WHO: #13 Virginia Cavaliers (10-5)
WHEN: Sunday, February 15, 1 PM CT
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Iowa City, IA)
RADIO: AM 800 KXIC (local), Hawkeye All-Access (non-local; $$) or the expanded radio network
ONLINE: College Sports Live ($)
Iowa wrapped up the Big Ten conference portion of their dual meet calendar with Friday night's win over Michigan, but they're still not quite done with dual meet competition. The two tournaments that matter the most -- the tournaments that will define whether this season was a success or not -- are still to come in March, but in the meantime the NWCA National Duals (aka, "Mat Mayhem") is a pretty decent warm-up event.
(WARNING: The video below uses Fall Out Boy's "Centuries.")
Iowa's been a regular participant in the event over the years (though they skipped last year's edition) and one of its most frequent champions. They haven't won the title since the last time they won an NCAA championship, in 2010. Would a win at the National Duals presage a bigger triumph to come in St. Louis a month from now? Well, maybe. It certainly wouldn't hurt Iowa's chances of bringing home the big title.
Iowa does have a little extra incentive to do well at National Duals this year, though, since Iowa City will be hosting the quarterfinals (Saturday, February 21), semifinals and finals (Sunday, February 22) next weekend. They'll certainly want to bring home a trophy in front of their home fans. National Duals is a nice reward to Iowa fans, too, as they've had to put up with a wholly underwhelming home dual meet schedule this season. No offense to Illinois, but when they're the best team on your home schedule...
The field for National Duals this year is mostly solid, although it has its share of weirdness, too. The top four teams in the Coaches Poll (#1 Iowa, #2 Missouri, #3 Ohio State, #4 Minnesota) are represented and five of the top ten teams from that poll (#6 Cornell is the other top-10 representative), but by that same token... half the top ten is not represented. #11 Lehigh, #12 Illinois, #13 Virginia, and #15 Edinboro are fairly worthy additions as well, but teams like Drexel (8-10), Oklahoma (6-9), American (7-10), and George Mason (9-9) have no business being in a tournament that's ostensibly meant to determine the best dual meet team in the country. Until the Duals can bring legitimately bring in the best 16 dual meet teams in the country and pit them against one another, it's always going to feel a little empty. At least this year's edition isn't missing any of the very best teams in the nation (sorry, Penn State and Oklahoma State), so whoever wins it will still have a pretty good claim to be the best dual meet team in the country.
I have neither the time nor the energy to break down the regional matchups; if you're curious, our excellent friends at IA Wrestle did a very nice job of looking at the non-Iowa regional matchups right here. There's a clear favorite in virtually every matchup (the lone exception appears to be American-Oklahoma) and I'd be very surprised if those clear favorites didn't advance to the quarterfinals in Iowa City next weekend.Rankings-wise, Iowa has the toughest regional matchup -- only Minnesota (#23 North Dakota State) and Ohio State (#15 Edinboro) also drew a ranked opponent in the regionals. That seems fitting for an Iowa team with a strength of schedule that's been through the roof this season, though.
So what do we know about the 'Hoos? While Virginia is ranked #12, they don't match up very favorably with Iowa. Let's take a look at the individual matchups:
125: #5 Thomas Gilman (SO, 23-1) or UN Phillip Laux (RS FR, 3-2) vs. UN Nick Herrmann (JR, 12-5) or UN Will Mason (SO, 9-8)
Gilman reportedly tweaked his knee slightly against Maryland a week ago (he did have a sleeve on it against Michigan on Friday night), so there's at least a chance that he gets a rest here -- especially since this doesn't figure to be a very close dual meet. Laux should be an adequate replacement here against whoever Virginia sends out.
PREDICTION: Gilman or Laux via DEC (IOWA 3-0)
133: #6 Cory Clark (SO, 18-4) vs. #14 George DiCamillo (SO, 23-6)
Clark draws one of Virginia's three ranked wrestlers on Sunday. His recent track record against ranked opponents is poor, but DiCamillo isn't quite in the same league as the guys that Clark has been losing to, either. Clark's looked much more aggressive and focused in his last few matches (even the loss to Jimmy Gulibon), which is a pretty good sign. If he can avoid giving up an early takedown here and get a first period takedown of his own, I like his odds of picking up a win here. DiCamillo is no slouch, though -- he has a win over Iowa State's Earl Hall this year and some very close losses to Minnesota's Chris Dardanes, Ohio State's Jobnni DiJulius, and Chattanooga's Nick Soto. This should be one of the better matches of the night.
PREDICTION: Clark via DEC (IOWA 6-0)
141: #6 Josh Dziewa (SR, 21-5) vs. #14 Joe Spisak (SR, 14-4)
Dziewa draws another of Virginia's three ranked wrestlers in Spisak. Spisak has missed time with an injury lately, so I'm not certain if he'll wrestle or not; the Match Notes don't list any other options for Virginia at 141, though. He has a nice record, but there isn't a lot of quality among his wins. Dziewa is frustrating but he typically beats the guys he "should" beat on paper -- and Spisak fits into that category. I'd say Dziewa wins a 3-4 point decision.
