“As good as it gets” is one of the most overused phrases in the English language. But in the case of this weekend’s finals of the 2013 Cliff Keen NWCA National Duals in Minneapolis, it most certainly applies.
“I know our guys are looking forward to it,” Oklahoma State head coach John Smith said, whose unbeaten squad enters as the top seed in the eight-team field. “There are going to be some tough matches; every dual meet could be competitive.
“It is a championship we want to win.”
Likewise for the second-seeded Hawkeyes, who, like the Cowboys, have won seven National Duals championships.
“[The duals] are important to us because just like the Big Ten trophy or dual title, there is a trophy that is made, and we want it in our room and don’t want anyone else to have it,” junior All-American Tony Ramos said.
Four teams – Iowa, Minnesota, Ohio State, and Illinois – were given automatic berths into this weekend’s finals. Four squads – Oklahoma State, Missouri, Virginia Tech, and Cornell – wrestled their way into the bracket by winning regionals last weekend. The Cowboys dominated Kent State and Northern Iowa in Kent, Ohio; Missouri rolled through Maryland and Purdue on home mats; Virginia Tech routed Oklahoma, then edged host Oregon State in Corvallis, Ore.; and Cornell whipped Hofstra and just got by Nebraska in Ithaca.
The bracket shows Oklahoma State and Illinois, and second-seeded Iowa and Cornell hitting the mats at 6 p.m. CT with third-seeded Minnesota and Virginia Tech, and fourth-seeded Ohio State and Missouri, taking center stage at 8 p.m.
Two Saturday sessions will determine Mat Mayhem’s champion for 2013. The Gophers beat Oklahoma State in the title match last season.
Just how good is the competition going to be? Seven of the nation’s top-ranked individuals should be in attendance – only Oklahoma 141-pounder Kendric Maple, Penn State 184-pounder Ed Ruth, and Kent State’s Dustin Kilgore are not in this weekend’s field. This weekend is not necessarily about individuals, however.
“This tournament requires all ten guys contributing,” Minnesota head coach J Robinson said, whose Gophers own seven Duals trophies. “Not everybody on the team always qualifies for the national tournament, so [the National Duals] are a true measure of the best team.”
Oklahoma State is 15-0 with dual victories against Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri and Cornell this season. A pin by Julian Feikert at 141 pounds helped the Cowboys edge the Gophers in Minneapolis, while a string of four consecutive one-point wins helped O-State beat the Hawkeyes in Stillwater. Four starters are ranked inside the top three – 2011 NCAA champion Jordan Oliver (25-0, 149), and All-Americans Tyler Caldwell (22-3, 165), Chris Perry (24-1, 174), and Alan Gelogaev (18-2, 285). Keys for John Smith’s troops are the performances of rookie 157-pounder Alex Dieringer (23-2, 157), junior Jon Morrison (18-5, 133), and senior Chris Chionuma (20-7, 184). Junior 197-pounder Blake Rosholt (10-4) will also play a role in OSU’s championship aspirations. Oklahoma State opens against Illinois.
The Illini do not have a victory against anybody in the field, but still have plenty of firepower. The loss of All-American B.J. Futrell certainly does not help Jim Heffernan’s cause. Illinois does have Jesse Delgado (16-3, 125), veterans Conrad Polz (19-4, 165) and Jordan Blanton (15-6, 174), plus a solid dual squad top to bottom. Getting by the Cowboys will require somewhere in the neighborhood of six or seven upsets.
Tom Brands’ second-seeded Hawkeyes knocked off reigning national champion Penn State a couple of weekends ago and are riding as high as anybody in the field. Iowa also owns dual victories against Minnesota, Ohio State and Illinois. Five Hawkeyes are ranked inside the top eight led by two-time NCAA champion Matt McDonough (15-1, 125), and All-Americans Tony Ramos (20-0, 133) and Derek St. John (20-0, 157). The key to an Iowa run, which means getting by Cornell and possibly host Minnesota before facing off with rival Oklahoma State, will be the performances of 141-pounder Mark Ballweg (18-2), 165-pounder Nick Moore (13-5), All-American Ethan Lofthouse (14-4, 184), and the two big men at the end of the lineup.
Rob Koll’s Big Red edged Nebraska to advance to Minneapolis. Despite being ranked behind Illinois, Cornell was given the No. 7 seed which means Iowa rather than Oklahoma State. No doubt, Koll’s group is led by three-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake, who has not lost a match since the 1980s it seems. The senior 165-pounder is 27-0. Steve Bozak, a senior 184-pounder, won the 2012 NCAA title. That duo, of course, will be favored; but finding other victories against Iowa will be tough. Freshman Nahshon Garrett is 33-3 at 125 pounds and will get his first shot at McDonough; All-American Mike Nevinger (30-9, 141) will battle Ballweg.
The Gophers won the 2012 Duals title with a balanced lineup, usually the case for a J Robinson team. This season’s two losses are to Oklahoma State and Iowa. UM and Virginia Tech, like Ohio State and Missouri, could be a barn-burner. The Gophers have a wrestler ranked at nine weights, including top-ranked All-American Logan Storley (19-1) and No. 2 man Tony Nelson (22-1, 285). Kevin Steinhaus (20-1, 184), is a two-time All-American, while the Dardanes brothers, Chris and Nick, can challenge anybody in their divisions. The key for Robinson’s men are David Thorn (9-5, 125), All-American Dylan Ness (8-2, 149), veteran Cody Yohn (18-7, 165) and Scott Schiller (19-3, 197). Much could be riding on the outcomes of many 197-pound matches this weekend.
The Hokies upset Oklahoma State two seasons ago at the National Duals before losing to Cornell in the championship match. Can Tech make a similar run in 2013? Kevin Dresser’s group beat Oregon State last weekend and brings a 14-2 mark to Minneapolis. Four Hokies find themselves inside the top eight led by athletic 125-pounder Jarrod Garnett (24-2), Nick Brascetta (26-3,149), Jesse Dong (21-2, 157) and Peter Yates (27-1, 165). Dual meets are all about matchups and Tech will be favored at 125, 149, 157, and 165. If they can find another win someplace, things could get interesting. The Gophers’ strength up top could be too much.
The Buckeyes could be a darkhorse. Six members of Tom Ryan’s team are ranked inside the top 12 led by 2012 NCAA champion Logan Steiber (18-0, 133). Hunter Steiber is a perfect 26-0 at 141 pounds, and All-Americans Nick Heflin (12-2, 174) and Cam Tessari (13-6, 149) can go with anybody. Keys for Ohio State are veteran Nikko Triggas (17-8, 125) and others who have had up-and-down seasons. Getting by Missouri will be a tall order.
The Tigers, formally of the Big 12, are another darkhorse. Top-ranked Dom Bradley (29-0, 285) and Alan Waters (23-0, 125) are a combined 52-0 this season. Senior Nathan McCormick is 29-2 at 133 pounds, while veterans Mike Larson (22-8, 184) and Brent Haynes (25-7, 197) are always tough to beat. Keys for Brian Smith’s squad include 141, 149, 157, 165, and 174 pounds. Senior Todd Porter is 26-7 at 174 pounds and owns the only win against Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry this season.
How it all plays out is anybody’s guess, but do not be surprised if Oklahoma State and Iowa, two programs with a combined 58 NCAA championships between them, square off in Saturday afternoon’s title match. The host Gophers will certainly have a say in the matter.
St. Cloud State of Minnesota won the 2013 Division II National Duals championship. The state of Iowa, namely Wartburg College, brought home the DIII trophy.