Jan. 7, 2014
By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- When the University of Iowa and Oklahoma State take Mediacom Mat inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Friday night, UI head coach Tom Brands expects fireworks.
That's the case each season when two of college wrestling's elite programs square off. The 2014 edition features the third-ranked Hawkeyes (8-1) and fifth-ranked Cowboys (3-2) begins at 7 p.m. (CT).
"When you have two programs like that, there are always fireworks because it's important to both programs," Brands said Tuesday inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex. "It's a tradition that is being carried out by both schools and when we're No. 3 and No. 5, there is as much at stake as when we're No. 1 and No. 2."
Friday's dual will feature ranked wrestlers at all 10 weight classes, including two top-ranked grapplers in Oklahoma State's Jon Morrison (133 pounds) and Iowa's Derek St. John (157). The Cowboys also boast second-ranked wrestlers Alex Dieringer (157), Tyler Caldwell (165) and Chris Perry (174).
"The head-to-head, who is favored where doesn't matter. These rankings go away. There is a knockout blow in wrestling and that's the fall. You have to be aware, tough, and stingy in your position and wrestle with energy to put points on the board. That's what we have to be about at all 10 weight classes."
UI head coach Tom Brands
In a meet of this magnitude, Brands says the rankings can be thrown out the window.
"The head-to-head, who is favored where doesn't matter," said Brands. "These rankings go away. There is a knockout blow in wrestling and that's the fall. You have to be aware, tough, and stingy in your position and wrestle with energy to put points on the board. That's what we have to be about at all 10 weight classes."
Oklahoma State brings a 3-2 dual record into Iowa City, but the Cowboys are coming off a strong showing at the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, Tenn. Oklahoma State finished as the team runner-up, while crowning three champions (Morrison, Dieringer, Perry).
Iowa is coming off a pair of dual victories over No. 21 Purdue (30-3) and Michigan State (41-0) after winning the Midlands Championship on Dec. 30.
"Reading coach (John) Smith's comments after the Southern Scuffle, they like where they're headed and how they finished at that tournament," said Brands. "We have a good thing going in the right direction, but we need to keep getting better."
Sophomore Brody Grothus has taken ahold of the 149-pound weight class after finishing fourth at the Midlands and posting a pair of dual wins last week against Purdue and Michigan State. Grothus is 17-5 with wins in seven of his last nine matches.
"He showed us he can win some matches," said Brands. "We have to keep that going, but not just eking them out, we can be aggressive. When Brody does his best wrestling and knows his positions those are where his best chances come from."
At 174 pounds, junior Mike Evans will have his second opportunity against a top-three foe in Perry, the nation's No. 2 ranked wrestler. The Cowboy senior handed Evans his first loss last season, claiming a 4-3 decision in Stillwater.
"We need to realize we can go out and wrestle him and that we can have success wrestling him," said Brands. "I don't think Mike Evans believed he could beat him (last year) until 3:30 into that match.
"It can't be a chess match, tied 1-1, and who's going to end up with riding time and the flurry in the end. We have to go out, take points and be aggressive, but that's hard to do on Chris Perry. We need to make it more of a fire fight where we're attacking and getting to our holds."
The dual will be televised on Mediacom with Rob Brooks, Dan Gable and Mike Duroe on the call.