#3 Iowa vs #2 Oklahoma State: Preview

By RossWB on February 23, 2019 at 2:12 pm
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WHO: #2 Oklahoma State Cowboys (14-0, 8-0 Big 12)
WHEN: Sunday, February 24, 2019
START TIME: 2:00 PM CT
WHERE: Gallagher-Iba Arena (Stillwater, OK)
TV: none
ONLINE:  Flowrestling ($)
RADIO: Hawkeye All-Access; AM 800 near Iowa City or iHeart Radio (online)

It took four months and it's only come in Iowa's final dual meet of the season, but the Hawkeyes finally have a big-time dual meet on deck: their annual clash with Oklahoma State. Both teams enter the dual undefeated at 14-0, which means someone's 0 must go when these two squads hit the mat in Stillwater on Sunday. Iowa enters the dual at #3 in the NWCA Coaches Poll, while Oklahoma State enters at #2; the winner of this dual will likely take over the unofficial title of Penn State's biggest threat this year (though neither of them is really all that likely to unseat Penn State at the NCAA Tournament). 

This is a match-up drowning in quality. 18 of the 20 wrestlers set to compete are ranked in the Top 20, with 13 of them ranking in the Top 10 at their respective weights per InterMat. There are set to be five Top 10 showdowns, including two Top 5 throwdowns (and a narrow miss of a third; 197 should feature the #4 wrestler vs the #6 wrestler). The matches that go down tomorrow could see high stakes rematches in the quarterfinals and semifinals of the NCAA Tournament. 

Of course, Iowa-Oklahoma State is always a big deal because it's a showdown between the two most successful programs in the history of the sport. Despite facing each other almost annually since 1954, Iowa and Oklahoma State still have more combined national championships (57) than dual meet showdowns (53, as of this year). Oklahoma State leads that all-time series 28-22-2, but Iowa has been making up ground in recent years -- the Hawkeyes have won four of the last five dual meets in the series, including a 30-7 domination of the Cowboys in Stillwater in 2014-15. That result was definitely an outlier, though -- Iowa's 7-14-2 all-time against Oklahoma State in Stillwater. 

WEIGHT IOWA OKLAHOMA STATE PREDICTION TEAM SCORE
125 #2 Spencer Lee (16-1, SO) #4 Nick Piccininni (26-0, JR) Lee via DEC IOWA 3-0
133 #3 Austin DeSanto (16-1, SO) #2 Daton Fix (26-1, RS FR) Fix via DEC TIE 3-3
141 #14 Max Murin (12-5, RS FR) #12 Kaid Brock (15-6, JR) Murin via DEC IOWA 6-3
149 #12 Pat Lugo (14-6, JR) #6 Kaden Gfeller (24-3, RS FR) Lugo via DEC  IOWA 9-3
157 #7 Kaleb Young (15-3, SO) Wyatt Sheets (15-9, SO) / 
Jonce Blaylock (15-6, SR)
Young via DEC IOWA 12-3
165 #2 Alex Marinelli (19-0, SO) #10 Chandler Rogers (16-2, SR) Marinelli via DEC IOWA 15-3
174 Mitch Bowman (7-4, SR) #6 Joe Smith (14-4, JR) Smith via MAJ DEC IOWA 15-7
184 #11 Cash Wilcke (17-3, JR) #9 Jacobe Smith (22-3, SR) Smith via DEC IOWA 15-10
197 #4 Jacob Warner (14-2, RS FR) #6 Preston Weigel (6-0, SR) Warner via DEC IOWA 18-10
285 #8 Sam Stoll (8-2, SR) #2 Derek White (23-1, SR) White via DEC IOWA 18-13

A few thoughts: 

  • In most duals this year, Iowa has had a pronounced advantage at the lightweights, with Spencer Lee and Austin DeSanto giving them a fearsome 1-2 punch at 125 and 133. That won't quite be the case against Oklahoma State, as the Cowboys have the ability to counter Iowa's strength there with excellent options of their own at those weights. At 125 Oklahoma State has Nick Piccininni, who seems to have leveled up as a senior. He's 22-0 against D-1 competition this year, with bonus points in 77% of those wins. That said, he's only faced a handful of Top 10 opponents this year and he has a poor history against Lee; he lost 10-5 at the dual last year and via pin in 3:58 at the NCAA Tournament (in a match were Lee was well on his way to a tech fall victory before securing the pin). Still, Piccininni looks stronger and more confident this year and while Lee has looked much better the last few weeks, Piccininni is a big step up in competition from the guys he's been pinning in a matter of minutes (or seconds) and a few questions still remain about Lee's health, particularly his stamina. If this match goes the full seven minutes, how much will he have in the second and third periods? I think Lee needs to get a takedown in the first period; if he's able to do that and secure a turn, I think he'll be fine. If Piccininni can get the first takedown, though, or take the match into the second period tied at 0-0, though, things could get dicey. I like Spencer to prevail here, but I still have enough hesitation that I'm not going to call for bonus points. 
     
  • 125 is #2 vs #4, but 133 tops that with a #2 vs #3 showdown. Daton Fix entered college with almost as much hype as Spencer Lee a year ago and he's barely missed a beat at 133 lbs this year. He's gone 25-1 with bonus points in 58% of his wins, including an epic 3-2 win over Nick Suriano in tiebreakers last month. His lone loss was to Pitt's Micky Phillippi in a 3-1 decision a month ago. DeSanto brings a 12-match winning streak into this bout, including back-to-back wins over Ethan Lizak and Suriano last month and bonus point wins in his last four appearances. Can DeSanto's relentless tempo wear down Fix's stout defense and slick offense? I'm excited to find out, but I think Fix has the slight advantage, particularly at home. 
     
