It is not No. 1 vs. No. 2. But don’t tell that to Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands. He doesn’t want to hear it.
“We can’t look past them,” said Brands, whose fourth-ranked Hawkeyes will host instate rival Iowa State on Saturday. “Results tend to boost competitors, and this is a big instate rivalry. Regardless of where the rankings are or head-to-head matchups, we have to be ready.”
The Hawkeyes are 5-0 and ranked in the top five nationally, while Iowa State is unranked and began its season with a disappointing 22-13 loss to Old Dominion. Iowa has won eight straight in the series. Iowa State’s last win was a 19-16 decision in 2004.
“We should be mad and angry,” Iowa State coach Kevin Jackson said. “We didn’t wrestle like we wanted to, and the guys know that.”
Jackson said his team had a closed door meeting after the loss and learned a lot of things about his squad.
“It was a come to Jesus meeting of sorts,” Jackson said. “Things were shared, and we learned a few things about our guys. It wasn’t a friendly conversation though.”
Based on the rankings, Saturday’s dual should once again be lopsided in the Hawkeyes’ favor. Iowa will be favored in eight of the 10 matches. That doesn’t mean Iowa State cannot win, but it does give Iowa a mental edge. Another edge is getting to wrestle in the friendly confines of Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“If you are a warrior or a competitor then that is where you want to compete,” Jackson said. “The guys are excited. It will be a fun atmosphere.”
The Hawkeyes come into the match 5-0 and have outscored their opponents 258-27. They have only really been challenged by No. 17 Virginia though as the Cavaliers lost 26-12 on a neutral site.
Several Hawkeye grapplers have started 5-0, including top-ranked Matt McDonough at 125, second-ranked Tony Ramos at 133, top-ranked Derek St. John at 157 and fifth-ranked Bobby Telford at heavyweight. Mark Ballweg (141) and ninth-ranked Ethen Lofthouse (184) also are 5-0. Mike Evans (174) and Nick Moore (165) are 3-0.
The biggest question for Iowa is where certain guys will emerge in the lineup.
Grant Gambrall dropped down to 174 after wrestling at 184 the past two seasons. Evans moved down to 174 from 165. Moore also has done well at 165.
So where does that put each wrestler when the lineup comes out?
“Gambrall is the guy right now at 174, but Evans will dress and weigh in Friday,” Brands said. “We’ll see what happens there. There’s a situation where they haven’t wrestled head-to-head and we are looking for someone to emerge.”
McDonough has won 33 straight matches for the Hawkeyes and will be a heavy favorite against Iowa State sophomore Ryak Finch. Ramos is 34-1 all-time in duals and also will be a large favorite at 133 against either John Meeks or R.J. Hallman.
St. John won his 50th career match in Iowa’s last outing and will be facing redshirt freshman Logan Molina instead of junior Trent Weatherman. St. John also will be a big favorite.
“Logan will get the start,” Jackson said. “Trent did a nice job of getting back from injury, but he is not all the way back yet. I can’t really say much more than that. You may want to talk to our trainers about that one.”
Iowa State’s probable starters list features just two seniors — unranked Max Mayfield at 149 and No. 18 Matt Gibson at heavyweight. The rest of the lineup features plenty of youth and lots of instate talent trying to emerge as national contenders.
“It is certainly harder trying to get the instate kids when Iowa also is fighting for the same guys,” Jackson said. “We are doing a good job nationally and have some good instate kids but it is hard going head-to-head with those guys for sure. That is why this head-to-head match is so important every year.”
The best match of the night may come at 184 where Iowa State junior Boaz Beard will take on Lofthouse. Beard (1-0) is ranked No. 15 and Lofthouse comes in unbeaten and ranked No. 9.
The other matches featuring two ranked wrestlers are at 125 with No. 1 McDonough (Iowa) against No. 19 Finch (ISU), 141 with No. 17 Ballweg (Iowa) vs. No. 18 Luke Goettl (ISU) and heavyweight featuring No. 5 Telford of Iowa against No. 18 Gibson of Iowa State. Iowa’s Gambrall or Evans also will face No. 20 Mikey England, a sophomore from Centerville, at 174.
Brands is 7-0 all-time against Iowa State. McDonough, Ramos, St. John, Gambrall and Telford are a combined 13-0 against the Cyclones.
The dual will begin at 7:37 p.m. and is expected to draw another large crowd. The match can be seen on Mediacom Connections 22.