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Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands recaps the Hawkeyes' win over Nebraska on Sunday in Lincoln. Cody Goodwin, cgoodwin2@dmreg.com

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Wrestling’s championship season is closing in fast.

The state tournament is next week, then three of four weekends in March feature the NAIA national tournament, the Big Ten tournament and the NCAA Championships. 

But even before all of that, the Women’s Collegiate Wrestling Association’s national championships is this coming weekend, Feb. 8-9, at the Cobb County Civic Center in Marietta, Georgia.

The WCWA has produced many of the United States’ best women’s wrestlers, like world silver medalist Sarah Hildebrandt, as well as Forrest Molinari and Alli Ragan, both members of the Hawkeye Wrestling Club and past world-team members.

Many more are on the way, including one wrestler from Iowa who’s made waves as a freshman this season. Felicity Taylor, a product of South Winneshiek, is currently ranked No. 2 at 116 pounds in the latest WCWA poll.

Women’s wrestling and girls’ wrestling has grown over the years, and this weekend’s event is a small showcase of the nation’s best up-and-coming women’s wrestlers.

I invite you guys to follow the action. It will be great. These national events always are.

Now, then. Onto the wrestling mailbag. Some really good questions this week. Next week, let’s use this space to discuss the Iowa state tournament. Gotta give the high-school wrestlers some love.

Please give me a follow on Twitter, and I’ll keep you guys up to date on all things wrestling in Iowa. Thanks so much for your help here, and for reading.

Honestly, I didn’t have an issue with either one of them.

To recap: Tyler Berger scored a takedown in sudden victory to beat Kaleb Young at 157 pounds. He then stood up, walked toward the Iowa bench, said, “This is my house,” and then blew a kiss.

At 133, Austin DeSanto picked up Brian Peska, walked toward the Iowa bench, gave a thumbs up, planted Peska on the mat for the match-clinching takedown, then got up and shushed the Nebraska bench.

From my perspective, it added to an already-rowdy atmosphere. More than 4,000 people packed the Bob Devaney Sports Center for the dual, a mix of both Iowa and Nebraska fans. They were loud when they cheered and louder when they booed. It was incredible.

The antics from both Berger and DeSanto added to that intensity. They were both harmless taunts. People will be upset because they want to see athletes win and lose gracefully. I understand why they want that, but I also like seeing personality from wrestlers as well.

As long as these taunts don’t cross a line and they don't physically harm somebody, I’m cool with it. I like the verbal jabs. Berger started it, and DeSanto ended it. Made an already great dual even more fun.

Work buddy Danny with a DeSanto question, and I'm going to choose my own adventure. On a scale of 1 to pure villain, I think he’s probably around a 7-8. 

TV villains all eventually lose, and that's the only issue I take with the question. DeSanto hasn’t lost since December, against Iowa State’s Austin Gomez, on a late third-period throw that nearly swung the dual.

Since then, DeSanto has been lights out, including wins over Minnesota’s Ethan Lizak and Rutgers’ Nick Suriano, two past All-Americans who have both been to the NCAA finals.

I’m not saying DeSanto is going to run the table the rest of the way. He still has a matchup with Oklahoma State’s Daton Fix later this month, and then he’ll have to run the gauntlet again at Big Tens before even getting to the NCAA Championships. Bigger matches are coming.

But the way he’s performed makes me think he’s trending as a villain along the same lines as like Bill Belichick. If you’re a fan of DeSanto, you love that he’s winning. If not, you’re eagerly waiting for him to fall on his face and lose.

But either way, you’re tuning in to watch.

► MORE WRESTLING COVERAGE FROM THE DES MOINES REGISTER

I agree that this is premature, only because the Spencer Lee-DeSanto era has really only just begun. But let’s break it down real quick:

Matt McDonough and Tony Ramos combined for three NCAA titles (McDonough with two, Tony with one), five finals appearances (McDonough with three, Tony with two), and six All-American honors (both with three).

Thomas Gilman and Cory Clark combined for one NCAA title (Clark, in 2016), four finals appearances (Clark with three, Gilman with one) and seven All-American honors (Clark with four, Gilman with three).

