Wrestling showcase comes to town

Iowas+Thomas+Gilman+prepares+for+his+match+against+NC+States+Sean+Fausz+during+the+NWCA+National+Duels+Championship+series+on+Monday%2C+Feb.+22%2C+2016+in+Carver-Hawkeye.+Gilman+defeated+Faus+in+a+15-5+major+decision.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FBrooklynn+Kascel%29

Iowa’s Thomas Gilman prepares for his match against NC State’s Sean Fausz during the NWCA National Duels Championship series on Monday, Feb. 22, 2016 in Carver-Hawkeye. Gilman defeated Faus in a 15-5 major decision. (The Daily Iowan/Brooklynn Kascel)

POWER RANKINGS | IOWA WRESTLERS

For the first time in 11 years, Iowa City — more specifically, Carver-Hawkeye Arena — will host wrestling’s Big Ten Championships.

The two-day event is split up into four sessions, the first of which starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday and then starts up again at 6 p.m. Wrestling on March 6 starts at noon and finishes with the Championship Finals at 3 p.m.

“Being in your home arena, it’s maybe time to put on a show a little bit,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “It just adds to the pageantry of the Big Ten Championships.”

There, are, however, 11 serious matters to be decided — 10 individual conference titles and the coveted Big Ten team championship trophy.

In addition, 71 wrestlers will also automatically receive seedings in the NCAA Tournament. Seeds are allocated based on the strength of the conference, and the Big Ten has 20 more than any other conference.

Last season, Iowa and Ohio State shared the team honor as both schools finished with 120 points. There was no tiebreaker, and they were declared co-champions.

A repeat of that situation does not seem to be in the cards this season. Penn State is the clear favorite, with four wrestlers seeded No. 1. Ohio State has two No. 1 seeds, while the Hawkeyes have four No. 2 seeds.

The Nittany Lions are the lone undefeated Division-I wrestling team in the country, and they won four-straight national championships from 2011-14.

RELATED: Wrestling searching for championships

The team title will likely be decided among Iowa, Ohio State, and Penn State, though a number of other teams have contenders for individual titles.

“Everything kind of leads up to this,” Penn State head coach Cael Sanderson told GoPSUsports.com. “It’s the fun part of the year. We look forward to the championships as a competitor, that’s what you should be really excited about.

“It’s an opportunity to compete against the best.”

As far as wrestling conferences go, the Big Ten is the cream of the crop, which makes navigating the tournament — even for the favorites — tough.

If last year (when Ohio State hosted) is any indication, however, there is something to be said for a home-venue advantage.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Iowa senior 197-pounder Nathan Burak said. “I was really hoping we’d get it while I was still here, and I’m just excited for the fans and the atmosphere. It’s going to be really, really awesome.”

While the Hawkeyes did not have an individual champion last year, the team returns four wrestlers who placed third or better last season — Burak, Cory Clark (133), Thomas Gilman (125), and Brandon Sorensen (149).

Iowa hasn’t had an individual champ since Tony Ramos in 2014, and it’s a trend the Hawks would like to buck.

“We’ve got guys returning, they’ve seen it, and experience is based on that as well,” Brands said. “These guys have wrestled a lot of big matches in their careers, and they know they have to be ready to go.

“We’re as confident as we can be; now it’s time to let it fly.”

 

Iowa wrestlers

 

125 — Thomas Gilman

 

Junior: 21-0, 9-0 Big Ten

 

Season in review: Gilman has been one of Iowa’s most effective wrestlers this season, leading the team in bonus-point victories and team points. He has been absolutely ruthless on the mat this year.

 

Prediction: Big Ten champ. While that might be a bold prediction, very few wrestlers this year have been as dominate as Gilman.

 

133 — Cory Clark

Junior: 19-1, 8-1 Big Ten

 

Season in review: Clark, who follows Gilman during most matches, is the second part of the early dual one-two combo Iowa has hit teams with this season. With just one loss (to Illinois’ Zane Richards, in sudden victory) he has been excellent this year.

 

Prediction: Hard to say, but it isn’t hard to see him as the champion or the runner-up. This is a winnable, albeit tricky bracket for Clark.

 

141 — Brody Grothus

 

Senior: 4-4, 2-1 Big Ten

 

Season in review: Injured for most of the season, Grothus will need to have a very good tournament to even sniff the NCAAs.

 

Prediction: Bottom-half on the Big Ten. Grothus has had a few good moments this season, but it just feels like he got started too late to have a real impact on the season.

 

149 — Brandon Sorensen

 

Sophomore: 17-0, 9-0 Big Ten

 

Season in review: In just two short years, Sorensen has racked up 63 career wins against six losses. A Zain Retherford (Penn State) vs. Sorensen finals might actually blow the roof off Carver.

 

Prediction: In the championship bout, but who knows after that. Sorensen is 7-2 against the top-5 seeds but has never seen Retherford.

 

157 — Edwin Cooper Jr.

 

Senior: 14-7, 7-2 Big Ten

 

Season in review: A solid force at 157 throughout the season, Cooper is ending his wrestling career on an upswing. While he does have some head-scratching losses this season, he does have four wins against competition that was ranked when he wrestled them.

 

Prediction: Top-half of the Big Ten, maybe a semifinalist. There’s a lot to like about Cooper this year, but he still has an extremely tough task ahead of him.

 

165 — Patrick Rhoads

Senior: 10-9, 3-4 Big Ten

 

Season in review: It has not been an easy season for Rhoads, but he is wrestling far better now than he was at the beginning. He’s 3-3 in his last six matches, with all three losses decided by five points or less.

 

Prediction: Middle of the Big Ten.

 

174 — Alex Meyer

 

Junior: 21-2, 9-0 Big Ten

 

Season in review: Picking up where Mike Evans left off, Meyer has enjoyed quite a bit of success in his first year as a starter. The definition of grinder, he has just seven bonus point wins. With that said, he’s won his last 11 matches in a row.

 

Prediction: Semifinalist, perhaps a finalist. As in previous years, 174 is tough class and nine Big Ten wrestlers at the weight will receive bids to the NCAA tournament.

 

184 — Sammy Brooks

Junior: 20-3, 8-1 Big Ten

 

Season in review: Brooks has once again been good, pushing the pace as well as anyone and generally being an exciting athlete to watch. Finishing third in the conference last season, he failed to place at the NCAA Tournament — something he wants to rectify this year.

 

Prediction: Quarter or semifinalist, with the potential to go a lot further. However, he hasn’t done particularly well in championship settings, and it will be interesting to see how he attacks this tournament.

 

 

197 — Nathan Burak

Senior: 20-1, 8-1 Big Ten

 

Season in review: Saving his best for last, Burak has put up the best record of his career this season. While he’s never finished better than fourth at the Big Ten Tournament, this year seems to be shaping up to be the year that he does.

 

Prediction: Finalist: Burak has had some very frustrating tournaments over the past few years, but he’s healthy and looked good most of this season.

 

285 — Sam Stoll

Redshirt freshman: 20-3, 9-0 Big Ten

 

Season in review: The Iowa coaching staff has been singing Stoll’s praises since last season, and the heavyweight has impressed people in his first season. There is, however, a caveat here — Stoll went down with an injury in his last match of the regular season.

 

Prediction: Quarterfinalist, if he’s healthy. Heavyweight is still a stacked weight class, and while Stoll has been good, it seems reasonable to think his injury will have slowed him down at least a little bit.

 

 

Facebook Comments