#2 Iowa Grapplers take on #3 Michigan and Indiana

Friday's home meet between #2 Iowa and #3 Michigan is more than a meet between two highly ranked Big Ten teams. It also has more riding on the meet than who will finish behind Minnesota in the Big Ten regular season dual meet standings. This meet will say a lot about the potential chances of Iowa heading into the Big Ten and NCAA tourney. Since Michigan already beat Iowa at the NCWA National Duals this season, the rematch in CHA will show if Iowa has made any real progress since that time.

Although Iowa ended up finishing higher than the Wolverines at the national dual meet, Michigan won seven of the ten matches in the dual against the Hawks. Michigan is 13-3 overall this season, and is 4-1 in the Big Ten. UM has lost to Minnesota twice (26-6, 22-10) and to Iowa State (22-19). They have eight wrestlers ranked in the top-eight at their respective weight classes, and are led by #1 Otto Olson at 174 and #1 Andy Hrovat at 184. Iowa only leads the series, 22-21-1, and Michigan has won the last two duals in the series. Iowa's last win in the series was a 20-18 victory at the 2001 NCWA National Duals.

Iowa turned in an average performance in a 24-11 win against Penn State last Sunday, and the team is now 4-1 in Big Ten action. Their only loss in Big Ten action was the 22-15 setback on February 1st to Minnesota in the less than respectable "WWF" environment of the Target Center. The team is now 14-3 overall. Although they are doing much better than many had predicted after the NCAA tourney last spring, if this team really wants to step up and challenge the Gophers for the championship this year, it has to start very soon. Although the Hawks should win comfortably this weekend against Indiana, they will be favored in only 5 of the 10 matches in the Michigan dual.

Indiana is coached by former Hawk wrestling great Duane Goldman who is in his 10th season at Indiana. He is 114-67-4 in dual meets over that time. A 1986 NCAA champion as a Hawk, Goldman was a 4-time Big Ten Champion and all-American at Iowa (1983-1986). Senior all-American Viktor Sveda leads the Hoosiers at 184. Iowa leads the all-time series, 27-4-3, and has won the last 12 duals in the series.

There was once a time when Iowa was untouchable at home. This season, they have already lost to Oklahoma State and have the potential to lose to Michigan on their home mat. Iowa still has, by far, the best and most consistent fan base, but they tend to come out in the highest numbers when a big team comes to town and the home team is having a normal dominating season. Although Michigan is not a traditional big name like Oklahoma State or Iowa State and this is not a dominant Iowa team, the fans need to come out in droves and provide the home mat advantage that can push the Hawks over the top. It would also help the noise level in CHA if the entire lineup wrestled the Iowa way from the first whistle on Friday, but that aspect will be left up to Coach Zalesky, Coach Brands, and the wrestlers.

A look at the matches:

125 – Luke Eustice is 17-6 and continues to look more like a contender for a top-3 finish at the NCAA meet. After wrestling a good match and losing 7-5 on a poor shot attempt to #2 Leroy Vega in the Minnesota meet, Eustice came back and beat quality wrestlers Tony Black of Wisconsin and Adam Smith of Penn State. The Smith match was very good until he blew a major decision by giving up a late takedown in a 14-7 win. Most of the Iowa team needs to get better at scoring team bonus points when given an opportunity. This weekend, the 6th ranked sophomore can take another step in his progress, as both of his opponents will be tough.

A.J. Grant of Michigan was always a formidable wrestler against ex-Hawk Jody Strittmatter last season, and he is 1-0 against Eustice after winning a 5-3 decision at the national duals. Grant is 26-7 and ranked 8th in the polls. This will be a huge swing match in the meet this Friday, as it should be an even match up even though Eustice is ranked higher.

Greg Schaefer of Indiana is probably the 2nd best wrestler on the Indiana team. The junior is 20-5 this season and is 0-1 against Eustice. Eustice won a 5-2 decision at the 1999 Northern Iowa Open.

133 – Sophomore Cliff Moore is still ranked 5th in the country after losing to #1 Ryan Lewis of Minnesota and #4 Kevin Black of Wisconsin two weeks ago. Lewis dominated Moore from the top position in the 6-0 Gopher win, and looked very tough in doing it. Moore is 21-4 and will be favored in both matches this weekend after winning his match over a tough Penn State wrestler last weekend, 9-2.

Foley Dodd of Michigan is 21-5 and ranked 8th in the country. Moore beat Dodd 6-2 in the 2002 National Duals. Indiana's Brian Smiley is 6-9. Moore should be favored in both matches.

141 – Who is going to wrestle for Iowa this week? Marc Juergens won the spot after beating Luke Moffitt in wrestle-offs last week, but then lost to Scott Moore of Penn State last weekend, 5-0. Moore rode Juergens for almost the entire match, and would still be riding him if the match didn't end. Juergens is 20-7 overall, but only 2-4 at 141.

Moffitt has been wrestling better lately, but the coaches were very frustrated after he got beat using a high risk move in a 7-4 decision loss to Grant Hoerr of Wisconsin two weeks ago. His upset pin in the Minnesota meet two days earlier gave the team a shot in the arm, but he isn't progressing the way the coaches had hoped. He is 16-6 this season.

Clark Forward of Michigan is only 13-12, but he beat Moffitt in the national duals, 4-2. Whoever Iowa puts out there to wrestle needs to win this match.

Indiana's Coyte Cooper is 13-5.

149 – Senior Mike Zadick is still undefeated and ranked #1, but the coaches were very upset with him and his lack of discipline and leadership after he failed to make weight last Sunday against Penn State. Mike doesn't have to cut as much weight as most other wrestlers, so it was a big surprise that he didn't get down in time. He is 25-0 and should be favored in both matches, although he 2-3 in his career against Michigan's Mike Kulczycki.

