The Matchup: Justin Kerber (Cornell) vs. #3 Jon Reader (ISU)
Synopsis: If there was an award for best teammate, the recipient would surely be senior Justin Kerber. Throughout his collegiate career, the Cornell wrestler has willingly accepted the role that the coaches have asked him to play. In 2009, with Steve Anceravage at 174, that meant competing at 184. And now, with nationally ranked wrestlers at 174 and 184 (Lewnes and Bosak respectively), this means cutting down to 165. If this does not make him the consummate team player, than I don’t know what will…Just missing 30 win seasons the past two years, Kerber is a 2x national qualifier who has spent considerable time in the national rankings this season. Despite falling out of the recent ranking, Kerber is not someone an opponent should ever sleep on. Against 97 percent of wrestlers in the country, he is capable on any given day of walking onto the mat, putting in a full seven minutes, and then exiting the same a winner….Unfortunately for the host school, it is possible that Jon Reader is part of that ever minute three percent of guys who might be a step above Kerber…An All-American in both of his years on the college scene, Reader is considered by all to be one of the favorites to win the National title this March. Like so many of the wrestlers in this dual, he is fundamentally sound in all three positions. While I am not one who likes to call for bonus points, I will say that if Reader is at the top of his game this weekend, he could very well tack on a few “insurance points” for the Cyclones…Against top-10 ranked wrestlers this season, Kerber has failed to avoid surrendering bonus points. I am optimistic that the opportunity to compete in front of the home crowd might just provide him with the extra bit of intensity needed to keep this to a decision for Reader.
Prediction: Reader wins by decision
Projected Team Score: 9-9
The Matchup: #1 Mack Lewnes (Cornell) vs. Duke Burk (ISU)
Synopsis: With the purpose of being short and sweet, if you liked my take on 165-pound match, re-read it and just flip the singlet the winner is wearing. In much the same way that Reader is a dominant force for Iowa State, Lewnes is the ultimate hammer for the Big Red…After a very poor showing at the National tournament last March (going 0-2; reportedly the result of illness and injury), the former Maryland prepster has wrestled all of 2009/2010 like a man with something to prove. He enters Sunday’s dual with an unblemished record. Having earned some form of bonus points in 14 of his 26 wins this season, the Big Red junior has positioned himself in the same company as guys like Metcalf and Varner. Taking nothing away from Duke Burk, but I do not see 174 as a question of who will win as much as I perceive it as a question of how badly Lewnes will win…My gut feel tells me that Burk will keep it close, losing an 7-3, 8-4 type of decision….Having lost six straight dual matches, Burk might be in the midst of the roughest patch of his collegiate career. In reviewing his overall record, it might be easy to dismiss him. However, his is a case where stats are misleading. He is a national caliber wrestler who has already punched his own ticket to the NCAA tournament on multiple occasions. While I do not think he will win this weekend, I do believe that he will make a good showing of himself and hopefully regain the form that made him a round of 12 guy while at Northern Illinois….UPDATE: As of 1:53 am on the morning of the match, it is now being reported that the Cyclones will elect to go with redshirt freshman, Chris Spangler at this weight class. While I have not had the opportunity to see much of the former Illinois high school standout, I do recall his impressive senior year where he moved up several weight classes, finishing third at the state tournament. In fact so impressive was Spangler, that he was chosen to be a member of Team USA at the annual Dapper Dan Classic…Based on the last time he spelled Burk in the varsity line-up, a one point loss to #14 ranked Jordan Blanton from Illinois, Spangler has more than demonstrated that he is no pushover…While I still stick with my pick of Lewnes, I remain confident that regardless of opponent, bonus points will not come into play.
Prediction: Lewnes wins by decision
Projected Team Score: 12-9 Cornell
The Matchup: #17 Steve Bosak (Cornell) vs. #11 Jerome Ward (ISU)
Synopsis: A test of what the future might hold for these two schools, 184 will be a match-up of a pair of youngsters who are each putting together impressive sophomore campaigns…Each a top-20 ranked wrestler, it would be fair to classify this bout as the “match of the afternoon.”…In fact, so pivotal is this match that the winner might very well determine who wins the dual. With Iowa State favorite at both 197 and 285, for Cornell to keep their upset intentions alive it will be required of Bosak to step up and pull the slight upset over the higher ranked ward….Having watched both of them compete a few times this season, my impression is that the victor will be the one who is able to dictate where the match takes place. For Bosak, the objective should be to try to ride hard and shorten the match, as well as secure the riding time point. In other words, the key to victory is to turn the match into a low scoring affair. If his match against Boise State’s Kirk Smith at National Duals is any indication, Bosak more than possesses the ability to apply a tight ride and successfully execute this strategy…For Ward, the stronger and quicker of the two combatants, the goal might be to try to seize control of the bout by staying on the attack and translating his superior athleticism into a collection of takedowns…Of all of the wrestlers that I have seen in 2010, Ward has been the one who I feel has made the highest degree of progress from one year to the next. After a freshman season in 2009 where he sometimes struggled to work his offense effectively, Ward seems to be more polished and more aggressive through the first 2/3 of his sophomore season. If he continues to make the same level of progress year-after-year, by the time he is a senior, he will be a serious title contender…As much as I’d like to give the nod to the home wrestler, the truth is that Ward has the bigger wins this season. Therefore, to not pick him would be unjust.
