No love lost: Iowa, Minnesota set to meet on Sunday

Andrew Hipps

2/18/2011
Andrew Hipps, InterMat Senior Editor
andrew@intermatwrestle.com, Twitter: @InterMat

On Sunday afternoon, Iowa will put its 76-match unbeaten streak on the line against Minnesota at Williams Arena in Minneapolis. The Big Ten dual meet championship is also at stake as both teams are undefeated in the conference. The dual meet is scheduled for 2 p.m. CST. It will be broadcast on the Big Ten Network (same-day delay) on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. CST.

There is no love lost between these two national powers. Iowa and Minnesota are two of only three college wrestling programs (Oklahoma State being the other) to win a national team title in Division I over the last 22 years. It's a rivalry dominated by Iowa. The Hawkeyes lead the series with the Gophers, 67-24-1. Iowa has won the last five meetings and seven of the 10 meetings.

Let's look back at the five most recent meetings between Iowa and Minnesota.

Iowa's Jay Borschel defeated Scott Glasser, 14-2 (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)
Date: Feb. 14, 2010
Venue: Williams Arena (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Score: Iowa 28, Minnesota 9
Summary: The Hawkeyes dominated, winning seven of 10 matches. Six Gopher wrestlers gave up bonus points, including 2010 All-Americans Zach Sanders (125) and Mike Thorn (141). In one of the few bright spots for the Gophers, Jayson Ness earned an 8-4 decision over Daniel Dennis at 133. The two would meet again in the Big Ten finals and NCAA finals.

Date: Jan. 10, 2010
Venue: UNI-Dome (Cedar Falls, Iowa)
Score: Iowa 28, Minnesota 12
Summary: This dual meet took place in the semifinals of the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals. The Hawkeyes won seven of the first eight matches and cruised to an easy victory. The lone victory for the Gophers in the first eight matches was a Mike Thorn pin against Montell Marion at 141. Four Hawkeyes picked up bonus points. Minnesota was wrestling without Jayson Ness (133) and Dustin Schlatter (157).

Date: Feb. 15, 2009
Venue: Carver-Hawkeye Arena (Iowa City, Iowa)
Score: Iowa 25, Minnesota 9
Summary: Minnesota's Zach Sanders started the dual meet off with a 5-4 win over Charlie Falck at 125, but it was all Hawkeyes after that. Iowa won seven of the remaining nine matches. Daniel Dennis edged Jayson Ness, 9-7, at 133, while Alex Tsirtsis won a tight battle over Mike Thorn, 2-1, at 141. Brent Metcalf (149) and Jay Borschel (174) picked up the only bonus points in the dual meet. Metcalf pinned Joe Grygelko in the first period, while Borschel earned a major decision, 11-3, over Kaleb Young.

Date: Jan. 10, 2009
Venue: UNI-Dome (Cedar Falls, Iowa)
Score: Iowa 27, Minnesota 7
Summary: This match took place in the quarterfinals of the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals. Iowa was ranked No. 1, while Minnesota was ranked No. 11. The Hawkeyes won eight of 10 matches to dominate the Gophers. The only Gopher wins: Zach Sanders over J.J. Krutsinger, 10-5, at 125, and Tyler Safratowich over Matt Ballweg, 11-3, at 157.

Iowa's Joey Slaton defeated Mack Reiter, 8-3 (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)
Date: Feb. 1, 2008
Venue: Williams Arena (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
Score: Iowa 20, Minnesota 13
Summary: Jayson Ness gave the Gophers the early momentum by dominating his high school rival, Charlie Falck, 14-2, at 125. But Iowa quickly got the momentum back on its side by picking up wins in the next three matches. At 133, Iowa's Joey Slaton registered an 8-3 victory over Mack Reiter. Iowa's Dan LeClere then scored an upset victory over Manny Rivera in overtime, 9-7, at 141. Brent Metcalf kept it rolling for the Hawkeyes as he picked up a technical fall, 20-5, over Luke Mellmer at 149. Metcalf's technical fall gave the Hawkeyes an 11-4 lead. The teams would split the remaining six matches, giving the Hawkeyes the 20-13 victory.

Let's looks at five keys to victory for each team on Sunday ...

Iowa
Overall Record: 14-0-1
Conference Record: 7-0

1. Win two of the three tossup matches at 141, 165, 174
On paper, 141, 165, and 174 are tossup matches. Minnesota's wrestlers are ranked one spot higher than Iowa's wrestlers at 141 and 165, while Iowa's wrestler at 174 is ranked four spots higher than Minnesota's wrestler. If the Hawkeyes can win two of these three tossup matches, it will certainly put them in prime position to win the dual meet.