Kulczycki is 26-6 this season and ranked 7th. Zadick was 1-3 against Kulczycki last season, but beat him 7-2 at the national duals. The key for Zadick will be to open up early, keep his positioning sound like it has all season, and dominate in the 3rd period. Sometimes Zadick doesn't take enough shots and opens up in the 3rd period when he knows his conditioning is better than his opponents, but as good as his positioning has been, there is not reason not to go after Kulczycki early.

Steve Amy is 14-13 for Indiana after transferring from Northern Iowa.

157 – Much like 125 and 141, this is another key match in the Michigan dual. Wolverine redshirt freshman Ryan Bertin is 28-4 and ranked 5th, while Iowa's Matt Anderson is 24-8 and ranked 7th. Anderson lost to Bertin in the tiebreak period in their meeting in the national duals, 2-1. Anderson has had a problem all season staying aggressive throughout the match, and it showed again last Sunday. After getting off to a good start with repeated shot attempts and takedowns, Matt sat on the lead and shut down his attack until the Penn State wrestler closed within two points in the third period. He then pulled away to win 10-4, but should have had a major decision. What's worse is that he has lost matches against teams like Oklahoma State when he stopped wrestling after being in control. Matt has the ability to be an all-American, but being inconsistent in his effort and mindset will not get it done.

Rocky Mantella is a true freshman for the Hoosiers. He is 17-12 so far this season.

165 – It would be nice if a healthy, confident Ben Shirk was back for Iowa, but the redshirt freshman Cory Connell will probably start again this weekend. Connell is 12-19, but 0-9 at 165. The 157-pounder has taken good shots in some of the matches, but he doesn't have the strength to finish moves. Instead, his opponents hip and counter his attacks with ease. His closest loss was 14-8 to Ryan Kane of Northwestern.

Neither Charles Martelli of Michigan nor Alex LaPointe of Indiana are rated wrestlers, but they will both probably win this weekend against Connell. Martelli is 12-10, but has beaten Ben Shirk twice over the last two seasons. LaPointe is only 7-12, but that is 7 more wins than Iowa has recorded at 165 in recent weeks.

174 – Sophomore Tyler Nixt has been wrestling very well for Iowa in recent matches. The Hawkeye has won his last seven matches in a row, and provided a big pin against Penn State that got the team momentum going in the right direction. He stopped wrestling and held on to win against Jacob Volkmann in the Minnesota meet, but other than that, he has been attacking from the whistle in almost every match. Overall, he is 26-6 and ranked 7th.

Nixt gets a chance to make a name for himself on Friday as he gets another chance at #1 Otto Olson of Michigan. For his career, Nixt is 0-2 vs. Olson, losing a 13-5 major decision at the 2001 Iowa-Michigan Dual and a 12-2 major decision at the 2002 National Duals. This will be a major opportunity for Nixt as Olson is 30-0.

Andrew Wolf of Indiana is 6-13.

184 – Much like 174, Michigan's Andy Hrovat is #1 at 184. He is 30-3, and beat Jessman Smith of Iowa 6-2 at the 2002 National Duals. Smith is 28-4 and ranked 5th, but this shouldn't be a mismatch. For his career, Smith is 2-3 against Hrovat counting the loss earlier this year. Smith lost to Hrovat at the national duals last year and at the other 2001 dual meet, but beat him at the 2000 NCAA Championships and the 2001 Big Ten Championships. Michigan will be favored to win, but Smith has a chance to make himself a legitimate title contender is he wins this match. He has been hustling back to the center and doing more of the Iowa methods of doing things, but he was embarrassed against Damion Hahn in the Minnesota dual two weeks ago. This is a chance for some redemption.

Victor Sveda of Indiana is also one of the top 184-pounders in the country. He is ranked 2nd in one poll and 4th in two others. Sveda is 24-3. Surprisingly, he and Smith have never wrestled against each other. If Smith has a good weekend, he could move up to 2nd or 3rd with two wins. The Sveda-Smith match will be the biggest of the Sunday dual meet.

197 – The best thing that came out of the Penn State meet was that redshirt freshman Trey Clark beat a quality opponent in Nittany Lion Pete Mielnik in good fashion, 8-1. He gave up a late escape that blew a major decision, but for Clark, the outcome was a positive step. Trey is now 11-9. He will get a stiff challenge in #5 Kyle Smith of Michigan. Smith is 23-9 and ranked 5th nationally. Smith beat Clark 9-6 at the 2002 National Duals.

Redshirt freshman Pat DeGain of Indiana is 15-7, so two wins this weekend for Clark would be huge for his confidence and his seed at the Big Ten Tourney. Last season, Iowa did not earn one team point at 197 or heavyweight at either the Big Ten Tournament or the NCAA Championships. Clark needs to do his part to change that this

HWT - Steve Mocco is 28-1 and ranked #1 in the country, but he isn't wrestling near his capabilities right now. Yes he is only a true freshman, but he is capable of so much more on offense. Lately, he has been getting a lead and then sitting on it for the rest of the match without attempting any shots. What is amazing is that no one can keep him down when he is in the bottom position, and very few heavyweights are as athletic as Steve. He continues to win tie-ups, but lately doesn't show or use the great low leg attack that he has. He is so hard to score on, win ties with, or ride, that if he just started to show the offense that he shows in practice every day; he can win the NCAA title in a convincing fashion.

Matt Brink of Michigan is 12-6 and ranked 7th. He forfeited to Mocco in the national duals. D.J. Radnovich of Indiana is 10-7. They are both formidable, but the outcomes of each match will be determined more by how Mocco wrestles than how they perform.

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