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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Friday’s Big Ten Conference wrestling dual in Minneapolis will be a battle of titans.
The top-ranked University of Iowa wrestling team travels to Williams Arena to face No. 2 Minnesota at 6 p.m. (CT).
“I don’t know if it gets much better than this,” UI head coach Tom Brands said during a Tuesday media gathering inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex. “This is what it is all about this time of year.”
Both Iowa and Minnesota bring 10-0 dual meet records into the weekend. The two teams are 1-2 in the NWCA/USA Today Division I coaches poll and are separated by 14 total points.
“We’ve done our job thus far, and the next thing is at Minnesota,” said Brands. “It has been close with the voting and points and how the pundits declare who is No. 1. This is how you decide.
“We have to be ready to go, and I am sure they feel the same way. This isn’t the most important time of the year, but it’s the most important date on our competitive calendar to this point. That’s an important way to approach these competitions. Peaking is a mindset.”
Eight of the 10 bouts will feature ranked wrestlers. The Hawkeyes have 10 wrestlers in the rankings, including seven at fifth or better; Minnesota has eight wrestlers ranked, including top-ranked Chris Dardanes at 125, and four in the top five.
“There are a lot of good matchups,” said Brands. “We believe in our guys. They have a No. 1 ranked guy, and we’re down the line a little bit (Cory Clark – No. 4/5/8). I don’t believe we’re that far apart.”
Iowa leads the all-time series over Minnesota, 70-26-1, but the Gophers have won the last two dual match-ups — 19-15 in Iowa City last season and 22-15 at the 2013 National Duals. The Hawkeyes last win in Williams Arena was in 2013, 16-15, on the third tiebreak criteria (match points).
Brands says redshirt freshman Brandon Sorensen is handling his success after catapulting to No. 2 in the 149 pound national rankings. Sorensen defeated top-ranked and defending national champion Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern, 3-2, on Jan. 23.
“He still has more to give; he knows and will say that,” said Brands. “It’s not a coach hoping his athlete feels that way; it’s he really feels that way. He’s doing a great job and needs to continue to do a good job and believe in the things he does well even more.”
Friday’s dual will be televised on BTN with Tim Johnson, Jim Gibbons, and Shane Sparks on the call.