Wrestling Preview: No. 4 Buckeyes Look To Upset No. 3 Hawkeyes Friday Night

By Curt Heinrichs on January 27, 2017 at 7:00 am
No. 10 Myles Martin
Ohio State Athletics

On Friday night, the No. 4 ranked Buckeye wrestlers will take a serious step up in competition as they head west to Carver-Hawkeye Arena to take on the No. 3 Iowa Hawkeyes in what promises to be an exciting dual. Not only are the teams evenly matched, but the dual features three weight classes that will have wrestlers from each team ranked in the top ten.

Iowans can be passionate about their wrestlers and Carver Hawkeye can be vocal enough to make the Roman Colosseum spectators look tame in comparison. Though Tom Ryan has a young team in comparison to the Hawkeyes, the Buckeyes already appear to know what will be waiting for them in Iowa City.

The match will take place on Friday night at 8 PM ET and will air live on BTN. Let’s take a look at what to expect when the two top five teams butt heads on national television.

Illinois Fighting Illini
7-2 overall, 3-1 Big Ten

8:00 PM – FRIDAY, JAN. 27


The No. 3 IOWA HAWKEYES (7-2)

Head Coach: Tom Brands

Tom Brands is in just his eleventh year at the helm of the Hawkeye program, though it seems far longer to Iowa’s opponents. Brands learned his craft under legendary coach Dan Gable and was Gable’s right hand man for over a decade before taking over at Virginia Tech. Brands helped to revive the Hokie program before returning to his alma mater to inject some life into a stagnating Hawkeye program. In Brands’ ten years to date as Iowa head coach, he has led the team to three NCAA titles, four Big Ten titles, nine individual NCAA champions, and four seasons in which the Hawkeyes sent all ten wrestlers to the NCAA tournament.

As a wrestler himself, Brands won an Olympic gold medal in 1996 at the Atlanta games to go along with a handful of other world gold medals. Brands was three-time NCAA and Big Ten champion and was a four-time All-American for the Hawkeyes under the watchful eye of Dan Gable. Tom is a member of the wrestling Hall of Fame as a 2001 inductee.

Joining Tom on staff is his twin brother Terry, who was an Olympic bronze medalist at the 2000 Olympics. Terry was a two-time NCAA champion and won three Big Ten titles as an Iowa Hawkeye. In addition to the Brands brothers, Ryan Morningstar (Iowa), Ben Berhow (Minnesota), Luke Eustice (Iowa), and Travis Rutt (Wisconsin/Oklahoma) make up the Iowa coaching staff.

Ohioans on the Iowa Roster

Alex Marinelli (Fr, 165)
Marinelli was yet another wrestler in the long line of four-time state champions from Graham High School in St. Paris joining current Buckeye wrestlers Bo Jordan and Micah Jordan, among others. Marinelli led the team to four team state titles in Division II and rolled to a 200-4 career record. Alex initially committed to wrestle for Ohio State before flipping to sign with Iowa. Marinelli will redshirt this season.

Notable Hawkeye Wrestlers

#1 Thomas Gilman (RS Sr, 125)
Thomas Gilman could be compared to Urban Meyer, if you stop and take a minute to think about it. Prior to his days prowling Ohio State's sidelines, I viewed Meyer as a bully that kept his foot on the gas pedal and lit up the scoreboard to let the opponent know who was boss. Now that he's the Buckeye head coach, I am a big fan of his aggressive nature. 

That’s how I feel about Gilman; he is an intense wrestler that looks to punish his opponent for the duration of the match (and sometimes after the whistle, as well).  He is one of the lone legitimate villains in the relatively vanilla world of college wrestling, but if he were in a Buckeye singlet, he’d be among my favorites because of his aggressive style and no-nonsense demeanor. Gilman is a two-time All-American, finishing last year in second place behind nemesis Nico Megaludis. He’s undefeated this season with 16 of his 18 wins by bonus points.

