Feb. 16, 2016
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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — North Carolina State isn’t a perceived college wrestling power, but that doesn’t mean the Wolfpack does not have the University of Iowa wrestling team’s full attention.
The second-ranked Hawkeyes host No. 4 NC State on Feb. 22 on Mediacom Mat inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena in the National Duals Championship Series. The dual starts at 7 p.m. (CT).
“(NC State) may be off the radar in wrestling, but believe me, they’re on our radar,” UI head coach Tom Brands said Tuesday during a media gathering inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex. “They feel good about their program and the pundits feel good about their program. We have to be ready to go.”
The Wolfpack have finished in the top 10 at the NCAA Championships twice in program history. Since placing 63rd in the team race in 2013 in Des Moines, Iowa, NC State has posted back-to-back top 20 finishes. The team was 19th in 2014 and 16th last season.
NC State earned one of two at-large spots in the National Dual Championship Series after finishing as the Atlantic Coast Conference runner-up. The Wolfpack lead the nation with 22 dual victories (to one defeat — a 19-14 loss to No. 8 Virginia Tech on Feb. 12).
“(NC State) may be off the radar in wrestling, but believe me, they’re on our radar. They feel good about their program and the pundits feel good about their program. We have to be ready to go.”
UI head coach Tom Brands
“We have to be ready for a style we haven’t seen, but one we’ll have to deal with as we get to New York (for the 2016 NCAA Championships) and also with Penn State and some other opponents,” said Brands. “The leg riding is what I am talking about. We have to be ready to wrestle our own matches.”
NC State has seven ranked wrestlers, including four that sit in the top-six. On paper, the Wolfpack is favored at 141, 157, 165, and 285 pounds.
At heavyweight, redshirt freshman Sam Stoll will get a chance to avenge one of his two losses this season when he faces top-ranked Nick Gwiazdowski. Gwiazdowski won by major decision (10-1) at the Midlands Championships in December.
“The plan is to be different,” said Stoll, who is 19-2 this season and ranked as high as seventh. “I have to do a lot of things different; I didn’t wrestle a good match. Throughout the season I have continued to improve, and this will be a good match to show that.”
Gwiazdowski is the two-time defending NCAA champion, but that doesn’t alter Stoll’s mindset.
“I am always confident when I go out and wrestle,” he said. “It’s another match. He’s a two-time defending champion, but I prepare the same way and the mindset has to be the same every match. It’s being consistent.”
If the Hawkeyes have any angst about missing out on chance to wrestle for the National Dual Championship Series title, they aren’t showing it.
“We have what is in front of us,” said Stoll. “We can’t focus on the things out of our control.”
No. 1 Penn State will face No. 3 Oklahoma State for the title. The Nittany Lions, co-Big Ten champions with the Hawkeyes, got the nod in the title dual based on their No. 1 ranking in the USA Today/NWCA Division I Coaches Poll. Oklahoma State won the Big 12 and is ranked third behind Iowa.
The National Duals Championship Series features the top eight Big Ten programs against regular season champions from six conferences and two at-large selections.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for youth, and are available for purchase through the UI Athletics Ticket Office at 800-IA-HAWKS or online at www.hawkeyesports.com.