive display was a welcome sight from Iowa, especially after a stuttering performance against Illinois a week ago and with a huge throwdown with Minnesota looming next Friday.

As noted in the preview, this dual was never really about the team score -- it was about a handful of individual matches.  Northwestern has three really good wrestlers, which led to a pair of top-5 clashes (at 149 and 285), a top-10 pairing (165), and a top-5 versus top-15 showdown (197).  Iowa won three of those four matches, but none of them were easy.  The biggest highlight for Iowa was clearly 149, where Brandon Sorensen continued his torrid run of form with a 3-2 win over #1 Jason Tsirtsis, the defending NCAA champion at 149.  The win was Sorensen's third-straight against a top-5 opponent this season (following wins over Ohio State's Hunter Stieber and Oklahoma State's Jason Kindig earlier in the month) and it ended T-shirt's personal 40-match undefeated streak.  It wasn't the most exciting or satisfying win you'll ever see -- there were no takedowns, nor even any particularly close calls -- but it was a strong example of Sorensen beating Tsirtsis at his own game.  The match was tied at 1-1 after regulation (the only scoring coming via a pair of escapes) and was tied at 2-2 after the first sudden victory period and first set of tiebreaker periods (after another escape for both guys).  Finally, in the second set of tiebreakers, Sorensen was able to squeeze past Sorensen, earning an escape of his own and then keeping Tsirtsis down for the full 30 seconds in the other tiebreaker period.  He could have won on a riding time point even if Tsirtsis had managed an escape, but it was a little more emphatic to not even give him that.  Tsirtsis looked exhausted by the end of the bout and while I hate seeing guys win a match without an offensive move, I'm very pleased that Sorensen was able to pick up another big victory... and there was a certain amount of satisfaction in the fact that the match was wrestled in the style Tsirtsis wanted -- and Soresen beat him anyway.  Very well done, Brandon... but let's try and get a takedown the next time you tussle with T-shirt, yeah?

The other top-5 showdown didn't go so well for Iowa (although it too featured the #1 wrestler losing), with McMullan slipping by Telford with a late takedown off a scramble in the second sudden victory period of overtime.  It's hardly a surprise that a heavyweight match came down to which guy could get the one, decisive takedown -- especially between these two.  This was the fifth straight match between Telford and McMullan that was decided by a single takedown.  The danger in wrestling everything so close to the bone is that it's exceedingly hard to win every single match like that -- sooner or later, you're going to get tripped up.  Last night was Telford's turn.  Hopefully it will be McMullan's turn if they rematch again at the Big Ten or NCAA Tournament.  Telford has excellent offense from neutral, though, so it's frustrating to see him be so cautious at times.

The other top-10 throwdown, between Nick Moore and Pierce Harger, also went to overtime and came down to a single takedown, but this time the Iowa wrestler was the one who was able to secure it, with Nick Moore finishing a good single-leg attempt in the first sudden victory period.  That was good to see; it would have been better to see him do that earlier in the match.  Moore is another guy with good offense from neutral who too often seems unwilling to let loose.  Still, this was a much-needed win for Moore and hopefully it will give him a bit more confidence moving forward.

The final match between ranked wrestlers was at 197, between #4 Nathan Burak and #13 Alex Polizzi, and stop me if you've heard this one before... but it came down to a late Nathan Burak takedown.  I know -- completely shocking and unexpected, right?  That never happens!   To Burak's credit, he tried really hard to make sure that wasn't the case in this match -- in the first two periods he had three near-takedowns at the edge of the mat, but wasn't able to get points from any of them (though one looked awfully close).  He conceded a takedown (Northwestern's first of the night) midway through the first period during a scramble off a shot he initiated (Polizzi and his putrid green shoes didn't do much more than run to the edge for a lot of the match).  He cut his deficit to 3-2 off an escape early in the third period, but his pace had slowed considerably by then and the near-miss takedowns had stopped.  But with time winding down in the period, Burak did what he does better than anyone this season: get to the legs and secure a late, match-winning takedown.  His matches induce a few more cardiac attacks than they ought to, but damn if he isn't good at getting that late offense when he needs it.

There isn't much to say about the other matches.  Thomas Gilman led 17-5 after the first period in his match; the only intrigue was whether he would get a pin before he got a technical fall.  Cory Clark only recorded one takedown in his match, but that was also all he needed because he was able to wrench Dom Malone over for a pin before time ran out in the first period.  (He did let Malone get fairly deep on his legs at the start of the match, so he still hasn't quite fixed that problem, it seems.)  Josh Dziewa got an early takedown and nearfall points to open up a quick 5-0 lead, but it was frustrating he could only get a riding time point out of the remainder of the match.  Mike Kelly rebounded from getting tech falled last week to deliver a tech fall whupping this week.  And Sammy Brooks closed out the bonus points portion of the evening with a methodical 18-6 takedown clinic major decision.

All told, this was a solid performance for Iowa -- certainly better than a week ago against Illinois (though the competition was, overall, much weaker).  At most weights they looked more aggressive than they had in that dual and their attacks in general looked crisper.  The next step for Iowa is getting that offense going in big matches against ranked opponents. The fact that three of the four matches against ranked opponents came down to overtime and all four came down to who could secure a single takedown (well, 149 technically did not, but if either guy had been able to score a takedown in that match, he would have won) is nerve-racking.  Obviously it's not going to be easy to score points against top guys, but those are the matches Iowa needs to win if they want to bring home Big Ten and NCAA titles this year.  If they wrestle like this, those matches remain coin-flip propositions and it might be asking a lot to have enough of those coin-flips go your way.  If they can get to their offense more, though, then those matches should go from coin-flips to more secure wins for Iowa -- and that would make bringing home some hardware this spring much more likely.

#1 Iowa 38, #24 Northwestern 3

125: #5 Thomas Gilman TECH FALL (21-6) UN Garrison White (IOWA 5-0)
133: #5
Cory Clark FALL (2:56) UN Dom Malone (IOWA 11-0)
141: #8
Josh Dziewa DEC (6-0) UN Jameson Oster (IOWA 14-0)
149: #3
Brandon Sorensen DEC (3-2 OT) #1 Jason Tsirtsis (IOWA 17-0)
157: #15
Mike Kelly TECH FALL (18-3) UN Ben Sullivan (IOWA 22-0)
165: #9
Nick Moore DEC (4-2 SV) #6 Pierce Harger (IOWA 25-0)
174: #2
Mike Evans WINS VIA FFT (IOWA 31-0)
184: #8
Sammy Brooks MAJ DEC (18-6) UN Mitch Sliga (IOWA 35-0)
197: #4
Nathan Burak DEC (4-3) #13 Alex Polizzi (IOWA 38-0)
285: #4
Mike McMullan DEC (3-1 SV2) #1 Bobby Telford (IOWA 38-3)

VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS

NEXT: Iowa heads to the Twin Cities for the dual of the season against #2 Minnesota.  This one should be a slobberknocker.