This weekend Iowa State travels to Iowa for an in-state battle that has its very own trophy. The University of Northern Iowa would like to remind everyone that there is a third D1 wrestling school in Iowa with a national championship trophy. Head Coach Doug Schwab and the Panthers travel to Madison, Wisconsin this weekend for a border battle with the University of Wisconsin Badgers.
The Badgers will weigh in two potential NCAA finalists to anchor a lineup looking to build around them this season. Head Coach Barry Davis has led his team back and forth across the country this season in search of all the competition available and he will not want to see this homecoming marred by defeat now that they are finally able to compete in front of hometown fans.
It can be sensibly argued that UNI is the second best team in Iowa given the struggles that Iowa State has gone through early this season, but that is not enough for Coach Schwab. A student of the Iowa style he brings an intensity, learned throughout his wrestling career and as an assistant under Tom Brands, to Cedar Falls that demands nothing less than total global domination. He will be staring across the mat this weekend at a fellow Hawkeye alum that cut his teeth under Dan Gable and boasts his own reputation for intensity. We can only hope that the BTN cameras and microphones are rolling when a controversial call happens.
Each of these programs is looking to build going forward. Wisconsin and UNI are both striving to create something on their respective campuses that can challenge for team trophies in March. Individual successes are great and help to drive recruiting, but it takes a whole team to break into the top five and that is the goal. The Panthers have a young lineup boasting only three upperclassmen and that is a great core to build around. The Badgers are much the same, two seniors and a junior lead the way for a talented group of youngsters. For both of these programs to move up the ladder in the next two to three seasons, it all depends on the development of this young talent.
Can you imagine two years from now these teams meeting as top fifteen or even top ten programs? We might even see UNI back on the schedule for in-state rival Iowa. Having strong Midwest rivals to the perennial powerhouse of the region would be great for the sport as a whole.
On paper, and even in the WrestleStat computer, this is a razor close dual with one match changing the outcome. This dual features 12 wrestlers ranked in the TOM top 20 and three head to head matchups of ranked wrestlers. The highlight match may be third ranked Isaac Jordan (UW) taking on 15th ranked Bryce Steiert (UNI) at 165. Jordan lost a close match to the phenomenal Michigan freshman Logan Massa in the finals of the CKLV tournament while Steiert sat out the UNI Open missing a chance to compete against Isaiah Martinez (Illinois) and Daniel Lewis (Missouri). This will either be a bounce back victory for Jordan or else a signature win for Steiert and will probably come down to whether or not the Panther can escape from the tough on top Badger.
The matches at 149 and 174 also feature two ranked wrestlers squaring off. The 149 tilt will have 14th ranked Andrew Crone (UW) looking to take down 20th ranked Max Thomsen (UNI). Thomsen is riding a five-match win streak while Andrew Crone ended the CKLV in the win column finishing seventh. This is a very important toss-up match between Crone the redshirt junior and Thomsen the redshirt freshman that will go a long way to deciding which team wins the dual. 10th ranked Taylor Lujan is another talented redshirt freshman for UNI and his match against 20th ranked redshirt sophomore Ryan Christensen rounds out the ranked matchups. Whichever team takes two out of three of these battles will probably win this dual.
Here is my final prediction for this border battle: If UNI does not have a seven point lead going into heavyweight, second-ranked Connor Medbery (UW) will make sure Wisconsin gets the points they need to win or, at the very least, send the dual to criteria. Expect the senior in front of his home crowd to be up to the task, even if that means getting a pin against 2015 national qualifier JJ Everard (UNI).
Tune into BTNPlus or follow along on the teams Twitter accounts. It should be a great battle between two young, hungry, and talented teams.