WHO: #5 Penn State Nittany Lions (10-2, 6-2)
WHEN: Sunday, February 8 (12 PM CT)
WHERE: Bryce Jordan Center (University Park, PA)
RADIO: AM 800 KXIC (local), Hawkeye All-Access (non-local; $$)
These aren't the Nittany Lions you're looking for -- or, to be more precise, this isn't the Penn State team you remember. It's not the dominant Nittany Lion squad that's ripped off four straight Big Ten and NCAA championships. The dominant engine of those teams -- all-world talents David Taylor and Ed Ruth -- have finally exhausted their eligibility. Penn State's two highest returning All-Americans, Nico Megaludis (125) and Zain Retherford (141), are redshirting this season. There are reinforcements coming -- Cael Sanderson landed some big-time recruits last season -- and Penn State will no doubt be back in the thick of the things with the other contenders at the top of the sport before long. But that's the future. For now we have a Penn State team that's talented, but not overwhelming. That doesn't mean they aren't dangerous, though.
125: #5 Thomas Gilman (SO, 20-1) vs. #8 Jordan Conaway (JR, JR, 19-3)
Gilman has been wrestling at a tremendously high level for the last month -- ever since scuffling to an ugly 2-1 win over Ohio State's Nathan Tomasello. He's had bonus points in five consecutive matches -- three major decisions and a technical fall. But aside from #11 Eddie Klimara, he's done that against a less-than-stellar roster of opponents. That's not his fault -- he can't control who he faces -- but it does temper our enthusiasm over his offensive explosion. Is he going to be as aggressive against stronger opponents? This match looks like our first real test of that notion. Conaway isn't one of the best guys at this weight, but he's very solid and the type of opponent we might have seen Gilman take a conservative approach against in the past. We'll see if he does the same again here. The fact that Gilman let things fly against Klimara gives us hope that he'll be attacking early and often. If that's the case, I don't think Conaway can keep up.
PREDICTION: Gilman via DEC (IOWA 3-0)
133: #3 Cory Clark (SO, 16-3) vs. #7 Jimmy Gulibon (SO, 17-4)
Are we sure that Tony Ramos doesn't have any more eligibility left? That's nothing against Clark, but man... Ramos lived to torment Penn State.
2010-11: Tony Ramos DEC Andrew Long
2011-12: Tony Ramos PIN Frank Martellotti
2012-13: Tony Ramos PIN Jordan Conaway
2013-14: Tony Ramos PIN #15 Jimmy Gulibon
Ramos' upset win over Andrew Long in 2010-11 was one of the first head-turning results in his career, a win that helped establish him as a guy that would need to be reckoned with at 133. His next three wins over Penn State opponents came against different -- and lesser -- opponents, but he decided to up the ante by pinning them and getting maximum team points for Iowa. As bscaff noted the other day, it's as if Ramos decided that if he couldn't beat one of Penn State's big guns (Taylor, Ruth, Wright, Nico, etc.) he'd make up for it destroying the guy he could face and getting as many points as possible. Job well done, Tony.
Alas, Tony's days in black and gold are done and Cory Clark is manning this spot now. Clark has had a solid debut season at 133, though he's had his struggles the last month. Many of Clark's issues seem mental -- he just can't seem to avoid slow starts, giving up early takedowns, and digging himself a hole. Gulibon is a talented opponent -- he's wrestling much better (and much more confidently) than he was a season ago -- so Clark will need to be in top form to win this match. We haven't seen him in top form for a while, unfortunately. This would be a great time for him to break out of his funk, but I think Gulibon is the more likely pick.
PREDICTION: Gulibon via DEC (TIE 3-3)
141: #6 Josh Dziewa (SR, 18-5) vs. UN Kade Moss (FR, 17-11) or Michael Waters (JR, 10-7)
Penn State has a much better 141er, but Zain Retherford is redshirting this season. This is a fairly pivotal match for the dual meet -- for Penn State to spring the upset in the dual, they need to steal a few upsets in the individual matches and this looks like one of their better bets. That said, Jeva usually takes care of business against weaker opponents. I'll trust him to do that here, although it likely won't be pretty.
PREDICTION: Dziewa via DEC (IOWA 6-3)
149: #2 Brandon Sorensen (RS FR, 25-2) vs. #18 Zack Beitz (SO, 13-6) or UN Luke Frey (JR, 11-4)
Sorensen got back to his offense-happy ways on Friday night against Maryland and I'm excited to see that Sorensen show up for this match, too. Beitz is probably a bit better than his #18 rating and he has the size and skillset (including a nasty ankle pick) to give Sorensen some problems. But Sorensen has bested better guys than Beitz over the last month, so I have faith in him getting the job done here.
