(WSR Note: This may be the first of something resembling wrestling coverage for the winter. If what’s discussed here plays out, there may not be much more. Stupid Iowa.)
The genesis for this started simply enough. Last Tuesday on my way to the airport to go to Tampa for the Outback Bowl, my driver asked me what happened at the Midlands. He’s an old college wrestling coach, and he loves the holiday tournaments (even if he does wish that there were fewer of them so the talent could be more consolidated. About 3 times a year I get the “You know, the Midlands used to be better than the NCAA tournament because of all the senior wrestlers there...”). So at 5 in the morning before I had any coffee, I struggled to fight my way around the FloWrestling paywall (Seriously, FloWrestling. You guys suck.) to just find the results, and they were...yeah. The Hawkeyes set a new record with 196 team points (runners-up UNI had 101, followed by Illinois with 94.5 and wisconsin with 93.) and 5 individual champions and 2 runners-up. And you know who wasn’t in that group? Defending 125 champion Spencer Lee, who had to medical default out. Ugh.
Naturally, we used this information to joke about how Iowa was going to end up wasting what appears to be a golden opportunity to win the NCAA Championship next spring in Minneapolis. And there were a few things we could hang on to as support. Penn State isn’t as top-heavy as they usually are, but they always have 4-5 guys wrestling on Saturday night and a couple guys that just wrack up bonus points, and this year we assumed that it’d have to be Vincenzo Joseph and Anthony Cassar. Ohio State knows how to do this, being the only team not named Penn State to win since 2011. Maybe this is the year that Nebraska breaks through. Or maybe we could count on Okie State to stall their way to yet another title. Right? RIGHT?
Nope. It’s not going to happen. The news dropped Tuesday that both Kyle Conel and Anthony Cassar are out for the season for PSU. While the Nittany Lions can still count on probably having 3 guys in the semifinals (Joseph, Mark Hall, and Roman Bravo-Young), only Joseph is a guy that’ll get bonus points for the team. Hall will probably make it to Saturday night, but he’s boring. And I wouldn’t expect Bravo-Young to crack the top 2 at 133.
Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes are loaded. In the most recent Intermat rankings, they’ve got 2 guys ranked #1 (125 Spencer Lee and 149 Pat Lugo), 3 guys ranked #2 (133 Austin DeSanto, 165 Alex Marinelli, and 174 Michael Kemerer), and 4 other guys ranked in the top 8. Only 184 appears to be a weak spot, and there’s always a possibility that Tom Brands could decide to toss Nelson Brands into that spot and hope for some more family witchcraft (Relax. It’s not the same stupid nepotism that Okie State killed themselves with last year. It’s different because Nelson is Terry Brands’s kid.). Nobody else is close. With the way things look right now, the best-case scenario is for everyone to play spoiler and for Iowa to win the title with a shitload of silver medals. The only thing I want is for the night to end with heavyweights so the lights go out after Minnesota’s Gable Steveson wins the National Title in front of the home crowd. And even that won’t take the sting out of a US Bank Stadium packed to the rafters with happy Iowa fans.
Cancel the season, because this is going to suck. Congratulations on something not even you can fuck up, Iowa.