Last year, the Hawkeyes needed a strong performance in the semifinal around to vault them to a team title. After pushing five athletes into the finals and wrestling back well in consolation matches, the Hawks had it nearly wrapped up heading into the final session, topping second-place Iowa State by a score of 185 to 139 after it was all said and done.
This year, the Hawkeyes needed a furious comeback and fortuitous breaks in order to snag the team title. Trailing Iowa State by 9 points at the beginning of the final session, the Hawks won three of their five championship matches, including two wins over Cyclone wrestlers. Iowa State's athletes, on the other hand, were 0-5 in their championship matches, giving Iowa a second straight Midlands team title. The final standings didn't leave much room to breathe.
While it wasn't quite the way the Hawks would hope to dominate, there were a few asterisks. #2-ranked Charlie Falck, at 125 pounds, did not place after twisting his ankle early in the competition. Iowa's 197-pounder, Chad Beatty, was also out, recovering from an injury sustained in late November. Tom Brands is quoted by Andy Hamilton in the Iowa City Press Citizen as saying that both are "Probable" for this weekend's National Duals competition.
Daniel Dennis, who did not wrestle against Iowa State in the school's dual meet earlier this year, got his shot to prove a point at Midlands. He faced Nick Fanthorpe, who outclassed a weary-looking Joe Slaton in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and won. He beat #4-ranked Fanthorpe as well as #2-ranked Jimmy Kennedy, earning himself the #5 spot in the most recent Intermat Rankings.
Ryan Morningstar continued his impressive start, winning the Midlands title at 165 pounds, with wins over Iowa State's Jon Reader, Missouri's Nick Marable, earning him the #3 spot in the rankings.
The Hawkeyes have the following wrestlers ranked in the top 25.
125 Pounds - #4 Charlie Falck
133 Pounds - #5 Daniel Dennis
141 Pounds - #1 Alex Tsirtsis
149 Pounds - #1 Brent Metcalf
157 Pounds - No ranked wrestler
165 Pounds - #3 Ryan Morningstar
174 Pounds - #5 Jay Borschel
184 Pounds - #3 Phillip Keddy
197 Pounds - #20 Chad Beatty
Heavyweight - #12 Dan Erekson
We could see yet another nail-biting Iowa/Iowa State match-up, as the two teams have snagged the #1 and #2 seeds, respectively, meaning they could meet in the finals of the two-day event. To see the brackets, which (if seeds hold) have the Hawks facing Minnesota in the quarterfinals and Nebraska in the semifinals, click here.
The NWCA National Duals take place at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa throughout the day on Saturday and Sunday. All-session tickets are $40 for adults and $32 for seniors and students. Individual session tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for seniors and students. Tickets may be purchased by contacting the UNI-Dome box office at 877-216-3663 or 319-273-4849.
As the Hawks move into the middle part of the season, preparing for dual meets against some of the best in the country throughout the Big Ten season, they'll need to be at their best. This is the last tournament before Big Ten dual meet season, and likely the last chance for Brands to switch his lineup. We'll see how it shakes out.
Things to ponder
Will the Hawks repeat as National Duals Champions?
Will Joe Slaton or Daniel Dennis go at 133 pounds?
Can the Hawks make it three straight heartbreaks for the Clones?
Talk about that and more in the HawkeyeNation Wrestling Forum