Iowa 141-pounder Mark Ballweg is becoming more and more of a sure thing in his senior season.
Eighth-ranked Ballweg beat then-No. 10 Nick Dardanes of Minnesota 3-1 on Saturday to improve to 15-1 on the season.
Only No. 1 Matt McMdonough (125), No. 2 Tony Ramos (133) and No. 1 Derek St. John (165) have been better, each undefeated on the season — 13-0, 16-0 and 16-0, respectively.
“Ballweg is wrestling well,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “He knows what he wants to do and he’s confident.
“He probably found out something about himself Saturday as well. He continues to find things about himself.”
Here’s one thing we know about the Waverly-Shell Rock grad: Ballweg was the wrestler who stepped back when Montell Marion rejoined the program two years ago. Marion went on to place fourth and second the past two seasons at 141 pounds at the NCAA Championships.
“It’s never easy to deal with,” Ballweg said. “You’ve got to deal with it; make the best of it. Keep your head up. Keep training hard, no matter what your role is.”
Marion led the team last season with 10 major decisions.
Ballweg has nine majors so far this season to lead the Hawkeyes.
“I’ve been wrestling good,” Ballweg said. “My body is feeling good. Keep it rolling; finish strong.”
His only loss was to No. 2 Hunter Stieber of Ohio State. This Friday, he has a chance to score team points for Iowa (15-1, 5-0) when No. 1 Penn State (8-0, 5-0) comes to town.
Ballweg is scheduled to face off against unranked senior Bryan Pearsall.
Marion beat Pearsall last season 7-3 but Iowa lost to the Nittany Lions 22-12 in State College, Pa.
Both teams have changed from that showdown. Iowa won just three weights a year ago — McDonough at 125, Ramos at 133 and Marion at 141.
McDonough and Ramos return, and Ballweg provides pop at 141.
“It’s number one versus … whatever we are,” McDonough said. “It doesn’t matter. It’s a chance to wrestle the best team in the country. A chance to show everyone what we’re made of.”
McDonough draws No. 2 Nico Megaludis, and Ramos is likely to face unranked Jordan Conaway, a freshman.
“I’m going out there, trying everything I can to get that dual started off on the right foot,” McDonough said. “That’s with a high pace, a lot of scoring, and some stingy wrestling.”
Brands said he felt good about how the lineup has developed this season.
“I like our guys,” Brands said.
One loss stands out from a year ago to Penn State, and it was Ethen Lofthouse losing by major to Ed Ruth 10-1.
“Ed Ruth threw a saddle, literally, on top of Ethen Lofthouse. And rode him like a horse,” Brands said. “And we laid underneath him and we can’t do that. There can be no period like that in the entire dual meet.
“Ten matches that are going to be contested.”
Ruth is back. The junior is top-ranked at 184 pounds. The Nittany Lions have the advantage at five weights, by ranking.
Iowa has run the gauntlet in January, beating No. 5 Ohio State 22-9, falling to No. 2 Oklahoma State 18-12, and beating No. 4 Minnesota 16-15. No.1 Penn State is the latest test.
“Throw it on the pile,” Brands said. “It’s important and we want to get up for it. We have some guys and they are up for it.”