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IOWA CITY — University of Iowa senior Edwin Cooper Jr. said "it would have been an epic dual."
Sophomore Brandon Sorensen said it doesn’t really matter.
But even Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands conceded this was a flaw in the format.
The second-ranked Hawkeyes take on No. 4 North Carolina State tonight in one of eight duals in the National Championships Duals Series. The first whistle blows at 7 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
This is the new format for what once was the National Duals. Eight Big Ten teams host six other conference champions and two at-large teams. This is it. There are no semifinals or championship duals, just the eight dual matches in the series. Think Big Ten-ACC Challenge in men’s or women’s basketball.
This means no “epic dual” against No. 1 Penn State.
“We’ve been ranked behind Penn State all year,” Brands said last week. “Should we wrestle Penn State or not? That was the one flaw.”
It was a flaw all knew was possible, even probable given the Big Ten’s dominance in NCAA wrestling.
Penn State (16-0) topped No. 3 Oklahoma State (12-2) Sunday, 29-18. Unbeaten Iowa (16-0) gets the 22-1 Wolfpack tonight.
No true national champion, although Penn State was declared champion by the National Wrestling Coaches Association after its win.
“I still think this is a better format,” Brands said, “because, especially, with the time of year it is.”
The wrestlers don’t seem to care too much.
“It doesn’t matter who they put in front of us,” said the second-ranked Sorensen (22-0), who faces Beau Donahue (9-11) tonight at 149 pounds. “We have to get up for it.”
Even Cooper is looking forward to North Carolina State.
“I just do my job, just wrestle,” he said.
Cooper (14-6) will test himself against fourth-ranked Tommy Gantt (21-0).
“I’m really looking forward to taking them on,” he said. “It will be great.”
Brands said the Wolfpack, newcomers to wrestling’s top 10, should not be taken lightly.
“They are on the radar and we have to be ready to go,” he said.
North Carolina State offers a challenge the Hawks don’t see every week — a “leg riding” team not unlike Penn State, Brands said.
“We have to get ready for a style that’s something that we haven’t seen, but we’re going to have to deal with as we get into the postseason,” he said. “We’ve got to be ready, but more importantly, we have to be ready to wrestle our own style.”
Sorensen said the Hawkeyes need to do what they do best tonight.
“It doesn’t matter what style it is,” he said. “You’ve got to take on whatever style it is. You stick to your game plan.”
The marquee matchup tonight is at heavyweight where No. 1 Nick Gwiazdowski (26-0) takes on Iowa’s No. 7 Sam Stoll. Gwiazdowski owns a 10-1 win over Stoll at the Midlands Championship.
“I think throughout the season I’ve improved and this will be a good match to show that,” he said.
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