Weekend Wrestling Preview

The best wrestling conference in the United States kicks off the start to its league season by providing wrestling fans with a great matchup today. Second ranked Ohio State opens its Big Ten dual season by hosting traditional power Iowa at St. John Arena. Although Iowa leads OSU in the all-time series 28-2 and has won the last 26 meetings between the two opponents, the Buckeyes are going to be hard to defeat in Columbus.

OSU returns nine NCAA qualifiers and two all-Americans from the 2000-01 squad that placed 5th at the Big Ten Championships and 16th at the NCAA meet. Besides having five individuals ranked in the top-8 in their respective weight class, the Buckeyes upset Oklahoma State (19-13) and Oklahoma (19-17) on their way to a very surprising 2nd place finish at the NWCA National Duals. Having the tournament in Columbus this year helped the grapplers from OSU, and all-American Tommy Rowlands is a great anchor for their talented lineup. With the team losing 17-13 to Oklahoma after nine matches, Rowlands pinned a very tough Leonce Crump to win the meet and send the team to the finals. What was so amazing about the pin was that Rowlands did it in sudden death overtime where one point wins the match. Ohio State is 15-1 overall this season, with their one loss coming in the finals to top-ranked Minnesota, 26-8.

Much like OSU, Iowa also went 5-1 at the national duals, but they lost in the 2nd round to Michigan (23-12) and wrestled back to get 3rd. The team record is now 10-2, and the five wins at the duals were over #16 Central Michigan (36-6), #10 Arizona State (39-3), #8 Pennsylvania (17-15), #7 Oklahoma (17-14), and #4 Iowa State (25-15). It was the second time that Hawks have beaten Penn and ISU this season.

On Sunday, the Hawks open their Big Ten home slate with Northwestern. The Wildcats are 7-6 this season and have struggled as a team. They could present stiff challenges to Iowa at 141, 165, and 197 where the strongest weights for NU take on the weakest weights for the Hawks. Iowa leads the all-time series, 57-6-1 and has won the last 32 duals between the two teams. In the last meeting, Iowa scored a 45-3 win at Northwestern last season. Iowa also beat OSU 34-11 last season, but Friday's matchup should beat a tough road challenge.

A look at the matchups:

125 - Sophomore Luke Eustice is still climbing the rankings after starting the year injured. He is currently ranked 8th in one poll after going 4-2 at the national duals. He is 13-5 on the season. His last win over Oklahoma's Matt Ridings was very solid. Eustice should be favored in both meets this weekend as Jesse Lang of OSU is 14-12, while Rob Potashnick of Northwestern is 14-9. Eustice is 2-0 versus Potashnick in his career.

133 - Sophomore Cliff Moore is wrestling very well as he won all of his matches at the national duals to run his overall record to 19-1. After losing to Johnny Thompson of Oklahoma State earlier this month, the 5th ranked Moore responded at the duals by beating top opponents such as David Douglas of Arizona State, Witt Durden of Oklahoma, and Zach Roberson of Iowa State.

Jeff Ratliff of OSU will be a stiff challenge as the sophomore is 19-8 and ranked #6. However, Moore beat Ratliff 5-1 at the Midlands this season. Northwestern freshman Tommy Vargas is 5-7 so far this season.

141 - This is a weight that has been a weakness for Iowa recently, and it could be this weekend as well. Junior Luke Moffitt won his first 10 matches of the season, but has struggled since then to a 13-5 mark. Some of the same ranked foes that Moffitt defeated earlier in the season have dominated Moffitt from the top position since then. Senior Marc Juergens wrestled at this weight in three meets at the duals, and was 2-1 in those appearances. He is 20-4 overall this season, but most of his matches were as a starter at 133 before Moore came back from an injury and beat Marc out.

Buckeye Robert Sessley is 15-6 and ranked 6th. He placed 7th at the NCAA meet last season, but he should be best remembered for his performance against Doug Schwab at last year's Iowa dual. Like many wrestlers, Sessley was scared to wrestle Schwab, but instead of competing he stalled his way to a 13-4 major decision loss. Unfortunately, he will be favored against whomever Iowa starts at this weight.

Northwestern's John Giacche is one of the top performers on the Wildcat roster as he is 21-5 this season. Moffitt beat Giacche by a 3-1 score at the 2000 Northern Open, but that might not mean much this season. Much like Iowa's Steve Mocco, Giacche is from Blair Academy in New Jersey.

149 - Senior Mike Zadick is ranked #1 and is 21-0. He has been wrestling very well, although it is both a good and a bad thing that he beat Jared Frayer of Oklahoma 21-19 at the duals after falling behind 11-0 in the 1st period. None of Mike's points came from near fall points. Instead, he racked up 10 takedowns in the last two periods. In last year's 3rd place finish at the NCAA meet, Zadick lost to Frayer after beating #1 Reggie Wright in the previous match. Mike did exact some revenge as he beat Frayer for the 3rd place match at the same NCAA meet. Besides beating Frayer at the duals this season, Mike beat Billy Maldonado of Iowa State for the 7th straight time. He also beat Mike Kulczycki of Michigan, 7-2. The Michigan wrestler placed 7th at the NCAA meet last season, but more significantly, beat Zadick in two of their three matches last season.