#4 Cory Clark (RS Sr, 133)
Clark has been a force in the Big Ten since his freshman season, finishing fifth, second, and second at the NCAA tournament in three tries. His lone loss this season was a one point decision to No. 3 Kaid Brock of Oklahoma State. Clark is among the top contenders for the NCAA title when March rolls around, but he’ll have some tough competition, notably from fellow Big Ten wrestlers.

#3 Brandon Sorensen (RS Jr, 149)
Sorensen is a two-time All-American, finishing fourth and second (to Zain Retherford of Penn State) in his first two seasons. He won the Midlands earlier this season, but is currently riding a two match losing streak. For those thinking Sorensen is in a mid-season slump, he lost the last two matches in the TB2 period to each of the two wrestlers ranked above him (he’s currently No. 3, so that gives him losses only to Retherford and Anthony Collica of Oklahoma State).

Probable Lineups
#4 Ohio State WT #3 Iowa

Key Matchups

In a match between two powerhouse programs like this one, each match can technically be considered a key match. Since the dual is airing live on Big Ten Network, let’s take a look at each individual match to give even the most casual fan an idea of what to expect.

125: #18 Jose Rodriguez (11-4)  vs #1 Thomas Gilman (18-0)

I’ve already covered Gilman to a certain extent above, but there’s something to be said for a guy with his mindset on the mat. While you know exactly what you’re going to get when Gilman toes the line, Rodriguez has been a bit of a mystery to this point in the season. Rodriguez looked excellent in narrow losses to Cruz of Lehigh and Dance of VT, but he was defeated handily by an experienced Johnny Jimenez (Wisconsin) and unknown Travis Piotrowski of Illinois. Rodriguez was out of the Maryland match due to illness, but he’ll need to be at full speed if he is going to have any shot of slowing Gilman’s offense.

133: #1 Nathan Tomasello (10-0)  vs #4 Cory Clark (10-1)
The bout at 133 is one of the more-anticipated matches of the dual between two of the top wrestlers in the country. Top-ranked Tomasello is the more aggressive of the two wrestlers and looks to score every chance he can get. Clark, on the other hand, tends to find himself in matches decided by a point or two. Of Clark’s six bonus point victories this season, five of them came against wrestlers from non-Division I programs early in the season. Clark is a masterful rider in the top position, so one of the keys to this match will be whether Tomasello can escape from the bottom or not. Both wrestlers will be very much in the hunt for a national title in March, so this match could give fans an idea of who may have the upper hand at the moment in what has proven to be a deep weight class.

141: #14 Luke Pletcher (20-2) vs Topher Carton (17-4)
Carton doesn’t have any great wins to this point in the season, but aside from a bizarre loss to Rohlfing of CSU-Bakersfield, he’s only lost to highly-ranked opponents. Pletcher was unexpectedly pulled from his redshirt when Ke-Shawn Hayes suffered an injury, but has filled in nicely as a true freshman at 141 despite being a better fit for 133. Pletcher’s two losses came at the 2016 Midlands where he was unable to finish his leg attacks. When Pletcher is firing on all cylinders, he generally puts on a measured, consistent offensive performance and is rarely caught in a bad position. This match is likely one of the more crucial swing matches that will determine the winner of the dual meet.

149: #5 Micah Jordan (21-0) vs #3 Brandon Sorensen (17-2)
The younger Jordan had an impressive redshirt freshman season last year at 141, but fell short of the All-American podium. This year, Micah is at 149 and looks to be far less depleted from a tough weight cut. He is stronger and more equipped to continue attacking late into the match at the higher weight. Micah was unable to wrestle last weekend due to illness, but he should be back to full strength to face his toughest test of the season. Sorensen will be facing his third straight opponent ranked in the top five, but he will be looking to get a win to put a halt to his current losing streak.

157: Jake Ryan (10-7) vs #2  Michael Kemerer (19-1)
Ryan was an excellent surprise as a freshman last season, getting some quality wins under his belt and leaving fans with some optimism moving forward. This season has been another story as Ryan has faltered late in several winnable matches throughout the year. Kemerer suffered the first loss of his college career against top-ranked Jason Nolf of Penn State, so he will be looking to get back in the win column. Bonus point wins are hit or miss for Kemerer, but with the dual possibly hanging in the balance, he may look to open up against Ryan.

