Clash of the titans
Top teams across divisions to face off in tough meets
The National Football League celebrates its annual Super Bowl this weekend in New Orleans, but some college wrestling fans might argue that the next month will feature several matchups that will be just as big. One of these monster match-ups is set for Friday night.
The top-ranked and reigning NCAA champion Penn State Nittany Lions visit Carver-Hawkeye Arena to face the third-ranked Hawkeyes. Iowa beat Minnesota on a tiebreaker in front of 9,000 last weekend in Minneapolis. This Friday expect 14,000 fans or more as the Hawks try and give Penn State its first dual loss since November of 2011.
“I love Carver-Hawkeye,” said Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson, who competed and coached at Iowa State, the Hawkeyes’ top rival for many years. "I know, as an athlete when I was at Iowa State, we really wanted to beat those guys. The last year I was at Iowa State [as head coach] they had 16,000.
“I’m excited for these guys because it is a challenge. These guys thrive on that stuff.”
|MATT MCDONOUGH'S SEASON STATS|
|Against Ranked Foes||7-0|
|NOTE: Stats as of Jan. 30, 2013|
A match-by-match preview shows plenty of things to get excited about. A rematch of the NCAA finals at 125 pounds between Iowa’s Matt McDonough and PSU’s Nico Megaludis. How about Derek St. John and Dylan Alton at 157 pounds?
“[That's] a big one,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “We have a lot left to do and you always talk about the next one on the calendar and this is the one you probably have highlighted; the one that you point toward, but last week was too.
“The number one thing is the fight. Ed Ruth threw a saddle, literally, on top of Ethan Lofthouse and rode him like a horse. We lay underneath him and we cannot do that. There can be no period like that in this entire dual meet. We believe it is our dual to win and they believe it is their dual to win.”
Since taking over at Penn State, Sanderson is 1-3 against Iowa. Last season in University Park, PSU beat the Hawkeyes 22-13, thanks in part to a 10-1 major decision by Ruth, one of three national champions in the PSU lineup.
Rec Hall was electric with a packed house of 7,000.
“I doubt it’s too much different than what we have,” Taylor said. “You just add a couple thousand more people. Their fans are a little more vicious than ours. Ours are a little more friendly; but that makes it just part of the fun.
“[Iowa] has great fans. They travel everywhere and have been a big part of Iowa’s success over the last decade and forever, so you have to respect their fan base.”
Penn State’s five returning All-Americans have a combined five losses in 85 matches this season.
Also on Friday, a bit to the south and east of Iowa City, is another classic dual in the making. Oklahoma State, ranked second, visits Columbia to face the seventh-ranked Missouri Tigers. These guys simply do not like each other.
“It’s always a tough dual with them,” OSU head coach John Smith said. “They wrestle a style that requires you to work extra hard. It is going to be a physical match. It’s a heck of a way to prepare for what’s coming up the rest of the month.”
Among the featured bouts in Columbia will be top-ranked heavyweight Dom Bradley facing off against third-ranked Alan Gelogaev. The two met at the Southern Scuffle early in January with Bradley, a senior for the Tigers, earning a narrow, down-to-the-wire decision. Big matches could also be in order at 133, 184, and 197 pounds.
Looking for another tough dual? How about No. 5 Ohio State and No. 6 Illinois? There will be no rest for the weary as the Illini host Penn State on Sunday afternoon.
The festivities actually get started tonight in Minneapolis when Division III’s top dogs meet. Wartburg and Augsburg have combined to win every DIII title since 1995. The rivalry isn’t just local, a topic of conversation among small school aficionados. The New York Times documented the rivalry in an article prior to last season’s dual with Wartburg, in which head coach Jim Miller said, “When you say Wartburg, you say Augsburg. It’s like Magic Johnson and Larry Bird on a different scale. There’s always that connection.”
As usual one of the squads is No. 1 in the rankings -- Wartburg. However, the Auggies are just 5-4 in 2012-13 and ranked outside the top five. But don’t expect the Knights to take their rivals lightly.
On Feb. 10, Division II’s top-ranked St. Cloud State could get a challenge from No. 6 Upper Iowa. SCSU is 17-0 this season and has not lost a dual in 43 starts.
February 17, at four regional sites, the 2013 version of Mat Mayhem kicks off. The NWCA has continued to tweak the format with some pros and cons -- check out ncaa.com next week for a full preview of the 2013 National Duals. This season’s tournament includes four winners from 16 teams at four regionals advancing to Minneapolis with the Gophers, Illinois, Iowa and Ohio State already earning berths. The second-ranked Cowboys travel to Kent, Ohio, for regional competition and are expected to be in Minneapolis for the two-day finals, Feb. 22 and 23.
Missouri hosts Wyoming, Maryland, and Purdue in one of the four regionals. Expect the Tigers to get out alive. The other two, at Cornell and Oregon State, are anybody’s guess.
So, fasten your seat belts. February might just be a nice warm-up for what awaits in March.