Commentary: Minding the grappling gap


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AMES — There may have been a little Hilton magic floating around Sunday night.

Or maybe No. 1 Iowa is about as bulletproof as a weeping Tim Tebow after an Alabama curb stomping on prime-time TV.

Granted, an early loss some 130-plus miles west of Iowa City wouldn’t have knocked the Hawkeyes out of national championship contention (The wrestling world thankfully isn’t ruled by an unjust postseason system similar to the Bowl Championship Series).

But they Hawkeyes would have been wounded nonetheless, had they not edged No. 2 Iowa State, 18-16.

Favored on paper in five matches entering the evening, top-slotted Iowa managed to snare three anticipated wins.

One, the 133-pound bout between No. 4 Daniel Dennis and No. 5 Nick Fanthorpe, needed nearly a full minute of extra time to decide a controversial winner.

And had Dennis not fallen on Fanthorpe as time expired, Brent Metcalf’s brutalizing third-period pin two matches later at 149 wouldn’t have been the eventual dagger in the Cyclones’ collective eye.

Bonus points may have helped the Hawkeyes, but they sure didn’t win the dual.

Do the math: Iowa State 19, Iowa 15.

Same goes for Aaron Janssen’s toss-up victory over Iowa State sophomore Andrew Sorenson at 157, which made for quite a dubious duel.

Some evasive footwork (albeit sluggish) and 1:52 minutes of riding time kept Kevin Jackson’s squad from cutting Iowa’s lead in half with five matches remaining.

Although, two of the Hawkeyes’ heralded seniors (No. 4 Ryan Morningstar at 165 and No. 2 Phillip Keddy at 184) created a significantly more interesting story line following unexpected upsets.

Back at his heart-attack style, Morningstar trailed from the opening whistle during his matchup with No. 5 Iowa State junior Jon Reader, eventually losing, 4-3, on account of riding time.

Then, Keddy fell to No. 18 sophomore Jerome Ward, 5-3.

So are a few desperation points separating the No. 1 and No. 2 teams less than a month into the 2009-10 season? Members of Hawkeye Nation should tremble at the thought — especially after Iowa’s unfathomable title run in St. Louis nine months ago.

Meanwhile, Big Ten and Big 12 teams (and one Ivy League bunch in particular) ought to savor the scrumdiddlyumptious possibility with the Midlands Championships and Cliff Keen National Duals upcoming.

If the gap between a legendary wrestling super program and last season’s NCAA runner-up is as wide as minute as two tallies, the term “domination” may soon find its way out of the Hawkeyes’ ingrained vernacular.

Tom Brands isn’t a big fan of parity, either. But if Iowa’s latest triumph isn’t indicative of the grappling gods realigning the uniformity of college wrestling, it’s going to be heck of a pony race heading into the national championships this season in Omaha.

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