Surprise starters help Iowa wrestlers blank Michigan State

Chad Leistikow

Iowa's Sammy Brooks celebrates his win over Michigan State's John Rizqallah at 184 pounds at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014. David Scrivner / Iowa City Press-Citizen

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Shutting out a Big Ten Conference opponent Saturday night underscored a theme surrounding the 2014-15 Iowa wrestling team: This team has depth.

Four surprise starters and six proven regulars helped the No. 1-ranked Hawkeyes overpower Michigan State, 37-0, before 6,629 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

"It's nice to have depth, period," head coach Tom Brands said afterward.

A week after Brands was displeased by Iowa's lack of bonus points in a 28-8 dual win over Iowa State, his boys picked up three major decisions and two technical falls vs. the Spartans.

"Those majors aren't easy to get … the guys aren't going to fall down," Brands said, acknowledging improved pace. "We talk about it all the time where there's in-and-out type stuff. Then guys start to fall down. But it's because you make them fall down. That's the important thing."

Now about those (mildly) surprising starters that shows Iowa's depth:

At 141 pounds, sophomore Topher Carton got the call for his first Big Ten dual and gave up a quick takedown but rallied for a 6-3 win against Garth Yenter. Brands did not specify why sixth-ranked Josh Dziewa didn't wrestle but said, "He's fine. It's not an issue."

Brody Grothus was the guy at 149 Saturday night, a week after it was Brandon Sorensen vs. Iowa State. Grothus was impressive with a 16-1 technical fall, overpowering Kaelen Richards with three back points and a takedown in the final 21 seconds.

Sorensen, meanwhile, spent the day dominating at 149 in the Maryville Kaufman Brand tournament in Missouri. So it's still a battle in the Iowa wrestling room at 149 for that starting spot.

"I can only control what I can do," Grothus said. "The coaches, it's always going to be up to them unless you go out there and you … put it to every single guy. Then they're not going to have a choice but to put you out there."

Edwin Cooper, a national Division II runner-up at Upper Iowa a year ago, has exited the battle at 149. He's at 157 now, and he got the nod Saturday over regular starter Michael Kelly as Brands continued to tinker with his options.

Cooper started fast and hung on for a 6-5 win over Roger Wildmo.

Brands said Kelly was dinged in practice this week and that Cooper would stay at 157 for the Midlands Championships Dec. 29-30 in Evanston, Ill. — Iowa's next action.

"We'll just keep figuring out our best lineup," Brands said.

Speaking of Midlands, Iowa sophomore Alex Meyer will be at 174 there. But he was at 197 on Saturday.

Sixth-ranked Nathan Burak was listed as Saturday's starter, but did not go. Brands said a redshirt was still in play for Burak, who has been battling a leg injury. ("I know you want an answer, but I don't even have the answer right now," Brands said.)

Meyer, meanwhile, was wrestling up two weights, with Iowa's other 197-pounder, Kris Klapprodt, winning at the Maryville event. Meyer weighed in at 179 pounds and got a roaring ovation after his late takedown delivered a 6-5 win over Nick McDiarmid, who had about 20 pounds on Meyer.

"I knew a couple days ago I was going," Meyer said. "Weighed in a little light so I can still go to 74 at Midlands. Just got ready, followed my routine."

The depth was there. And so were Iowa's go-to guys. Fourth-ranked Thomas Gilman started the night with a major decision at 125 pounds, and No. 3 Bobby Telford finished it with a major at heavyweight. In between, No. 4 Mike Evans stayed unbeaten with a tech fall.

Next up: Midlands. There, with wrestlers being able to go unattached, Iowa's depth will be on full display, scores will be settled and Brands' lineup might take shape.

"Hopefully we'll run into each other in the finals," Grothus said of his ongoing battle with Sorensen, "and we'll duke it out there."


125: Thomas Gilman (I) major dec. Mitch Rogaliner, 18-6.

133: Cory Clark (I) dec. Hermilo Esquivel, 5-0

141: Topher Carton (I) dec. Garth Yenter, 6-3.

149: Brody Grothus (I) won by tech. fall over Kaelen Richards, 16-1 (7:00).

157: Edwin Cooper (I) dec. Roger Wildmo, 6-5.

165: Nick Moore (I) dec. Ryan Watts, 5-3.

174: Mike Evans (I) won by tech. fall over Kevin Nash, 20-5 (6:53).

184: Sammy Brooks (I) major dec. John Rizqallah, 11-3.

197: Alex Meyer (I) dec. Nick McDiarmid, 6-5.

Hwt.: Bobby Telford (I) dec. Luke Jones, 10-2.