Wrestlers host Northwestern, travel to Minnesota

BY J.T. BUGOS | FEBRUARY 12, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Iowa wrestling team likely isn’t looking forward to Valentine’s Day.

While the Hawkeyes have a marquee conference matchup against No. 5 Minnesota scheduled for Feb. 14, the top-ranked grapplers will host Northwestern at 7 p.m. today in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

And even though the Wildcats’ lineup boasts one ranked wrestler — No. 14 149-pounder Andrew Nadhir — the Iowa grapplers aren’t prematurely marking tonight’s home bout as an automatic triumph.

“We know what’s on the horizon, and we know what’s after Northwestern,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “We talked about looking ahead, and we’re not looking ahead, but we are getting ready.”

The Hawkeyes are also getting ready to embark on an important leg of the regular season — the final four dual meets leading up to the Big Ten championships, which will begin March 6.

During that time, Iowa faces two top-25 teams on the road — Minnesota and No. 19 Wisconsin — and hosts No. 4 Ohio State, last season’s national runner-up.

With seven ranked wrestlers, the Golden Gophers will be the more challenging foe for Iowa this weekend. Those grapplers include No. 6 141-pounder Mike Thorn, who pinned Iowa sophomore Montell Marion in 42 seconds during the Hawkeyes’ 28-12 victory in the National Duals last month.

Marion isn’t labeling the Feb. 14 rematch as a shot at revenge, however. The Des Moines native said the match will help define his progress throughout the year.

“I wouldn’t say it’s about revenge. It’s about setting high standards for the rest of my matches from here on out,” he said. “After I took that loss, I looked at our schedule and saw I’d get another shot at him. I want to make sure I’m rectifying the mistakes I made and staying aware.”

Brands said revenge is relative, though — dependent on accomplishing a desired outcome. And in order for Marion to receive retribution, the fourth-year head coach said, he must be as “cool as a cucumber.”

Iowa senior Daniel Dennis won’t be out for retaliation. Instead, he’s looking to continue his climb in the 133-pound rankings after beating defending NCAA champion Franklin Gomez on Jan. 31.

For the second time in two weeks, Dennis will go toe-to-toe with the top-ranked grappler in his weight class — this time, Minnesota’s Jayson Ness.

“I don’t look at it as a tough stretch,” Dennis said. “I look at it as another guy who wants to beat me, and another kid who I want to beat.”

On paper, Dennis is the underdog despite a No. 3 ranking. But neither Brands nor Dennis see himself as such.

“I’ve beaten Ness two times,” Dennis said. “There’s no reason why I’m not capable of doing it again, and why I shouldn’t do it again as long as I’m ready to wrestle.”

Brands said Marion’s and Dennis’ matches are significant because of season-end implications.

“This is very important, because it helps what we’re trying to accomplish at the end of the year,” he said. “It puts us in better position for what we’re trying to accomplish.”

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