Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands recaps the Hawkeyes' record-breaking Midlands performance. Hawk Central
Big dual coming up for Iowa this weekend.
Nebraska comes to Carver-Hawkeye Arena this Saturday. The dual is set for 8 p.m., and will be on Big Ten Network, if you can’t get there. But I highly suggest you get there if you can.
The Huskers, ranked No. 11 nationally in Trackwrestling’s latest Division I poll, is much better than that ranking suggests. The lineup has four returning All-Americans, as well as a bunch of other tough wrestlers that’ll test the top-ranked Hawkeyes.
That’s how this dual should be viewed through the Iowa lens — as a test.
And the rest of the month features even stiffer tests.
After Nebraska this Saturday, the Hawkeyes host No. 3 Ohio State the following week and No. 2 Penn State the week after that. Between those four teams, 38 of the 40 presumed starters are currently ranked in Trackwrestling’s latest poll.
Of those 38 ranked wrestlers, 24 are currently ranked in the top-10 at their respective weights — and 17 are in the top-5, including six No. 1’s and four No. 2’s.
There’s going to be a lot of talent and firepower coming through Iowa City the next few weeks, is the thing, and if you were on the fence about making the trip to Carver, perhaps that’s enough to get you to consider attending.
Iowa has plowed through their schedule to this point, riding high at 6-0 and 3-0 against the Big Ten. But these next three duals, specifically, will reveal a lot about these Hawkeyes — both the individuals and the team.
They’re good enough that they should win all three, but to do so with the same dominance that they’ve shown through their first six duals, and even at the Midlands Championships last month, would be a strong statement that Iowa is, without question, the team to beat this season.
Now, then. Onto the wrestling mailbag. While Iowa is at home on Saturday, Northern Iowa will spend the weekend in the mountains against both Northern Colorado and Air Force, and Iowa State will travel to South Dakota State on Friday then host North Dakota State on Sunday.
Please give me a follow on Twitter (@codygoodwin) 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.
Loved the Duals on the Diamond in Phoenix over the weekend, where Arizona State hosted Iowa State, Campbell and Harvard at Chase Field, home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Would’ve loved to have seen more promotion and perhaps an easier way to watch the action than through Facebook Live, which is how I caught all three of the Cyclones’ duals.
Other programs have, uh, stepped up to the plate. Iowa State held duals at Stephens Auditorium, the campus’s multilevel theater near Hilton Coliseum. Last November, Virginia Tech hosted Northwestern at English Field in Blacksburg, home of Hokie baseball. Fresno State, Wisconsin, Army West Point and Navy wrestled at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego, dubbed “Battle on the Midway.”
All of these became more popular after Iowa’s Grapple on the Gridiron, when the Hawkeyes hosted Oklahoma State before 42,287 at Kinnick Stadium. I love the creativity that other teams have come up with over the years, and believe there are plenty of other opportunities for more.
I’d love to see some of the ACC teams go near a beach, set up a staged mat and wrestle a dual. Call it “Commotion by the Ocean” or something cheesy like that. The wrestling programs along Tobacco Road could also get creative, especially since Duke, North Carolina and NC State have all made significant strides in recent years.
Maybe the Ivy League programs could wrestle on their respective campuses. You’d have to bank on nice weather, like Iowa and Virginia Tech, but imagine walking through Harvard’s Radcliffe Quadrangle and the Harvard wrestlers are competing against Cornell, Princeton and Brown. I think people would stop to watch that.
You could also have a daylong celebration of wrestling in the states that have multiple programs. Imagine having all five Division I programs in California — Fresno State, Stanford, Cal Baptist, Cal-State Bakersfield and Cal Poly — wrestle each other in the same day.
As for the next unique choice for the Hawkeyes, I think wrestling Northern Iowa at the UNI-Dome would be a home run.
You’d cross two things off the list here. We’d get our first Iowa-Northern Iowa dual since 2011-12, and we could probably pack 20,000+ into the UNI-Dome to watch it. The official capacity for the UNI-Dome is 16,324, but if you stage the mat at midfield and then sell mat-side seats to both fan bases — think of the setup for the NCAA finals each year — you could easily get another 4,000 in.
Hosting a wrestling dual inside a football stadium wouldn’t be incredibly unique, since Iowa did it with the Grapple at the Gridiron, but inside the UNI-Dome would be different. Wouldn’t have to worry about weather, you know both teams would be good, and the fans would get in. To. It.
Let’s make this happen. Please.
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- HAWKEYES: Iowa blanks Purdue to sweep Indiana road trip
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- PANTHERS: Northern Iowa rebounds with home win over Missouri
Hard to say, to be honest, because for as dominant as this team has been, their toughest tests are still in front of them — this weekend; Minnesota and Oklahoma State next month; then the Big Ten and NCAA Championships in March, which is where this season will ultimately be defined.
So it remains to be seen just how dominant this Iowa team will end up, but they’ve definitely got the potential to be among the best in recent memory.
If we’re going back to the 2009-10 season, here are the most dominant teams based solely on the final team scores at the NCAA Championships.
- 2017 Penn State, 146.5 points
- 2012 Penn State, 143 points
- 2018 Penn State, 141.5 points
- 2019 Penn State, 137.5 points
- 2018 Ohio State/2010 Iowa, both with 134.5 points
Those teams were all incredible. The 2010 Iowa team had five NCAA finalists and three champs and eight total All-Americans. The 2017 Penn State team had five champs and one other All-American. The 2012 Nittany Lions had three champs, two other finalists and one more All-American.
