Well... that was more like it. Less than 48 hours removed from an unimpressive 22-9 dual meet victory over #16 Michigan, a victory bereft of much in the way of energy or excitement, Iowa rebounded to paste #13 Virginia, 30-6. Individual matchups are generally more important than team rankings, but Virginia still brought a pretty good team to Carver yesterday -- and they got trounced. With one or two exceptions, it was a comprehensively impressive performance by Iowa, with bonus points at four weights (including two bonus point wins over ranked opponents), a thrilling upset over a near-top 5 wrestler by one of Iowa's backups, and a display that featured more passion, more energy, and more points. That was fun to see.*
* Or, rather, it surely would have been if it had been available to watch on TV or via online stream. Alas, it was not. But it surely sounded like an entertaining dual via Steven Grace and Mark Ironside's call on the radio...
Speaking of backups... Iowa rested three regular starters on Sunday, Thomas Gilman (#5 at 125), Mike Evans (#3 at 174), and Bobby Telford (#2 at 285). Gilman was rested for a knee injury (it sounds relatively minor; knock on wood that that's true), while Evans and Telford were just rested to give them an opportunity to recharge. Given the busy weekend Iowa has coming up (they should wrestle two dual meets on Saturday and another on Sunday) and the looming Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, giving them a day off to recharge doesn't seem like a bad idea. Their replacements filled in pretty admirably, going 2-1 and, in Alex Meyer's case, recording a memorable upset win over #6 Blaise Butler at 174.
Unfortunately, Iowa's first backup to see the mat, Phillip Laux at 125, did not cover himself in glory. He lost 12-6 to unranked Nick Herrmann after digging a big hole early in the first period. When Iowa added Laux, it seemed like he would be quality depth for Thomas Gilman at 125; he may still get there (he's only a RS freshman), but on current results, he certainly has a lot of work to do. Luckily, Iowa's early deficit in the dual was quickly wiped away by impressive major decision wins by Cory Clark (at 133) and (gasp!) Josh Dziewa (at 141). No, really. Making matters even more impressive was that both men secured major decisions against ranked opponents. George DiCamillo (#14 at 133) and Joe Spisak (#14 at 141) aren't anywhere near the top of their respective weights, but they're solid opponents -- and Clark and Dziewa have struggled to put up points against far weaker opposition. Not so on Sunday. They came out aggressive from the opening whistle and -- crucially -- stayed that way 'til the end of the match. Dziewa's long had a tendency to let up in the third period after he builds an early lead; on Sunday, he continued to push the pace and look for points and was rewarded with a major decision. It's unclear if Brody Grothus will truly be able to be a factor at 141 or not this season (it sounds like he had a setback during the weight cut last week), but it seems like maybe the possibility of Grothus stealing his job has lit a fire under Dziewa's ass and got him wrestling at a higher level. If so, that's great to see -- he's not a match for the top guys at 141, but he absolutely has the ability to be an All-American in the 5-8 range. Wrestling the way he did on Sunday is a good way to make that happen.
Brandon Sorensen and Mike Kelly kept the wins rolling for Iowa at 149 and 157, with Sorensen's pin at 149 really blowing the dual meet open and giving Iowa a commanding lead (14-3). Sorensen had amassed a 15-4 lead on the back of six takedowns by the time he finally put Sako on his back for the pin. Sako has dealt with injuries for much of the season and is unranked now, but was ranked earlier in the season and is a past NCAA qualifier. He's a decent wrestler -- and Sorensen tore him to pieces. More than anything, though, it was just refreshing to see Sorensen get out of his offensive rut. He'd wrestled too many tight, low-scoring matches in a row of late. Mike Kelly's struggles continued somewhat -- he could only score one takedown in the match and got ridden for the entire second period -- but he was able to grind out a win anyway. After losing three of his last four matches, it's a start.
Nick Moore dropped a tight 8-7 decision to #4 Nick Sulzer (a match that provided Virginia with its last points of the dual), but hopefully he can leave that match with the confidence to know that he can compete with the top guys at 165 (or most of them anyway; I think #1 Alex Dieringer is a clear cut above everyone else at the weight, including Moore). And if he actually gets to his offense earlier in matches, he might actually win a few more of those matches. It sounded like he made a furious comeback in the third period against Sulzer, but came up short; if he'd wrestled like that earlier in the first or second periods, maybe he wouldn't have come up short.
