The first five matches pit Top 10 wrestlers against one another, while two other bouts will feature a pair of Top 20 foes going at it.
At 125, second-ranked Luke Eustice of Iowa and No. 7 Grant Nakamura of ISU will meet for the second time this season. Eustice pulled out a double overtime victory against the Cyclone in the finals of the UNO Open. Eustice was wrestling in his first competition of the season at that tournament, while Nakamura had several matches under his belt. It will be interesting to see if Nakamura really has closed the gap that much on the former NCAA finalist, or if Eustice was just rusty and can win more handily this time around. Eustice won by major decision in last years' dual.
The match at 133 should be worth the price of admission itself. Third-ranked senior Zach Roberson of ISU will be favored against No. 10 redshirt freshman Todd Meneely, but maybe not by as much as some people think. Both are undefeated on the young season and have looked every bit as good as their rankings. Roberson has four major decisions and two technical falls during his 8-0 start, while Meneely is 3-0 with two falls and a technical fall. He missed the first two open tournaments recovering from off-season surgery.
Another first-time match takes place at 141, where former 133-pound All-American Cliff Moore of Iowa and Nate Gallick of ISU - last year's 149-pounder for the Cyclones - have both found a new home. Moore is 9-0 with five falls, a technical fall and major decision to his credit and appears more than comfortable at his new weight. Gallick didn't look good at all as he dropped his first two matches of the season at 141. But he has gone 7-1 since that point, with the only loss a 5-1 decision to second-ranked Dylan Long of Northern Iowa.
At 149 and 157, two Iowa sophomores who had successful varsity campaigns as redshirt freshmen last season take on two of this year's best redshirt freshmen in the nation.
Fifth-ranked Trent Paulson (10-0) of Iowa State defeated Ty Eustice of Iowa 1-0 in the 149-pound finals of the UNO Open in their first collegiate meeting. Eustice, who tends to keep matches low scoring and close, forced his style on Paulson in the first meeting, but was still unable to win. It will be interesting to see if the undefeated Paulson can turn it into a more wide-open battle this time around.
Another undefeated Paulson, Travis, has been just as impressive at 157 for the Cyclones. He has climbed up to No. 5 in the nation with a 10-0 start to his career. One of those wins was a 9-4 victory over 10th-ranked Joe Johnston of Iowa in the title bout at the UNO Open.
Iowa State got a boost to its lineup last week with the return of NCAA qualifier Nick Passolano. He won a pair of tight matches in his first action of the season and will face Iowa's unranked Cole Pape, who has a 10-1 record as the starter in his sophomore season.
The Cyclones will be favored heavily in that bout, as will Iowa at 174 with two-time NCAA qualifier and fourth-ranked Tyler Nixt against either Kevin Amesquita (0-4) or Ames product Nels Matson (2-4). The Hawkeyes will be expecting bonus points at that weight, which could be big in this meet.
At 184, a pair of newcomers to this rivalry meet for the second time. At the UNO Open, Iowa's 14th-ranked sophomore Paul Bradley pinned sixth-ranked ISU freshman Kurt Backes, for the Cyclones' only loss of the year. Don't expect the same final result this time around, but another victory by Bradley isn't out of the question. The long, lanky frame of Backes against the stocky stature of Bradley makes for an interesting contrast.
Iowa's No. 9 Ryan Fulsaas had a big pin against Woodley Milord in this meet last season at 197 and will be looking for another victory this year, this time against junior college transfer Trevor Smith. The Cyclone is better than his 4-3 record shows, with one loss by injury default and another against defending NCAA champion Damion Hahn of Minnesota, 13-6. Fulsaas also met Hahn at the UNO Open and dropped a 3-1 decision for one of his two losses on the season.
Two Iowa-born freshmen grapplers will face off in the heavyweight bout. ISU's Richard Schopf of Bondurant-Farrar is 6-2 with all six wins coming by fall. He's dangerous on the mat and proved that with a fall against Lehigh that won the meet for the Cyclones. Iowa's Ryan Fuller of Lisbon will have to be careful of a roll, or he might become victim No. 7.
If you go by InterMat's rankings, Iowa State will be favored in five matches and Iowa in four, with the heavyweight match being a toss-up. Bonus points should prove to be a valuable commodity and the team that can grab a major decision, technical fall or fall could very well come out on top.
Iowa has owned this rivalry since ISU's last win in 1987, but this is a new year with a lot of new faces and match-ups. Iowa leads the series, 52-14-2, and has won the last 30 meetings between the two teams. The Hawkeyes are 20-10-1 against the Cyclones in Ames. Iowa won the last meeting, 34-7, on Dec. 8, 2002, in Iowa City.
No. 3 Iowa at No. 4 Iowa State
Sunday, Dec. 7 at Ames, 2 p.m.
125 - No. 2. Luke Eustice (Iowa, Sr.) 6-0 vs. No. 7 Grant Nakamura (ISU, So.) 9-2
133 - No. 3 Zach Roberson (ISU, Sr.) 8-0 vs. No. 10 Todd Meneely (Iowa, Fr.) 3-0
141- No. 4 Cliff Moore (Iowa, Sr.) 9-0 vs. No. 8 Nate Gallick (ISU, So.) 7-3
149 - No. 5 Trent Paulson (ISU, Fr.) 10-0 vs. No. 6 Ty Eustice (Iowa, So.) 8-1
157 - No. 5 Travis Paulson (ISU, Fr.) 10-0 vs. No. 10 Joe Johnston (Iowa, So.) 11-3
165 - No. 8 Nick Passolano (ISU, Jr.) 2-0 vs. Cole Pape (Iowa, So.) 8-1
174 - No. 4 Tyler Nixt (Iowa, Jr.) 14-0 vs. Kevin Amesquita (ISU, So.) 0-4 or Nels Matson (ISU, So.) 2-4
184 - No. 6 Kurt Backes (ISU, Fr.) 11-1 vs. No. 14 Paul Bradley (Iowa, So.) 10-2
197 - No. 9 Ryan Fulsaas (Iowa, Sr.) 10-2 vs. No. 17 Trevor Smith (ISU, Jr.) 4-3
285 - Ryan Fuller (Iowa, Fr.) 10-7 vs. Richard Schopf (ISU, Fr.) 6-2