High stakes, huge crowd await No. 1 Iowa at Penn State
A win in the most hostile of venues against the four-time defending NCAA champion is what's required Sunday for Iowa to clinch a share of its eighth Big Ten regular-season championship in nine years.
But, hey, these top-ranked Hawkeyes have embraced road duals all year. What's one more?
"We're the bad guys," 125-pounder Thomas Gilman said in advance of Sunday's noon CST dual at Penn State, "and we get to play the bad-guy role when we go on the road."
Iowa (12-0 overall, 7-0 Big Ten) is 6-0 in road duals this season, including at No. 4 Ohio State and No. 3 Minnesota. Now comes the fifth-ranked Nittany Lions (10-2, 6-2), with a sellout crowd of nearly 16,000 waiting in the Bryce Jordan Center.
Heavyweight Bobby Telford is ready to crash the party, Herky-style.
"You don't have any responsibilities when you show up to someone else's party," Telford said. "You just go in there, have fun, trash the place, do what you want, say what you want and you get out."
It won't be easy, even if Penn State is going through a down year by its standards while red-shirting all-Americans Nico Megaludis (125) and Zain Retherford (141).
These teams match up very evenly across the board. Some of the highlight bouts:
•At 125, Gilman's recent dominance will be tested by eighth-ranked Jordan Conaway (19-3). Gilman (21-1) has racked up 97 points in his last five matches, posting three major decisions and two technical falls.
•At 133, Iowa's seventh-ranked Cory Clark faces a nemesis he's never faced in college. No. 3 Jimmy Gulibon (17-4) beat Clark (17-3) in two high school all-star meets in 2012. Iowa's Tony Ramos pinned Gulibon in last year's dual, which was won by Penn State.
•At 174, Iowa's last unbeaten man standing, Mike Evans (20-0), draws yet another matchup with Penn State's best wrestler, Matt Brown (19-2). Evans has a 3-2 edge in five career meetings.
•At 197, Iowa's fourth-ranked Nathan Burak (13-1) will have his hands full with No. 6 Morgan McIntosh (20-2), who won both head-to-head meetings last year.
Penn State will be favored at 157 pounds while Iowa has an edge at 141, 149, 165, 184 and heavyweight. It wouldn't be surprising if this one ends with 10 decisions, something like 18-12.
"Everybody talks about Penn State might be a little bit down here or there," Iowa coach Tom Brands said, "but we've got to be ready."
Brands thought he saw his wrestlers "looking ahead" and not finishing off matches like they should during Friday's 33-3 dual win at Maryland.
You better believe the vaunted Nittany Lions have Iowa's complete attention.
"We've got to get ready to go for Sunday. This doesn't do us any good to beat your head against the wall," Brands said Friday night. "You talk about it and move on."
No. 1 Iowa (12-0, 7-0 Big Ten) at No. 5 Penn State (10-2, 6-2)
• Specifics — Noon CST Sunday, Bryce Jordan Center, University Park, Pa.
• Following the dual — TV: Big Ten Network. Radio: KXIC (AM 800) in Iowa City. Live scoring: hawkeyesports.com.
• Preview — This is the seventh and final road dual for the Hawkeyes. They finish the regular season at home against Michigan (Feb. 13) and by hosting the National Duals. ... Iowa coach Tom Brands is 6-2 all-time against Penn State's Cael Sanderson in duals, including a 3-0 mark when Sanderson was at Iowa State. ... Iowa starters Josh Dziewa (141) and Mike Evans (174) are from Pennsylvania.