Here it is. The showdown is going to be awesome. Minnesota entered this year as the consensus #1 team, but Iowa has out shined them. Iowa's possible holes have not become holes while Minnesota has gaps they haven't been able to fill. Yet the top Gophers have wrestled very well and make any match a tough one. This is going to be high entertainment in Williams Arena where over 10,000 people are expected to take this one in. There are five matchups of very closely ranked guys. This thing is very difficult to predict, and I have been going back and forth on it the past couple days. To my individual picks:
125- #5 Thomas Gilman (Iowa) vs Ethan Lizak (Minnesota)
- They pulled off the redshirt for Lizak and he had to stay off his back to defeat Penn State this past weekend. Now he has another tall task with Gilman to not give up bonus points. Lizak is a good wrestler, but should give up a major here. A tech or pin is absolutely huge if they get it. Expect both teams to know it. Iowa 4-0.
133- #5 Cory Clark (Iowa) vs #1 Chris Dardanes (Minnesota)
- The first of four marquee matchups in this dual should be a great one. Dardanes has handled the drop to 133 with flying colors. Clark has stumbled a couple times in January, but this is still a toss up match in every sense. I have to go with Dardanes, but I feel really uneasy about it. Iowa 4-3.
141- #5 Josh Dziewa (Iowa) vs #4 Nick Dardanes (Minnesota)
- Both of these guys have shown flashes of greatness along with a slew of head scratching results. I think Dziewa is overrated and Dardanes should be able to win here. Minnesota 6-4.
149- #2 Brandon Sorensen (Iowa) vs Jake Short/Seth Lange (Minnesota)
- Both of these guys (Short & Sorensen) were highly heralded home state recruits. So far Sorensen has delivered and Short has struggled. Short is dangerous and can win this match, but Sorensen continues to impress. I don't feel there will necessarily be bonus points here though. Iowa 7-6.
157- #15 Michael Kelly (Iowa) vs #1 Dylan Ness (Minnesota)
- Ness loves to put on a show. Here is his chance in the big arena filled with a very loud crowd. It's hard to think he won't get this done. Minnesota 12-7.
165- #7 Nick Moore (Iowa) vs #17 Nick Wanzek/Brandon Kingsley (Minnesota)
- Wanzek & Kingsley have traded turns being the starter this year as they are very even. Moore has struggled at times this year surprisingly but is a step ahead of the Gophers here. Minnesota 12-10.
174- #2 Mike Evans (Iowa) vs #4 Logan Storley (Minnesota)
- I am picking Storley to win here despite Evans not having lost this year yet. This is obviously a coin flip match, and if Storley doesn't win I don't see much of a chance for the Gophers. I'd probably be picking differently if this was in Carver-Hawkeye. Minnesota 15-10.
184- #8 Sammy Brooks (Iowa) vs #11 Brent Pfarr (Minnesota)
- I like both of these guys as they have had breakout seasons. Brooks seems to be step ahead of Pfarr and has a really good gas tank. This should be another tight match where bonus points are very unlikely. Minnesota 15-13.
197- #3 Nathan Burak (Iowa) vs #6 Scott Schiller (Minnesota)
- Schiller is coming off a tough loss to McIntosh and we have seen this from Schiller in his career. All the sudden we see him drop a couple matches and then he is fine. Burak has looked good this year and has yet to lose, but Schiller is the more accomplished wrestler. I just don't think I can pick against Schiller here. Minnesota 18-13.
285- #2 Bobby Telford (Iowa) vs #13 Michael Kroells (Minnesota)
- To counter Ness' inevitable pin in front of this crowd, Telford needs bonus points here. I imagine Kroells may know this too even if they draw a different starting weight. This is a tough ask for Telford because Kroells is pretty good and it's not in front of the Iowa (begging for stalling) crowd. Minnesota 18-17.
Is it possible to predict a Minnesota win, but pick Iowa to win? Yes, that is a stupid sentence but I really don't feel confident at 133, 174, and 197 ALL to go the Gophers way. Iowa is #1 because top to bottom they are the best team in the country. There will probably be a win that goes Iowa's way because of this strength. Yet when I have this on paper in front of me I have this thing going 5-5 with Ness coming through against the lowest ranked Hawkeye.
Kevin has Clark winning at 133, and Evans winning at 174. This gives Iowa 7 wins and the comfortable victory. All we both know is that we are really pumped for this. It will be absolutely awesome and we just wish we were there in person!