The wrestling season has been in full swing for months now, but this week we are finally getting to the meat of the Ohio State schedule with consecutive duals against #1 Penn State and #3 Iowa. The first of these two duals takes place Friday night at 8:00 p.m. when the Buckeyes travel to Iowa City for a showdown with the Hawkeyes.
The Buckeyes haven’t won in Iowa City in well over half a century, but this could be the year it all changes. To help break down the dual, we reached out to Ben Watson and Brandon Olinger of The Inside Trip podcast (@theinsidetrip1). These two have a wealth of wrestling experience and the ability to break things down on an incredibly technical level while still making it fun. You can check out their podcast on iTunes and most other podcast apps.
If the Buckeyes are to pull off the win on Friday they’re going to have to do it without Olympic gold medalist Kyle Snyder. The reigning heavyweight champ will be in Russia competing in a freestyle tournament this weekend. Still, the matchups are there and so is the opportunity. If things break the right way, the Buckeyes have a very real chance to earn their first victory in Iowa since before man had landed on the moon.
Now let’s get down to business.
Intermat has Iowa as its #3 ranked dual meet team (OSU is #4), but despite the high ranking, the Hawkeyes have resounding losses to the #1 and #2-ranked teams (Oklahoma State and PSU respectively). What is your take on this year’s Iowa squad? Is it really the third best team in the country?
Brandon: Prior to losing 8th ranked heavyweight, Sam Stoll, an argument could have been made that Iowa was the third-best dual team in the country. They return five All-Americans this year, including three finalists, and have a fantastic freshman currently ranked #2 in the country at 157lbs. Losing Stoll hurts them badly as a dual team but they still have a chance to score a lot of points at the national tournament. With that said, I am of the opinion Ohio State is the 3rd best team in the country right now. The Buckeyes feature a lineup that includes 6 wrestlers ranked in the top 10, including three wrestlers ranked at the top of their weight class. Oh yeah, they also have three guys who have won a national title.
Ben: Brandon is absolutely right that before losing Stoll, a strong argument could be made that Iowa was the third best team in the country. He was ranked 8th by Intermat and had a respectable shot at finding a spot on the podium come March. His loss probably affects Iowa’s total team score by around 5-6 points at nationals. The rest of the lineup, sans 165 and 197, is more than respectable boasting a number of returning All-Americans and a freshman phenom at 157. Still, the loss of Stoll takes Iowa out of the title hunt and places them in a fight for a trophy with the likes of Virginia Tech and Ohio State.
Give Ohio State fans one wrestler on the Iowa squad to keep an eye on?
Brandon: Watch out for Hawkeye junior Sammy Brooks. The #5-ranked 184 pound wrestler is an absolute character. He’s coming off an embarrassing loss last weekend in the dual against Penn State where he was pinned in 38 seconds by Bo Nickal. I have a feeling he isn’t going to be very happy about that and it may show in his wrestling.
You may remember him and his interview after winning the B1G10 wrestling tournament last year in which he said:
“I gain trust every time my hair grows a little more and a little more. I trust in myself and my mullet. It’s a process, you know. You can’t grow a great mullet in a day, (and) you can’t win a Big Ten title in a day.”
Ben: Hawkeye Junior 141-pounder, Topher Carton has quietly put together a solid year in his first season as a starter. Nevertheless, he has defeated only one ranked opponent (Javier Gasca from Michigan State University – currently ranked 19th). He had a chance to knock off 12th ranked Jimmy Guilibon from Penn State last weekend but allowed his early lead to evaporate late in the match giving up 4 takedowns (off the same move). Topher is a nice sized 141lbs and his matchup with Luke Pletcher shouldn’t disappoint. I’ll take Pletcher by a takedown or two.
We asked our experts to take give us their takes on four of the most highly-anticipated matchups of the meet.
#1 Nathan Tomasello v. #3 Cory Clark
Ben: Nathan Tomasello, undefeated on the year and currently ranked #1 in the country, seems to have found yet another level this year making the weight jump up to 133lbs. He appears to be wrestling with a chip on his shoulder. He laid beatings on Jayden Eierman (ranked #9 at 141) and returning All-American and #6-ranked Zain Richards. He has been wrestling to punish his opponents. Two time NCAA finalist Clark has seen limited action this year. He has a nice but controversial win over #4 ranked Stevan Micic of Michigan but took a loss to freshman phenom and #2-ranked Kaid Brock from OKST. He’s seen little action this year due to an injury and has been wearing a large brace on his shoulder during his matches.
I think NATO’s pace and tenacity is too much for Clark as he still rounds into form. Give me NATO by a few.
Brandon: I also like Tomasello in this match. I find it interesting that if there ever was an “Iowa style” of wrestling, Tomasello is probably the one guy in the country who most embodies it. He relentlessly pressures his opponents, wearing them down, allowing him to get to his offense at ease. Clark has missed a chunk of the season dealing with an injury and you can tell he is still hampered by it. I have a feeling this won’t be the only time we see them face each other this year.
#5 Micah Jordan v. #3 Brandon Sorensen
Ben: The move up to 149lbs for Jordan has paid off. Jordan, a freshman last year, entered the 2016 NCAA tournament seeded 6th at 141lbs. Unfortunately, he fell in the round of 12, narrowly missing All-American honors. I do not see the same fate this year to the currently undefeated Jordan. This match against#3-ranked Sorenson will give us a glimpse at Jordan’s progress. Sorenson, a returning national finalist has two losses on the year. But, most recently he took 1st ranked Zain Retherford of Penn State to the wire before losing in the final overtime (many stamp Zain as unbeatable this year). Jordan and Sorensen do have a common opponent – returning All-American Justin Oliver of Central Michigan University. Jordan has beaten Oliver twice this year, once by major decision. Sorenson needed overtime to finish off Oliver. Give me Micah by a takedown.