PREDICTION: Sorensen via DEC (IOWA 9-3)
157: #14 Mike Kelly (SR, 17-4) vs. #8 Dylan Alton (SR, 8-3) or UN Cody Law (FR, 13-7)
This is another pivotal match in the dual and the outcome likely comes down to who Penn State sends out on the mat. If Alton is healthy and wrestles, he's the clear favorite and should win the match for the Nittany Lions. If he's not healthy, though, or doesn't wrestle at all, Kelly should pick up a win. It sounds a bit more likely that Alton sits this one out, so I'll favor Kelly, who could really use a good performance to snap back from that disappointing effort against Maryland on Friday night.
PREDICTION: Kelly via DEC (IOWA 12-3)
165: #7 Nick Moore (SR, 15-4) vs. UN Garett Hammond (FR, 19-8)
Nick Moore has rather surprisingly picked up six team points for Iowa in each of the last two duals -- a surprise pin against Minnesota a week ago and an injury default against Maryland on Friday. If he gets six points for Iowa today, the Hawkeyes should run away with the dual. I don't think he'll get six here, but he should get a solid decision win against a game, but beatable opponent like Hammond.
PREDICTION: Moore via DEC (IOWA 15-3)
174: #2 Mike Evans (SR, 19-0) vs. #3 Matt Brown (SR, 19-2)
Last week saw the latest installment in one of Mike Evans' longest rivalries (with Minnesota's Logan Storley), with Evans coming out on top via a controversial takedown in sudden victory. This week sees the renewal of another of Evans' longtime rivalries, with Penn State's Matt Brown (or Hulk Hands, as our friends at BSD refer to him). Like the Evans-Storley series, this has been a tight affair, both in terms of overall results (Evans leads the series, 3-2) and the matches themselves (3 of 5 have been decided by just one point).
1) Evans DEC (4-3) Matt Brown (2012-13 dual meet)
2) Brown DEC (7-3) Evans (2013 Big Ten Tournament finals)
3) Brown DEC (4-1) Evans (2013-14 dual meet)
4) Evans DEC (3-2) Brown (2014 Big Ten Tournament semifinals)
5) Evans DEC (5-4 OT) Brown (2014 NCAA Tournament)
I don't think it's going out on much of a limb to say that I expect another close match here. These two guys are very evenly matched and they know each other very well by this point. I'm going to favor Evans here because he's been won the last two in their series and because he's (mostly) been wrestling very well this season... but a result the other way would hardly surprise me in the least.
PREDICTION: Evans via DEC (IOWA 18-3)
184: #8 Sammy Brooks (SO, 19-2) vs. #17 Matthew McCutcheon (FR, 20-9)
184 has been a reliable source of fireworks in Iowa-Penn State dual meets in recent years, but the source of those fireworks should be inverted this year. Instead of The Ed Ruth Show, we should see Sammy Brooks busting out his array of attacks from neutral and going for big moves on the mat. McCutcheon is no fish, though, and he has the talent to make things interesting. Barring a mental slip-up, though, Brooks should take this one in a fun matchup.
PREDICTION: Brooks via DEC (IOWA 21-3)
197: #6 Nathan Burak (JR, 13-1) vs. #4 Morgan McIntosh (JR, 20-2)
Nathan Burak is 0-2 in his career against McIntosh, but he's hardly been dominated by the Penn State man. McIntosh nipped him via 3-2 (OT) decision in the Big Ten Tournament last year, then slipped by him again (3-1) in the 7th place match at the NCAA Tournament a few weeks later. I don't think Burak is very far behind McIntosh and I expect him to make it very difficult for McIntosh to score on him. That said, Burak has never gotten a takedown on McIntosh and I don't feel comfortable picking Burak to beat him until I see him do that.
PREDICTION: McIntosh via DEC (IOWA 21-6)
285: #2 Bobby Telford (SR, 19-1) vs. #6 Jimmy Lawson (SR, 11-0) or UN Jon Gingrich (SR, 13-2)
Another match, another ranked heavyweight for Telford. Bobby's strength of schedule this year has been pretty tremendous, but he hasn't let it affect his results -- minus the narrow loss to longtime rival Mike McMullan a few weeks ago, Telford has bested all comers. His matches aren't always pretty (are rarely pretty, in fact), but they are brutally effective. I'll trust him to grind out another effective decision win here.
PREDICTION: Telford via DEC (IOWA 24-6)
Iowa looks like a clear favorite in this dual meet, but Penn State is certainly talented enough to make things interesting. If they're able to pull off an upset or two, well, game on. As always, bonus points could also be a key factor, although in this case the most likely bonus points seem likely to be a shock pin. Iowa has some potential to get major decisions at 125, 149, and 184, but they're all facing tough enough opponents that I don't think major decisions are all that likely. However it shakes out, it should be fun. Penn State's expecting an NCAA-record crowd for this meet, so let's hope the wrestlers put on a show. Let's get it on.
Join in to discuss the action in the comments.