Commentary: Wrestlers well above others

BY J.T. BUGOS | JANUARY 19, 2010 7:30 AM

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Rankings are often insignificant, but so far during the college wrestling season, they are dead on.

Preseason rankings are trivial.

In fact, the first few weeks of rankings mean nothing.

Highly ranked teams can falter, and unranked squads can surprise people.

The Iowa wrestling team entered the 2009-10 season slotted No. 1, but during the team’s media day, that was far from the minds of Tom Brands and his bunch. The Hawkeyes were more concerned with their ranking come March 20.

But now, midway through the season, it’s great time to start taking rankings seriously.

Through two months, the Hawkeyes are still sitting atop all others with an unblemished record through 14 dual meets. Six of those wins have come against teams ranked in thetop 17.

On Dec. 6, 2009, Iowa traveled to Ames and took down then-second-ranked Iowa State, 18-16, in a hostile, national championship-like environment.

Just a little more than a month later, the Hawkeyes participated in the National Duals. On the way to their third-straight tournament title, they thrashed No. 17 Nebraska, 33-3, handled No. 6 Boise State, 20-12, and bested No. 5 Minnesota, 28-12, before dispatchingstill-No. 2 Iowa State, 19-12, in the finals.

Six days later, Iowa won its 52nd-straight dual meet, beating No. 3 Oklahoma State, 19-16, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, marking the first time the Hawkeyes have beaten the Cowboys — owners of the most NCAA titles in college wrestling — at home since Feb. 4, 2000.

Not to be forgotten is the third-straight Midlands Championships title Iowa won on Dec. 30, 2009. The Hawkeyes crowned three champions and had eight others finish in the top six of their weight class.

While team successis far more important than individual success, the Hawkeyes as individuals are menacing.

Eight grapplers stand in the top 11 of their weight classes, including top-ranked 149-pounder Brent Metcalf, No. 2 174-pounder Jay Borschel, No. 3 165-pounder Ryan Morningstar, and a trio of fourth-ranked wrestlers in 125-pounder Matt McDonough, 133-pounder Daniel Dennis, and 197-pounder Chad Beatty.

The plethora of talent at each weight illustrated that the top wrestlers in the country practice in the Dan Gable Wresting Complex.

And Iowa has done this with injuries running through the team.

Heavyweight Dan Erekson, an All-American and fourth-place finisher last season, has yet to don a black-and-gold singlet.

Iowa has seen its top two 133-pound grapplers go down with the All-American Dennis injuring his ankle prior to the Northern Iowa dual, and Nate Moore recently underwent surgery for a staph infection.

Beatty may not be available until at least the Big Ten championships because of a broken foot.

When healthy, the Hawkeyes boast a lineup with more talent and experience than any other nationwide. Even the youngest starter in redshirt freshman McDonough is 20-0 on the season and should be on the short list of 125-pounders capable of capturing a national title.

For the third-straight year, the Hawkeyes sit atop the college wrestling pyramid, showing that even the powerful Cyclone and Cowboy teams answer to the Tigerhawk.

While sometimes rankings are just plain wrong, and sometimes insignificant, at this moment they are 100 percent correct.

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