165: Cody Burcher (14-7) vs Joey Gunther (12-4) or Skyler St. John (5-3)
This weight is really a toss-up as neither Gunther nor St. John have wrestled Burcher in a collegiate match. Burcher and Gunther have a few common opponents, but the results have been mixed with neither wrestler having a clear edge. Burcher has a dynamite cradle, but I don’t really see a kid from Iowa getting caught in it.

174: #1 Bo Jordan (8-0) vs #13 Alex Meyer (15-4)
Bo has been hampered by injury for much of the year, but he should be ready to go against the Hawkeyes. In his eight matches to date, Bo has earned at least a major decision in all eight, albeit against lesser competition. Meyer will certainly be a step up in quality as a returning All-American from a year ago. Meyer has taken some lumps this season, but his most notable match was his last match, where he outlasted all-world true freshman Mark Hall in the dual against Penn State. Jordan should get the victory against Meyer if he is at 100%, but the Buckeyes may be counting on bonus points from Bo if earlier matches didn’t go in their favor. While a major decision isn’t out of the question for Bo, Meyer is a veteran with some tough matches under his belt this season.

184: #10 Myles Martin (20-3) vs #5 Sammy Brooks (16-2)
Martin is a point-scoring machine at 184, which is not really a surprise from the defending NCAA champ at 174. Myles had a rough weekend at the Midlands tournament and lost to a pair of tough opponents, but he seems to be back on track heading into Big Ten competition. Brooks was involved in a shocker last week as he was pinned in a spladle by Penn State’s Bo Nickal in under a minute, but that is atypical of Brooks’ performances. He is a tough opponent to score on, which will be interesting to see how he operates against Myles’ wide-open style. This will certainly be one of the matches to watch.

197: #4 Kollin Moore (19-2) vs Cash Wilcke (11-6)
Moore is clearly benefiting from working with Kyle Snyder on a daily basis as he is a takedown machine, which is rare for the upper weights. Moore’s two losses are to No. 2 ranked Brett Pfarr of Minnesota and Olympic bronze medalist and defending NCAA champ J’Den Cox in a match where Moore nearly pulled off the upset. Wilcke has filled the 197 spot nicely for the Hawkeyes, but he does not have huge potential for points at the Big Ten or NCAA tournaments. Interesting fact: Cash has a sibling named Chaps, if the Iowa player bio can be believed.

HWT: Josh Fox (8-10) vs Steven Holloway (5-6)
In an ideal world, this match would feature Kyle Snyder against Sam Stoll of Iowa, but Snyder is wrestling at the Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix in Krasnoyarsk, Russia and Stoll sustained a season-ending knee injury in the past few weeks. Fox and Holloway both typically wrestle at 197 and while Fox has been tapped as Snyder’s temporary replacement, Holloway will be filling in for Stoll for the remainder of the season. Fox has come up on the short end of some matches earlier this season simply becau, se he was significantly outweighed by his opponent. That will not be the case against Holloway, who is an undersized heavyweight himself. The dual may very well come down to this match, so expect it to be a tense one.

Match Outlook

As with any close wrestling match, bonus points are going to be absolutely critical if the Buckeyes are going to walk out of Carver-Hawkeye with the victory. In case it's the BTN's trivia question on Friday, Calvin Coolidge was the President of the United States the last time Ohio State won a dual at Iowa. The Buckeyes haven't won in Iowa City since 1929, which is the same year that the Great Depression started. 

The Buckeyes will need to do their best to prevent bonus points at 125 and 157 especially and win the close matches elsewhere in the lineup. Iowa will provide a real litmus test for guys like Luke Pletcher, Kollin Moore, and Cody Burcher to determine if they are ready to compete at the highest level. 

If Ohio State has any hope of winning, they are going to need wins at the top of the lineup as Iowa's lightweights are absolutely stacked. If Ohio State can have the edge midway through the match, they should feel great about their chances for a win. Iowa's fans are knowledgeable, passionate, and especially loud, so if the Buckeyes are able to strike big blows early, that would go a long way in negating the crowd and heading home with a huge win. 

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