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#12 Nick Feldman seeks a safe landing spot after Greg Kerkvliet send him skyward

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Wrestling Preview: No. 1 Penn State at No. 3 Iowa

The Nittany Lions are back on the road, this time in their toughest test of the season.

Scott Pilutik, Black Shoe Diaries

Here it is: the supposed biggest dual of the season, the toughest challenge that the Penn State wrestling squad will face this year. The luster of this meet has worn a bit after Iowa’s loss at Michigan last week, but it’s still a tough test in enemy territory - there’s a reason why we say that wrestlers get Carvered, after all.

This dual, and duals like it, are so different from so many other duals on the Nittany Lions’ schedule; it’s also different than any on the Hawkeyes’ schedule, and different than what these matchups will look like at potential Big Tens and the NCAA tournament. Because at those tournaments, either seeding or a potential title is all that matters - not moral victories of keeping bouts to decisions instead of a major or a tech fall. And unfortunately, that’s what a lot of these duals end up turning into.

Which is why this preview may look a little different. Typically, I throw reservations I have about overall coaching strategy out the window and predict what I expect would the match exist in a void, with both wrestlers wrestling to their fullest ability and trying to score and actually win the bout. But this one? I’m predicting no bonus, going full on expectations based on what I’ve seen in these types of duals in the past.

Right or wrong, whether it goes against my every instinct or not. Because, much as in last week, on paper these Nittany Lions are closer to sweeping Iowa in this dual meet, in Carver-Hawkeye, than they are to losing this match; sure, if everything goes wrong for Penn State, they could lose this dual meet. But who actually thinks they will - or that it’ll be close?

How To Watch

What: #1 Penn State vs #3 Iowa*

Where: Carver-Hawkeye Arena, Iowa City, IA

When: Friday, February 9, 9 PM EST

Audio: Free (via GoPSUSports)

Video: Big Ten Network

Lineup

#1 Penn State WT #3 Iowa
#1 Penn State WT #3 Iowa
#2 - Braeden Davis (Fr., Belleville, MI) 125 #7 - Drake Ayala (So., Fort Dodge, IA)
#6 - Aaron Nagao (So., La Habra, CA) 133 #20 - Cullan Schriever (Jr., Mason City, IA)
#1 - Beau Bartlett (Sr., Tempe, AZ) 141 #2 - Real Woods (Sr., Albuquerque, NM)
#10 - Tyler Kasak (Fr., Doylestown, PA) 149 #12 - Caleb Rathjen (So., Ankeny, IA)
#1 - Levi Haines (So., Arendtsville, PA) 157 #5 - Jared Franek (Gr., Harwood, ND)
#7 - Mitchell Mesenbrink (Fr., Hartland, WI) 165 #6 - Michael Caliendo (So., Geneva, IL)
#1 - Carter Starocci (Sr., Erie, PA) 174 #7 - Patrick Kennedy (Jr., Kasson-Mantorville, MN)
#6 - Bernie Truax (Gr., Oceanside, CA) 184 Aidan Riggins (Fr., Janesville, IA)
#1 - Aaron Brooks (Sr., Hagerstown, MD) 197 #11 - Zach Glazier (Sr., Albert Lea, MN)
#1 - Greg Kerkvliet (Sr., Grove Heights, MN) 285 Ben Kueter (Fr., Iowa City, IA) OR #29 - Bradley Hill (Fr., Bittendorf, IA)

125 LBS

Upset potential ranking: 7

I’m not going to re-litigate last week’s no call of a takedown in Braeden’s bout, as it’s been discussed ad nauseum this past week (including by the NCAA itself). For much of this season, Drake Ayala was ranked higher than Braeden Davis; but this weight is incredibly wonky this year, and chaos has ensued. So while Ayala winning might be an upset on paper, it wouldn’t be completely crazy and I was close to predicting this to go the Hawkeye’s way; but even though he’s a true freshman, Davis is coached by the best staff in the nation, and he trains with Thomas Gilman. He’ll learn from last week and Ayala won’t be as tricky and offensive as Kilkeary was - at least in a dual meet setting.

