Tuesday, January 31, 2017

2017 NFL Draft Breakdown: Iowa Hawkeyes Quarterback CJ Beathard

CJ Beathard's Iowa career did not end on the most positive note, as Iowa got blown out 30-3, and Beathard suffered an injury in the first half that greatly affected his (abysmal) second half performance. But you can't judge a guy off one bad game, and Beathard had over two years of film for NFL teams to look at and decide whether he can be an NFL quarterback. Without really giving it a close look, I thought he'd be worthy of drafting, mostly because Jake Rudock got drafted and Beathard definitely seemed like the better quarterback of those two. But instead of just using the transitive property, I decided to break down game film. Since I know Beathard fairly well as a player, I knew there was no need to check out the second half of this season, so I took a look at his games against Pittsburgh, Purdue, Minnesota, Stanford, and Michigan State from 2015, and his game against Miami (Ohio) from 2016.

Beathard's mobility seems to be forgotten at this point, but it was a legitimate weapon for the first half of 2015. Then he got hurt and could barely move the rest of the year, and this year, he seemed to forget that he could run. But I don't think he could lost all of his athleticism in a year, and he has shown that he has enough mobility to make some plays with his legs.
I'll admit that I totally forgot that a majority of the yards on the final drive to get Iowa in position to win on a last second field goal against Pitt were gained off of Beathard scrambling for yardage on three separate plays in the last 44 seconds.

Another thing that was much more evident in 2015 was his ability to lead receivers and hit guys in stride. This year, it seemed like nearly everything was difficult once VandeBerg went down, and I think a lot of that was due to Beathard's comfort level with his other receivers. Since so much of Greg Davis's offense is based off option routes, Beathard may have had to wait a beat longer to see what his receiver was going to do instead of trusting that they would make the right break for him to deliver the ball. That lack of timing and chemistry with his receiving corps may have been the biggest factor in his step backwards during his senior year.

The thing that separated Beathard from the quarterback that came before him, Jake Rudock, is arm strength. Here, the flea flicker play does not work out as planned, but he still gets enough distance on this ball despite having to alter his release for an oncoming hit.

Here's an example of him zipping a ball into a tight window.

And on top of that arm strength, he showed that he also had touch in his game as well.

That is a beautiful back shoulder fade, and he did it while knowing he had to absorb a hit. This really hammered home how bad the receivers for Iowa were this season. Because it's not like Beathard needed a ton of space to fit balls in, as he could place balls fairly well, and we still saw it this year with VandeBerg healthy. But having VandeBerg and Tevaun Smith in 2015 let Beathard show his true potential.

The first weakness I want to talk about seems to be the weakness of every Iowa quarterback, pocket awareness. I mean, Drew Tate was the last quarterback to actually feel a rush coming for him for Iowa, and although that doesn't seem that long ago, it's been ten years. For Beathard, his issue seems to be tunnel vision as he literally doesn't see anything out of his direct line of sight coming. This can cost him when locking in on receivers, and also just a total obliviousness to blitzers coming straight up the middle at him as seen in back-to-back pass plays below.

One thing I do worry about with Beathard is his offensive coordinator causing a lot of these issues. It's really tough to judge Beathard without the All-22 and whether there were hot routes for him to throw to or whether he had no options due to poor play calls. I mean, it's not like Greg Davis was ever seen as an infallible genius.

Another issue Beathard is his ability to go through progressions. Like many college quarterbacks, he's fine when he can target one side of the field, but things get extremely shaky when that side is covered well, as he's slow to look to the other side of the field and make decisions. Iowa's offensive line often got beat in games, but Beathard deserves a good amount of blame for slowly going through the motions and giving defenses time to get to him.

And even though the Michigan State game ended in a loss, let us not forget the biggest moment that I had ever seen as an Iowa Hawkeye football fan.
Don't forget the dab.

Because of the unimpressive senior year, I think he falls in the draft. Most projected him as a 3rd-4th rounder going into the season, but I see his value being around 6th-7th round. He's going to need to be drafted into the right situation to reach his potential. He's not good enough to overcome a bad offensive line or poor receiving options. The perfect fit for him would be the Raiders. A lot of Beathard's weaknesses were the same things Carr struggled with at times in college. I could easily see him outplaying Connor Cook to become Carr's backup and giving them a much better chance of winning if Carr gets hurt again.

I'll be honest. 2016 PV (Post VandeBerg) made me forget how good Beathard could be as a quarterback. Now he's not perfect; he's mechanical in scanning the field and his pocket awareness is abysmal. But man, there is a lot of arm talent there. Here's to hoping he gets a chance to show it.

