Iowa Hawkeyes

Iowa wrestling closes Big Ten dual slate it has dominated Saturday against Minnesota

Hawkeyes can clinch first outright dual title since 2015

Iowa coaches Terry Brands and Tom Brands talk with Iowa's Pat Lugo as he wrestles Penn State's Jarod Verkleeren in a 149
Iowa coaches Terry Brands and Tom Brands talk with Iowa’s Pat Lugo as he wrestles Penn State’s Jarod Verkleeren in a 149-pound match at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Friday, Jan. 31, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Iowa wrestling has run roughshod over the competition this season.

The Hawkeyes are one of just two unbeaten ranked teams in NCAA Division I, dominating foes by an average of a little more than 25 points per dual and winning individual bouts at an 83 percent clip.

Top-ranked Iowa has already secured a share of the Big Ten Conference dual lead and can clinch sole possession of it with a victory over No. 13 Minnesota Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, beginning at 8:30 p.m.

The Hawkeyes (11-0, 8-0) have a chance to add to their conference dual title haul, which includes four previous shared ones, including last season, and seven outright titles since the conference began crowning dual champions in 1999. Iowa’s last outright dual title was in 2015.

“That’s huge,” junior 141-pounder Carter Happel said. “We put our best team out there week in and week out. We’re just out there having fun.”

The numbers are staggering. The Hawkeyes are 92-18 in matches over 11 duals. In the nation’s premier wrestling conference, which includes seven of the country’s top 15 dual teams and 10 ranked overall, the mark stands at 67-13.

Iowa has all 10 starters nationally ranked eighth or better at their respective weights by trackwrestling.com. The Hawkeyes have had them all in the same lineup for just three duals. At times, they have had up to three ranked wrestlers out for a dual.

Sixteen Hawkeyes have started at least one dual.

“Depth is important,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “We have to rely on a lot of people, a lot more people than 10. Ten weight classes represented by 36 or 37 people. We use them all.”

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Iowa has two wrestlers listed at three weights. Cash Wilcke filled in for Abe Assad and won at Michigan and both are listed at 184. Max Murin, ranked seventh at 141, hasn’t wrestled since Nebraska on Jan. 18 and joins Happel in the probable lineup. Third-ranked Austin DeSanto has missed the last two duals after an injury default against Penn State and is listed along with Paul Glynn at 133.

“If he’s listed, that means there’s progress there,” Brands said. “We don’t hide anything.

“We’ve got tough guys. It’s a tough sport. They rise to the occasion.”

Outside of the 6-4 split against second-ranked Penn State, Iowa has won at least seven matches against each opponent with three shutouts this season.

“We’re beating teams by a lot because we’re all going out and wrestling hard,” said Happel, who has won two straight road matches. “We’re all putting points on the board. It’s exciting for the fans and it’s going to be exciting to come back home these last two weeks.

“We have to end these last two weeks really good so we can have some momentum, going into the Big Ten (Championships) and nationals.”

The Golden Gophers (9-6, 4-3) mark Iowa’s last conference dual. Oklahoma State comes to town for the regular-season finale on Feb. 23. Minnesota has nine ranked wrestlers, including top-ranked heavyweight Gable Steveson.

A ninth unbeaten conference dual record since Brands took over in 2006 would be a notable achievement. This is one more test, but pales in comparison to the chance to earn the school’s first conference tournament crown since 2015 and first national title since 2010.

“It’s a little bit of both,” Iowa’s Pat Lugo said. “It’s a little bit of a teaching moment and the magnitude of March. Just doing what we do in individual matchups. Just being strong in each weight class and do what we do best.”

Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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