Brandon: I’m not going to make many friends with this one, but give me Sorensen. First off, let me say that Micah is fantastic and now that he’s at an appropriate weight class, is wrestling great. I have no doubt that we will see him on the podium this year, maybe even the finals. With that said, I don’t think people truly appreciate how good Sorensen is and is often overshadowed by the more vocal characters on the Iowa team. As a junior, he’s already placed 4th and 2nd at the national tournament but is coming off 2 consecutive losses. I look for him to get back on track with the difference being his ability to wrestle well in all 3 positions and the fact that it’s in Carver Hawkeye Arena.
#1 Bo Jordan v. #13 Alex Meyer
Ben: I really hope we see big brother Bo Jordan wrestle in this dual. He is currently ranked 1st in the country but has only wrestled 8 matches, none of which were against elite completion. Give me Bo without hesitation if healthy with time to train for this match. I’m not sure that’s the case. Returning All-American Myer has been extremely inconsistent this year and up until last weekend had lost 4 of his last 6 matches. Then, he shocked me by beating super recruit and Junior World Gold Medalist Mark Hall of Penn State to an eruption of the crowd at Carver Hawkeye.
Myer has shown he’s got the goods to go with almost anyone at this weight. Give me Myer in a close one (I see it different come B1Gs).
Brandon: Assuming Bo wrestles, and I think he will, I like Bo in this match. Bo is obviously the more dominant wrestler, but we haven’t had much of a chance to see it with his limited mat time this season. Even if Bo wrestles, don’t expect it to be a blowout as Meyer has a knack for keeping matches close due to his wrestling style….which, if I may add, is pretty boring to watch. Meyer is also coming off a big win over super frosh, Mark Hall, in the dual against Penn State. However, I like Bo to control the tempo, get to his shots, and put a good ride on Meyer.
#10 Myles Martin v. #5 Sammy Brooks
Ben: The clash in styles makes this match an absolute delight. Returning national champion Martin is up a weight this year and has wrestled very well. He has three losses on the year (4 if you count his loss to Gabe Dean from Cornell at the All Star match), but all have been to very sound wrestlers. Martin, who is extremely fast and slick on his feet, has shown he can put up points in bunches against solid competition. He is also an above average rider. Returning All-American Sammy Brooks, most famously known for his renowned mullet interview after winning the B1G title last year, is doing a yeomen’s job this year. He has impressive wins over ranked opponents (see his win over Boyd 13-3). Although, most recently, he was made to look silly by Bo Nickal from Penn State while getting caught in a spladle early in the first period. Brooks is a banger and will look to impose his will on Martin. I like Martin to get to his offense and win this match by two takedowns.
Brandon: What a match this will be…or at least should be. Their styles couldn’t be any more different but if I’m picking a winner, I’ll gladly take Martin in this match. Call it hunch, call it a guess, but I think that we may be seeing Martin turn the corner this year as his confidence grows along with his body at the new weight class. After a disappointing Midlands, he has come on strong in his last couple of matches and this is the perfect match to make statement that he is still one of the contenders in the deep 184 weight class.
Aside from the four matches listed above, what’s another contest that you’re looking forward to catching?
Ben: I want to see how Ohio State’s 165lbs Cody Burcher fairs against Iowa’s Joey Gunther. Neither of these wrestlers are ranked, but Burcher has some nice wins and close losses to very good competition. I get the sense that this is the type of match we see in a consolation round of the B1Gs with the winner punching his ticket to the national tournament.
Brandon: Honestly, I’m looking forward to the heavyweight match. Both teams will be without their regular starters with Stoll done for the year due to injury and Snyder competing overseas. What that leaves us with is a match featuring Josh Fox and Steven Holloway, 2 unheralded and undersized backups getting to do battle. I think this dual has a chance to be close and come down to the wire and I would love to see Josh Fox get to be the hero. How awesome would that be for a career backup getting a chance to win the dual for his team, on the road in Carver!!
Historically, Ohio State almost never wins in Carver Hawkeye Arena. What needs to happen for the Buckeyes to break through and record a road win against Iowa?
Ben: Bo Jordan has to wrestle, and he has to win. tOSU has to avoid giving up big bonus points at 125lbs and 157lbs. This is going to be a great dual. Go Bucks!
Brandon: Getting a win in Carver Hawkeye Arena is not an easy task. As a wrestling fan, I’d have to say it is without a doubt the greatest wrestling atmosphere in all of college wrestling. When breaking down this dual, I see each team favored in 2 matches (Iowa-125/157 & tOSU-174/197) which leaves 6 swing matches. The Buckeyes need to limit bonus points in the matches they are not favored and win 4 out of the 6 swing matches. If they can do that, which is a great possibility, then they should leave Carver Hawkeye Arena with the win.
So there you have it. Thanks again to Brandon and Ben from The Inside Trip for helping out this week. Be sure to follow them on Twitter (@theinsidetrip1). They’ll have a new podcast out early next week recapping all of the action.
How to Watch:
Ohio State v. Iowa
8:00 EST on BTN
Twitter updates available at @_VestDJ_