Feb. 22, 2016
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- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
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. To receive daily news from the Iowa Hawkeyes, sign up HERE.
By CHRIS BREWER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Heavyweight is not the only big matchup looming Monday night at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but it is the biggest of the big.
Two-time defending NCAA champion Nick Gwiazdowski meets No. 7 Sam Stoll when fourth-ranked NC State visits second-ranked Iowa to compete in the NWCA National Duals Championships Series.
The 285-pounders are two of 15 ranked wrestlers taking the mat in the final dual meet of the season. Gwiazdowski, a senior who transferred from Binghamton after his freshman season in 2012, has been ranked No. 1 since winning the national championship for NC State in 2014. He has won 81 straight matches and is undefeated in 54 career duals for the Wolfpack.
Stoll is 20-2 in his rookie season. He has six wins over ranked opponents and his only two losses have been to wrestlers ranked in the top four, including No. 4 Austin Marsden in his collegiate debut at Grapple on the Gridiron, and Gwiazdowski in the semifinals at the Midlands Championships.
The 10-1 loss at Midlands snapped Stoll’s 10-match win streak. He has won 10 straight since that defeat, and said the only way to change the previous result is to change his performance on the mat.
“If there is an upside to (the Midlands loss), it’s that there is a lot to improve on,” Stoll said. “I’ve gone back, looked at film, and plan on doing things different. I need to wrestle a good match.”
Stoll has showed progress every week this season. He wrestled the first five weeks unranked, but after defeating Rutgers’ No. 6 Billy Smith in sudden victory on Dec. 10, he debuted at No. 10 in the Dec. 15 Intermat poll.
He has lived in the top 10 ever since, peaking at No. 7 this week, but says neither that number nor the number next to his opponent’s name will affect his mindset going into round two against Gwiazdowski.
“I’m always confident when I go out and wrestle,” Stoll said. “More confident? Less confident? I don’t really think there is a difference. It’s another match. Just because he’s the two-time returning champ, I prepare the same way. The mindset has to be the same every match. It’s just being consistent and wrestling your match.”
NC State has won a school-record 22 duals, more than any other Division I team, and travels with seven ranked wrestlers, including four in the top five. Kevin Jack is ranked third at 141; Tommy Gantt is fourth at 157; Max Rohskopf is fifth at 165, and Gwiazdowski. Those four have combined for a 79-5 record (.940).
The Hawkeyes counter with eight ranked wrestlers, including four in the top four. Thomas Gilman is ranked second at 125; Cory Clark is third at 133; Brandon Sorensen is second at 149, and Nathan Burak is fourth at 197. Those four have a combined 79-2 record (.975).
None of NC State or Iowa’s top four wrestlers share a weight class, but six of Monday’s 10 matches feature a pair of ranked wrestlers. Heavyweight is the only top 10 matchup, and with Iowa’s preference to start duals at 125, and NC State’s history of a starting at 125 (the Wolfpack has opened 18 of its 23 duals at 125), it possible the heavyweights could decide the dual in the final bout.
It is a scenario that might add pressure to an already full plate, but Stoll does not give it much consideration.
“It’s how it has been always,” he said. “I don’t know any different.”
Monday’s dual starts at 7 p.m. (CT). Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for youth 18 and younger, and free for UI students and children 5 and younger. Tickets are available at the UI Athletics Ticket Office, over the phone at 1-800-IA-HAWKS, or online at hawkeyesports.com.