You are looking LIVE at a soldout Carver Hawkeye Arena, and a new all-time wrestling dual attendance record! Maybe. Probably. But even if Saturday's mega showdown between Penn State and Iowa, winners of the last six consecutive National Championships of the resilite, doesn't eclipse 16,000 crazy fans because of fire codes, it will still be an incredible event.
My innernets friend, and BlackHeartGoldPants wrestling sage, RossWB, and I teamed up to give you both homerific perspectives on this clash of wrestling titans. BHGP fronts the first half, 125 thru 157 lbs (link here). Below you'll find the second half, 165 thru Big Boys (285 lbs). Let's roll.
165 - #1 David Taylor vs. #4 Nick Moore
1) Let's not waste any more pixels on David Taylor - blah, blah, blah, he's awesome. Instead, let's talk Nick Moore. He took out Iowa State's Mike Moreno earlier this year, and is now up to #4 in the Intermat rankings. Is this a case of Moore making steady improvement, with maybe a "light coming on" type of thing in his junior season? Or was the Moreno win an "up" in what's more likely to be an up-and-down season, with only a questionable shot at making the podium?
BEN: Full disclosure - I didn't see the Moore-Moreno match. But, I'm on the Moore bandwagon (relatively speaking) to a greater extent than most Hawk fans. Hawk fans saw the state titles, the high recruiting rank, and wonder why Moore isn't an AA already. My feeling is that Moore's only an average athlete, and his success stems mostly from effort and toughness - which the dude definitely gives you. So I'm impressed by that, rather than disappointed. Moore's on a natural progression, and like I wrote in our season preview, I think he makes the podium this year.
ROSS: Iowa fans are definitely harder on Moore than that, perhaps unfairly so. It's certainly true that the gaudy HS record, the sparking recruiting ranking (aside: how have star rankings for wrestling recruits not caught on as much as they have in football or basketball? We're still in a world of top 10 lists), and -- of course -- the four state championships boosted expectations for him. And it's true that not every top recruit is ready to dominate the world right out of the box; sometimes you get a David Taylor or a Matt McDonough and sometimes you don't.
That said, Nick Moore has still been a pretty frustrating wrestler at Iowa. He's not an athlete on par with a guy like Taylor or Dake, but he's definitely not an unathletic grinder, either. He's capable of hitting some beautiful shots and while his scrambling skills will never get him mistaken for a long-lost Perry brother, they're not inept, either. But those skills aren't on display very consistently, especially against overmatched opponents. The trick for Moore is that he needs to consistently beat the guys who aren't as good as him (and get bonus points as often as he can against those guys) -- and he needs to beat some of the guys on his level more frequently. The win over Moreno was a step in that direction for sure, but he beat Moreno at the ISU dual last year and we all know which guy ended up having a better season after that. To his credit, Moore hasn't really had any "downs" this season, although he also hasn't wrestled many challenging opponents yet. I don't think the match with Taylor will tell us much -- simply keeping the margin of defeat to a major decision will be impressive enough -- but Midlands should give us a much better idea of where Moore stands at this weight and if his current #4 ranking is overly inflated or not.
2) Any chance Moore pulls an upset? And if not, can Taylor get a tech or pinfall?
BEN: No - Moore is not beating David Taylor. And I think Taylor gets the tech fall, but only because Moore will actually try to wrestle Taylor (like last year), rather than turtle up and lay on the mat. Of course, if Moore does turtle up to avoid bonus - then scratch everything nice I wrote above.
(PSU inches ahead, 11-10)
ROSS: Can Moore pull off an upset here? Sure, if Taylor eats some bad wings from The Vine for lunch on Saturday or if he slips on some spilled soft serve on the way. Realistically, though, no, I do not see Moore beating Taylor -- or even coming close, frankly. That doesn't mean Moore isn't a good wrestler or that he can't have a good season, just that Taylor is on another planet, talent-wise. There have been some surprising upsets in wrestling already this year, but Taylor going down would be the biggest yet. Anyway, if he's not going to win, then Nick Moore's job becomes damage limitation: do NOT get pinned and try like hell not to get tech falled. Honestly, I think he actually scores a takedown -- maybe two -- on Taylor to put a little scare into him, before things fall apart in the third period. But he's still able to hold things to a major decision.
174 LBS - #3 Hulk Hands vs. #6 Stache
1) Like last year, this is one of the critical toss-up matches. What's the key for you?