Monday, January 30, 2017

I Have Never Been So Sore In My Entire Life

I am 32-years-old. Now that's not old by any stretch, but athletically, it's tough to make an argument that I'm not past my prime. Is that a tough thing to reconcile? Eh, it just kind of is what it is. Although I don't have same athleticism, I can sometimes make up for it with experience and savvy. Basically what I'm saying is that although I'd lose in a race, maybe I could trip the person early on to overcome their speed advantage. So, yeah, I ain't as good as I once was.

This hit me incredibly hard when I made my triumphant moderately successful return to training in grappling. I had taken about nine months off, partially due to my shoulder being so sore I could barely throw a ball for my dog, me not being able to straighten my leg without knee pain, and a job that meant that I wouldn't have as much time to devote to getting my ass kicked. It was the triple threat of excuses. But over time, my body healed up, my work schedule lightened, and I was ready to scratch that itch. Most importantly, Iowa wrestled like shit against Oklahoma State, and I was so mad that I needed a Wrestling class so I could prepare to go back to college to avenge their loss.

So I took advantage of ClassPass and signed up for a wrestling class at my old gym. Everyone I have ever talked to agrees that wrestling is more physically taxing than any other martial art. So there was a mix of anticipation and fear about how my body would react to this class. I have to say that things went fairly smooth while warming up at the beginning of class, and I was starting to feel alright about my cardio. We went through some drills for the rest of the hour, and my body actually held up pretty well, especially since I was drilling with guys who had 20-30 pounds on me.

After wrestling class, the jiu jitsu coach asked me whether I was going to stick around for his class or wait to let my body ease back into things. Well, I ain't no punk ass bitch, so I certainly wasn't going to ease into anything. I would not say that this was an intelligent decision, but as a stupid person, I rarely make intelligent decisions, so this basically followed my M.O. Wrestling was exhasuting, and jiu jitsu was an absolute core killer that night. Then I ended it with back-to-back five-minute grappling rounds against people who were in far better jiu jitsu shape than me.

At the end of it all, I felt great. I put out a good performance from beginning all the way through the 2.5 hours I was there. I knew I was tired, and I knew I'd be sore, but I had so much adrenaline pumping through me that I really couldn't feel much of anything at the moment.

I drove home, took a shower, slammed a protein shake and got ready for bed when all of that adrenaline finally faded away, and I felt pain. It wasn't close to the worst pain ever, but it was enough to keep me waking up throughout the night and any sort of movement definitely hurt quite a bit. I would say my abs hurt the most, followed by neck, my back (and let's not finish that phrase), my legs, my arms, my fingers, my shoulders, my feet, my throat, my knees, and my butt. Basically, the only thing htat didn't hurt was my face, and even then I got lucky, because I could definitely feel the blood filling up my ear at the end of practice, but luckily it naturally drained away.

Basically, everything hurt which made moving my body suck. In fact, staying still wasn't all that great either, as I could not get comfortable. by the second day, it got a little better, and by the third day, it was really just my abs and neck that were bothering me. I'm a big believer in listening to your body to guide exercise, but I will admit it's much harder to listen to your body when it's telling you things you don't want to hear. Still, it would take a total idiot to not listen to his message which came across loud and clear.

I'll be back next week to do it all over again.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Breaking Down the 2017 Royal Rumble Betting Odds

Joe: It's that time of year again where Lukewarm Jonah and I look at what Vegas is saying about the second biggest sporting event of the year, The Royal Rumble. The Royal Rumble was my favorite event of the year growing up as a child, and honestly, it's still one of the events that I most look forward to throughout the year as an adult. Jonah, what are your thoughts on the Rumble, and are you expecting this to be a good Rumble or a bad one?

Jonah: You know I’m actually really excited for this Rumble.  No BS, the star power of this Rumble is pretty impressive.  There have been previous years where there were maybe 2 or 3 people who had an actual shot of winning the Rumble and this year there are probably 10 which makes it actually interesting.  Since I do have high expectations, that means this Rumble will probably be complete garbage.

Joe: Star power is definitely there, but a lot of the big names aren’t guys I’m particularly excited about. I’m still excited about some of the possibilities of guys showing up. Without further adieu, here are the odds (as of 1/23), courtesy of SkyBet.

