WHO: #2 Missouri Tigers (22-0)
WHEN: Sunday, February 22, 11:30 AM CT
WHERE: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Iowa City, IA)
RADIO: AM 800 KXIC (local), Hawkeye All-Access (non-local; $) or the expanded radio network
Officially, Iowa's dual meet with Michigan a week ago was Senior Night. It was Iowa's last regular season home dual meet and Iowa's senior class was recognized for their accomplishments after that dual. But today's dual with Missouri is the actual last dual meet at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for Iowa's five senior starters (Josh Dziewa, Mike Kelly, Nick Moore, Mike Evans, Bobby Telford). Today is the last time they'll get to suit up in black and gold and wrestle for Iowa in front of the CHA faithful. I think that would be reason enough for them to be motivated and ready to end the CHA portions of their careers on a high note, but if it's not... well, there's the fact that Iowa's opponent is #2 Missouri, the only other team in the country undefeated in dual meets. There's also the fact that the winner of the meet will be crowned National Duals champion. And, sure, that title will feel pretty hollow if Iowa isn't able to follow it up with more trophies in March... but it would be a nice step along the way. And it would put a nice bow on what's been a tremendous dual meet season.
Even if you set all that aside -- the de facto Senior Night aspect, the #1 vs #2 aspect, the National Duals finals aspect -- this would be a really intriguing dual meet because both teams are so well matched at so many weights. A top-5 guy at 125? Iowa (#5 Thomas Gilman) and Missouri (#2 Alan Waters) have that. A top-5 guy at 149? Yeah, Iowa (#2 Brandon Sorensen) and Missouri (#4 Drake Houdashelt) have that, too. A top-5 guy at 174? Yep -- Iowa (#3 Mike Evans) and Missouri (#5 John Eblen) are on top of that. Iowa and Missouri are pretty evenly matched at 141 (#6 Josh Dziewa and #5 Lavion Mayes, respectively), 157 (#16 Mike Kelly and #12 Joey Lavallee, respectively), and #184 (#8 Sammy Brooks and #14 Willie Miklus, respectively). Iowa's definitely favored at 133 and 285, while Missouri's definitely favored at 197. But every other weight? A bit up for grabs. Should be fun.
125: #5 Thomas Gilman (SO, 24-2) vs #2 Alan Waters (SR, 26-0)
Do I dare pick against Gilman after he knocked off #3 Nahshon Garrett on Saturday? I do. Waters presents a wholly different challenge and it's one that I'm not convinced Gilman can solve the first time he meets him (I'm glad he gets see him now before potentially meeting him in the NCAA Tournament a month from now). Will Gilman go down against Waters, a noted hammer on top? If so, can he get an escape? The answers to those questions may determine how the outcome of the match. I hope I'm wrong, but...
THE PREDICTION: Waters via DEC (MIZZOU 3-0)
133: #6 Cory Clark (SO, 21-4) vs UN Zach Synon (SO, 28-10)
No ifs, ands, or buts: Iowa needs to have this match and they might need Cory Clark to get bonus points to boot. Luckily, that should very much be an option here. Clark seems to have bounced back from his mini-slump a few weeks ago; he's been putting together some of his best wrestling of the season over the last few duals, beating three straight ranked opponents -- and getting bonus points in two of those three matches, too. Clark needs to get after it in this match -- and I think he will.
THE PREDICTION: Clark via MAJ DEC (IOWA 4-3)
141: #6 Josh Dziewa (SR, 24-5) vs #5 Lavion Mayes (SO, 29-1)
Jeva has put together a mini-winning streak of his own lately and he's (mostly) been wrestling at a higher level, showing more aggression and putting more points on the board in several of those wins. But he slid into looked more conservative yesterday and his track record against top-5 opponents isn't great. Again, I hope I'm wrong and that he has a nice Senior Day moment, but...