Already, Lee has a national title with three years remaining. DeSanto doesn’t have any All-American honors, but looks in line to contend this year — he’s currently ranked No. 3 at 133 by Trackwrestling. 

So the potential is there for Lee-DeSanto to be one of the best 125-133 combinations Iowa’s had in recent memory. But we should revisit this conversation in a few years to see for sure.

Now this conversation …

… is an interesting one.

Full disclosure: I’ve never been a fan of riding time. It discourages wrestlers from working to turn on top. The idea of the rule — finish the match with at least one minute on top and you get an extra point — doesn’t really lend itself to offensive top wrestling. I think wrestling should get rid of it.

In the case of Jacob Warner and Sam Stoll, I understand why Warner got dinged for stalling and why Nebraska’s David Jensen didn’t. I will do my best to explain.

Warner rode out Nebraska’s Eric Schultz the entire second period in their match at 197, wherein Warner got hit for stalling. I tend to agree with it upon rewatching the dual. Warner was doing a good job keeping Schultz on the mat, but he never really worked to break him down or turn him. 

At heavyweight, Jensen did get hit for stalling in the second period, when he failed to return Stoll to the mat and walked him out of bounds in rear standing. But then Stoll got called for stalling three times after that — once in the second (I’m not sure I fully agreed with it), then twice in the third (I sort of agreed with it).

Jensen’s rideouts in the second and third periods came primarily because he sneaked a leg in on Stoll, on his left knee (the one with the brace). Once he did that, Stoll struggled to build up his base on bottom. That’s primarily why he got hit for stalling.

The reason Jensen didn’t get hit for stalling was because he worked to get his leg back in and was trying to turn Stoll throughout. He nearly did a couple of times because he worked Stoll to his hip in the second period. In the third, he followed a similar script. So, no stalling.

Top guys should get dinged for stalling when necessary. But if you get rid of riding time, I think you’d see a lot more action. Because then there’s no incentive to keep a guy down, so you might see more catch-and-releases and a lot more neutral wrestling. I’m all for that.

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Iowa heavyweight Sam Stoll won two matches in the Hawkeyes' dual victories over Illinois and Northwestern. He won by fall and injury default. Cody Goodwin, cgoodwin2@dmreg.com

It’s still kind of remarkable to think that Iowa State shut out back-to-back Big 12 opponents this weekend.

To be fair: Neither South Dakota State nor Utah Valley fielded the toughest lineups this weekend, but Iowa State did what you want to see your team do if they are, in fact, on the up in the Division I wrestling world. They dominated, a perfect 20-for-20 on the weekend (or, 17-for-17 in contested matches).

This Iowa State team is tough, and they seem to only be getting better. I’m eager to get to Cedar Falls in a couple of weeks to watch the Cyclones wrestle Northern Iowa. That dual will likely decide who takes second in the Big 12. It should also be a lot of fun.

As for the postseason, I think this Iowa State team can make noise. The Big 12 tournament will feature another battle with Northern Iowa for second behind Oklahoma State, but the NCAA Championships could be something of a small coming out party for the Cyclones.

Consider: Iowa State has some guys that can contend for the podium in Pittsburgh, like Austin Gomez, Ian Parker, Jarrett Degen, Sam Colbray, Willie Miklus and Gannon Gremmel. You could probably consider Alex Mackall and Marcus Coleman people to watch, too.

But here's the wet blanket: Gomez and Parker wrestle in the nation’s toughest weight classes, at 133 and 141, respectively. Gremmel can be inconsistent. Mackall and Coleman are relative unknowns. Colbray looks good, but has lost to other true All-American threats at 184. All of that is also true.

So I could see Iowa State finish with anywhere from 4-6 All-Americans, but I could also see them striking out completely. I think how they wrestle at the Big 12 tournament will tell us a lot about how they’ll perform in Pittsburgh.

It’s going to be a fun couple of months for wrestling fans. Buckle up and enjoy the ride.

Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.

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