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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 DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Depending on the poll, Iowa’s next wrestling opponent — South Dakota State — has four ranked competitors. But only one of them will face an underdog Hawkeye on Friday and that will be at 197 pounds.
Iowa freshman Cash Wilcke is undefeated in seven bouts this season at 197. He will take on SDSU junior Nate Rotert (3-2), a two-time NCAA qualifier who is ranked anywhere from fourth to 12th.
“I’m looking forward to it for sure,” Wilcke said. “It will be nice to get a big win and get my name out there. I need to wrestle my match, do the things I’m good at, and keep my pace high.”
No. 3 Iowa (3-0 overall) wrestles No. 20 South Dakota State (1-1) in Frost Arena in Brookings, South Dakota.
The Hawkeyes defeated the Jackrabbits, 28-15, on Dec. 4, 2015, in Carver-Hawkeye Arena; Wilcke did not compete and Rotert won by forfeit. The teams saw each other again 24 days later at the Midlands Championships. Wilcke went 1-2 at 184 pounds, splitting matches with two SDSU wrestlers. Rotert opened with an 11-9 decision over Iowa freshman Steven Holloway and eventually finished seventh (former Hawkeye Nathan Burak won the title).
Iowa holds an upper hand against the three other SDSU ranked opponents. Wilcke, who won two Iowa state high school titles for Odebolt-Arthur-Battle Creek-Ida Grove, isn’t conceding anything. He has shown considerable improvement between winning the Luther Open on Nov. 12 and his 6-4 decision over Christian Brunner at Purdue on Nov. 27. Wilcke secured a takedown with 0:02 remaining for his first Big Ten dual victory.
“It’s more the little things like when I’m getting in and finishing shots,” said Wilcke, who has a fall, technical fall, and two major decisions. “I have good offense, I can get to the legs pretty much any time I want. It’s about finishing the little things and keeping everything nice and tight.”
Wilcke is one of four redshirt freshmen in the Hawkeye lineup, joining Michael Kemerer (157), Joey Gunther (165), and Holloway (285). The quartet has a combined record of 27-2 with four falls and seven technical falls.
“We’re making progress,” UI head coach Tom Brands said of the freshmen. “The things we see that we like in the practice room are transferring into the competition arena. That’s how you make progress.”
Brands said it last week and repeated it Tuesday: “It is going to be a beehive” at South Dakota State. He compares this road trip to when the Hawkeyes traveled to Edinboro, Pennsylvania, in 2013 and defeated the Fighting Scots, 22-19, after trailing 13-11 through 165 pounds.
“The environment is going to be fun,” Brands said. “We have to be ready. It’s about our guys going in there and doing what they do best and that is wrestling their match; we have to score points.”
Iowa and South Dakota State are scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. (CT). It is the sixth meeting in a series that got underway in 1995; the Hawkeyes won the previous five duals. The Hawkeyes have won six straight nonconference duals on the road and 19 straight road duals overall.
“It’s going to come down to bonus points,” Brands said. “We have to be ready for everything.”