Border Brawlin'

Jan. 23, 2013

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — The University of Iowa drew first blood, Minnesota laughed last.

The Hawkeyes and Gophers renew their always-interesting wrestling series Saturday in Williams Arena in Minneapolis. Minnesota (11-1 overall, 5-0 Big Ten Conference) is ranked No. 3 in the country, Iowa (14-1, 4-0) is No. 4.

“Neither team is ranked No. 1, but it is still fairly important to people up there and still fairly important to people down here,” UI head coach Tom Brands said Tuesday. “I’m saying that kind of sarcastically. It’s important. We want to get to No. 1, this is the next step, so we will go do battle there.”

A battle is what normally ensues when the Hawkeyes and Gophers get together. Last season Iowa snapped a rare two-match losing streak and defeated Minnesota, 19-17, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Less than a month later, the Gophers posted a 16-15 win at the NWCA National Duals. The Hawkeyes lead the series 69-25-1.

“The rivalry hasn’t changed because of inferior rankings in the programs,” Brands said.

Iowa and Minnesota are among a select group of wrestling programs that refer to being ranked No. 3 or No. 4 in the country as inferior. But with the strength of defending Big Ten and national champion Penn State, the four other Big Ten teams in the top 6 (Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio State, and Illinois) are looking up and clawing their way toward the Nittany Lions.

“You don’t roll over and let them tickle your belly,” Brands said. “This is important. The Big Ten dual team title is on the line, Minnesota is 5-0, we’re 4-0 in the Big Ten, so it’s important.”

Iowa has won six of the last seven meetings and defeated the Gophers 19-12 on its last trip to Minneapolis on Feb. 20, 2011.

At the first dual last season, Minnesota was ranked No. 3 and Iowa was No. 6. After Nick Moore (157 pounds) and Mike Evans (165) combined for 10 team points, it was moot when the Gophers captured the final four bouts. Moore, filling in for injured Derek St. John, used a headlock to win by 11-2 major decision against Alec Ortiz; Evans pinned Cody Yohn.

“I won and that’s about it,” Moore said. “That was a match that needed to be won and I won it. Now this year is this year.”

And it is Moore’s turn to face Yohn at 165. Evans was 2-1 against Yohn a year ago, losing in overtime in the second dual.

Evans faces fellow sophomore Logan Storley, whose only loss in 17 matches is by one point to top-rated Chris Perry of Oklahoma State. The only loss for Evans is by one point to Perry.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge, just like every other one,” Evans said. “He wrestles through positions, he scrambles well, he’s tough to score on.”

Three Hawkeyes put undefeated records on the line: Matt McDonough (12-0 at 125), Tony Ramos (15-0 at 133) and St. John (15-0 at 157). Ramos faces Chris Dardenes for a fourth time after going 3-0 against the Gopher last season: twice by decision (once in overtime), and by fall for third place at the NCAA Championships.

“This is a big rivalry,” Ramos said. “It’s exciting for us, it’s going to be exciting for the fans to see where we are at. It’s time to go out and make a statement.”