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Iowa Hawkeye Wrestling Riding High, but still Beatable

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By Kif Richmann

The Iowa Hawkeye wrestling team went on a little trip this weekend, first to Evanston, Ill., and then to University Park Penn to face the #1 Nittany Lions.

Two weeks before the Hawkeyes were down, having tied Oklahoma State in Stillwater and snapping a 69 dual meet winning streak.  Things were looking a little bleak for the three time defending championship Hawkeyes.

The return of Montell Marion has given Iowa a boost at both 141 and 149. Marion is now ranked #3 after this weekend's win. (photo via thegazette.com)

Before the road trip, Iowa head wrestling coach Tom Brands visited the KRUI studio and talked about the return of Montell Marion

[audio:http://krui.fm/assets/sports//Tom%20on%20Marion.MP3]

Two weeks later, and the wrestling world has been put on notice: after beating Cael Sanderson’s Nittany Lions, the Hawkeyes are at the top of their game, and with the addition of Montell Marion at 141, Iowa expects to beat anyone, anywhere.

But they are still vulnerable.

While Marion’s return to the lineup has give the Hawkeye’s an immediate jump start, it should be noted that Mark Ballweg was doing a decent job at 141 before Sunday’s meet at Penn State and will now be a boost at 149.  He had wrestled aggressively against all competitors, and even raked up a few impressive wins, including a decision over retrurning all-American Chris Drouin of Iowa State.  Mark had wrestled so well, in fact, that Tom Brands bumped him up to the 149 spot in the Penn State dual.

Although he lost to #5 Frank Molinaro in Pennsylvania, Mark Ballweg should be competitive at 149 as soon as he gets comfortable in the weight class.  (Mark Ballweg replaced his older brother Matt, who has struggled at 149 this season.)

While Iowa’s 125 lb stud and returning national champion Matt McDonough appears to be on the charge, having accumulated 3 pins in a row. But there is still a question of how he will fare if he again faces Brandon Precin of Northwestern.  Precin beat him in at the Midlands Championships, and was beating McDonough 3-0 with riding time in this weekend’s dual when McDonough stuck him for the pin in the 3rd period.

The pin looks great, but it appears that Precin can score on McDonough, something few wrestlers can claim.

Tony Ramos is on fire at 133, and after beating then #5 Andrew Long of Penn State, Ramos has been bumped up into the #8 individual ranking for intermat.com.

Derek St. John, however, has yet to find his rhythm.  The current Intermat #9 at 157 has been hot and cold all season, and St. John was given a loss by major decision against fellow freshman David Taylor of  PSU.  If St. John doesn’t pick it up soon, 157 could be a hole in the Hawkeye’s title chances.

Grant Gambrall also had a good weekend, going 2-0 on the road trip, which included an 8-3 win over Quintin Wright of Penn State.  Gambrall took advantage of a banged up Wright who came to the mat on Sunday with a wrap around one shoulder.  Although Wright outranked  Gambrall before the weekend, Gambrall and Wright are now 13 and 14 respectively, according to Intermat.

With the Hawkeyes riding high after beating the #1 team in the country, Tom Brands will be expecting big things from his wrestlers.  But while beating Sanderson and company is a nice feather in the cap, it’s all a buildup to the national championships in March.


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