BEN: I still don't know how Evans clung to Brown's laces and funked out that takedown at the end. What a killer. It was at that exact moment when I started drinking heavily. It’s possible I’ll do the same again this year.
The key for me is understanding how much Evans has improved his neutral offense. I know Evans can ride and turn. I know he can defend and scramble. But unless he's improved his shot, I'm going to continue giving the slight edge to Brown (and Perry, Howe, Storley, and maybe even Kokesh, though I know he's had success against him).
ROSS: Evans has been tearing through his competition this year -- did you know Evans is 11-0 this year and that every single win has been with bonus points? Admittedly, caveats about the level of competition he's faced abound -- it's basically Tanner Weatherman and a whole bunch of "who dat?" guys -- but Evans still looks like he's stepped it up a notch this year. Impressively, in a lot of those bonus point wins Evans hasn't been scoring a lot of points from turning guys for back points or getting pins -- he's been getting quite a few takedowns from neutral. Admittedly, finishing a single leg on Rrok Ndokaj is one thing and finishing on one of the top guys at 174 is another story, but... I have more confidence in Evans' ability from neutral than I've had in the past. I think that's obviously a big key in this match, but I also think it's crucial that Evans wrestle smart when he's on top when the match goes to the mat; Evans can score a lot of points from that position, but he's also had a tendency to get a little reckless from that position and open himself up to costly reversals (or worse). He can't afford to screw up like that against ol' Hulk Hands here.
2) Call it.
BEN: This is a one-takedown-winner. Is it from Brown via single leg? Will Evans take another bad shot and get pancaked to his back (please please please)? I'm taking Brown, but only by the slimmest of margins.
WHAT!? HOW DID EVANS PULL THAT S**T OUT!!! BROWN HAD HIM 99% TAKEN DOWN!!! **** ME!
(IOWA reclaims the lead, 13-11)
ROSS: Did you know that Mike Evans has never lost a match in Carver-Hawkeye Arena? You're damn right that means I'm taking The 'Stache to win this match, even if his actual 'stache is in an embryonic stage right now. I agree that this comes down to one takedown, but I think it's Brown's turn to make a mistake in this rivalry; Brown will get in deep on a few shots in this match, but Evans will funk out -- and maybe even slip around for a takedown of his own off one of those shots. Either way, give me Evans by narrow decision.
184 LBS - #1 So Fresh, So Clean vs. #2 Ethan Lofthouse
1) Brands tried a fast one last year, yanking Lofthouse out of the lineup and inserting Grant Gambrall, who dove on an ankle and managed to not wrestle Ruth beyond a major. Now, Lofty is ranked #2, and Ruth has just returned from suspension. What's Lofty's gameplan here?
ROSS: Lay 'n' pray? No, seriously, I'm not sure his gameplan here is all that different than his gameplan to most matches: block off, block off, block off, take a few half-hearted shots, block off, block off, block off, then take one good shot and hope to finish a takedown. Rinse, repeat. Unless the opponent is way overmatched, Lofthouse doesn't exactly pour on the offense. I expect Lofthouse to wrestle this one in, uh, a very cagey fashion, to phrase it kindly (Ed Note: read as "stall"). Turning this match into a takedown competition is not going to help him out any; he's better off just staying on his feet and playing keep-away from Ruth. That's not the most impressive gameplan and it's one that I would expect to see garner some boos from the CHA faithful -- at least until the match is within a takedown in the third period and Lofthouse starts actually trying to finish his shots. At that point the Carver crowd will be going bonkers.
BEN: Stall. Just like Gambrall last year, who couldn’t even be coaxed to stand up off an optional start after the 1st period.
BEN: Stalling works, so long as you consider "works" as "didn’t get kilt". Ed gets held to a major.
(PSU edges back in front, 15-13)
ROSS: Ed Ruth by major decision. Ruth didn't look the least bit rusty as he tore through Kenny Courts last Sunday and I expect the full Baby Ruth experience on Saturday night. Lofty is good enough to avoid getting pinned and he'll probably turtle up enough to avoid getting tech falled, too, but I doubt he can prevent a major decision. Obviously, I'd very much love to be wrong and I'd love to see the scenario I described in my previous response happen ; I just don't see it happening.
(PENN STATE 14-13)
197 LBS - #3 Smackintosh vs. #13 Burak or Brooks
1) Smackintosh is wrestling. Is he taking on Burak or Brooks? And does it matter?
