Wrestlers feel the edge coming

Iowa+149-pounder+Brandon+Sorensen+wrestles+against+Grand+Canyons+Blake+Monty+during+the+Iowa+City+Duals+at+Carver-Hawkeye+Arena+on+Friday%2C+Nov.+20%2C+2015.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Antelopes+44-0.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FValerie+Burke%29

Iowa 149-pounder Brandon Sorensen wrestles against Grand Canyon’s Blake Monty during the Iowa City Duals at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday, Nov. 20, 2015. The Hawkeyes defeated the Antelopes 44-0. (The Daily Iowan/Valerie Burke)

With just three regular-season duals remaining for the Iowa wrestling team, the championship portion of its schedule is rapidly approaching.

The Hawkeyes have just two Big Ten meets left — at home against Minnesota (Friday) and Indiana (Feb. 5). They then end with a nonconference competition at Montana State-Northern on Feb. 12.

Nine days after meet against the Skylights, Iowa will compete in the National Duals, which will start a series of three championship competitions.

“I feel this championship season getting closer,” Iowa 184-pounder Sammy Brooks said. “Guys are counting down the days … this part of the year always seems to go faster.”

Last season, Iowa had success in the postseason, finishing second at the National Duals and NCAA Tournament. The team also tied for first at the Big Ten Championships with the eventual national champion, Ohio State.

This season, Penn State is back to being the dominate force in wrestling and Flowrestling has three Nittany Lion wrestlers ranked No. 1 in their weight classes — Zain Retherford (149), Bo Nickal (174), and Morgan McIntosh (197).

The team also has four other weight classes ranked in the top 10, and it wouldn’t come as much of a shock if the Nittany Lions have five or more All-Americans.

Ohio State will also have a solid team in the championships, with five of 10 weights in the top 10 of Flowwrestling’s Jan. 16 rankings. The Buckeyes recently got world champion Kyle Snyder back in the lineup after he removed his Olympic redshirt, a huge boon for the team.

The team also lays claim to No. 1 ranked 125-pounder Nathan Tomasello, who won Big Ten and national titles as a freshman last season.

Barring something strange, Oklahoma State is likely the only team outside of Ohio State, Penn State, and Iowa, is likely the only other team with a serious chance at a team national title. The Cowboys have been dealing quite a few injuries, but Dean Heil (141) and Alex Dieringer (165) are both ranked No. 1 at their respective weights. “There’s still a lot of wrestling left until then,” Iowa heavyweight Sam Stoll said. “We can’t be thinking too hard about it, but it is in the back of our heads.”

There’s an expectation by Iowa to compete for a team national championship as well. Realistically, things will have to go very right for the Hawkeyes to be in a position to still be alive for a team national championship during the final day of competition.

Iowa will likely send seven or eight weight classes to the NCAA hampionships with four of those wrestlers have a significant chance of making the semifinals — Thomas Gilman (125), Cory Clark (133), Brandon Sorensen (149), and Nathan Burak (197).

“We’ve still got a lot of work to do,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “I like this team, though, and one of the reasons is because they’re always looking to score.

The Hawkeyes have several other weights that could surprise people — heavyweight Sam Stoll and 184-pounder Sammy Brooks come to mind — and it’s not unreasonable to think they could have four or five All-Americans.

While there’s still a little under two months until the NCAA Championships, the contenders are starting to separate themselves as the postseason rolls closer.

 

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