Nittany Lions Visit Carver
Christian Pyles, College Analyst

I said it last week and I’ll say it again this week, this college season has been churning out amazing events each week.
 
This one could be the most highly anticipated. 

Iowa and PSU became a fast rivalry when Cael Sanderson brought them to legitimacy (and beyond) a few years ago.  The meteoric rise for Penn State can be attributed to a few things, but one thing's for certain: Sanderson and Brands aren’t going anywhere for awhile. So this rivalry will only become more heated and legendary as time goes by.  
 
According to our rankings Iowa is ranked higher in 6 of the 10 weights.  However, Penn State has a number of equalizers that will make this a tight dual.  First is their amazing bonus point production.  Ed Ruth and David Taylor are their bonus kings, able to put up huge numbers not just against average starters, but All-American wrestlers.  Ruth’s tech-fall of Josh Ihnen and dismantling of Steve Bosak speaks to the level Ed is wrestling on right now.  

Furtherfmore, the rankings discrepencies at those weights are marginal at 125, 157 and 174.  The outcomes for these matches will tell the tale for this dual.

The dual can be seen live on the Big Ten Network and on IPads and other mobile devices on btn2Go.com

* Iowa wrestler listed first


125: #1 Matt McDonough v. #2 Nico Megaludis
You know the dual's going to be good when it starts with a national finals re-match.  

McDonough really looked good against Thorn last week.  Completely unphased when giving up the first takedown, he dominated the rest of the match.  Megaludis has had a nice season so far with the one blemish being a loss to Anthony Zanetta.  No doubt both guys have had this date highlighted for some time and Megaludis would love nothing more than to start this dual off right for the Nittany Lions.  
 
While McDonough had his lapse last year against Delgado, and has had some underwhelming moments this season, I still like him to win in this spot. The way to beat McDonough is get to his legs, finish and get a decent ride (McDonough has been ridden this year).  In their two meetings last year, Nico struggled to get to McDonough’s legs.  With Matt, getting to the legs is only half (or maybe a quarter) of the battle.  His funk and length give people fits and the same will go for Nico.  While McDonough has had his own struggles taking Megaludis down, he has been able to get to get in on leg attacks vs. Nico more consistently.

McDonough, who has a history of slowly figuring key opponents out, has widened the gap from their first meeting.  His Sophomore year he struggled early with Brandon Precin, losing at Midlands.  In the next dual, he struggled as well and was in real danger of losing before he hit his trusty lefty headlock and pinned Brandon. In their Big 10 final, McDonough was able to keep Precin at bay and get his own takedowns, and his NCAA semi final victory was possibly his most dominating win. Not that he has struggled with Megaludis on the level he struggled with Precin (if one loss could really be considered a struggle), but his style is problematic at times, and I think Brands and company will have him prepared for the looks Nico will give him. 
 
I think McDonough will be ready and will be on for this match.  I don’t see him dropping this one.  He’s a 2 time champ for a reason, and the champ until proven otherwise.

Matt McDonough WBD Nico Megaludis

3-0 Iowa


133: #2 Tony Ramos v. #20 Jordan Conaway
I was as shocked as anyone when I saw Jordan Conaway upset Tyler Graff.  After watching the match, it became pretty apparent that Conaway's hustle and heart are his biggest attributes. Unfortunately for him, Tony Ramos has hustle, heart along with ferocity and skills that few can match.  I don’t think wrestling hard and hustling keep Conaway in this match.  Ramos will have an advantage in each aspect of the match.  I see Tony realizing what bonus points will mean in this match and wouldn’t be surprised to see him put up a big number.  Last year he had a huge fall against Frank Martelloti and while Ramos really only has one go to  turn he likes to use and he rarely implements it from the top position.  I think Conaway will be ready for his  ‘Chin and Arm’ (that’s what we call it in VA at least), and will not give up the fall.  However, I see Tony imposing his will on his feet and him getting the major decision and the key bonus point.
 
Tony Ramos WMD Jordan Conaway

7-0 Iowa
 

141: #9 Mark Ballweg v. #19 Bryan Pearsall
Iowa’s gotta have this one.  Ballweg is yet to have a slip up so far this season.  Two 5th year seniors will battle it out on wrestling’s most storied stage.   I don’t think Pearsall matches up well for a potential upset here.  He’s got some top skills, but really can’t generate his own offense on his feet.  Ballweg, as I’ve mentioned before, has improved his neutral game, while still keeping his counter offense. 