ROSS: From the sounds of things, it's going to be Brooks again -- Burak still isn't quite ready to return to action here. Does it matter? I doubt it. McIntosh would be favored against either guy and I would expect him to beat either guy. The main difference might be our old friend, bonus points. I think Burak probably keeps McIntosh to a decision. Can Brooks, wrestling up a weight, facing his toughest opponent yet, on his biggest stage yet? I dunno.
BEN: I know only a little about Brooks, though I believe he’s a blue chipper and junior world team member, and blah blah blah, he more than likely does not suck. But other than the Pitt dual, Morgan has looked like a completely different guy than two seasons ago, when – coincidentally – he beat Grant Gambrall at Rec Hall to secure the dual victory. Different, as in way, way better than 2 years ago.
ROSS: But screw it: I'm going to say yes, Brooks can keep it to a decision here. He only lost to Iowa State's Kyven Gadson 3-2 in Ames, so I think he has what it takes to keep it close with McIntosh, too. An upset here would be outstanding, but I'm not ready to go that far just yet.
(PENN STATE 17-13)
BEN: I’ll stick with the decision as well, since I hear Brooks can ride, and Morg hasn’t always been the best on bottom. But his win prove to be the deciding points.
(PSU 18 – 13)
285 LBS - #12 Jimmy Lawson vs. #3 Bobby Telford
1) More than likely, the dual will still be up for grabs by the time we hit the fatties. Is Telford back and fully healthy?
ROSS: From all indications, yes he is. Telford was back last week against Buffalo and he cruised to a 16-3 major decision in his match. I think it's all systems go for Bobby and he's definitely going to be looking to score bonus points in this match. One, because Iowa is likely going to need them to win the dual and two, because that's just how Bobert has been rolling lately.
Who gets the call for Penn State here, Gingrich or Lawson?
BEN: It’ll be Lawson. Other than failing skin check at Lehigh, Jimmy’s been the man at 285 all year. And he’s dramatically improved over last season, when he flamed out badly in March. He’s scoring takedowns like a non-heavyweight, and pushing the pace all seven minutes. It's been pleasing to watch.
2) Final prediction for heavy, and the dual?
ROSS: Gingrich and Lawson both look improved for Penn State this year, but they also haven't faced any top-shelf heavyweights yet... and Telford also looks improved. I think there's a decent chance that Bobby scores bonus points in this match. I do wonder if maybe he spends too much time trying to get a fall and doesn't leave himself enough time to lock up a major decision. I think he can get a few takedowns on whichever PSU heavyweight gets the nod here -- I don't know if he can get enough to pick up a major decision. But, hell, let's just lay it out there: Telford gets a fall, Carver goes nuts, Iowa wins, 19-17. Boom.
IOWA Wins, 19-17
BEN: I’m taking Telford as well, because Jimmy will walk right into at least one of Bobert’s stupid fatty slide bys. But I don’t see bonus.
Penn State wins, 18 – 16
The back and forth dual is roundly applauded by all in attendance and watching at home, and is remembered at the end of the year as the 2nd best event of the season, behind only the NCAA tournament. Oh – and I think Iowa reclaims the single dual attendance record. Until next year, that is, when Penn State-Iowa crests 16,000 at Bryce Jordan Center.
The Full Ben/Ross Rundown
|#3 Nico||125||#4 Clark||Nico dec, 3-0||Clark dec, 0-3|
|#15 Gulibon||133||#1 Ramos||Ramos maj., 3-4||Ramos maj, 0-7|
|#2 zPain||141||Jeva||zPain dec, 6-4||zPain dec, 3-7|
|BEETS||149||Kelly||Kelly dec, 6-7||BEETS dec, 6-7|
|Vollrath||157||#1 DSJ||DSJ dec, 6-10||DSJ dec, 6-10|
|#1 Taylor||165||#4 Moore||Taylor tech, 11-10||Taylor maj, 10-10|
|#3 Brown||174||#6 Stache||Stache dec, 11-13||Stache dec, 10-13|
|#1 So Fresh||184||#2 Lofty||Fresh maj., 15-13||Fresh maj., 14-13|
|#3 Morg||197||Brooks||Morg dec, 18-13||Morg dec, 17-13|
|#12 Lawson||285||#3 Bobert||Bobert dec, 18-16 PSU||Bobert WBF, 17-19 IOWA|