#4 Buckeyes Travel to Carver-Hawkeye to Face #5 Iowa Tonight

January 4, 2013 0 comments

#8 Hunter Stieber looks to continue his great season against #8 Ballweg tonight

We are exactly one year removed from what was without question the highlight of last year’s Ohio State season- their stunning 21-9 victory over the mighty Iowa Hawkeyes.  This was the night where a team starting seven freshmen came to life, in front of the home crowd at St. John’s Arena, and was the springboard to a great second half of the season.   While I look for 4th ranked Buckeyes to finish strong once again, do not look for a repeat of history here.  First of all, they are facing an improved Iowa Hawkeyes team, in the hardest arena to wrestle at in all of sports, Carver-Hawkeye Arena (i.e. in front of 10,000 plus fans rooting against them).

However, the big nail in the coffin of Ohio State’s chances tonight is the fact that Logan Stieber has sustained an injury and will not be wrestling. No word yet on how long he will be out, but the #1 vs. #2 match-up with Tony Ramos is out the window, and probably the Buckeyes chances along with it.  The loss of Logan likely amounts to a nine point swing, going from a Stieber win to a Ramos win by fall. Ironically, I am projecting a nine point Hawkeye win, meaning that it would have been a tie by my projections if not for Logan’s injury.   That nine point edge may not sound insurmountable, but with major bonus points likely at 133, it would mean that the Buckeyes need to not only win the bouts in which they are narrowly favored (like 174 and possibly 149) but also pull two upsets- with Iowa having the #1 guy in the nation at 125 and 157, and Ramos vs. a backup at 133, Ohio State’s chances will hinge on winning two of the following three weights- 165, 184, and 285- very much an uphill battle. Still, there are many reason to tune in to the Big Ten Network to watch this dual meet tonight at 8:00 p.m.  Here’s a breakdown of what to expect:

125- #12 Nikko Triggas (OSU) vs. #1  Matt McDonough (Iowa)

Here we begin with 2x NCAA Champion McDonough against 2010 All-American Nikko Triggas.  The Buckeye Senior has rebounded well from a shaky start, and looks better to me than he ever has.  That said, there is a reason that McDonough is among the career leaders in win percentage for the Hawkeyes at 108-4 career (ahead of even Tom and Terry Brands, among numerous other Iowa legends).  Don’t expect him to falter tonite.  Their last meeting in 2010 had McDonough coming out on top 9-1.  Look for a closer bout this time.  Iowa 3-0

133- Mike Manuche/Kyle Visconti (OSU) vs. #2 Tony Ramos (Iowa)

Obviously, Stieber vs. Ramos was the most highly anticipated match of the dual, and outside of Dake/Taylor, probably the most highly anticipated match of the season in collegiate wrestling.  NCAA Champ Stieber beat Ramos three times last season, although all three matches were highly competitive (even Logan’s 7-0 win in the dual, if you watched the match itself).   Ramos of course took 3rd last year in a season that included a win over Jordan Oliver, and only looks more dominant so far this season. It’s no secret that Ramos is gunning for Logan, as he’s stated numerous times on Flo (though this is hardly surprising). But alas, we will have to wait until Big Ten’s and NCAA’s to see this match-up as Stieber is injured.  I would assume that Ohio State will put either Mike Manuche or backup 125 Kyle Visconti in there.  Either way, look for Ramos to win by fall. Iowa 9-0

141- #2 Hunter Stieber (OSU) vs. #8 Mark Ballweg (Iowa)

This is a battle of two wrestlers who have exceeded expectations.  A year removed from a true freshman All-American season (placing 6th), Hunter only looks better this year, turning every bout into a virtual takedown clinic.  Ballweg is the definition of the phrase “paid his dues”.  A 5th year senior who has been stuck behind 2x NCAA Runner-up Montell Marion his entire career, he has made the most of his opportunity, going 10-0 so far to move up to #9 in the national rankings.  Still, I don’t see him stopping Stieber’s leg attacks.  Iowa  9-3

149- #14 Cam Tessari/Ian Paddock (OSU) vs. #19 Michael Kelly (Iowa)

Tessari of course has struggled in the early-going, but to paraphrase Mark Twain, “reports of his demise are premature”.  A year ago, he also lost quite a few bouts along the way (11 to be exact), but ended up in a pretty decent spot- 4th in the NCAA’s as a true freshman.  That said, Ian Paddock has looked outstanding himself all season at both 141 and 149- though health is always a concern with him.  It’s difficult to know how this will play out- and at this time, I am not certain who the Buckeyes will go with even tonight.  Kelly has looked much better than he did last year as a freshman, and a win for him tonight in Carver-Hawkeye is absolutely possible. A year ago, a big throw by Tessari was the key to a 9-4 win. Really it’s anyone’s guess what will happen or who will wrestle tonight, but I will take Ohio State here.   Iowa 9-6

