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Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands recaps the Hawkeyes' 24-10 win over Ohio State. Hawk Central

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Iowa wrestles Penn State this week, the No. 1 team in college wrestling against No. 2, the mighty Hawkeyes seeking their first NCAA team title in a decade against the program that’s dominated the last decade.

Does it get any better than this?

Based on the latest Trackwrestling rankings, we’re expected to see 18 ranked wrestlers this weekend, including 15 in the top-10, 11 in the top-five and seven that are ranked either first or second at their respective weights.

That alone should be enough for the price of admission. There will be fireworks in every which direction. I expect that the crowd inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena will be nuttier than usual. Iowa announced that this dual sold out in December, a full 56 days for the dual.

More than anything, Friday's dual will reveal more about these Hawkeyes than the previous eight combined.

More: Leistikow: Thanks to grassroots support, Iowa nears approval for $20M wrestling facility

We’ve learned a lot about the Iowa wrestling team this year — that it’s star lightweight tandem might be better than they were a year ago; that a true freshman ended up as the best option at 184 pounds; that it’s just as dangerous of a tournament team as it is a dual team; that 10 All-Americans in March might be a real possibility.

But on their way to an 8-0 dual record, which included a team title at the Midlands Championships and a 5-0 mark against the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes have done everything that’s expected of at team gunning for a national team title this season.

Enter Penn State, perhaps the only team in the country this season that’s built to keep pace with the mighty Hawkeyes.

Looking at the dual on paper, Iowa is probably the favorite at three weights — 125, 157 and 285 pounds — while Penn State is the favorite at one, 141. There’s history at some of the other weights, for sure, and reasonable cases to be made for others, but the results of those other six weights will decide this dual.

At 133, a battle of returning All-Americans. At 165 and 174, we’ll see 1-versus-2 matchups. At 184, two talented freshmen. At 197, two more past All-Americans. 

You get the idea.

Iowa’s mettle will be tested. We’ll see how the Hawkeyes stack up with their Penn State counterparts. They could make a loud statement by whipping tail and running Penn State out of Carver. The Nittany Lions, though, could also send a statement by both wrestling the Hawkeyes tough and maybe even pulling the upset.

This dual, then, is the first of a three-round heavyweight fight for this year’s NCAA Championship. The second will be in Piscataway, New Jersey, at Big Tens. The third will be in Minneapolis two weeks later.

Iowa should be favored in all three. But the first round will set the tone for the rest of the season.

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Now, then. Onto the wrestling mailbag. A lot of Hawkeye talk today. The girls’ state wrestling championships and Northern Iowa’s win over Oklahoma State were both on Saturday. Does anybody remember that?

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.

I think all Iowa fans are a little salty. Pat Lugo wanted that one badly. So, too, did his teammates, his coaches and, clearly, his fans. That was probably the biggest matchup of the dual since Jacob Warner didn’t wrestle at 197. 

My point of view on it now is the same as it was on Friday night — that Lugo had as many as five different scoring opportunities and failed to capitalize. You have to finish those shots when you get a leg in the air like that. There’s not much else to say.

The notion that Sammy Sasso didn’t take an offensive attempt is hilarious to me, for a couple of reasons. One, he took a few shots on Friday. Lugo just countered them with even better re-shots that, watching it live, it probably didn’t look like Sasso shot at all.

For two, if you take re-shots out of the equation, Lugo is just generally hard to score on. His stance is low to the ground and he’s got quick feet and it’s hard for opponents to open him up for shot opportunities. When they do get in on the legs, Lugo is strong enough to defend really well. He’s allowed 30 total match points in 14 matches.

I understand the frustration, because Lugo won probably 95% of that match, just by his pace and offense and everything else, and still came up short. But a match like that is decided on just a handful of sequences, and Sasso won them all, mostly thanks to his shot defense and strong hips and then by that rideout in the tiebreakers.

That’s the kind of match Lugo will have to win in like the NCAA quarterfinals if he wants to seriously contend for a title this year. I believe him to be fully capable of winning it if he brings his best stuff to March. He was right there on Sunday.

I expect that Lugo and Sasso to meet again before the season is over, in like the semifinals or finals of the Big Ten Championships. I’ll bet Lugo gets him then.

► MORE WRESTLING COVERAGE FROM THE DES MOINES REGISTER

I’m not sure what’s crazier — that there’s a Twitter account dedicated to Cory Clark’s shoulder, or that it’s asking if Iowa State should fire Kevin Dresser.

Because no, they shouldn’t.

Bad duals happen. Sometimes teams come out flat. Sometimes they get their tails kicked. Rebuilding a program isn’t easy, you guys. He’s only midway through Year Three.

The Cyclones did a lot of really good things last year. Took Iowa to the wire. Finished second at the Big 12 Championships. Took nine wrestlers to the NCAA Championships. Finished with two All-Americans.