Pearsall is not impervious to giving up bonus points either, so it’s possible Ballweg can get the ball rolling.  Though Pearsall is ranked, his season has been fairly up and down this season with quite a few losses to unranked opponents.  They have two common opponents Julian Feikert: Pearsall lost 7-4 and Ballweg won 8-3; and Anthony Salupo: Pearsall won 7-6 and Ballweg won by major.  The more I look at this match up, the more I think Ballweg get’s the bonus point victory here.  It’s a big mismatch stylistically, and if Ballweg goes after it, I see him getting the major decision. 

Mark Ballweg WMD Bryan Pearsall 
 
11-0 Iowa


149: Mike Kelly v. #8 Andrew Alton
Had to think on this one.  I try not to be a prisoner of the moment.  Yes, Andrew Alton got pinned, and yes Mike Kelly has avoided bonus in the last few big spots (Oliver, Ness).  I think a number of factors were at play for Alton that won’t be at play in this match. 

While Andrew had been competing in opens during his suspension (or whatever it officially was called), it was his first time back in the PSU singlet in awhile and the nerves that could be associated with that could have lead to his struggle and gas tank issues. 

Additionally, Jake Sueflohn is not coming out of the tunnel at Carver Hawkeye.  It’s Mike Kelly.  Sueflohn is a skilled wrestler who pushes the pace and has worn out the likes of Hunter Stieber in his career with his relentless attitude and skills.  Mike Kelly has had some solid moments this season, no doubt.  However, he’s still struggling to get to score on his feet, and does not have the elite defense to prevent being taken down. 
 
Alton is a pinner, and he goes for broke like few wrestlers do.  One has to wonder if coaches will start to implement the “ride out the storm” strategy against Alton and just avoid the firestorm and stay off your back early and work your way back.  Some coaches may think that’s a fair strategy, but I don’t see Coach Brands sending that kind of message to Kelly.  A part of me thinks Alton finds a way to get the stick here.  Yet, looking at his last few matches, he’s had some tight ones (3-2 over  Paddock,  6-2 over Albright).  

Predicting bonus points can be very difficult. As you can tell, I’m definitely wavering back and forth here.  Kelly has prevented bonus against tougher wrestlers before (Molinaro, Oliver, Ness).  However, Kelly has a tendency to get tossed on his back from his feet.  His upper body skills are not well developed for someone who tends to go upper body as much as he does.  Alton might be taylor made to exploit this flaw.  I’m not mentioning all these factors to hedge all outcomes, but they are all relevant facts.  My thinking is that Kelly will be able to ride the storm, stay off his back. I’m far from confident, but it’s how I see it playing out.  

Andrew Alton WBD Mike Kelly

11-3 Iowa 


157: #1 Derek St. John v. #3 Dylan Alton
Big match here with some familiarity between the two.  Both have had pretty solid seasons so far.  St. John is still unblemished this year, and Alton’s lone loss came to #2 Napoli.  I think this one is a little less complicated than the first few. 

These two have two prior meetings with St. John winning both 3-1 in SV.  I like DSJ in this spot as well.  I think there’s been a solid improvement in his neutral game this year so far, and I see him getting the takedown in regulation.  Alton is tough, and if he decides to fire off and be aggressive instead of settling for a low scoring match, he could pull the upset.  A lot of times Alton is satisfied (unlike his twin) with letting the match come to him.  Sometimes it works (James Green), other times it doesn’t (DSJ).  DSJ is lethal with his counters so perhaps that’s why Alton is pretty conservative against St. John.  At any rate, I like St. John in a 1 takedown match.   

Derek St. John WBD Dylan Alton

14-3 Iowa


165: #14 Nick Moore v. #2 David Taylor
Big spot for a momentum killer coming out of intermission.  Interested to see how this one plays out.  Last time PSU and Iowa met, Taylor was content to ride Mike Evans, and this prevented him (in my opinion) from getting bonus points.  I think if Taylor forces from the top position he could find himself in a similar predicament.  Getting the early takedown and riding out the period is not a recipe for a bonus point finish for DT.  While he is unreal on top, I’m of the opinion he’s better off going where he has a tremendous advantage (neutral). 

If it takes Taylor a minute of riding to get NF2, that’s wasted time.  DT could get 3 Takedowns in a minute's time against Moore (in my opinion), who I believe can be caught flat footed. 

Moore is a strong kid, and I don’t think he’ll go to his back easy.  So basically you can tell I’m not debating the result (Taylor's going to win with ease here), rather the degree of domination we will see.  I think if DT racks up his takedowns, those takedowns will then flow into quick nearfall points.  Then I think we could see the major or even a tech-fall. 

The skill disparity is vast, Taylor just needs to go where he can score quicker.  As the match wears on, Moore’s positioning will open up creating more opportunities for Taylor. 

Taylor is the ultimate competitor and I see him looking for the big points, but falling short of the tech fall.  I may be giving too much credit to Moore here, but I feel alright about this.

