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Previewing the Dual Between No. 1 Oklahoma State and No. 3 Iowa

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By: Lee Cothran

The most heated rivalry in collegiate wrestling returns to Stillwater on Sunday as Historic Gallagher-Iba Arena and No. 1 Oklahoma State will host the No.3 Iowa Hawkeyes. These two programs combine for 57 national titles, countless individual champions, and several Olympic champions. 42,000 people travelled to Iowa City to witness the Grapple on the Gridiron in November of 2015, where Iowa defeated the then No. 1 Oklahoma State squad.

In case my point is not coming across clearly here … this match is a huge deal. Bigger than Bedlam. More important than what is going on in any of OSU’s other athletic programs right now.

Every time these teams meet, there is a historic significance to it. Wrestling fans across the country will tune in, and will talk about what happened in the Brock-Clark or Schafer-Stoll match come Monday morning, and then again in five years when wrestlers of similar style meet up.

“I think you could say that (it’s bigger than Bedlam), just from the standpoint of the last 25 years of my career, one of the teams to beat was Iowa,” said head coach John Smith. “We were one of them too, so for that reason it becomes a little bit more of an important dual meet.”

Aside from the historic significance of this dual, Oklahoma State – Iowa will feature ranked on ranked matchups in 7 of the 10 matches. Among those ranked matchups, several are between wrestlers in the top six.

These matches will play an important role in how wrestlers for each team are seeded at the national championship tournament in St. Louis in March.  Higher seeds typically have an easier route to All-American status, and OSU needs all of the All-Americans that can be had with Penn State continuing to score bonus points against wrestlers, and Iowa becoming much stronger week to week.

The match that is carrying the most significance going into the dual is at 133 pounds between redshirt freshman Kaid Brock of Oklahoma State and top ranked senior Cory Clark of Iowa.

Aside from this being a match between two wrestlers ranked in the top six, it is a clash of styles that epitomize both of these programs. Clark is going to be an aggressive wrestler that will want to control the pace of the match from start to finish by getting tie ups and trying to get Brock off balance. This is how his coaches, Tom and Terry Brand, wrestled. This is how their coach, Dan Gable wrestled.

Brock, on the other hand, wrestles in a manner very similar to John Smith. Brock waits for his opponent to expose himself, and then makes him pay by catching a leg and finishing takedowns. In his short career, Brock has lost one match to the eventual national champion from Cornell, and that was due to an injury forfeit at the 2016 Southern Scuffle.

In Brock’s debut as an Oklahoma State wrestler, he pinned the defending national champion Cody Brewer from Oklahoma in the first period. On top of the differences in style, Clark and Brock are home grown. Clark grew up in Central Iowa, the product of being in the Hawkeye system since he was six years old.

The same can be said of Brock, who grew up in Stillwater and learned from champions such as Daniel Cormier and Zac Esposito his entire life. This match alone will be worth the $15 is costs to get in the door.

141 pounds features one of the matchups that is not between two ranked wrestlers, as Iowa’s Topher Carton (which sounds like a prop from That 70’s Show) has not been able to break into the rankings. OSU, however, has the defending national champ and top ranked Dean Heil.

What we would like to see out of this match is for Heil to assert his dominance and get bonus points for the Pokes. A pin fall would be wonderful, as OSU could user every one of the six points that Dean can earn here.

Third ranked Anthony Collica of Oklahoma State also has a crucial match at 148 against second ranked Brandon Sorenson of Iowa. In the two times these wrestlers have met, Sorenson has defeated Collica.

Collica, however, has improved greatly since these two met in Kinnick Stadium in 2015, and has been waiting for this opportunity to present itself to prove that he belongs in the conversation with Sorenson and Penn State’s Zain Retherford.

At 157 pounds, sixth ranked Joe Smith will take on Iowa’s second ranked freshman Michael Kemerer. Smith has been off to a sluggish start since his debut against Cornell, and while he has won all but one of his matches, he has wrestled himself down to No. 6 from No. 3.