That set the stage for another big step forward this year, thanks to the returning experience and the addition of David Carr. It hasn’t exactly turned into that, for a number of reasons, injuries and inconsistencies chief among them. That happens.

Not every rebuild project is a smooth ascent, and not every year looks like what the Hawkeyes are doing. If you think about it, Northern Iowa and Iowa State aren’t all that different — both are dealing with injuries, inconsistencies and have dropped duals they probably shouldn’t have. Nobody is asking if Doug Schwab should be fired.

I give Dresser kudos for being transparent about what he feels like is going wrong, and explaining that things need to change moving forward. In a way, that public admission after Sunday’s loss to Oklahoma State was a public way of keeping himself accountable.

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Ian Parker and David Carr recap Iowa State's 23-9 loss Oklahoma State Des Moines Register

There’s still time to turn this season around. Jarrett Degen is expected to return soon. There are still good pieces on this team and wrestlers who can score. A top-10 finish might seem a little more distant than it did at the beginning of the year, but March can be a funky month, so we shouldn’t rule it out just yet.

It took Dresser seven years before Virginia Tech reached the top-10 at the NCAA Championships, and another three before the Hokies won a trophy. It’s only Year Three at Iowa State.

Expectations were big this year, and they’re falling short of them, sure, but asking if he should be fired is nuts. 

So some of you guys are worried …

… about both teams maybe sitting some of their stars.

I’d like to think this is an “All-In” dual for both squads. Both coaches are conscious of what Friday’s dual means, both for this season and for college wrestling on the whole. 

If we’re talking big picture here, Friday night is an opportunity for the sport to put on a show, to put forth its two best teams to showcase a product that can draw in even casual fans. The crowd inside Carver might break a record, sure, but millions more will be watching around the country and maybe even the world.

I mean, hey, these are the two guys who set up a dual on Twitter, after all.

Duals are important to both of these guys. Both teams have their own internal motivations. Iowa wants to win everything and show everybody it's the team to beat at every given opportunity this season. Penn State wants to show everybody that they aren’t going down without a fistfight.

Under that guise, I’d like to think we’ll get both teams best guys. Maybe if one team carries a lopsided lead into the final few bouts, we might see some reserves come in, which would stink.

But I don’t think you’ll see either coach punt any weight in this dual unless they absolutely have to. Like I said up top, this is the first round of what’s expected to be a three-round fight for the national title. Both teams will want to send a message.

And that’s good news for everybody.

I would be genuinely surprised if Penn State is held to 10 points or less.

I alluded to this up top, but we’ll have 18 ranked wrestlers competing this Friday, based on Trackwrestling’s latest polls. If you look at the matchups on paper, Iowa is favored at 125, 157 (so long as it’s Bob Pipher, which it appears to be) and 285, and Penn State is probably favored at 141.

You could make a reasonable case for Iowa at 149, too, and I get that there’s history at 133 and 165, but if we’re being honest, anything could happen in those six other matchups.

Austin DeSanto has beaten Roman Bravo-Young twice, sure, but both matches featured sequences that, if they go Bravo-Young’s way, flip the result. Alex Marinelli has beaten Vincenzo Joseph twice, sure, but Joseph was an inside trip away from winning both. We’ve yet to see Mark Hall-Michael Kemerer, or Abe Assad-Aaron Brooks, or Jacob Warner-Shakur Rasheed, or Pat Lugo-Jarod Verkleeren.

There is a world where Penn State does score less than 10, sure, but there are more worlds where they score than 10. I’m not going to call you crazy, but I will say that holding the Nittany Lions under 10 would be very impressive.

The largest wrestling crowd inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena is 15,955, back on Dec. 6, 2008. Iowa beat Iowa State, 20-15, that day. That attendance is also the seventh-largest wrestling crowd in NCAA history.

I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility to hit 16,000. Only two other duals have hit that mark in NCAA history: The Grapple on the Gridiron, in 2015, and the Battle at the Birthplace, a match between Rutgers and Princeton at High Point Solutions Stadium — the home of Rutgers football — that drew 16,178 in 2016.

I’m not sure if the fire marshal will allow 16,000 to squeeze into Carver, but maybe for this dual, between these two teams, maybe they’ll look the other way as the final hundred or so fans file in. I’m expecting every seat to be filled and perhaps a few hundred more standing at the top of the bowl.

But I’m guessing that’s what they’re aiming for.

There are some available on Stubhub for as low as $72.

There are some available on Ticketmaster for as low as $98.

There are some available on Vivid Seats for as low as $86.

There are some available on Ticket City for as low as $82.

There are some available on SeatGeek for as low as $86.

You get the idea.

I’m sure there are other spots to find tickets. The prices are only going to go up as the week goes along. I’d hurry if you’re serious about it.

Same, Curt. Big same.

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

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