Prediction: Davis by decision

Score: PSU 3, Iowa 0

133 LBS

Upset potential ranking: 5

Fresh off his third loss in his inaugural PSU season, Aaron Nagao is looking to again bounceback. He finished strong last week but a three-takedown deficit headed into the second period was too much to overcome; luckily, the odds are that Schriever will struggle to garner even one takedown in this match. This could be the confidence builder that the new Nittany Lion needs.

Prediction: Nagao by decision

Score: PSU 6, Iowa 0

141 LBS

Upset potential ranking: 9

Last week’s dual at Michigan was full of many surprises for Iowa, but none bigger than Sergio Lemley’s upset (and what looked like a pin) of Real Woods. It flipped the favorite on paper in this bout, and honestly it’s the tossiest up of toss ups. Beau has lived and died by late wins in his ranked matches this year, and this looks to be no different; and while I wouldn’t be COMPLETELY surprised if Woods sits in an attempt to preserve his post season ranking, I also think this could go the Hawkeye’s way - with Bartlett being the Nittany Lion who’s carvered more than anyone else.

Prediction: Woods by decision

Score: PSU 6, Iowa 3

149 LBS

Upset potential ranking: 6

Tyler Kasak is just a winner, man. He’s more impressive than his ranking suggests, likely in part because he wasn’t the starter at this weight most of the season and being a more natural 141er. But he’s wily and stronger on top than many would give him credit for. He could win on a riding time point in this bout.

Prediction: Rathjen by decision

Score: PSU 6, Iowa 6

157 LBS

Upset potential ranking: 8

As a returning national finalist, Levi Haines is the one targeted this year; last year in this dual, Haines hadn’t even been named the starter yet, and was ranked number nine. He’s still recovering from offseason surgery, though his last two bouts have been impressive bonus point victories against ranked opponents. There’s a little bit of upset potential here, namely because I expect Franek to resort to pushouts and handfighting for the first six minutes and forcing Levi to dig deep to win it, but Levi’s the likely national champ for a reason.

Prediction: Haines by decision

Score: PSU 9, Iowa 6

165 LBS

Upset potential ranking: 10

Technically Mitch Mesenbrink winning this bout is an upset on paper. LOL.

Prediction: Mesenbrink by decision

Score: PSU 12, Iowa 6

174 LBS

Upset potential ranking: 3

Last week, Starocci looked a bit winded by the end of the dual; he clearly was still recovering from his bout of likely flu from a few weeks prior (so much for those calls that he was ducking Shane Griffith in Ann Arbor). I expect this one to look closer in final score and last thirty second action than the first 6:30, not unlike the last time Starocci took on a Hawkeye in a dual meet, but I don’t think Kennedy will be close to scoring an offensive point against Carter.

Prediction: Carter by decision

Score: PSU 15, Iowa 6

184 LBS

Upset potential ranking: 4

If Iowa trots out Gabe Arnold and bumps him up at this weight, this could be interesting (though I’d prefer to see him try to wrestle Starocci); otherwise, this could be just what Bernie needs to bounce back from a late counter pin last week. With this coaching staff, Truax will learn from last week and I don’t expect this bout, if it really is Riggins, will be particularly close. Could be PSU’s best chance at bonus.

Prediction: Truax by decision

Score: PSU 18, Iowa 6

197 LBS

Upset potential ranking: 2

The only thing that kept me from having this be the least likely upset is Glazier’s offense so far this season. Aaron Brooks has been putting together one of the most impressive seasons in a few years, without a regular decision on his record. AB isn’t losing this bout, though Glazier is a potential All-American.

Prediction: AB by decision

Score: PSU 21, Iowa 6

285 LBS

Upset potential ranking: 1

It doesn’t matter if Iowa football player Ben Kueter gets the call in this match, or if Iowa’s other freshman heavyweight, Hill, gets the nod. Kerkvliet has looked more impressive against competition that’s stiffer than either of these Iowa grapplers, so this could be another potential bonus point victory for the good guys.

Prediction: Kerk by decision

Score: PSU 24, Iowa 6

Overall score prediction: Penn State 24, Iowa 6


*The Penn State athletic department, in its official capacity, uses Intermat Tournament Rankings in all its match literature; I’m using Intermat’s Dual Meet Rankings because this happens to be a dual. Penn State is #1 in both rankings; Ohio State is #3 in the Dual Meet rankings, and #6 in the Tournament rankings.

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