Keaton Anderson of Ohio State is ranked 3rd in one poll, 8th in another, and not ranked in the third. The junior is 20-5 this season. Anderson is 2-0 versus Zadick in his career, winning an 8-7 decision in the 2001 Iowa-Ohio State dual and 9-7 decision in the consolation round of the 2001 Big Ten Championships. This should be a fun match for the fans. Ryan Cumbee of Northwestern is 15-9.

157 – Junior Matt Anderson is continuing to improve as the year progresses. Ranked #6 in the latest polls, Matt is 21-6 on the season after winning 4 of 6 matches at the national duals. He seems to have bounced back from his 9-8 loss to #4 Shane Roller of Oklahoma State in the dual earlier in the month in Iowa City. In that match, Anderson was leading 6-1 in the 3rd period, but stopped wrestling and loss 9-8 at the buzzer. In his most recent match against Iowa State at the duals, Anderson widened the gap with Matt Veach as he defeated the Cyclone in convincing fashion, 19-8.

Josh Jansen of Ohio State is not ranked in the top eight in the nation, but the senior is 20-9. Freshman Mike Kimberlin of Northwestern is 12-11. Anderson should be favored in both matches.

165 – Senior Ben Shirk and freshman Cory Connell are both listed at this weight. Connell has been wrestling in the lineup most of the time during recent weeks, and is 0-6 as a starter. He is 12-14 overall this season, but is also 0-6 when wrestling 165. His closest loss at 165 is an 8-2 decision. Shirk is a returning NCAA All-American, but has struggled with injuries and performing in competition. He is only 8-7 and is ranked 14th at his weight. In his most recent matches, Ben lost 9-4 to Tyrone Lewis of Oklahoma State, 13-4 to Charles Martelli of Michigan, and beat Joe Ray Barry of Central Michigan by pin.

While Iowa has struggled at this weight, Ohio State and Northwestern are solid. Sophomore John Clark of Ohio State is ranked #8, and is 22-6 this season. Sophomore Ryan Kane is 22-8. Although things do not look good on paper, Shirk had success against both wrestlers last season. Ben was 1-1 against Clark, pinning him at the Iowa-Ohio State dual and losing a 10-8 decision at the Big Ten Championships. Ben also pinned Kane at the Big Ten Championships.

174 – Sophomore Tyler Nixt is ranked #8 and is 21-6 on the season. He struggled in a 12-2 loss to #1 Otto Olson of Michigan at the national duals, but has shown improvement in other matches. He should be favored in both matches this weekend as Ohio State's Ryan Heiber is 13-9 while Northwestern's Jason Erwinski is 5-3.

184 – Junior Jessman Smith is 2-0 versus Buckeye Anton Talamantes, winning a 9-6 decision in the Iowa-Ohio State dual last season and a 12-7 decision in the 2001 Midlands Championships. Smith is 25-3 and ranked 5th in the latest rankings, while Talamantes is 15-8. Northwestern sophomore Andrew Curran is 10-14. Smith lost to #4 Andy Hrovat of Michigan in the duals, but, overall, he was 5-1 and had some quality wins. In recent weeks he has beaten the likes of #3 Damion Hahn of Minnesota, #6 Pat Popolizio of Oklahoma State, and #2 Josh Lambrecht of Oklahoma. Hopefully he can continue to build towards the NCAA meet with good performances this weekend.

197 – Iowa is banged up both mentally and physically at this weight, and will be challenged by both teams this weekend. Sophomore Ryan Fulsaas is injured and out of the lineup, but also had lost his last three matches and is 7-5. Trey Clark is listed as the starter for this weekend, but the redshirt freshman injury defaulted against Cyclone great Cael Sanderson in his last match at the duals. Clark is 8-7 this season.

Ohio State will be a heavy favorite at this weight as Nick Preston is 22-3 and ranked 4th. He beat Fulsaas twice last season. Brendan Curran of Northwestern is 15-10.

HWT - The Ohio State/Iowa dual will feature great contests at 133, 149, and 157, but everyone wants to see the rematch between true freshman Steve Mocco and Buckeye sophomore Tommy Rowlands at heavyweight. Mocco is 25-1 after winning five of six matches at the national duals, while Rowlands is 23-2. Mocco is ranked #1 in one poll, while Rowlands is ranked #1 in the other two. Rowlands was the national NCAA runner-up last season, while Mocco was the best high school wrestling prospect in quite some time. The two talents have wrestled once this season at the Midlands, and Mocco won, 2-1. Mocco also defeated Ohio State Assistant Coach Mitch Clark, 6-2, in the Midlands heavyweight finals.

Mocco has already defeated several good wrestlers this season, but recently lost to Leonce Crump of Oklahoma. Rowlands has lost twice this season, but is the king piece for the OSU lineup. If both wrestlers come out and attack each other looking to score, this match could be worth the price of admission by itself. However, when two good heavyweights get together, a low scoring match with lots of positioning is usually the result. This should be a good experience in a hostile environment for Steve to build towards a run at the NCAA tournament.

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