Iowa's Matt McDonough dominated Zach Sanders (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)
2. Take the crowd out of the dual meet early
The dual meet will likely start at 125. Minnesota likes to start at 125 and Iowa has no reason not to like starting there with defending NCAA champion Matt McDonough. In last year's dual meet in Minneapolis, McDonough came out and hammered Zach Sanders, 13-2. If McDonough can come out and dominate Sanders again, and Tony Ramos can pick up a win at 133, it could silence the home crowd heading into a pivotal match at 141.

3. Pull an upset
Upsets can change the whole complexion of a dual meet and are not uncommon in big dual meets between top programs. Iowa has some capable wrestlers who will be underdogs against Minnesota. If the Hawkeyes can pull an upset at 184, 197, or heavyweight, it will be difficult for the Gophers to win.

4. Pick up bonus points at 157
Expectations have been high for Iowa's Derek St. John since he stepped in the Hawkeye lineup this season as a redshirt freshman at 157. St. John is really coming on strong after a disappointing Midlands performance. He is 15-3 and ranked No. 7. St. John has recent wins over No. 8 Paul Young of Indiana and No. 10 Jason Welch of Northwestern. Minnesota has struggled at this weight class this season. The Gophers have been using Matt Mincey lately, who has held his own against everyone not named David Taylor, but is an undersized 157-pounder who moved up to help the team. If St. John wrestles to his ability, it should result in bonus points for the Hawkeyes.

5. Attack
It's the philosophy of the coaches and wrestlers in the Iowa program. When Hawkeye wrestlers attack, they're very difficult to beat.

Minnesota
Overall Record: 15-3-1
Conference Record: 6-0-1

1. Win two of the three tossup matches at 141, 165, 174
Just like it's a key for the Hawkeyes, it's also a key for the Gophers to win two of these three tossup matches. Of these tossup matches, 141 might be the most critical match because it will most likely be the first of the three tossups, so it could help swing momentum back to the Gophers if the Hawkeyes take the first two matches, plus Mike Thorn is Minnesota's emotional leader.

2. Use the home crowd to its advantage
Williams Arena can get loud, but the Gophers need to give the crowd a reason to get loud. If the dual meet starts at 125, Iowa will be favored in the first two matches. The Gophers need to come out and wrestle hard and make those matches competitive to get the crowd into it and, more importantly, keep the crowd into it.

3. Pull an upset
Like Iowa, Minnesota has come capable wrestlers who will play the role of underdog on Sunday. Zach Sanders was 0-3 against Matt McDonough last season and gave up bonus points in the last two meetings. Sanders is wrestling well and healthier than he was in the last two meetings against McDonough. Freshman David Thorn is progressing well and broke into the rankings at No. 20, but will have his hands full with No. 7 Tony Ramos. Thorn and Ramos were both InterMat Top 100 recruits from the Class of 2009. Thorn was the No. 30 recruit, while Ramos was No. 10. Ramos defeated Thorn, 8-4, at The Clash National Duals when both were high school seniors.

Minnesota's Danny Zilverberg battled two-time All-American Frank Molinaro of Penn State to a one-point match (Photo/Jeff Beshey, The Guillotine)
4. Pick up bonus points at 149
Danny Zilverberg, like David Thorn, has been progressing well for the Gophers. The freshman 149-pounder had a win over Michigan's Eric Grajales last Friday and gave Penn State's Frank Molinaro all he wanted two days later. Iowa has struggled at 149 this season. Mark Ballweg, a natural 141-pounder, has been seeing most of the action since Montell Marion's return. Ballweg had some solid wins at 141 and broke into the rankings at that weight class, but has struggled since moving up to 149. He's coming off a 13-3 loss to Grajales. If Zilverberg can get bonus points, it would be big for the Gophers.

5. Forget about the past and overcome the Iowa mystique
Iowa has everything on its side except a home mat advantage. The Hawkeyes have dominated the last five dual meets against the Gophers, winning by a combined score of 128-50. Iowa is the three-time defending national champion and has not lost a dual meet in over three years. The Gophers must overcome a huge mental hurdle and beat Iowa for the first time in four years. Mike Thorn is the only wrestler in the Gopher lineup who knows what it feels like to beat the Hawkeyes in a dual meet. The Gophers have to wrestle like they're trying to take something away from the Hawkeyes. They have to wrestle inspired and to win, not merely to keep it a competitive dual meet.

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