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  • Photo: Sam Janicki

    Photo: Sam Janicki

    #1 Penn State at #3 Iowa Preview

    It’s almost here! Tomorrow night, perhaps the most anticipated dual meet of the season takes place as top-ranked Penn State travels to heated rival #3 Iowa for a mega-dual in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. 

    These two teams have accounted for every NCAA team title since 2016 and are both led by legendary coaches and wrestlers. Cael Sanderson for Penn State and Tom Brands for Iowa. Both are Olympic gold medalists. 

    Most assumed that this dual would be a #1 vs #2 affair; however, Iowa lost to Michigan last Friday, 24-11. Does this dampen some of the enthusiasm surrounding the dual? I say no, it might make it more intriguing. 

    How does Iowa respond to the setback to Michigan? They are obviously better than a team that didn’t get a takedown until 165 lbs. They lost a pair of matches (125/157) where they had high-quality wrestlers who lost 2-1 in tiebreakers without a takedown being scored. Is it too far-fetched to think those results could be easily flipped? The same goes for the shocking upset at 141 lbs. Another interesting aspect from an Iowa fan's perspective is the options available to Brands in the back half of the dual. Do Gabe Arnold and Ben Kueter wrestle? If Arnold goes - where does he wrestle? 174 or 184? We’ll also get a glimpse of what the coaching staff thinks about 133 and 149 lbs. With a dual against Penn State, you’d think the best wrestlers are sent out, barring injuries. 

    From Penn State’s standpoint, they now have half of their starters ranked number one in the nation! Another ranked second. All ten of their starters are now ranked in the top ten nationally. Could they threaten the NCAA Team Scoring record (170 points - Iowa/1997)? What about Minnesota’s feat of putting all ten starters on the podium (2001)? 

    Penn State’s place in history is a conversation for another day, though. Let’s get down to discussing a star-studded dual that could include five matches between top-ten opponents and plenty of action. 

    125 lbs - #2 Braeden Davis (Penn State) vs. #7 Drake Ayala (Iowa)

    Duals at Iowa typically start at 125 lbs, so we’ll be treated to one of the toss-up matches of the night, right away. An unpredictable weight class has left Braeden Davis as the only wrestler at this weight that is currently undefeated, as of this weekend. Much has been made about Penn State’s difficulty in finding a long-term answer at this weight; however, it appears as if the true freshman from Michigan represents that type of solution. Davis has a pair of wins over past All-Americans in Brandon Kaylor (Oregon State) and Michael DeAugustino (Michigan). Those two wrestlers are also responsible for two of the three losses on Drake Ayala’s resume this season. Davis was last seen as the recipient of a questionable (at best) takedown call during last Friday’s dual with Ohio State’s Vinny Kilkeary.

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