David Taylor WMD Nick Moore

14-7 Iowa


174: #4 Mike Evans v. #7 Matt Brown
Another highly anticipated matchup.  Evans has been nip and tuck with the 1 and 2 ranked guys in this weight.  He lost a real tight one to Storley where he was in control much of the match, had a takedown taken off the board (probably the right call) and lost by one point and was in deep on the winning takedown as the buzzer sounded. 

Brown has been solid, but is still yet to notch a signature win.  Both guys are brawlers, maybe Brown moreso than Evans from a ‘beat-on-your-head’ standpoint.  Brown likes his single leg as his go to, but he has a tendency to leave himself vulnerable at times.  While Evans is not the most polished neutral wrestler, it is very evident he has made strides in this area and is only getting better. 

In Brown's two toughest matches( Storley and Kokesh) he has put himself in poor positions and been put on his back.  I’m not predicting nearfall necessarily, but I think Brown's overall sloppiness will put him at a disadvantage against Evans.  I like Evans (a Carver-Hawkeye favorite) to take momentum back and get the win over Brown.  

Mike Evans WBD Matt Brown

17-7 Iowa


184: #15 Ethen Lofthouse v. #1 Ed Ruth
Coach Brands gave Ethen his own bulletin board material when discussing last year's dual and how Ed Ruth “put a saddle on him.”  This could have an inspiring affect on Ethen and cause him to wrestle Ed tough (Ethen put forth very little effort against Kevin Steinhaus even when he trailed). 

However, I’m not of the opinion that more fire in the belly is really a recipe for success against Ed.  To be honest, is there a recipe for success?  The answer is probably no.  Ed got the major last year, but I think he is unquestionably better up at 184.  Meanwhile, Ethen is unquestionably worse at 184 this year.  Until I see otherwise I see Ethen getting dismantled in this spot.  If Ed wants the tech, I think he’ll get it.  He better want it, it’s there for the taking from what I have seen of both guys. This is an absolute mismatch in every aspect.  I’m calling the tech with swipes.  

Ed Ruth WTF Ethen Lofthouse

17-12 Iowa 


197: #19 Nathan Burak v. #3 Quentin Wright
I’ve seen a good bit of discussion of this as a possible bonus point win for Penn State.  While I will concede that every time Quentin steps on the mat there’s a chance he launches someone and get’s the fall, I don’t see that happening in this spot.  Quentin had a tight match at the Scuffle with Schiller who just had to fight tooth-and-nail to beat Burak. 

Is that my sole reasoning for thinking this match won’t be a blow out?  No, not really, but I think Burak brings a lot of things to the table that can help prevent getting blown out. He’s a good hand fighter for a young guy and has good hips.

Note that Burak struggled with Atwood who was a tough leg rider. Quentin likes to throw legs as well so this could be an area of difficulty for the Freshman.

In the end, I think Burak is still improving and will be ready to keep this one somewhat close.

Quentin Wright WBD Nathan Burak

17-15 Iowa


#7 Bobby Telford v. #16 Jon Gingrich
There could be a significant bonus point change for leading up to this match, and I think the dual will still be Iowa’s to win if they take the heavyweight match.  I think Bobby  wins in this spot.  He impressed me in defeat against Nelson, taking the only shot of the match and getting in deeper on Nelson than many have all season. 

Gingrich has had an up and down season.  He’s notched some really solid wins beating Chalfant and McClure, yet has a loss to Jack Delia.  I see this as a slow paced match. One kedown wins it and I think that takedown will belong to Bobby Telford.  The stage will be set for high drama, yet I don’t see these two guys providing a very entertaining finale.  Regardless it will feature two quality heavyweights with the season’s biggest dual on the line in wrestling’s most storied venue.   

Bobby Telford WBD Jon Gingrich

Final Score: 20-15 Iowa


I feel pretty good about my match winners here.  Obviously 125, 157,174 and maybe 285 could go either way, but I feel there is a slight favorite in each match.  In each of those matches, I picked the Iowa wrestler.   It doesn’t take a mathematician to figure out that if one of those matches swings for the Nittany Lions, they’re probably winning this dual.
If I have picked the match winners correct, it would take a tremendous bonus point performance for Penn State to win.  Even if Andrew Alton and David Taylor are able to secure pins, they’ll still come up short.  I think Penn State’s insane bonus point prowess obviously serves them better in tournaments than in duals.  Picking 4 matches to end with bonus points might be a bit ambitious, and far-fetched, but it’s based on the skill disparity I see, so I went with it. 

I don’t know if we’ll have that signature “Carver Magic” match, but I think there are going to be some great moments.  Each of the 10 bouts has its own individual wrinkle that makes the match interesting and must watch.  

Is it Friday yet?