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Gold standard

December 12, 2007
By ERIC PRATT, Sports Editor
Trust me, wrestling fans: Sunday’s grudge match between Iowa and Iowa State was only the beginning.

As impressive as both the Hawkeyes and Cyclones are on the mat at the moment, the future looks even brighter. Blue-chip head coaches Tom Brands and Cael Sanderson now have their respective programs ranked No. 1 and 2 in the nation by W.I.N. magazine — where they should be in the coming weeks, months and even years.

Consider this: top-rated Iowa — which took the peak position from ISU with a 20-13 victory in Ames over the weekend — currently sports eight ranked individuals in the country’s 10 weight classes. Five are either freshmen or sophomores.

The Cyclones are just as precocious — if not moreso. Seven of Sanderson’s men are rated, including a freshman and five sophomores.

In other words, get used to the names. Slaton, Metcalf, Morningstar, Borschel and Keddy in black and gold. Fanthorpe, Mueller, Sanderson, Reader, Varner and Zabriskie in cardinal and gold. Among others, they could be destined for stardom before all is said and done.

This state has long been considered a founding father of sorts when it comes to wrestling. After some relative ‘‘down’’ years recently, we’re about to see the kind of upswing that will make either the Hawkeyes or Cyclones — and maybe both — the face of this sport in the immediate future.

Both are national title contenders today. Both will be championship frontrunners next season, and the next, and really as long as the 39-year-old Brands and 28-year-old Sanderson are matside.

The best part? Only one team will win it all this coming March in St. Louis. It may be Iowa. It might be Iowa State. Or maybe they aren’t quite ready — not yet, at least.

In the meantime, it’ll be entertaining to watch the two budding superpowers go through the power struggle together.

The Hawks gained the upper-hand again with their dual performance inside a raucous Hilton Coliseum on Sunday. Who will have the last laugh at nationals? And in the years to come? Fasten your seatbelts — it’s going to be a long and entertaining ride.



BCS CHAOS: Most of you know where I stand on the Bowl Championship Series. It’s a sham, a fraud, a joke — the most inefficient and ineffective way to determine a true, overall ‘‘winner’’ in sports today.

It was bad enough in the past when two or three legitimate title contenders were left on the outside looking in, wondering what might have been. This season, however, turned into the BCS’s worst nightmare.

Ohio State and LSU will play for the mythical national crown, but what about Virginia Tech? Oklahoma? Southern Cal? Georgia? Missouri? Kansas? Hawaii? If the two-loss Tigers — who were embarrassed at home by Arkansas and its lame-duck coach in the last week of the regular season — can rebound that quickly in the BCS rankings and still have a shot at gold, why not everyone else?

I’ve already offered an alternative — the now commonly-theorized playoff/bowl combination tournament format, where the bigger bowls host the bigger games as the postseason progresses — which would combine forward thinking with the old guard. Heck, I remember reading about an idea similar to this one some 15 years ago in a Messenger column by then-Assistant Sports Editor John McBride.

It’s not impossible to have the best of both worlds. The BCS only makes it seem that way.

So what are the BCS schills talking about amidst all the latest controversy? Adopting a ‘‘plus-one’’ format. Of all the years to pitch such a weak tweak — talk about horrible timing. What good would a single extra game do us this season, when there are up to 10 squads deserving of a spot in the finals?

Ten-game regular season. Conference championships intact. Sixteen-team tournament beginning in early December and wrapping up on New Year’s Day. Keep the also-ran bowls for the other 40 or so eligible programs. Reserve the 15 best bowls for a winner-take-all bracket.

This isn’t rocket science. Sadly, it’ll also never happen. The BCS is here to stay thanks to lack of vision, incentive to change and compromise when it comes to the almighty buck.



SLIP SLIDING AWAY: The University of Michigan has turned what should be a relatively simple football coaching search into a three-ring circus.

First there was Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz. Then LSU’s Les Miles, the odds-on-favorite. Then Ferentz again. Then Greg Schiano of Rutgers. Then a trifecta of NFL names — Sean Payton of New Orleans, Miami’s Cam Cameron and Washington’s Marvin Lewis — surfaced. Then Miles again (he refreshed his stance Tuesday, reminding everyone he would not be a candidate).

For one reason or another, none of them are interested. And Michigan’s credibility continues to take a hit with each rejection.

The U-M athletic department managed to alienate — if not humihe school’s hubristic athletic department would only have itself to blame.



Eric Pratt is Sports Editor at The Messenger. He may be reached afternoons and evenings at 1-800-622-6613, or by e-mail at sports@messengernews.net

 
 
 

 

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