Hawkeye wrestlers prepare to "do battle" with Gophers


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Bobby Telford can’t afford to be sick this weekend.

Iowa’s heavyweight wrestler missed both of the team’s dual meets last weekend against Michigan and Michigan State. Head coach Tom Brands said Tuesday the sophomore felt “under the weather” but could have wrestled if the outcome of the dual meet had rested on the heavyweight match.

It didn’t. But it very well could on Saturday when No. 4 Iowa faces No. 3 Minnesota.

“We’ll need him,” Brands said. “We’re going to need him.”

Iowa is the clear favorite against the Gophers at only three weight classes, meaning at least one Hawkeye will likely need to pull off an upset for the team to win. Telford, who is ranked No. 5 with a record of 10-2 on the season, is one good candidate. He’ll face the defending national champion in Minnesota’s Tony Nelson.

Hawkeye sophomore Mike Evans rose quickly in the 174-pound rankings after knocking off No. 2 Nick Heflin of Ohio State on Jan. 4. He’ll have a chance to continue his climb when he faces returning All-American Logan Storley.

Nick Moore threw a headlock to pick up a major decision against the Gophers last season in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, which helped Iowa escape with a 19-17 victory. He knows Iowa will again need some unexpected points from somewhere.

“That was a match that needed to be won, and I won it,” he said Tuesday. “Now, this year is this year.”

While Iowa will need to spring some upsets against the Gophers, it would also help to get some bonus points from the team’s favored wrestlers. Top-ranked senior Matt McDonough has been frustrated recently by opponents slowing matches down against him. The two-time national champion hasn’t won a bonus point for Iowa in four-straight dual meets.

“We can’t let them slow us down,” Brands said about McDonough’s matches. “Guys certainly are aware of his tendencies, no different than anybody else that’s on the radar. But you’ve got to evolve. I don’t know if we’re evolving like he would want to, and that may be causing some frustration. But he seems to be coming out of it.”

A month after Iowa’s narrow victory over Minnesota last season, the Gophers returned the favor in the National Duals. The Hawkeyes made it clear this week that they haven’t forgotten.

“It’s important. We want to get to No. 1, and this is the next step,” Brands said. “We’ll go do battle there.”

“They got the better of us at National Duals,” junior Tony Ramos said. “It’s something we need to rebound from. It’s exciting for the fans to see where we’re at. They’re No. 3 in the country.

“It’s time to go out and make a statement.”

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