Hawkeyes look for national duals title
Individual and team goals align at national duals, second-seeded Iowa opens with No. 7-seed Cornell
The signature events for individual achievement are on the horizon.
But, the University of Iowa has a team event as one final competition to prepare for the Big Ten and NCAA Championships.
The second-ranked and second-seeded Hawkeyes face Cornell University in the quarterfinal round of the National Wrestling Coaches Association/Cliff Keen Nationa Duals Mat Mayhem on Friday at Williams Arena in Minneapolis, Minn., beginning at 8 p.m. Action begins with two quarterfinal duals at 6 p.m. BTN will have live coverage of each round on the BTN Digital Network.
Individual and team progress merge, attempting to win Iowa's seventh national duals title. The Hawkeyes (19-1) want to provide that trophy a home in Iowa City.
"I don't want anybody else to have it," Iowa junior 133-pounder Tony Ramos said. "Also, it means individuals are doing the right things. For the team to win, the individual has to win, so it re-enforces each guy is doing what they need to do their part for the team."
Even with conference and national goals on the line in just a couple weeks, focus remains solely on the upcoming challenge. The national duals are still a priority and the Hawkeyes are looking for their first national title since 2010.
"This is our most important event right now," Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. "It's the next event. It's a big event."
Last year, the format including winning a regional dual tournament to advance to the final four. This year, Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois and Ohio State received byes to the final eight-team bracket. The Hawkeyes have a final chance for a gauge against quality competition, but it isn't just an opportunity for each wrestler to get more mat time.
"You can say that, but you're also going up there to make a statement to the country," Iowa heavyweight Bobby Telford said. "We have something we didn't do last year. It's something that we can right the wrong this year."
If seeds hold for the teams, Iowa would face third-seeded Minnesota (13-2) in the semifinals with a chance to avenge its only loss of the season, which came at the hands of top-seeded Oklahoma State (15-0) in January. Duals against the Gophers and Cowboys could demonstrate the gains wrestlers have made since earlier meetings.
"I want to widen the gap," said Ramos, who is 20-0 with his only two decisions of the season coming against Minnesota's Chris Dardanes and Oklahoma State's Jon Morrison. "Right now, I could have the opportunity to increase my two decisions to major decisions, pins or whatever I can get. I know guys like (174-pounder Mike) Evans want to avenge his two losses, so there's incentive there."
Evans only losses of the season were 4-3 decisions to Minnesota's Logan Storley and Oklahoma State's Chris Perry. Telford is 15-3 with consecutive losses to the Cowboys' Alan Gelogaev and Gophers' Tony Nelson.
"It's another shot before the postseason," Telford said. "Sharpen my skills a little more in the room and then get right back at them."
Telford's three losses came in a span of four matches during January, and two sandwiched a road trip he missed two matches due to illness. Last season, Telford experience, but rebounded for the postseason, reaching the Big Ten finals and earning All-American honors.
"I feel good," Telford said. "I feel like we're starting to peak for our events."
The next opens with ninth-ranked Cornell (14-3), powered by three-time NCAA champion and top-ranked 165-pounder Kyle Dake. Brands said Cornell has gotten stronger as the season has advanced, admitting there isn't much love lost between the two programs.
"They probably feel pretty good about their team," Brands said. "I think they've probably ironed some things out. I think they had some young guys in there earlier that maybe took their lumps a little bit. Now, they seem to have them running in the right direction."
NWCA/CLIFF KEEN NATIONAL DUALS*
At Minneapolis, Minn.
(Includes tournament seeds)
#1 Oklahoma State (15-0) vs. #8 Illinois (7-5), 6 p.m.
#4 Ohio State (11-3) vs. #5 Missouri (13-2), 6 p.m.
#3 Minnesota (13-2) vs. #6 Virginia Tech (14-2), 8 p.m.
#2 Iowa (19-1) vs. #7 Cornell (14-3), 8 p.m.
#1 Oklahoma State/#8 Illinois winner vs. #4 Ohio State/#5 Missouri winner, 1 p.m.
#3 Minnesota/#6 Virginia Tech winner vs. #2 Iowa/#7 Cornell winner, 1 p.m.
Semifinal losers, 7 p.m.
Semifinal winners, 7 p.m.*- Due to the heavy involvement of Big Ten teams all rounds of the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals can be seen live on BTN Digital Network.