Jan. 16, 2015
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — There are opportunities for 20 wrestlers during every dual meet and Friday there will be two huge chances for Hawkeyes before intermission.
Top-rated and undefeated Iowa (8-0 overall, 3-0 Big Ten Conference) hosts No. 11 Illinois (8-1, 2-0) at 7:07 p.m. (CT) on Mediacom Mat inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. If the dual begins at 125 pounds, four of the first five Iowa wrestlers could face nationally ranked opponents, including sophomore Thomas Gilman (17-1 overall) at 125 and senior Michael Kelly (16-2) at 157.
Gilman, ranked No. 4 or 5, could face two-time defending national champion Jesse Delgado, who has been on the mat just twice this season for an undetermined reason. Gilman defeated Delgado, 3-1, in the semifinals of the Midlands Championship in 2013.
“I’m getting ready to compete. I expect (Delgado) to be out there, that’s what I’m preparing,” Gilman said. “If he is out there, awesome, if he’s not, awesome. Nothing changes.
“To me it doesn’t matter, to the fans it does. They want to see a good matchup and I want good competition. He’s a good competitor and we have history. Of course I want that. Am I going to be disappointed if he’s not there? Probably not, it’s just another match.”
UI head coach Tom Brands said it doesn’t matter when or where Gilman sees Delgado this season, the Hawkeye will be prepared.
“I’m getting ready to compete. I expect (Delgado) to be out there, that’s what I’m preparing. If he is out there, awesome, if he’s not, awesome. Nothing changes. To me it doesn’t matter, to the fans it does.”
UI sophomore 125 pounder
“We’re ready for (Delgado) just like we’re ready for their other guy there (junior Dominic Olivieri),” Brands said. “We have to be ready that they are going to have (Delgado) run out on the mat when it’s go time. If he is the guy on the mat, then we have to go out and take something from him.”
For Kelly, who is ranked 12th, 13th, or 15th, the dual provides an opportunity to avenge a 16-5 loss to Illini redshirt freshman Isaiah Martinez (18-0), who is ranked anywhere from second to fifth.
“It was a match where I felt I gave a lot of points away,” Kelly said of the 2014 Midlands semifinal bout. “The score didn’t reflect where we are as wrestlers. It’s an opportunity every time you step out. This guy is ranked pretty high, he hasn’t lost yet this year. I have to go out there and take care of business.”
Since the loss to Martinez, Kelly has won four of his last five matches with wins against two ranked foes (No. 13 Anthony Perroti of Rutgers and No. 12 Anthony Collica of Oklahoma State). He dropped a 5-2 decision to No. 6 Josh Demas of Ohio State.
“Kelly is confident, he is doing the things he probably knows he could have done all along,” Brands said. “He beat an All-American at Rutgers, that is a good step for him. He had a close match at Ohio State where he lost, but coming off the mat, his conversations were a little bit different than they were earlier in his career. He knows he has to pull the trigger; it’s about getting to guys and putting points on the board and that’s when guys start to fold.”
Other potential matchups Friday with two ranked wrestlers are at 133, 141, 165, 174, and 184. The 133-pound match will be a rematch of the 2014 Midlands finals between Iowa sophomore Cory Clark (15-1) and sophomore Zane Richards of Illinois (17-1). Clark won the first meeting, 4-2.
At 141, Iowa senior Josh Dziewa (16-4) looks to avenge a 3-1 Midlands loss to Illini junior Steven Rodriguez (the two have split four matches in their college careers). At 165, Iowa senior Nick Moore (13-4) lost, 5-2, at Midlands to Illinois senior Jackson Morse (18-2). At 174, Iowa senior Mike Evans (17-0) handed Illini junior Zac Brunson (18-1) his only loss of the season, 2-1 in a Midlands final. Iowa sophomore Sammy Brooks (16-2) faces Illinois sophomore Nikko Reyes (17-5) at 184.
Iowa has won the last five meetings against Illinois and leads the all-time series, 48-26-1. Under Brands, the Hawkeyes are 5-0 against Illinois, including a 25-12 win last season in Champaign, Illinois.