Outside of Sorensen's emphatic pin at 149, the highlight of the dual for Iowa may have been Alex Meyer's sterling replacement effort at 174 against #6 Blaise Butler. In a match reminiscent of his upset win earlier this season against #10 Zac Brunson, Meyer went down early, but kept attacking and wore down his opponent before securing the win in the dying seconds of the match. Against Brunson that meant securing a last-second pin, while against Butler it just meant riding him out for the winning point (via riding time) after tying the match up with a late takedown. Never let it be said that Alex Meyer doesn't have a flair for the dramatic. Meyer has the motor and the confidence to keep coming at an opponent even after an early setback, which is fun to see. He's a damn good backup this year and it should be fun to see what he can do as the starter at 174 next year.
Iowa Hawkeyes (@TheIowaHawkeyes) February 15, 2015
I doubt there were many Iowa wrestlers more eager to step on the mat after Friday's lackadaisical effort than Sammy Brooks, who suffered a frustrating 3-2 loss to Michigan's Domenic Abounader. Well, he took those frustrations out on Virginia's Tyler Askey -- and then some. This was just the start of a miserable seven minutes for Mr. Askey:
Finally, Nathan Burak and surprise starter Kris Klapprodt (filling in for Bobby Telford at 285) picked up two more wins for Iowa to close out the dual. Burak wasn't able to get a major decision, but he did record a very solid 8-2 win and looked to be trying to score early and often -- a welcome change from many of his recent matches. Klapprodt has been Burak's understudy at 197 all year, but with Iowa a bit short on heavyweight backups this year (outside of Telford, the only heavyweight on the roster is Sam Stoll, who's redshirting), he got the call it fill in for Telford. It certainly didn't hurt that Virginia's heavyweight, Pat Gillen, was not one of the bigger heavyweights out there, but Klapprodt still did well. He got the decisive takedown in the third period and then was able to extend his lead with another takedown (and nearfall points) at the final whistle. It was excellent to see him continuing to look for opportunities to score right up to the end of the match.
This win doesn't guarantee anything for Iowa -- either next weekend at the National Duals or next month at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. But after a handful of performances where Iowa looked far from their best, Sunday's performance was a much-needed jolt of energy and good vibes for the Iowa program. It was exciting to see Iowa wrestle much closer to their best and to do the things they need to do to be successful -- attack early and often, push the pace, wear down opponents, score bonus points when possible, capitalize on mistakes and opportunities. When Iowa wrestles like that, they have a real chance to add some hardware to the trophy cabinet.
#1 IOWA 30, #13 VIRGINIA 6
125: UN Nick Herrmann DEC (12-6) UN Phillip Laux (VA 3-0)
133: #6 Cory Clark MAJ DEC (12-4) #14 George DiCamillo (IOWA 4-3)
141: #6 Josh Dziewa MAJ DEC (11-1) #14 Joe Spisak (IOWA 8-3)
149: #2 Brandon Sorensen FALL (6:09) UN Gus Sako (IOWA 14-3)
157: #16 Mike Kelly DEC (2-1) UN Andrew Atkinson (IOWA 17-3)
165: #4 Nick Sulzer DEC (8-7) #9 Nick Moore (IOWA 17-6)
174: UN Alex Meyer DEC (9-8) #7 Blaise Butler (IOWA 20-6)
184: #8 Sammy Brooks MAJ DEC (20-7) UN Tyler Askey (IOWA 24-6)
197: #6 Nathan Burak DEC (8-2) #19 Zach Nye (IOWA 27-6)
285: UN Kris Klapprodt DEC (7-2) UN Pat Gillen (IOWA 30-6)
Iowa opened the EAS/NWCA National Duals with a convincing win Sunday. Action continues next Sat/Sun at Carver! http://t.co/R1t6kRMpGk— Hawkeye Wrestling (@Hawks_Wrestling) February 15, 2015
NEXT: Iowa will likely face UT-Chattanooga in the quarterfinal round of the NWCA National Duals on Saturday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena (time and TV TBA). The full quarterfinal matchups are set to be announced by the NWCA tomorrow.