Bill Goldberg 5/2
The Undertaker 11/4
Braun Strowman 100/30
Randy Orton 4/1
Finn Balor 9/2
Samoa Joe 9/2
Chris Jericho 11/1
Seth Rollins 14/1
Brock Lesnar 14/1
John Cena 16/1
Baron Corbin 18/1
Kurt Angle 20/1
Sami Zayn 20/1
The Miz 20/1
Bray Wyatt 22/1
Dean Ambrose 25/1
Roman Reigns 28/1
Triple H 33/1
AJ Styles 33/1
Shinsuke Nakamura 40/1
Kenny Omega 40/1
Cesaro 40/1
Kevin Owens 40/1
Big Cass 66/1
Shawn Michaels 66/1
Big E 66/1
Karl Anderson 66/1
Austin Aries 66/1
Dolph Ziggler 66/1
Enzo Amore 66/1
Kane 66/1
The Big Show 66/1
Luke Harper 66/1
Bobby Roode 80/1
Tye Dillinger 80/1
Rusev 80/1
Sheamus 100/1
Neville 100/1
Kofi Kingston 100/1
Xavier Woods 100/1
Apollo Crews 100/1
Mark Henry 100/1
Kalisto 100/1
Shane McMahon 150/1
Vince McMahon 250/1

Joe: Looking at the top of this list, I am totally underwhelmed by the favorites. I understand Goldberg has gotten some big pops, but does anybody want to watch him main event WrestleMania? It’s not like this guy was ever known for putting on classic matches. Undertaker gains nothing by having a belt on the line in his match, so it would really just be a waste. Randy Orton? No. And Samoa Joe isn’t ready to headline a WrestleMania even though he has been pretty great after a slow start when he first came to NXT. That leaves two of the top six guys that would actually be interesting. That leaves the only two interesting favorites as Braun Strowman and Finn Balor. Braun is just a big, strong, unstoppable giant, and I can always get behind that. Finn is still probably the best choice, as him trying to take back the title he never lost would be a good storyline, and him taking on Kevin Owens would be one hell of a match to end the show. However, we’re not sure if he’s actually healthy enough to compete, so I’m going to keep looking down this list. Jonah, what do you think of these favorites?

Jonah: Well I can certainly understand the favorites, but I think there’s some logical reasons why most of the top guys aren’t winning.  I assume Goldberg is fighting Lesnar at Wrestlemania, or they’re just going to let Goldberg dominate Lesnar throughout their entire WWE careers.  Also, It seems like Goldberg would need to make his cardio waaayy better in order to have a Wrestlemania World Title match.  Speaking of guys with no cardio hey Undertaker.  He’s super old, had some pretty serious injuries lately and works one match a year, is he really going to fight for the World Title?  I assume Randy Orton will probably be fighting Bray Wyatt at Wrestlemania, and even if he’s not, no one’s excited about Randy Orton fighting for a World Title.  Balor and Strowman are clearly the most likely to win out of the favorites.  If Balor is healthy and able to compete I think he’s the most likely to win.  WWE loves having injured guys come back and win the Rumble.  Believe it or not, I think Joe has a bit of a chance.  I don’t think they’d have a guy win the Rumble in his debut but Joe has a great chance of fighting with either of the guys in the Smackdown World Title match.  He has a very long and well known history with AJ Styles and those guys would put on the type of 5 star match that it’s rumored the WWE is looking for.  Joe and Cena have also been friends for a very long time so I could see them fighting it out at Wrestlemania and Cena even putting Joe over.  

Joe: If it’s just a World Title match, I could see Joe winning. If it actually means the main event, there is no chance. I honestly have no clue as to how Smackdown is progressing that title since they have Cena facing off against AJ Styles in a completely meaningless match at Royal Rumble, because both of them will inevitably be in the Elimination Chamber a month later.

When I work my way through the middle of this list, there is obviously one name standing out at 20/1, and that is the man that I picked to win the Royal Rumble over a month ago, Sami Zayn. Is it going to happen? Probably not, but it wouldn’t be totally outrageous if it did. You make the final four Goldberg, Lesnar, Strowman, and Zayn, and how hyped would that crowd be for Zayn? Also, WrestleMania is in the home of NXT, Orlando, Florida, this year and Sami is Mr. NXT. Come on, Mr. McMahon, give me Sami Zayn main eventing WrestleMania.

Jonah: Lots of guys a little lower down the list who are interesting.  Getting John Cena at 16/1 to win anything is pretty attractive odds.  Just like getting the Big Dog Roman Reigns at 28/1 to win anything is very attractive.  The WWE sure likes it when these guys win, so you’ve got to love those odds.  Now of course either one or both of these guys could already be World Champ and therefore have no reason to enter the Rumble, but man those long odds.  In the same vein as those two picks, AJ Styles at 33/1 and Kevin Owens at 40/1 look pretty awesome as well.  Either one of those guys loses their title match, but then enter late in the Rumble and win a shot at their title at Wrestlemania.  Outside of current title holders and number one contenders, I’ve gotta love Sami Zayn too.  Maybe it’s just Joe and his constant logic about why Sami could actually win the Rumble, but I think he’s got a real shot.  You have Zayn, the ultimate underdog win the Rumble somehow.  You have your next two months of booking set up easily.  Strowman challenges Zayn for his number one contendership at the next PPV, Zayn pulls off the win proving he is Wrestlemania worthy then fights against Owens finishing their feud that started a year ago and guaranteeing a fantastic match as well.  It’s so logical and easy that there’s no way it will happen.  Joe, tell me about your favorite super long shot or shots.

