Rutgers opens its Big Ten schedule tonight in Iowa City at Carver-Hawkeye Arena against the No. 2 team in the nation, Iowa. We touched base with our sister blog at Iowa, Black Heart Gold Pants, to share some thoughts on the match.
Yesterday, BHGP talked with me in their post on the match. Today, they return the favor. Here's RossWB from BHGP.
OTB: Rutgers fans are all too familiar with Iowa wrestling. You've been the gold (and black) standard Give us a brief recap of the season so far for the Hawkeyes if you can.
ROSS: The season started on a phenomenal high note with the Grapple on the Gridiron event. It was a really cool idea to begin with -- an outdoor wrestling meet between two of the sport's oldest rivals, Iowa and Oklahoma State, on the field at Kinnick Stadium -- and it turned out even better than anyone could have imagined. Well over 40,000 people watched the dual from the Kinnick stands and Iowa smashed the college dual meet attendance record (which was previously around 16,000). Oh, and Iowa won, too, beating Oklahoma State in a thriller, 18-16. So that was a lot of fun.
Since then Iowa has mainly been cruising against lesser opponents -- they smashed three smaller colleges at the Iowa City Duals (as they do every year) and opened Big Ten competition with a lopsided win over Maryland on the same day. They beat in-state rival Iowa State handily two weeks ago and posted an easy (if unimpressive at times) win over South Dakota State last weekend. Iowa's schedule this year is light on big-time dual meets -- the Big Ten schedule makers (regrettably) declined to set up Iowa-Penn State or Iowa-Ohio State or even Iowa-Michigan -- and they've already done their big non-conference dual (against Oklahoma State), so the remaining big tests this year are going to come in tournament form: Midlands at the end of the month and the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments in March.
OTB: Rutgers was looked at askance when they came into the Big Ten. Wrestling has been one of our bright spots. There should be a pretty big crowd at CHA for this dual. How do the fans - and the team - look at this match up? Just another notch on the belt or Hey, it's a Big Ten match?
ROSS: As I mentioned above, this year is pretty light on big-time dual meets for Iowa -- we don't get to see powerhouses like Penn State or Ohio State (home or away), or even Michigan (one of the "best of the rest" teams this year). Rutgers has a solid team and honestly should pose a bigger threat to Iowa than most of the other Big Ten teams on the slate this year, so that should add a little juice to the meet. This is also Iowa's last event in Iowa City until a dual meet with Purdue at the end of January, so hopefully that inspires a few more people to get out and take in the show. That said, this dual meet is also up against the Iowa-Iowa State basketball game, which is likely to depress attendance somewhat. And I think Iowa fans are still getting used to Rutgers being a member of the Big Ten -- in a way, this feels more like an intriguing non-conference dual meet than a proper Big Ten dual meet. It's going to take a while for fans to get used to Rutgers being a B1G opponent. As far as the team goes... I think they'll be fired up and ready to go. This is their last event until Midlands, so I think they'll be excited to go all out here.
OTB: What's the match of the dual in your opinion? For the most part, Iowa's best wrestlers are at different weights than Rutgers' best wrestlers, it seems.
ROSS: Yeah, it's interesting -- there aren't going to be a lot of "your best against our best" match-ups on display in this dual. Ranking-wise, I think the best match is probably Cory Clark versus Anthony Giraldo at 133. It's one of only two matches between ranked wrestlers in this dual and the other one is Thomas Gilman versus Sean McCabe at 125 (a match that Gilman won 25-10 last year). Giraldo has some decent wins on the season and no bad losses and Clark hasn't looked 100% sharp so far this year -- there's a chance this match could get interesting.
I think I'm most interested in seeing Edwin Cooper versus #17at 157 and Sam Stoll versus #6 Billy Smith at 285, though. Lewis should be a good test for Cooper and a nice indication of how well Cooper can compete against top 20 talent. Similarly, Stoll has looked good this year, but he's been largely untested -- a match against a good heavyweight like Smith will be a great indication of how he stacks up at this weight.
OTB: Iowa has ranked wrestlers throughout the lineup. And you have five wrestlers who are in the top five nationally. What should Rutgers fans expect from the big guns, Gilman, Clark, Sorensen, Meyer, and Burak?
ROSS: I think they should expect to see some fireworks at several of those weights. As noted, Gilman has already wrestled his likely opponent (Sean McCabe) once before and he won via 25-10 technical fall in that match. Gilman has looked excellent so far this year, earning bonus points in every match so far, so I expect him to put on another show against McCabe. Sorensen has been a slow starter at times this year, but he's also scored bonus points in six of seven wins this season, so I wouldn't bank against him doing the same here. Before this year, Burak wasn't a well-known bonus point scorer, but he's grabbed bonus points in five of six wins this year and his opponent, Hrymack, got pinned at this dual a year ago. As I said before, I think Clark-Giraldo could be an interesting match and I think Meyer-Bakuckas could be pretty close as well.
OTB: OK, prediction time -- how do you see this dual meet going?
ROSS: I have Iowa winning at 125, 133, 149, 174, 184, and 197, with bonus points at 125, 149, and 184. I have Rutgers winning at 141 (with bonus points), 165, and 285. I think 157 is a toss-up, but until Cooper beats a solid opponent, I think I'll pick against him. That would make the score around 24-13 in favor of Iowa.
Thanks to RossWB from BHGP. Honest, yet clearly wearing gold undies and socks. You can check out the BHGP crew at Black Heart Gold Pants. You can also follow them on Twitter at @BHGP. The Iowa-Rutgers dual meet is in Iowa City tonight and is scheduled to start at approximately 8:00 pm ET, with TV/streaming coverage from BTN Plus.