Originally scheduled for Super Bowl Sunday, the Penn State at Iowa dual meet was moved to Friday night in order to give it the attention it deserves. The Hawkeyes rarely lose at Carver, which is precisely why BTN wants to broadcast the beat down they will absorb from the Nittany Lions on live, national TV, for the nation to enjoy.
Hawk fans will guffaw, but that's because they have yet to learn two key words: Bonus. Points. Here they are used in a sentence, Iowans: Penn State earns bonus points at 165, 184, and 197 lbs. That must be especially painful for a fanbase which grew fat on bonus point victories. That used to be "the Iowa style", right? The Iowa wrestler - be it Ironside or McIlravy or Williams or Metcalf - wasn't satisfied with a decision. He'd move forward, attacking for seven minutes, constantly looking to score points and destroy his opponent. Take his manhood, not just a victory.
Those were the days, right Iowa fan? The good news is that you'll get to see that kind of wrestling in Carver again - but they'll be wearing blue singlets.
125 LBS - Match of the Meet #1
#2 Nico Megaludis vs. #1 Matt McDonough - I hate Iowa, but how do you not love McDonough? If you love Nico, then you have to love McDonough. They're stylistic clones. They both prefer to tie up and beat the hell out of the opponent, using outstanding head-and-hands defense while just wearing the guy out for a takedown. If it goes to a scramble, they win the scramble out of sheer toughness. They're both humble, hard-working guys that you have to cheer for.
So this dual meet starts off with a bang on the entertainment scale. Nico's been working on improving his offense, and he leads the team in takedowns despite most opponents refusing to take a shot. Meanwhile, McDonough has looked more like a human. Falls have turned into majors, and majors have turned into regular decisions this year. I have nothing but respect for McD - the guy's an all-timer. So the line gets set in favor of McDonough. But I'm calling for the upset in this one.
Line: Nico plus 1.5. Upset alert.
#21 Jordan Conaway vs. #2 Tony Ramos - we all love aggressive, attacking wrestling. And then a guy like Ramos ruins it by being stupid. Ramos is the chippy sort, without complete control of his emotional, competitive fire. So if you're not a Hawkeye fan - and who could stand to be one? - then Ramos frequently looks like a jackass. He gives an extra shove off the mat, and threatens violence after he's been ridden out (again).
Those qualities notwithstanding, he's a takedown machine. He's still working on getting out from bottom, and controlling from top, so he can be had in non-neutral positions. But like Conaway, Ramos has a full 7-minute gas tank. Jordan can't count on Ramos to stop wrestling at the 6 minute mark like Wisconsin's Graff did.
Line: Conaway plus 6.5
141 LBS - Match of the Meet #2
#26 Bryan Pearsall vs. #10 Mark Ballweg - one of the least heralded matches could be the most decisive. The three team points to be had here could be the deciding factor.
Both Ballweg and Pearsall are seniors. Neither has ever qualified for NCAAs. Both are working hard to make his last year memorable. Neither will put up much offense from neutral. Give Pearsall an edge from the top position. If he can turn that into points - be it riding time or a turn - then Bryan could pull the upset.
Line: Pearsall plus 1.5 Upset alert.
#3 Andrew Alton vs. #25 Mike Kelly - in his first match back from suspension, Andrew came out on fire with a takedown and 2-point tilt of #12 Sueflohn. Then around the 4 minute mark he ran out of gas, and was completely spent by minute 5. Sueflohn got the fall by minute 6. Not the way Andrew wanted to return to the mat.
But Friday night he doesn't get an All-American contender. He gets Mike Kelly. Or maybe he gets Brody Grothus. Who knows from week-to-week? Brands isn't happy about the lack of production from this weight, and Kelly narrowing escaping the major against Dylan Ness on Saturday can't be helping matters. Andrew could produce a fall here - he can produce a fall every time he steps on the mat. But this could also be a very close match if it lasts the full seven minutes and Andrew's gas tank gets tested.
Line: Alton minus 5.5
157 LBS - Match of the Meet #3
#5 Dylan Alton vs. #1 Derek St. John - St. John beat Dylan twice last year, both by 1-3 OT decisions on counters, at Big Tens and at NCAAs. This season, Dylan's neutral offense has improved, and St. John isn't wrestling on one leg. Don't expect a ton of offense despite those two facts. This looks to be a close decision.
