The time has arrived, #1 Penn State will host #2 Iowa in the Bryce Jordan Center on Friday night in front of a packed out arena with over 15,000 fans in attendance.
Everyone has had this dual circled since the schedules were released for the 2022-2023 season, and both teams have lived up to their hype this season, once again being undefeated heading into a #1 vs. #2 matchup. The last time Penn State lost a dual meet was on Jan. 31, 2020, where the Iowa Hawkeyes defeated them 19-17 in Carver Hawkeye Arena. Brands and the Hawkeyes are not the favorites to beat Penn State on Friday night, but winning a few swing matches can make this dual meet very interesting as it goes on.
Here are five things to know before the biggest dual of the year on Friday night:
There are a few ways Iowa can beat Penn State, and one of those ways would be bumping up P4P #1 and three-time NCAA Champion Spencer Lee up to 133-pounds, setting up a super match with P4P #2 and two-time NCAA Champion Roman Bravo-Young. This would be one of the biggest matches in recent years, and what better place to have it in front of 15,000 fans with the biggest dual of the season on the line?
Bravo-Young openly stated that he’s ready to wrestle Lee at any given time, but it would be a huge decision for Brands to send up Lee looking for a win. Either way you would expect Iowa to dominate at 125-pounds with Lee or Ayala, and they could possibly take the first two bouts with Lee beating Bravo-Young.
Depending on where the dual starts at, a supermatch between Lee and Bravo-Young is what the fans want, and could be huge for Iowa if they were able to win both 125 and 133-pounds.
Big Ten Bullies
Over the past eight years, Cael Sanderson has led Penn State to a 61-1 Big Ten dual record, the only loss coming to Iowa in early 2020.
Over the past five seasons, Tom Brands has accumulated a 35-1 Big Ten dual record with his only loss coming to Penn State last season 19-13.
Both Penn State and Iowa have created their own dynasties in the Big Ten and have formed some of the best wrestlers in the nation. Sanderson and Brands are 1-1 against each other in the past two meetings, but this time Iowa will have to win in a hostile environment.
Getting Real at 141
141-pounds features a top-5 matchup between Iowa’s #2 Real Woods and Penn State’s #4 Beau Bartlett.
Bartlett has quietly been climbing in the rankings, and is now in the top-5 at 141-pounds throughout the country. Since dropping down to 141, Bartlett has found a lot of success despite not wrestling a top-15 opponent this season. An upset for Bartlett would be huge for Penn State, but he will most definitely have his toughest opponent of the season in Real Woods.
Real Woods is undefeated this season, and is coming off a big 6-4 win over Nebraska’s #4 Brock Hardy. Woods has been a menace with his tilt all season, and has been a huge addition for the Hawkeye lineup. With Woods getting another top-5 win over Bartlett, it sets up Iowa nicely to hang right in with Penn State as the dual goes on.
Burn The Shirt?
Sanderson and Penn State has a massive decision to make at 157-pounds, as true-freshman and #12 ranked Levi Haines has used up his five competitions and will have to pull his redshirt to start for the Nittany Lions on Friday night.
Haines’ opponent is set to be Iowa’s #14 Cobe Siebrecht, who is 8-2 on the season with one of his losses coming to Nebraska’s #1 Peyton Robb by a 7-2 score. If Penn State were to keep Haines’ redshirt, Penn State would send out sophomore Terrell Barraclough who has looked impressive in a back-up role.
Haines has been everything Penn State could have hoped for if not more, as he is 14-1 on the season and just recently defeated returning All-American and #8 Will Lewan from Michigan by a 3-1 decision in sudden victory. Haines showed a lot in his win over Lewan, proving he deserves to stay in the Penn State lineup and has the talent to beat the top wrestlers in the country.
It will be interesting to see what Penn State does at 157-pounds, and could set up a big match if they were to pull Haines’ redshirt.
Swing’s All Around
It’s been really hard to predict how this dual will play out as there are numerous of really close projected bouts.
Van Ness vs. Murin:
Iowa’s #10 Max Murin has been great throughout the season, and just recently had a really close match with Wisconsin’s #2 Austin Gomez. Murin lost 5-3, but was in there the entire match with Gomez. Murin will have his hands full once again, as redshirt freshman and #12 ranked Shayne Van Ness has been killer for Penn State this season. Van Ness’ only two losses this season have come to Gomez and Iowa State’s #6 Paniro Johnson, and has put up a lot of bonus points for the Nittany Lions this season.
Facundo vs. Kennedy:
#5 Alex Facundo and #11 Patrick Kennedy have history, and it will continue this Friday night and headlines a big swing match at 165-pounds. At 2019’s Who’s #1 event, Kennedy edged out Facundo in a 5-2 bout to take those #1 recruiting honors. Three years later, they will battle on one of the biggest stages of the year and could potentially be a deciding factor to who wins this dual.
Dean vs. Warner:
In a rematch of the 2021-2022 national finals at 197-pounds, #4 Max Dean will face off against #7 Jacob Warner. In the national finals a year ago, Dean held on to beat Warner 3-2 to win his first national title, and was the fourth Nittany Lion to win it in 2022. This will feel like another national final bout, as both wrestlers absolutely need a win at 197-pounds to swing the dual in favor of their team.