157- Josh Demas (OSU) vs. #1 Derek St. John (Iowa)

A year ago, Josh Demas posted an impressive win over St. John, in St. John’s first match back from a serious knee injury.  In hindsight, the win was all about St. John’s injury, as the Iowa wrestler then made the NCAA Finals and is now the class of this weight. Demas struggled at Vegas, and for that reason, is currently unranked, despite a 13-2 record.  I look for him to turn it up in the second half of the season. However, I forsee St. John winning a controlled bout by about six points.   Iowa 12-6

165- Mark Martin (OSU) vs. #19 Nick Moore (Iowa)

Martin has been in the unenviable position of being thrust into a Big Ten lineup as a true freshman- a tough place for on-the-job training.  Still, he’s opened the season with a 13-7 record, and his recent win over Caleb Marsh of Kent State may show that he’s ready to turn the corner.   Tonight is a big opportunity for Martin to continue that progress.  In case you had any doubts about how difficult Division I college wrestling can be- take a look at Moore- in his third year at Iowa, he’s just now getting a chance to start, and frankly, I am not convinced he’s earned his Top 20 ranking or will keep it.  His high school credentials?  Four-time state champion with a 183-1 career record, and Junior National Freestyle Champion.  Look for Moore to win a bout that goes down to the wire here.  Iowa 15-6

174- #2 Nick Heflin vs. #7 Mike Evans (Iowa)

Despite the fact that Heflin holds the rankings edge- many, if not most observers, are favoring Heflin here.  First- Heflin’s #2 ranking is “suspect” with some observers- while he did place 5th at NCAA’s last year- wrestling an incredible tournament- many of the guys ranked below him such as Storley, Munster, and Blanton have beaten Heflin, but didn’t place as high at NCAA’s (Heflin beat both Storley and Munster at that tournament), while several other top guys are moving up from 165 and have yet to wrestle the Buckeye Junior (Asper, Kokesh, Brown, and Evans).  Combine that with the fact that Nick has been struggling to win and showed little offense against solid but not great opposition in the early going, and the doubters grow.  To me, Heflin always wrestles close bouts, and it still unbeaten, but the biggest area of concern is that Heflin has been out for almost a month.  In Mike Evans he faces a tough mat wrestling specialist, who is now moving up to a more natural weight class at 174.  Though I’ve always liked Evans style- I think that Heflin gets it done here.   I haven’t seen Heflin get ridden or turned much other than by other-worldly Ed Ruth, and I don’t think that Evans is good enough offensively to take down Heflin- who is one of hardest guys to take down in the nation. So I think it becomes a one takedown bout, with Heflin getting that takedown in a bout that doesn’t rivet the fans, but gets the job done.  Iowa 15-9

184- #16 Kenny Courts (Ohio State) vs. #9 Ethan Lofthouse (Iowa)

Courts has been solid but unspectacular in this redshirt freshman season.  That said, the talent is there to be spectacular.  I believe that his match tonight against Lofthouse will be an uphill battle, however.  A 2012 All-American, Lofthouse’s ranking is a reflection of how tough this weight is among the top ten guys.  However, an upset by Courts is one possible route to a Buckeye upset.  Iowa 18-9

197- #9 Andrew Campolattano (OSU) vs. Nathan Burak (Iowa)

To me, “Camp” is one of the most improved guys on the Buckeye team from a year ago, and I think he’s underrated at his #9 ranking.  Three of his four losses are to NCAA Champion Kilgore, and he dominated against the wrestlers currently rated #10 and #13.  Burak- though talented- is a true freshman, and his 9-5 record is largely a reflection of the weakness of the early-season Iowa schedule.  It’s possible for Campolattano to score a major here, but with Burak losing by a point to two other nationally ranked wrestlers I think he holds him to a decision.  Iowa 18-12

285- #13 Pete Capone (OSU) vs. #4 Bobby Telford (Iowa)

Capone has clearly improved from a year ago, and has a great chance at getting a “W” now against all but the top guys in his second year at heavyweight.  That said, Telford is one of those “top guys”-  5th in the NCAA’s last year, unbeaten this year, and currently ranked #4 (no small feat in what is the toughest heavyweight field in years).   Telford is very difficult to score on, and won a close but controlled 4-1 bout a year ago at NCAA’s.  Expect a similar match this time around.  Iowa 21-12 Final

Remember the match is tonite at 8:00 p.m. on the Big Ten Network!