Line: Pick 'em.
If Penn State takes 3 of the first 5 matches, then this dual is effectively over. If PSU takes 2, then we're in for a tight victory. If PSU takes just 1 or - gasp - none, then we're in for a night of heavy drinking.
#2 David Taylor vs. #18 Nick Moore - Nick Moore isn't a slug. He's going to fight for the full seven minutes, assuming it lasts that long. Here's the issue, though: Taylor has earned bonus point victories in every match he's wrestled this season, except for the controversial Dake match in the Scuffle finals. That includes #3 Tyler Caldwell, whom Taylor majored in the Scuffle semis. In his last bout, versus Nebraska's Koehn, Koehn took top to start the third period and gave Taylor the escape so that the match would end in a tech fall. You give the escape to end the match, because Taylor might pin you from neutral or bottom? Come on, man.
I think Brands has Moore wrestle to not get killed, just like he had Evans wrestle Taylor in last year's dual. It didn't matter then, though, either. Bonus. Points.
Line: Taylor minus 10.5
174 LBS - Match of the Meet #4
#5 Matt Brown vs. #3 Mike Evans - Both of these wrestlers are coming off of tough losses. Evans dropped a close one to #2 Storley, and Brown ran out of time with his cradle against #4 Kokesh. This is another crucial match to determining the dual. I have no solid handle on how it'll work out.
Evans is not the biggest 174lber you'll ever see; Brown is built like a brick sh!thouse. Evans is crafty from neutral and tough on top; Brown will pull your head clean off, and then give you his far ankle for no apparent reason (at least lately).
Line: Pick 'em
#1 Ed Ruth vs. #8 Ethan Lofthouse - these two wrestled last year down at 174 in the dual. Lofthouse got housed, 10-1, as he spent most of the match trying to not get cradled. I don't think Lofthouse looks as good up at 184, while Ruth has been killing everyone despite the bump. I'm guessing you can count the number of shots Lofthouse takes in this match with zero hands. As a matter of fact, getting an early takedown could be the worst thing Lofthouse could do. Ihnen got a surprise takedown against Ruth, and then got tech fall'ed. Don't upset Ed by scoring points.
Line: Ruth minus 10.5
#3 Quentin Wright vs. #22 Nathan Burak - Burak has looked halfway decent. He pushes the action, takes shots, and really should have beaten #13 Schiller in last week's Minnesota dual. But Quentin Wright represents a pretty significant bump up in quickness and explosion. Given Q's propensity for underhook throws, headlocks, and the recent spate of spladles he's been dishing out...if Burak wrestles aggressively, he could get stuck admiring the Carver lighting.
Line: Quentin minus 7.5
285 LBS - Match of the Meet #5
#16 Jon Gingrich vs. #5 Bobby Telford - If things go Iowa's way, then they're hoping this one decides the dual. On one hand, Telford doesn't scare me in the least. I don't have high regard for his neutral offense. On the other hand, Telford can ride and turn - and Gingrich has a propensity for putting his head on the mat. If this gets to the third period tied or within one, then I like Gingrich to push the pace and get that winning takedown more than Telford. But if Gingrich gets worked from bottom, then that 3rd period takedown doesn't matter much, does it?
Line: Gingrich plus 2.5
Iowa's a clear favorite at 133. Penn State's a clear favorite at 149, 165, 184, and 197. The other five matches are slight favorites, or effectively toss ups. Because PSU has the potential for BONUS. POINTS. at 149, 165, 184 and/or 197, Iowa needs to win all five toss up matches. That means McDonough, Ballweg, St. John, Evans, and Telford all must win. Possible? Yes, particularly at Carver. Is it probably or even likely? I don't think so.
Line: Penn State minus 3
This Week's Stock Picks
1) SELL the Evans bro'stache. He is one hairy, wild, 717 beast - but the clean shaven, ROTC-ing Matt Brown makes the '70's disco stylings of Evans so last century.
2) BUY screaming Brands-es. There will be hip wiggles, hops, and hollering galore at Carver. It's all about intensity while not taking any shots during matches at 165 and 184. Right? Why not just send Moore and Lofthouse to the storm cellar until the dual is completed?
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