Prediction: Ward wins by decision
Projected Team Score: 12-12
The Matchup: #5 Cam Simaz (Cornell) vs. #1 Jake Varner (ISU)
Synopsis: In the majority of duals this season, when Cam Simaz looks across the mat, he sees an opponent that he is likely favored against. On Sunday, it will be the exception to the rule as the returning All-American for the Big Red will be pitted against defending National Champion/3x NCAA finalist/2009 U.S. World Team member, Jake Varner…Often criticized for a less than exciting style, the truth of the matter is that Varner does not attempt to score much because he does not need to score much. The ISU senior is so good defensively and in the top position that if he had to, he could make a career out of winning 2-0 matches. In fact, one interesting note is that Varner has the rare distinction of having won a National title despite having not scored a TD in the championship bout…Much like his former coach, Cael Sanderson, Varner has showcased a very nice ankle pick. In addition, just based on his Herculean body type, he is hardly the guy you want to go upper-body against. To borrow from a cheesy Chuck Norris joke, Jake Varner sleeps with a nightlight on because the dark is afraid of him…Perfect on the season, the Hodge Trophy candidate already owns wins over several of the top contenders at 197-pounds. In his last match, Varner not only defeated top-10 Alan Gelogaev, he pinned him….Simaz, who really turned it on at the end of last season, was a surprise All-American as a freshman in 2009. He has fed off of that momentum this season, leading the team in wins this season with 3o+. Like Varner, the Cornell sophomore has successfully gotten the better of a number of ranked opponents in 2010. If Simaz was facing anyone but Varner, I would say that a “w” was within range….Regretfully, even with the match of his life, I think Simaz would come up short against the stronger and more experienced Cyclone…A pin for Varner is not out of the question. However, if I was to guess, I’d say this match has the makings of a 5-1, 6-1 feel to it…Expect a lot of riding time for the Superman with the “I” on his chest.
Prediction: Varner wins by decision
Projected Team Score: 15-12 Iowa State
The Matchup: Josh Arnone (Cornell) vs. #4 David Zabriskie (ISU)
Synopsis: Despite one guy being a top-5 ranked wrestler and the other unranked, this bout might be one of the most interesting of the afternoon. When 100 percent healthy, Josh Arnone had the makings of a multiple time All-American, an honor that he did earn in 2007 at 184-pounds…However, in reality, a history of injuries leaves the wrestling community wondering just how special this guy could have been if not for the repeated bite of the injury bug. Back for one final season on the mat for the Big Red, Arnone is up a full two weight classes from his All-American performance. Early on, the extra weight seemed to bother him as he fell victim to some conditioning problems to start the season…However, of late, the Cornell big man is really starting to elevate his performance. Even in defeat, Arnone has showed that he is capable of giving the best in the country a run for their money, as evident by his 3-1 loss to Lehigh’s Zack Rey last week…Arnone will not get a break this weekend as he will be matched up against Zabriskie who has been among (and at times the top) the best in the country for the last few years…A runner-up at the Midlands in December, what Zabriskie lacks in pure size, he makes up for with overall athleticism and agility. Regardless of score, the ISU senior is never out of a match until the final buzzer sounds. This was a fact that he proved repeatedly last season, rallying on several occasions to pull out the victory. If Arnone has upset aspirations, he is going to have to take it away from Zabriskie because the top-5 ranked wrestler certainly will not give it to him without a fight….Note: Depending on the score at the time of this match, don’t be surprised to see Taylor Moore stepping in for the Big Red. Moore, who might not possess the overall talent of Arnone, is a specialist. He is the guy that Koll sends in when a pin is required…As a demonstration of his big move potential, Moore stuck his Boise State opponent in 34 seconds in Cornell’s final match of the National Duals…With 1/3 of Moore’s total wins coming by way of bonus point victory (four pins), Zabriskie must remain alert at all times.
Prediction: Zabriskie wins by decision
Projected Final Team Score: 18-12 Iowa State