Feb. 20, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa -- University of Iowa head wresting coach Tom Brands says `anyone, anytime, anywhere' when talking about the NWCA National Duals and Friday's matchup against Cornell.
The second-seeded Hawkeyes face the eighth-seeded Big Red in the first round Feb. 22 at 6 p.m. (CT) inside Williams Arena in Minneapolis.
"This is our most important event right now," Brands said Wednesday inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex. "It's the next event, and it's a big event. If we do our job, we'll be in it on Saturday, and that's what we want to do."
With a win, Iowa would face the winner of the No. 3 Minnesota/No. 6 Virginia Tech dual in the semifinals before a potential rematch against top-seeded Oklahoma State in the finals, barring any upsets. The Hawkeyes beat the Gophers on criteria, 16-15, on Jan. 26, and lost 18-12 to the Cowboys on Jan. 13.
Iowa has competed in the NWCA National Duals 18 times and owns a 69-11-3 all-time record in the event. The Hawkeyes have won the title six times, most recently in 2010, and own three second and seven third-place finishes.
"(The duals are) important to us because just like the Big Ten trophy or dual title, there is a trophy that is made, and we want it in our room and don't want anyone else to have it," said junior Tony Ramos.
"This is our most important event right now. It's the next event, and it's a big event. If we do our job, we'll be in it on Saturday, and that's what we want to do."
The Big Red enter Friday's match with a 14-3 dual record with losses against Missouri (22-12), Oklahoma State (21-16) and Oregon State (23-20).
"They probably feel pretty good about their team," said Brands. "They ironed some things out, had young guys in there earlier (in the season) that took their lumps, but now they seem to be having them running in the right direction."
Cornell has five ranked wrestlers, including top-ranked Kyle Dake at 165 pounds. Dake is a three-time national champion, winning the title at 141 as a freshman, 149 as a sophomore, and 157 as a junior when he downed Iowa's Derek St. John in the finals.
The Hawkeyes are still trying to establish their everyday lineup at two weight classes -- 149 and 184 pounds. Iowa will bring Brody Grothus and Michael Kelly at 149 and Grant Gambrall and Ethen Lofthouse at 184.
Grothus has been in the lineup in each of the last four duals at 149 pounds and is 6-7 this season. Kelly has posted a 10-6 record, but he lost his previous four decisions prior to yielding to Grothus. Gambrall and Lofthouse have alternated being in the lineup since Feb. 1 against Penn State.
"There is no decision and no favorite," said Brands of the 184 pound weight class. "It's a matter of figuring out who the best guy is."
The Hawkeyes have one of the best at 133 pounds in Ramos. The nation's second-ranked wrestler is 20-0 and has scored bonus points in 18-of-20 matches. The two matches where Ramos didn't post bonus points came against Jon Morrison of Oklahoma State (3-2) and Minnesota's Chris Dardanes (8-2) -- two potential weekend opponents.
"I want to widen the gap," said Ramos. "Right now I look at it as an opportunity for my two decisions to increase them to major decisions, pins, or whatever I can get. I know guys like (Mike) Evans want to avenge his two losses, so there is a lot of incentive there."
Evans could get an opportunity to square off against Oklahoma State's top-ranked Chris Perry and Minnesota's second-ranked Logan Storley, both of whom handed Evans 4-3 defeats earlier this season.
The NWCA duals will be streamed live on BTN.com.