Big Ten

#3 Iowa vs #15 Wisconsin: Preview & Predictions

#3 Iowa vs #15 Wisconsin: Preview & Predictions

A rundown of what to expect when the Badgers invade Iowa City to take on the Hawkeyes on Senior Day.

Feb 16, 2024 by Andrew Spey
#3 Iowa vs #15 Wisconsin: Preview & Predictions

It's Senior Day in Iowa City as the Hawkeyes host the Wisconsin Badgers in their last home dual of the season in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. 

Wisconsin is currently #15 in the nation according to Flo's team tournament rankings, while the Hawkeyes sit at #3. The teams have thirteen wrestlers in the individual rankings combined. This contest could feature ranked matchups at 125, 149, 165 and 174. 


Iowa is coming off back-to-back losses for the first time since 2018, having dropped meets to Michigan and Penn State over the last two weekends. The Hawkeyes stand at 5-2 in the Big Ten Conference and 10-2 overall. They were also team champs at the Soldier Salute holiday tournament.

The Badgers are 3-3 in conference duals and 9-4 overall. They are on a hot steak, though, having won their last three duals, all against Big Ten foes. Additionally, Wisconsin placed second at the Midlands Championships, held concurrently to the Soldier Salute. 

Wisconsin has a dual against #16 Minnesota on Friday, while Iowa's schedule is free this weekend, save for this Sunday afternoon dual. 

The all-time series is skewed heavily toward the Hawkeyes, who have won the last 11 contests versus the Badgers. The series, which started in 1923, stands at 81-8-3 in favor of Iowa. Wisconsin's last victory came back in the 2006-07 season. 

How To Watch

The dual will be broadcast on the BTN cable channel at 2:00 PM ET. Check your local listings for the channel numbers. You can also watch on the Fox Sports App if you have a cable subscription (specifically one that carries BTN). 

If you don’t have cable, you can purchase one month of YouTubeTV (or a similar service) and stream BTN on your connected device. That month will also get you the Big Ten Championships, though you will need to purchase another month to cover the NCAA Championships as well. 

Projected Lineups

This list of probables comes from Wisconsin's and Iowa's preview but they are naturally subject to change.

125: #4 SO Drake Ayala, Iowa vs #3 SR Eric Barnett, Wisconsin

133: #23 JR Cullan Schriever or SR Brody Teske, Iowa vs FR Nicolar Rivera, Wisconsin

141: #2 SR Real Woods, Iowa vs Felix Lettini or FR Zan Fugitt, Wisconsin

149: #11 SO Caleb Rathjen, Iowa vs #15 JR Joseph Zargo or FR Julian George, Wisconsin

157: #5 SR Jared Franek, Iowa vs SO Luke Melcher or FR Cody Goebel, Wisconsin

165: #7 SO Michael Caliendo, Iowa vs #5 JR Dean Hamiti, Wisconsin

174: #5 JR Patrick Kennedy, Iowa vs #14 SR Max Maylor, Wisconsin

184: FR Aiden Riggins, Iowa vs #18 SR Shane Liegel or FR Luke Condon, Wisconsin

197: #12 SR Zach Glazier, Iowa vs SR Josh Otto, Wisconsin

285: FR Bradley Hill or FR Ben Kueter, Iowa vs FR Gannon Rosenfeld, Wisconsin

Matchups To Watch

A top five matchup to kick off the dual

Tune in early, because the highest ranked matchup is going to kick off the event (assuming they start at 125)

Redshirt sophomore Draka Ayala has taken over the reins of Iowa's leadoff spot from Spencer Lee and performed admirably in his steed. Ayala has just three losses this season by a total of five points. 

Ayala will have to be at the top of his game to defeat two-time All-American Eric Barnett. The fifth-year senior from Greenville, Wisconsin placed seventh and eighth at the 2022 and 2021 NCAA Tournaments, respectively, and fell just one match shy of the podium last year. Barnett also has a win over Ayala, though it was two seasons ago at Big Tens. 

The matchup will take on extra importance as Big Ten and NCAA seeds are on the line. And it's also it's 125, so who knows what's going to happen!

Two AA contenders at 149

Wisconsin junior Joey Zargo has qualified for the last two NCAAs and is well on his way to another in his third varsity season. The Badger by way of New Jersey has a 15-4 record, placing at both the Michigan State Open and Midlands. 

Caleb Rathjen, a local Iowan, has solidified his spot in the Hawkeye lineup, no small accomplishment when you have the likes of Victor Voinovich and other challengers in the same room. With a 10-3 record, he's in good shape to qualify for his first NCAA tournament in his third season in Iowa City. 

Though Rathjen is a slight favorite on paper, Zargo has a good opportunity to silence the Carver-Hawkeye crowd with a win. 

The Main Event

Though 125 will have two higher ranked wrestlers, 165 is the marquee matchup of this dual, at least in my humble estimation. 

Michael Caliendo comes to the Hawkeyes by way of the transfer portal, having placed seventh last season for the North Dakota State. He's 15-2 on the season with his only losses coming from #2 David Carr and #6 Mitchell Mesenbrink. 

Dean Hamiti, a true junior who placed sixth at the last two NCAA Tournaments, is 21-1 on the season, whose only official loss is to David Carr. Additionally, Hamiti lost to #3 Izzak Olejnik at the All-Star Classic, although that match won't count for seeding and NCAA qualification purposes. At least it's not supposed to. 

Though these two could see each other again in the Big Ten semifinals, this match will go a long way in helping each wrestler's NCAA seed. And in a division with the likes of Keegan O'Toole and David Carr, every little bit helps. 

Fun fact: Caliendo (Batavia) and Hamiti (Joliet Catholic) attended high schools about an hour apart from each other in the suburbs of Chicago. 

Watch Hamiti win the Michigan State Open over #9 Caleb Fish:


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125: Barnett, Wisconsin over Ayala, Iowa by decision - Wisconsin 3, Iowa 0

133: Schriever, Iowa over Rivera, Wisconsin by decision - Wisconsin 3, Iowa 3

141: Woods, Iowa over Lettini, Wisconsin by major - Iowa 7, Wisconsin 3

149: Rathjen, Iowa over Zargo, Wisconsin by decision - Iowa 10, Wisconsin 3

157: Franek, Iowa over Melcher, Wisconsin by major - Iowa 14, Wisconsin 3

165: Hamiti, Wisconsin over Caliendo, Iowa by decision - Iowa 14, Wisconsin 6

174: Kennedy Iowa over Maylor, Wisconsin by decision - Iowa 17, Wisconsin 6

184: Liegel, Wisconsin over Riggens, Iowa by decision - Iowa 17, Wisconsin 9

197: Glazier, Iowa over Otto, Wisconsin by decision - Iowa 20, Wisconsin 9

285: Hill, Iowa over Rosenfeld, Wisconsin by decision - Iowa 23, Wisconsin 9

If all the starters take the mat, Iowa will have too much firepower in too many weights for Wisconsin. The Badgers are only heavy favorites in one weight, so they will need more than a couple of breaks to pull off an upset, especially on Senior Day in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.