No. 3 Hawkeye grapplers set to take on No. 1 Nittany Lions


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The time to talk is over. The time to wrestle is now.

There’s been ample amount of discussion over the last week — possibly even longer — about tonight’s wrestling dual, pitting No. 3 Iowa against No. 1 Penn State. Many seasoned fans of the sport will still, despite all of the discussion board chatter and “on-paper” predictions, call tonight’s match a tossup.

“But talking about it and doing it are two different things,” Iowa head wrestling coach Tom Brands said. “We have some good guys who are up for it.”

On paper, it would seem that the two-time defending NCAA champion Nittany Lions (8-0, 5-0 Big Ten) have a clear advantage. They have eight wrestlers ranked on their 10-man lineup, and seven of those are ranked in the top eight in their weight class.

Where Iowa (15-1, 5-0) is likely going to struggle lies to be in the upper weights — specifically, 165 pounds through 197. Penn State is expected to field the No. 2, No. 4, No. 1, and No. 3 wrestlers in those weights.

After Iowa’s showing against No. 4 Minnesota, there is reason to worry. Hawkeye sophomore Nick Moore was able to corral an 8-2 win at 165, but Iowa lost the next four matches.

“You see some of the scores that they put up on teams, and once they get to rolling, it can be hard to stop them,” Moore said. “Maybe by looking at [the Minnesota dual], you could say the heavier weights need to be ready to go.

“But I think our whole team needs to be ready to step out on the mat.”

Moore’s words emulated that of his head coach. Even at some of the lower and middleweights, Iowa and Penn State will send highly ranked and respected wrestlers to the mat.

At 125-pounds, Iowa’s Matt McDonough, the top-ranked wrestler in the lightest weight, will take on No. 3 Nico Megaludis. This will be the first time the two will have met since last season’s NCAA Championship match at the same weight — McDonough was able to close out a 4-1 victory in that bout.

Top-ranked Derek St. John, at 157 pounds, will be tested against No. 5 Dylan Alton of the Nittany Lions. Both McDonough and St. John have been labeled “sure-wins” for the Black and Gold all season long (they’re a combined 29-0 this year, with a 10-0 collective mark against ranked opponents).

But both of Iowa’s returning NCAA finalists know that rankings mean nothing in a dual of this magnitude.

“He’s going to come after me,” McDonough said about Megaludis. “And that’s what you expect of somebody who’s going to step on the line against you. I had two matches against him last year, and both of them were battles. I don’t expect anything to be different [tonight].”

Though the paper matchup likely favors the Nittany Lions, Iowa can still walk out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena with what would be considered the biggest upset of the season. In order to do so, bonus points are going to be needed where applicable — namely from Tony Ramos at 133, Mark Ballweg at 141, and even heavyweight Bobby Telford.

The Hawkeyes, deemed underdogs, must also do their part. Brands made sure that certain wrestlers knew what they had to do in order to put Iowa in a position to come away victorious.

“The way guys are coming along, I like our guys,” Brands said. “It doesn’t matter how it stacks up anyway, but the No. 1 thing is the fight. [Ed] Ruth threw a saddle, literally, on top of Ethen Lofthouse and rode him for points, and we laid underneath him. And we cannot do that.

“There can be no period like that.”

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