The wrestling season now comes down to three marquee weekends for top-ranked Iowa, and the first one has taken shape.
The Hawkeyes (15-0) drew unranked Chattanooga (12-5) in the quarterfinal round of the National Duals tournament, which will be held Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The pairings were announced Tuesday.
If Iowa wins the noon match as it should, it'll face either No. 4 Minnesota (11-2) or No. 5 Cornell (15-1) in one 3 p.m. semifinal. The other half of the bracket pits No. 2 Missouri (21-0) vs. No. 12 Illinois (13-4), which features freshman sensation Isaiah Martinez at 157 pounds; and No. 3 Ohio State (13-3) vs. No. 11 Lehigh (13-4).
The semifinals and Sunday's 11:30 a.m. championship will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
Should the Hawkeyes and Minnesota advance, it'll stage a semifinal rematch of a heated dual won by Iowa, 23-12, at Williams Arena on Jan. 30.
NATIONAL DUALS: Iowa rolls Virginia in the first round
But first, Chattanooga brings a nine-dual winning streak into Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Mocs, formerly coached by Iowa assistant Terry Brands, have their greatest firepower at 125 and 133 pounds. That means a matchup of Iowa's No. 5 Thomas Gilman vs. No. 9 Sean Boyle at 125, and No. 7 Cory Clark vs. No. 15 Nick Soto.
Gilman, 174-pounder Mike Evans and heavyweight Bobby Telford sat out Sunday's 30-6 dual win over Virginia with the postseason push in motion. After the Duals, all that's left is the Big Ten Championships March 7-8 in Columbus, Ohio, then the big one — the NCAA Championships March 19-21 in St. Louis, Mo.
"I can assure you we put a lot of thought into (peaking), and when we train our guys, we train with an eye on the future," Iowa head coach Tom Brands said Sunday. "That doesn't mean we look past events, but we do train with an eye to the future. And that's one of the reasons why you saw this lineup out here this afternoon.
"Getting ready for tough matches is a mindset, and we'd be getting ready for tough individual matches this weekend anyway if we weren't in the National Duals. It's just another event on the calendar that we have to get ready for."
Tickets for both days are available at hawkeyesports.com or by calling 1-800-424-2957.