It has been a long time since the Iowa wrestling team has gone into a dual meet having lost two straight matches.
That is exactly what will occur Sunday when No. 6 Iowa hosts No. 3 Minnesota at Carver Hawkeye Arena.
And the Hawkeyes have not looked sharp at all in those two losses to then No. 7 Ohio State and No. 3 Penn State. Iowa was ranked No. 1 in the nation before losing to both programs by double digits on the road.
Things won’t get any easier on Sunday at 3 p.m. in front a home crowd in Iowa City or a national television audience on the Big Ten Network around the country.
The Hawkeyes have won six straight duals over the Gophers and have won 18 straight duals overall at Carver Hawkeye Arena, but Minnesota comes into the match having lost just once this season and looking to avenge a 19-12 loss from last year.
The match could go either way on paper as the Hawkeyes will likely be favored to win matches at 133, 141, 157, 165 and 174, while Minnesota is the favorite at 149 and the three heavier weights.
The four featured matches of the night and the four matches that could swing the dual either way will take place at 125, 133, 165 and 174.
At 125, Iowa junior Matt McDonough will put his No. 2 ranking on the line against top-ranked Zach Sanders. McDonough is 21-1 this season and has won 13 straight matches, while Sanders is unbeaten at 19-0. McDonough is 4-0 against Sanders all-time.
Iowa sophomore Tony Ramos is ranked No. 4 at 133 and should be favored to win his match but it won’t be easy as he takes on No. 8 Chris Dardanes. Ramos comes into the match at 20-2, while Dardanes is 17-4.
Another big match that could swing momentum could be at 165 where No. 6 Mike Evans will take on No. 11 Cody Yahn. Evans is 18-4, while Yohn is 13-5.
At 174, sophomore Ethen Lofthouse is ranked No. 5 and 15-5 this season, but Logan Storley is ranked No. 10 and 16-3 this season.
Iowa has seven wrestlers ranked in the top 20, but Minnesota has nine wrestlers ranked in the top 12. So, on paper, Minnesota may have the overall edge. But Iowa needs this match more than any other match this season and will likely come ready to go and perform well in front of their home crowd.
But will that be enough?
The heavyweight match also could create some drama. It is uncertain who Iowa head coach Tom Brands will put out there — either redshirt freshman Bobby Telford or senior Blake Rasing — but Rasing is 3-0 all-time against Minnesota’s Tony Nelson, who is ranked No. 4 overall. Nelson comes into the match with a record of 17-2, while Rasing is13-5 in limited action this season.
Iowa sophomore Derek St. John started the season 11-0 before suffering a knee injury against Northern Iowa. He returned to face Ohio State and lost and then suffered a minor setback and did not wrestle against Penn State. His status for Sunday is unknown at this time.
It may not be enough with him, but Iowa may need to throw St. John out there to get some team points. Redshirt freshman and former Iowa high school four-time state champion Nick Moore has struggled this season and would be the underdog if he wrestled.
Iowa leads the all-time series, 68-24-1.