AMES — Iowa State 165-pounder Mike Moreno’s ascended the medal stand at the past two NCAA Championships.
But there’s one thing the two-time all-American hasn’t been able to achieve in that span: A win over Iowa’s Nick Moore in a dual meet.
And it gnaws at him.
“He’s going to wrestle his way, I’m going to wrestle mine,” said Moreno, who gets his third dual shot — and fourth overall — at Moore in Saturday’s 7 p.m. Cy-Hawk Series showdown with the Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I like to take a lot of shots. I’m going to continue to do that. He’s going to have to ward off a barrage.”
Defense is Moore’s forte. He won 3-2 in 2012 and didn’t allow the always-aggressive Moreno to stick a shot in last year’s dual. Instead, Moore struck for a late takedown of his own in a 3-1 win that capped Iowa’s overall triumph of 23-9.
“A three-second mistake was about the difference,” Moreno said. “Just got to polish up some things and not make any bonehead mistakes and I should be all right.”
Cue the re-rematch in what, on paper, looms as perhaps the marquee scrap of the night between the 12th-ranked Cyclones and No. 1 Hawkeyes.
Moreno, 8-0/4-0, is ranked No. 3 by InterMat. Moore, 7-0/3-0, checks in at No. 5.
“It’s a huge match for Mike Moreno,” said ISU coach Kevin Jackson, whose team seeks its first dual win over Iowa since Dec. 5, 2004. “He has not won an Iowa-Iowa State dual yet. And he’s had some success at the NCAA Championships, so this is his last opportunity in a dual meet and you don’t want to end your career without saying you performed at a high level in your biggest dual meet.”
Five of Saturday’s matches feature battles between ranked foes — and four will unfold at middle and heavier weights.
At 133, ISU all-American Earl Hall (ranked 13th) takes on No. 4 Cory Clark, who won by one point last season.
At 174, the Cyclones’ sixth-ranked Tanner Weatherman tries to take down No. 4 Mike Evans.
At 184, ISU’s Lelund Weatherspoon (No. 18) grapples with No. 9 Sammy Brooks.
And at 197, the Cyclones’ third-ranked and two-time all-American Kyven Gadson is slated to face No. 6 Nathan Burak.
“There are several weight classes up and down the lineup that we feel like are going to determine the match,” Jackson said. “I think bonus points are going to be huge for the dual meet. And bonus points determine results a lot of time. So we have to compete at a very high level to take on a team that’s, on paper, better than us.”
Weatherman (8-0/4-0) seeks redemption against Evans (7-0/0-0). They’ve wrestled twice and Evans has won by major decision each time.
“(I was) starting slow, maybe feeling a little sluggish,” Weatherman said of the first two meetings with Evans. “Cautious would maybe be the best word.”
He’s not wrestling tentatively now.
“He’s had an outstanding year to this point,” Jackson said. “I think he’s been one of our most consistent guys. We’re looking for Tanner to take that next step.”
Against Evans, any progress is tough to achieve.
“Just a hard-nosed, tough, tough kid that scrambles hard and rides hard,” Jackson said. “So you’ve got to be ready from the start until the end. It’s going to tell us a lot about where Tanner’s at.”
The junior has qualified for the last two NCAA Championships, but hasn’t yet taken an all-American step.
“I’ve just got to wrestle smart,” the Huxley native said. “I think I’ve matured a lot as a wrestler and as a person.”
That’s true, team-wide, for ISU, as well. Moreno is convinced the time is now for him and his teammates to contend for a win against Iowa for the first time in several years.
“My confidence in this team is as high as it’s ever been,” said Moreno, who beat Moore 5-3 at the 2013 NCAA Championships. “We’re still looking to get that monkey off our back. So I think now would be a good time.”
It won’t be remotely easy. Iowa’s fans create the most hostile environment in the country. Couple that with sometimes heated exchanges between coaches and staff, and Saturday’s meet will go a long way toward building the strength needed come March.
“Yeah, man, it’s the big time,” said Jackson, who knows a thing or two about that as a two-time world champion and Olympic gold medalist. “It’s the one that’s the most fun, the most exciting — creates the most intensity and the most drama. We feel like we’ve done some things in preparation for them that we hope to see on Saturday to give ourselves a chance to wrestle our best.”