It’s Cy-Hawk week for wrestling too.
This Saturday at 7 p.m. the Cyclones will travel to Iowa City to take on in-state rival, the No. 2 ranked squad in the country, the Iowa Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Take one glance at the Hawkeyes lineup and you’ll see it is filled with talented upperclassmen. Iowa’s 125-pounder, Thomas Gillman, is the nation’s No. 1 grappler in his weight class. The Hawkeyes’ 184-wrestler, Sammy Brooks, is No. 6. Those are just a couple, as Iowa possesses handful of more highly-ranked, experienced competitors.
Then take a look at the Cyclones’ lineup. It is the exact opposite.
Iowa State’s cast of wrestlers will feature a flavor of youth for this weekend’s highly important duel.
When the Cyclones released their projected lineups this week, it listed redshirt freshman: Marcus Simmons as 125 starter and Chase Straw, Colston DiBlasi and Joe Teague as possible starters at 149, 157 and 197, respectively. It also listed true freshman, Kanen Storr, as one of three possible starters at 141.
Iowa State could be nervous about starting four young competitors during such a noteworthy and potential season altering match, but the Cyclones sit at 1-3 on the year after losing to the likes of North Dakota State, South Dakota State and Wyoming.
These five youngsters have been some of the best grapplers on the squad so far in 2016-17.
Simmons, who is 13-3 on the season, gave Virginia Tech’s Joey Dance, the No. 2 125-pounder in the country, all he could handle during the Cliff Keen Classic in Las Vegas last weekend. Although the Broken Arrow, OK. native lost 4-0, Simmons gained confidence heading against an even stronger opponent.
“It’s encouraging to see him compete with the top guys in the country,” ISU coach Kevin Jackson said. “But Gilman’s a different animal. He’s going to come and compete in a different way.”
On the year, Iowa is no stranger to points. The Hawkeyes won 45-0 and 55-0 against Iowa Central and Cornell College, respectively. They easily defeated Big Ten foe Purdue, 34-3. Against South Dakota State, Iowa won 29-8. The Cyclones lost to the Jackrabbits, 27-9.
If Iowa State wants to have a chance to beat Iowa, it will need find ways to score points, which is where is DiBlasi (12-5) comes into the picture.
On the year, DiBlasi has won both of his duel appearances and leads Iowa State with eight pinfall victories. If Jackson decides to go with the youngster, DiBlasi could provide much needed points for the Cyclones.
If Jackson does in fact go with Straw (12-6), the Independence native would have a chance for redemption.
In 2013, Straw lost in the Iowa High School semifinals to Iowa senior and the No. 2 149-pounder, Brandon Sorenson.
“Straw is probably not the most talented kid on our team,” Jackson said. “But as a freshman, he’s going out there and going to war. He’s battling. For me to see him do that and see one of our upperclassmen not battle like that’s frustrating.”
Iowa and Iowa State both have true freshman as possible starters. Storr (19-3) has been dominating his foes while wrestling unattached for the Cyclones this year, while Iowa coach Tom Brands put 165-pound grappler, Alex Marinelli, on his mid-week lineup.
Although the underclassmen for Iowa State have shown potential this year, the Cyclones will need their upperclassmen to battle just like the youngsters on the squad.
During Jackson’s Tuesday press conference, he stated that senior 133-pound All-American Earl Hall hasn’t been battling to the standard he is held to. Now, considering that Iowa’s main 133-pound grappler Cory Clark is out, if Hall performs to the ability he should, Iowa State should take that matchup. Also, the Cyclones’ 184-grappler, Pat Downey, should return from injury, which will provide a boost to ISU’s lineup.
The Cyclones are probably a little to green for a matchup of this caliber. On paper, this duel looks a lot like last year’s, when Iowa handily defeated Iowa State, 33-6.
However if the Cyclones’ youngsters battle to level they have this season and the upperclassmen that Jackson wants to compete better perform to the standard he expects of them, this Iowa State might make this interesting.