PREDICTION: Dziewa via DEC (IOWA 9-0)
149: #2 Brandon Sorensen (RS FR, 28-2) vs. UN T.J. Miller (RS FR, 6-5) or UN Chris Yankowich (JR, 8-13)
Sorensen has had trouble scoring points in bunches ever since his narrow win over former #1 Jason Tsirtsis, but Miller and Yankowich look tailor-made for breaking Sorensen out of his offensive slump. Sorensen should be able to string together takedowns here and get back to putting bonus points on the board for Iowa.
PREDICTION: Sorensen via MAJ DEC (IOWA 13-0)
157: #16 Mike Kelly (SR, 18-6) vs. UN Andrew Atkinson (RS FR, 14-11)
Mike Kelly has lost three of his last four matches -- ever since his near-miss upset against #1 Dylan Ness he's been mired in a bit of tailspin. A win over Atkinson isn't going to totally turn things around for Kelly, but it should at least arrest his current slide. That said, Kelly lost to Maryland's unranked Lou Mascala a week ago, so we can't exactly take anything for granted or assume that any win is assured. I think Kelly does get the W here, though it's probably not as decisive as we'd like to see.
PREDICTION: Kelly via DEC (IOWA 16-0)
165: #9 Nick Moore (SR, 17-5) vs. #4 Nick Sulzer (SR, 22-2)
Sulzer suffered a shock loss to North Carolina's Ethan Ramos in sudden victory a week ago, so he's certainly not untouchable. If Moore wrestles at his very best, I could see him pipping Sulzer in a razor-thin decision. But on current form, it's awfully hard to predict that we'll see Moore at his very best. I hope I'm wrong, but this looks like a comfortable Sulzer decision to me.
PREDICTION: Sulzer via DEC (IOWA 16-3)
174: #3 Mike Evans (SR, 21-1) vs. #7 Blaise Butler (JR, 16-2)
We've operated under the assumption for most of this season that the top-4 Big Ten guys at this weight (Evans, Nebraska's Robert Kokesh, Penn State's Matt Brown, and Minnesota's Logan Storley) were a cut above the rest of the guys at this weight. I still think that's true, but Butler is definitely one of the guys that's capable of tearing down that assumption. He already owns a win over Storley this season and he could add one over Evans this afternoon. We're going to need to see Evans at something close to his best in this one if he's going to knock off Butler, who has some quick and dangerous attacks. I think The 'Stache will rise to the occasion, though.
PREDICTION: Evans via DEC (IOWA 19-3)
184: #8 Sammy Brooks (SO, 21-3) vs. UN Tyler Askey (RS FR, 14-13)
Brooks was a bit tentative and sloppy in Friday's match against Domenic Abounader; of all the Iowa guys, he's probably the one most chomping at the bit to get on the mat and turn the page after Friday night. In that sense, I think Tyler is just Askey for trouble in this match. I look for Sammy to use this match to work out some of the kinks in his offense from neutral and then go to work on the mat in the third period.
PREDICTION: Brooks via MAJ DEC (IOWA 23-3)
197: #6 Nathan Burak (JR, 14-2) vs. #19 Zach Nye (JR, 15-5)
Nye has a nice (nyce?) record, but he doesn't have many wins of note on his resume. If Burak goes out and trusts in his offense, he could win a solid decision here. If he goes out and wrestles the way he's been wrestling for most of this season, this will likely be a tight match in the third period, contingent on which guy can hit the decisive takedown. I'd still bet on that being Burak, but I hope we don't have to find out because Burak's already locked up a comfortable win by that point.
PREDICTION: Burak via DEC (IOWA 26-3)
285: #2 Bobby Telford (SR, 21-2) vs. UN Pat Gillen (JR, 13-8)
I don't think Bobert will be very happy about losing to Adam Coon on Friday. I think he'll take that out on poor Mr. Gillen. It's still heavyweight, so I don't feel comfortable calling for bonus points, but I expect Gillen to spend a fair bit of time learning what the CHA mat tastes like.
PREDICTION: Telford via DEC (IOWA 29-3)
Virginia has some good wrestlers -- they just don't appear to have enough to match up with Iowa's overall depth. Granted, we saw opponents with unimpressive credentials push Iowa on Friday night, so no wins should be assumed. If Iowa wrestles with the same lack of urgency and aggressive mindset that most guys showed on Friday night, they could open themselves up to a few upsets and make the dual score a bit more interesting than we'd like to see.
The dual gets underway at 1 PM CT, with video streaming from College Sports Live and audio available from KXIC, Hawkeye All-Access and the options listed here. I'll provide updates in the comments below. Feel free to join in.