All of those teams have been freakishly good, for their own reasons. Some had great teams from top to bottom. Some had just five or six really, really good wrestlers. Not going to lie, that 2018 NCAA Championships, when Iowa steamrolled dudes with bonus points for third place while Penn State and Ohio State traded blows in a battle for first was one of the more entertaining in recent memory.
We could be in for something similar this year, with Iowa and Penn State. I still firmly believe the Hawkeyes are in the driver’s seat, but until Penn State is mathematically eliminated during those three days in March, you can never count them out. They’ve earned that respect.
This Iowa team, currently, has all 10 starters ranked in the top-10 at their respective weights. Only one team ever has finished with 10 All-Americans — Minnesota, in 2001. That’s the dream for any Division I head coach, to have an All-American at every weight. These Hawkeyes could do that this year.
The tricky thing about this question is that you can measure dominance in a number of different ways. Do you measure it by total points scored at the NCAA Championships? Do you measure it by the gap between first and second? Do you measure it by total number of All-Americans?
So beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
There’s no question this Iowa team has been dominant so far. They set a new tournament scoring record at the Midlands Championships without the full services of two of their better wrestlers. In six duals, they’ve won 54 of 60 matches with 25 bonus-point victories — eight pins, eight major decisions and nine technical falls.
But, again, tougher tests await. How dominant this Iowa team will truly be remains to be seen.
None. I asked him. He said next year. He is not currently in the Iowa student directory, though the spring semester doesn’t start until next week.
To be quite honest, I’m not sure that he could even wrestle for Iowa this year. I’m not too privy on how the rules work with Olympic redshirts and transferring and what’s an option and what’s not. That’s a question I should probably ask.
If this changes, I’ll let you guys know. But that’s what I’m rolling with.
I was there in 2015 when Iowa wrestled at the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State. The mat was staged and every seat was filled and the crowd was nuts and it was not unlike a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena, which I’ve seen a few times. It was a whole show.
I went to the Iowa-Nebraska dual in Lincoln last year. The Bob Devaney Sports Center is a fun spot and wrestling fans there do a good job creating an atmosphere, whether it’s collegiate or freestyle during Final X or the world team trials, but I haven’t seen that place filled to the brim.
I’ve been to Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, Oklahoma, both for Iowa-Oklahoma State and the 2013 world team trials. It was not at capacity either time I was down there, but I remember seeing that rowdy atmosphere last year when the Cowboys beat the Hawkeyes. I’d love to see that in person.
I’ve been to Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio State, Michigan State and Minnesota for duals and Big Ten tournaments. I’ve been to St. Louis, Oklahoma City, Des Moines, Pittsburgh and Cleveland for national tournaments. I’ve been to a mostly-full Hilton Coliseum in Ames and a jam-packed West Gym in Cedar Falls.
I’d love to go to Ohio State’s new Covelli Center because I’ve seen it on TV a couple of times and it looks pretty fun. I’d love to see Penn State’s Rec Hall and the RAC at Rutgers for similar reasons. Arizona State’s Desert Financial Arena looks like it could get pretty rowdy.
I might have to go with the West Gym for out of conference and Minnesota’s Williams Arena for in conference. The West Gym is cozy and hot and the atmosphere is just bananas when it’s full. I’ll never forget last year’s Northern Iowa-Iowa State dual. The announced attendance was 2,100. I’ll be it was closer to 2,300, if not more.
Williams Arena, despite pretty rough media seating (I know you don’t care, but it’s true), is just a throwback. It’s old but the history is everywhere. When it’s full, the crowd is right there. I walked down to sit by the mat to watch the Big Ten finals last year, and was in awe when I looked up at the crowd watching. Can’t imagine what it was like to actually compete.
Right now, Alex Marinelli has 7 pins in 12 matches and Tony Cassioppi has 5 in 11. My gut says Marinelli will win this race, but I think Cassioppi could catch him by the end of the month.
Here’s who Marinelli has coming up in the next three duals: Nebraska’s Isaiah White, who’s ranked No. 5 nationally by Track; Ohio State’s Ethan Smith, No. 8; and Penn State’s Vincenzo Joseph, who’s No. 1.
Here’s who Cassioppi has: Nebraska’s 16th-ranked Christian Lance, Ohio State’s 24th-ranked Gary Traub and Penn State’s 25th-ranked true freshman Seth Nevills.
If Cassioppi really wants Iowa’s all-time pin record — which is 73, by Ed Banach — he’ll need to pick up the pace a little bit. Having a guy like Marinelli to chase should probably help.
I like them. Most every other sport does some form of all-conference recognition, so having a conference wrestling tournament makes it easy to figure out what’s what with that regard.
I know we don’t put too much of an emphasis on all-conference things, but it means something to the teams, players, coaches and parents. Plus — and not that this matters — it is an easy way to basically kick off the postseason. That gives a date coaches can circle and gear for, if that makes sense.
Wrestling is not unlike track, where it’s mostly individual with a team aspect. Here in central Iowa, I know the CIML has a conference track meet to figure out the best of the best. In some events, it has become a state meet preview, in a sense.
In wrestling, it’s been technically called the CIML Invitational and it’s just assumed that everybody will show up at Southeast Polk. This year, Waukee opted out, for a number of reasons. It sounds like next year it’ll officially be a conference tournament that’ll move around through all the schools in the future.
I understand why some coaches don’t like them — there’s already enough big, tough tournaments on the schedule and some coaches want to give their kids a week off to rest. These teams already see each other plenty both in duals and at some tournaments and will likely see them again at either districts or state (or both). I get all of that.
Even then, I still like them. But if they went away, I wouldn’t lose sleep over it.
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports for the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.
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