  • Brock ended up being the odd man out somewhat when Fix entered the OSU lineup and the move up to 141 hasn't gone great for him. After going 52-9 with two All-America finishes at 133 over the past two seasons, he's just 13-6 at his new weight this year and he's lost to almost every Top 20 141er he's faced. His likely opponent, Max Murin, has had struggles of his own, though. Murin is 12-5 overall, but 3-3 in his last six appearances, including a loss by pin against Indiana last weekend.  This feels like a coin-flip match and while Brock has home mat advantage, I think Murin will find a way to sneak out a win here. 
     
  • Gfeller has had a very strong redshirt freshman campaign for OSU, going 20-3 against D-I competition with his only losses coming the wrestlers currently ranked #1 (Anthony Ashnault), #2 (Matthew Kolodzik), and #5 (Brock Mauller) at 149. Big wins have been elusive for Lugo this season, but he matches up well with Gfeller stylistically (Lugo is good at scoring off counters and he should have plenty of opportunities at that against Gfeller) and Gfeller is also reportedly a bit banged up right now. I think Lugo pulls off the small upset here. 
     
  • On paper, this is the match where Iowa has its biggest advantage in the dual. It's one of the only bouts to not feature two ranked wrestlers, as OSU's Sheets is unranked with a 9-8 record against D-I competition. While Gfeller has lost a lot, he rarely loses by much; we also know that Young sometimes struggles to turn on his offense. Bonus points would be huge for Iowa in this bout, but I don't have faith in Young to be able to get them; I think he'll take a decision by 4-5 points. 
     
  • This is another Top 10 match-up, but it feels like it could be more lopsided than that. Marinelli is 19-0, ranked #2, coming off a thrilling win over #3 Evan Wick, and looked better and better as the season has progressed. Rogers is 12-3, but he's wrestled only twice since January 1st, struggled in those bouts, and is rumored to be getting squeezed out of the lineup as OSU finalizes its roster for the postseason. I think Marinelli picks up a very comfortable decision win here (6-7 points), but I don't quite think he's able to get it to a bonus point margin. 
     
  • Iowa needs to make their hay in the first part of the dual, because Oklahoma State could run a sweep of the final four weights, starting at 174. If 157 is Iowa's biggest on-paper advantage of the dual, then 174 is the same for Oklahoma State. They've got #6 ranked Joe Smith facing unranked Mitch Bowman for Iowa. Smith has lost three in a row entering this match, but all three bouts were against Top 10 opposition. Bowman is scrappy, but he's not that caliber. Bowman's also had a tendency to expose his back, which makes me think Smith could pick up some cheap nearfall points here and get a bonus point win. 
     
  • 184 isn't quite a Top 10 match-up, but it's close -- it's got #9 Jacobe Smith vs #12 Cash Wilcke (per InterMat). Iowa could really use the Wilcke that upset Nebraska's Taylor Venz a few weeks ago in this one. I expect a pretty close match, but Smith is a little quicker and a little slicker on his feet and I think that will be the difference in a tight decision. 
     
  • 197 is another Top 10 match-up and it's an intriguing one, with #4 Jacob Warner set to square off with #6 Preston Weigel, a former All-American at 197. Injuries have severely limited Weigel's senior season -- he's wrestled just twice since 12/9/18 -- and he doesn't seem to be quite back to his best yet. I'm particularly curious to see how his stamina holds up for an entire match against a tough opponent like Warner. Warner himself struggled at Midlands a few months ago, but he's looked better and better as the season has progressed, going 8-0 since the calendar turned with bonus points in his last three victories. The key for Warner will be avoiding the bottom position against Weigel, who can be nasty from the top position (although, again, his stamina is a key question mark in that regard). I think Warner will be able to edge out a win here behind a takedown and some strong riding of his own. 
     
  • The last Top 10 match-up of the dual is at 285, where #3 Derek White is set to face #8 Sam Stoll. Stoll beat White 6-4 in overtime last year, but that result seems like it will be difficult to duplicate. Stoll, of course, has been dealing with a knee injury all season, which has limited his mobility and his ability to get escapes from the bottom position. White has improved from a year ago and I think he'll be able to score on Stoll from neutral. And if nothing else he'll probably he able to get a riding time point given Stoll's struggles on bottom this year. We'll need to see a much better Stoll than we've seen lately to get a victory here. 

That checks out to a 18-13 Iowa win, but there are so many matches in this dual that could go either way there are a range of possibilities for the outcome here. It could be a dominant Iowa win if the Hawkeye big guns are able to rack up big points and the toss-up matches break Iowa's way. And it could be a Okie State blowout if they get a few upsets early, manage to swing the toss-up matches in their favor, and get bonus points at 174 and 285. But ultimately I think it will be a close dual with a lot of close matches. We'll see how it all shakes out on Sunday. Unfortunately, the only ways to watch the dual are buying a ticket and watching it in-person in Stillwater or buying the Flowrestling stream for the dual, which is a bummer. But we'll have results and updates at GIA tomorrow as Iowa tries to finish off their first unbeaten dual meet season since 2010-11, when Iowa went 15-0-1. 

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