Tom Brands pointed last week to the metaphorical paper where wrestling matches take place before they actually transpire on foam mats.
Iowa barely stood a chance a couple weeks ago against Oklahoma State. But that was then. That was on paper.
That was when the Cowboys were undefeated, ranked second in the country and clearly favored on paper to end Iowa’s record winning streak.
“Last week, I said it was a mismatch on paper,” Brands said.
The No. 10 Hawkeyes and sixth-ranked Cowboys wrestle at 2 p.m. in at Gallagher-Iba Arena in Stillwater, and it’s no longer the mismatch it once seemed on paper.
Iowa has won 69 consecutive duals. The streak — tied for the second-longest in college wresting history — started in 2008 after the Hawkeyes lost a home dual to Oklahoma State. The Cowboys would like to prevent Iowa from threatening the record set by Oklahoma State when it won 76 straight during a 14-year run that ended in 1951.
“It’s definitely extra motivation because it’s Iowa,” Oklahoma State’s top-ranked 133-pounder Jordan Oliver said. “You always want to beat Iowa no matter what. (But) just to see they have a 69-dual winning streak and Oklahoma State could end that winning streak, it’s definitely something that inspires you and motivates you to train harder and work harder going into this dual.”
The Hawkeyes (8-0) pointed to this weekend as a pivotal moment in their pursuit of the record. This is the first time Iowa has entered a dual as an underdog in the rankings since Dec. 9, 2007, when the Hawkeyes, then ranked third, beat No. 1 Iowa State in Ames.
“It’s personal,” Oklahoma State coach John Smith said. “We’ve been behind them the last several years. In most years to get to the top, it’s likely you have to go through Iowa. I think that this dual is important from that standpoint. They have won (the NCAA title) the last three years and for us to move toward our ultimate goal at the end of the season, this dual meet becomes a little more significant.
Oklahoma State (7-2) appeared to have a clear advantage over Iowa coming into the season. But the Cowboys have dealt with a series of injuries, and they’re coming off a sixth-place finish at last weekend’s National Duals. Losses to Virginia Tech and Missouri knocked Oklahoma State down four notches in the rankings.
“This is a big deal for both programs right now,” Brands said. “They’re coming off the National Duals where they stumbled a little bit.”
Thus, it’s no longer the mismatch it once seemed. The Cowboys are paper favorites at 133, 149 and 197. Iowa’s edge is at 125 with defending NCAA champion Matt McDonough against eighth-ranked freshman Jon Morrison. The other six weights are toss-ups on paper.
“We are capable of blowing this matching open and winning this dual,” Oliver said. “Our guys have to go out and focus on their match and we should be all right.”
The dual could feature first-time college match-ups at nine weights. Oklahoma State freshman Dallas Bailey beat Iowa senior Aaron Janssen 8-7 in November in the semifinals of the Kaufman-Brand Open in Omaha. Bailey is ranked 13th at 165 pounds. Janssen is No. 15 at the weight.
There’s no prior college history anywhere else on the probable bout card.
“We’ve got to be tough,” Brands said. “They’re going to come back tough. You can point to some of their struggles, but they’re going to be ready and we’ve got to be readier. On paper, it looked a lot different last week than it probably looks now. But that doesn’t change anything.”