That said, Smith has the talent to beat anybody that he faces, and will also be the best wrestler that Kemerer has faced to this point. While Kemerer is a quick wrestler that will try to wear down Joe with persistent shots, I believe that Joe’s experience will seal the win for him.

165 is another weight that Oklahoma State has an opportunity to separate themselves from the Hawkeyes in as fourth ranked Chandler Rogers takes on unranked Joey Gunther of Iowa. After Rogers’ standout performance in Chattanooga on New Years Weekend, it is easy to expect for Rogers to continue his streak here and score bonus points.

174 features fifth ranked Kyle Crutchmer taking on eleventh ranked Alex Meyer of Iowa. Meyer’s pace and endurance makes him a very difficult matchup for Crutchmer, who is the superior wrestler but sometimes tends to be a bit conservative against guys that he should be more aggressive with.

Crutchmer’s ability to take shots and overpower his opponents is a great strength, and one that will win him this match if he uses it. If he does not, Meyer could capitalize and come out with a win. No ranking is safe in this dual.

Another very close, very exciting matchup in this dual falls at 184 when Nolan Boyd and Sammy Brooks meet up. The wrestlers have split their previous two matchups, and they have been exciting each time. These two wrestlers, along with Tim Dudley of Nebraska, are wrestling for third place at NCAAs in March.

Unfortunately for Nolan, Gabe Dean of Cornell is well on his way to winning a championship at this weight and Bo Nickal of Penn State is likely his runner up. In this dual, Nolan Boyd is wrestling for a higher seed than Brooks in March, so it is an important match regardless.

At 197 we get our third and final ranked vs unranked matchup, as fourth ranked Preston Weigel of OSU is taking on Cash Wilcke of Iowa. What an OSU fan would like to see in this match is for Weigel to work on his offensive wrestling. Wrestlers are beginning to expose Weigel as a dominant top wrestler, but to get to that position Weigel needs to get a takedown or have his opponent make the mistake of giving him the top position between periods.

If we see Weigel get a takedown, and then cut his opponent to try and get another takedown, we will know that Coach Smith is trying to teach Weigel how to go after points in this manner. Depending on where the match starts, however, we may see Coach Smith have Weigel turn Wilcke to his back as soon as possible to try and earn the bonus points for the dual.

The final match is at 125 between twelfth ranked Nick Piccinnini and top ranked Thomas Gillman of Iowa. Pic is a talented enough wrestler to defeat anybody that he faces, but this is the one match of the dual that I believe will go to Iowa without much contest.

As good as Pic is, the redshirt freshman just isn’t quite to Gillman’s level yet. However, stranger things have happened in OSU-Iowa, and as mentioned earlier no ranking is safe. If Piccinnini can keep this match close, and eliminate the freshman mistakes that he has been making throughout this season, he very well could shock the Hawkeyes.

If the weather predictions turn out to be inaccurate and it is safe to take the roads to Stillwater on Sunday, I urge each and every person reading this post to do the Cowboys a favor and bring your friends and family to the match. Tickets are $15, and the atmosphere will be electric.

“We’ll have a great turnout,” said Smith. “I’m excited about the opportunity for a nice, big dual meet. It will be nice if the weather cooperates for us, but either way, it’s still going to be a match that we need to be ready for and we need to push hard for. They’re a good team, and I think they’ll compete for a championship at the end. We need to bring our best to the mat on Sunday.”

Cowboy Wrestling is a legacy that has taught OSU fans how to walk tall, and act like winners. Through bad years in football and basketball, wrestling was always great. It is time that we, the Cowboy Family, return to our roots and start selling out Gallagher-Iba Arena again for wrestling matches … especially against our primary rival in the sport, who had 42,000 people show up to the same match last season. The building deserves it. The program deserves it. The wrestlers deserve it. Coach Smith deserves it.

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