THE PREDICTION: Mayes via DEC (MIZZOU 6-4)
149: #2 Brandon Sorensen (RS FR, 31-2) vs #4 Drake Houdashelt (SR, 28-1)
Outside of Gilman-Waters, this might be the most anticipated match of the dual. Sorensen has been on a tear since Midlands and he's racked up more than a few wins over top-5 opponents along the way. Can he make it one more against #4 Houdashelt? I think it will be a tight, low-scoring match... but after Sorensen's success over the last few weeks, I just can't bring myself to pick against him now.
THE PREDICTION: Sorensen via DEC (IOWA 7-6)
157: #16 Mike Kelly (SR, 20-7) vs #12 Joey Lavallee (SO, 29-10)
Here's another key match for Iowa. On paper, Lavallee might be a slight favorite, but he's lost several matches against ranked opponents. Kelly struggles against the All-America-caliber guys at this weight... but Lavallee doesn't seem to quite be in that range. Lavallee seems much closer to Kelly's own level, frankly; I think the CHA crowd energizes Kelly and he grinds out a win in the third period.
THE PREDICTION: Kelly via DEC (IOWA 10-6)
165: #9 Nick Moore (SR, 19-7) vs UN Mike England (SR, 23-12)
England brings some Iowa ties to this match -- he's originally from Centerville, IA, and he came to Missouri by way of a stint at Iowa State. He's also been slumping terribly of late; if there's one 165er out there with worse recent form than Nick Moore, it's probably England. But I think Iowa drops one of the two matches at 157 or 165, and a flip of the coin says it's this one.
THE PREDICTION: England via DEC (IOWA 10-9)
174: #3 Mike Evans (SR, 23-1) vs #5 John Eblen (SR, 25-3)
Eblen began the year at 184, but moved down to 174 at the midway point -- and he's been a terror ever since, going 14-1 at his new weight. That includes a solid win over Illinois #10 Zac Brunson (via pinfall) and some other credible performances at 174. But there's no senior more beloved by the CHA faithful than Mike Evans and there's no wrestler who seems to feed off the crowd more than The 'Stache. It will probably be ugly, but I think Evans will grind out another win here.
THE PREDICTION: Evans via DEC (IOWA 13-9)
184: #8 Sammy Brooks (SO, 23-4) vs #14 Willie Miklus (RS FR, 25-6)
Miklus is another wrestler with Iowa ties; he went to HS at Iowa prep powerhouse Southeast Polk and was a touted recruit a few years ago. Unfortunately, Iowa already had Brooks and Nathan Burak on the team at 184 and 197, which didn't leave a whole lot of opportunity for Miklus. This hasn't been the weekend that either guy hoped for, with Brooks falling to #1 Gabe Dean and Miklus losing both of his matches yesterday. I think Brooks gets things back on track with a win her.
THE PREDICTION: Brooks via DEC (IOWA 16-9)
197: #6 Nathan Burak (JR, 17-2) vs #1 J'Den Cox (SO, 29-0)
Burak has been having a pretty nice season since getting healthy, but he's had some struggles against the top guys at 197. Cox, the defending NCAA champion, is definitely a top guy at 197.
THE PREDICTION: Cox via DEC (IOWA 16-12)
285: #4 Bobby Telford (SR, 23-2) vs #16 Devin Mellon (SR, 27-8)
Telford's only losses this season have come against Mike McMullan and Adam Coon -- old rivals and top-5 caliber opponents. Mellon isn't in that class. I think Telford closes out the CHA portion of his career -- and this dual -- with a win.
THE PREDICTION: Telford via DEC (IOWA 19-12)
It's certainly possible that Missouri could win this dual. But picking them means picking them to win most (or all) of the toss-up matches at this weight (basically everything outside of 133, 197, and 285) and I just can't bring myself to do that -- not with the way Iowa has been wrestling over the last few dual meets, and not at home.
The usual rules apply. I'll be talking about the results in the comments; feel free to join in the discussion there.