Feb. 13, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- One week after winning the Big Ten regular season title, the University of Iowa wrestling team finds itself with little time for rest. The postseason doesn't begin until Feb. 23 at the NWCA National Duals in Minneapolis, but before then Iowa must pass one more test.
Edinboro visits Iowa City on Saturday with a conference title of its own, a team ranked 15th nationally, and a handful of individuals who have intentions of making a statement in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. A nonconference foe sandwiched between a Big Ten title and the postseason may sound like the proverbial "trap," but UI head coach Tom Brands isn't worried about his team looking past the Fighting Scots.
"I'm not really ever concerned about letdowns," said Brands. "I don't necessarily believe in them. We've got to be ready every time out because of the nature of the sport. No matter what the dual looks like on paper, there are individual matchups, and the idea is to win 10 weights."
On paper the second-ranked Hawkeyes are favored to win the dual. Iowa has eight wrestlers ranked inside the top 20, and four of those are in the top three -- Matt McDonough (1st, 125), Tony Ramos (2nd, 133), Derek St. John (1st, 157) and Mike Evans (3rd, 174).
Edinboro has just four wrestlers ranked among the top 20, but two of those guys are ranked among the top-five -- A.J. Schopp is ranked third at 133 pounds, and Mitchell Port is ranked fifth at 141.
"They have three or four ranked guys that I think they probably feel pretty good about," said Brands. "They're going to have their guys fighting. I know the coaching staff there, and they are a good program. Their athletic director, Bruce Baumgartner, is a two-time Olympic champion. Wrestling is important there, and we've got to be ready."
Schopp is the highest rated wrestler Ramos has faced this season. Ramos previously earned decisions against No. 5 John Morrison of Oklahoma State and No. 9 Chris Dardanes of Minnesota, and his pin against No. 10 Daryl Thomas last week was his second of three-straight falls. Schopp brings a 25-3 record into Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where Ramos is undefeated in 23 career matches. It will be the first career meeting between the two.
Port is one of seven wrestlers ranked ahead of Mark Ballweg at 141. Ballweg is 4-1 this season against ranked opponents, with his lone loss to No. 2 Hunter Stieber of Ohio State. Ballweg and Port have never met, and the Edinboro sophomore brings a 25-3 record into the top 10 matchup.
Those are two of the challenges, and largely two reasons why Iowa scheduled a home-and-home series with Edinboro.
"We knew we had a bye in the national dual tournament, and we wanted to bring in a team that was going to come in here with intentions on winning," said Brands. "We wanted to face a test. Next year, we'll head east and repay the visit."
Saturday's dual will also serve as Senior Night for the Iowa wrestling program. The Hawkeyes will honor graduating seniors Mark Ballweg, Jeret Chiri, Grant Gambrall and Matt McDonough following the dual. Start time is 7 p.m. (CT). Tickets are available over the phone at 800-IA-HAWKS or online at hawkeyesports.com.