National Duals could be Big Ten showcase


SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

The Big Ten does not need an introduction when it comes to wrestling. It does not need to prove anything. It does not need to boast. The league’s dominance in college wrestling spans decades — yes, decades — and is viewed through the same lens that a casual fan might see football in the SEC.
But, really, SEC football doesn’t even sniff what Big Ten wrestling teams have been able to accomplish.

Just this season alone, the league crowds the top of Flowrestling’s team rankings. Iowa leads the way, followed by Minnesota, Ohio State, and Penn State in second, third, and fifth. Nebraska is the next-closest at 10th, and Illinois, Northwestern, Wisconsin, and Michigan make up 12 through 15.

Four of those teams — the Hawkeyes, Gophers, Buckeyes, and Fighting Illini — will be in action this weekend at the National Duals, set to start Saturday with the quarterfinals at noon in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Even more intriguing, though, is that, should all teams win their respective duals at noon, the event could just go ahead and change its name to “Big Ten Duals,” as all four programs would advance to the semifinals and claim all the hardware.

“It could happen,” Ohio State coach Tom Ryan said. “That’s just the reality.”

Of the four teams competing, Illinois might have the toughest quarterfinal dual, if only because it must get through unbeaten Missouri, the 2 seed that, on paper, is favored in seven of the 10 individual bouts. Iowa, Ohio State, and Minnesota are all the favorites in their first-round matchups.

But even then, Illinois coach Jim Heffernan said the Big Ten doesn’t need all four teams into the semifinals to prove its superiority.

“I don’t think the Big Ten has to prove itself on the national level,” he said. “It’s kind of known in the wrestling world that the Big Ten is the deepest and has the most high-end teams. Without question, we have the most All-Americans every year.”

Heffernan said the Big Ten began to distance itself from the rest of the country the moment Dan Gable took over as Iowa’s coach, in 1976. Over the next 21 season, Gable’s teams won 15 NCAA titles — including streaks of nine (from 1978-86) and three (twice, from 1991-93 and 1995-97).

“Everybody chased them,” Heffernan said. “If you have the standard of the sport in your conference, everybody is going to chase you and work that much harder and smarter to catch you.
“And it keeps getting deeper and deeper.”

The Big Ten won just five NCAA team titles dating back to 1928 before Gable took over in Iowa City. Since that 1976-77 season, the conference has been a force, winning 28 of the next 38 NCAA titles. Only three teams combined to win those other 10 —Iowa State, Arizona State, and Oklahoma State — and the Cowboys won seven of them.

More recently, Big Ten teams have won the last eight NCAA titles. Penn State has won the last four under Cael Sanderson. Iowa won three straight before that, from 2008-2010, and Minnesota won in 2007.

The league looks primed to win its ninth-straight national crown this year, with Iowa, Minnesota, and Ohio State all ready to scrap for the NCAA title come March — though Missouri might have some input before it’s all said and done.

At the front of the pack, though, are the Hawkeyes, who have taken on and defeated all comers during this 2014-15 season. Iowa coach Tom Brands would prefer it be his team that ends up on top of the heap at the end of the NCAA championships on March 21.

Before then, he’d prefer to just win everything that’s left — and it starts with this weekend’s National Duals.

“It’s the next event,” Brands said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re doing well or not. Win the next event — and, really, be ready to conquer the next event.

“That’s the best philosophy you can go forward with.”

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa wrestling team.

In today's issue:

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.