Joe: Okay, I have a couple longshots. We’ll touch on the bigger bang for your buck first, as how is Rusev 80/1? Is there anybody who sees this man and goes, “Ugh, it’s Rusev?” Every time Rusev pops up, I practically get tears of joy streaming down my face like I’m a little girl seeing her favorite boy band. He’s that phenomenal at everything.

Then, can I just touch on that murderer’s row at 40/1? Can that just be a Fatal Four Way main event at WrestleMania? Obviously, Kevin Owens is there, who I still think is going to retain. Shinsuke Nakamura, who is amazing, but they’re not going to debut him and Samoa Joe on the same night, and we’re all pretty sure Joe is showing up. Then you’ve got Cesaro, who is the most physically impressive wrestler ever, as nobody should be able to do the things he does, who isn’t a terrible pick. But then you’ve got the name that is 99% not going to happen, Kenny Omega. Omega vs. Okada was one of the greatest wrestling matches ever, and he hasn’t shown up with New Japan since. Is that just a slight bit of smoke in the air? I mean, it’s probably just dust, but right now, there is no hotter name than Kenny Omega. Triple H is saying they would like to have him without using his name, and Omega is saying he’d be open to the WWE as long as he comes in as a star. I mean, there’s worse things to root for during the Rumble.

Jonah: Let’s say the WWE really decides to shake things up and have a true shocking winner of the Rumble.  I see a couple of guys that have an outside shot of shocking the world.  I love Big E at 66/1.  He’s a future World Champion and the New Day don’t have the tag titles anymore.  It’s time for them to move on and help Big E win his shot at the title.  New evil heel Dolph Ziggler is on a bit of what has to be a redemption storyline to prove he’s not a huge loser.  He’s a 66/1 underdog and has had two title matches since the brand split so he’s not exactly outside the main event even though he’s on a losing streak gimmick.  He will also put on a very good match, especially against AJ Styles since everyone will put on at least a decent match against AJ Styles.  Then there’s Rusev, who last year was one of the top guys in terms of odds at 80/1.  It’s obviously not likely that he wins, but he’s a guy who is a main event level heel who should be the top main event level heel but he’s too Bulgarian or something.  Also at 80/1 it’s Tye Dillenger.  Stop to think about that for a minute, you can get the same odds that Rusev wins the Rumble as Tye Dillenger.  Tye is awesome and a perfect 10 and needs to enter at 10, but he’s not winning guys.  Though not listed on your odds, I also like Barack Obama at 1000/1.  That guy’s in need of a job and I believe that he would generate heat unlike no other heel in the history of wrestling.  Any fun bold predictions for the Rumble Joe?

Joe: I’ll go with a surprise entrance from Chris Hero. Hero already spent years in WWE developmental, and he’s really not going to learn much at this point about how to get over in front of a crowd of 500 people; he’s been doing that for a decade. Hero isn’t going to win the thing or be put into a main event feud right away, but he is a valuable guy that you can put on the main roster and have awesome matches with. A Chris Hero/Rusev feud is definitely something I could get behind.

As for the old guy surprise entrance, Kurt Angle really wouldn’t be a surprise at this point, so let’s go with the biggest name possible, and say the Texas Rattlesnake, Stone Cold Steve Austin shows up to have a few Broken Skull IPAs and hit a few stunners. This isn’t going to happen, but it’d be cool. If you want another weird one, let’s just go with somebody from DX, because the WWE won’t ever stop pushing them down our throats, even though they were never good. How about you?

Jonah: Let’s see, the Rumble is in Texas so how about a surprise Rumble appearance from Terry Funk?  Since the Rumble is pretty much about crazy returns, I’ll also say Cody Rhodes comes back at the Rumble and rejoins the WWE.  And we need one more random entrant, how about MVP?  Haven’t seen him in awhile, he can come back and be an underwhelming surprise.  In terms of a surprise that’s not a returning wrestler, I say Big Cass makes the final four even though I don’t think he has any chance of winning.  Vince is a big fan of him, and it seems like there’s always a super random guy in the final four.  Now we’ve talked about a few different wrestlers and scenarios, time to put your money where your mouth is.  Who are you taking in the Rumble?

Joe: Triple H said that nobody can predict what’s going to happen at the Rumble. That kind of gives me hope for all of my longshot picks. It could also mean that Triple H is going over, because that’s always an option with H. But I picked Zayn last month, and he did get some major momentum by taking out Seth Rollins on Raw. Also, I don’t love any of the other picks, so I might as well stick with it and have something to root for with all of my heart during the Rumble.

Jonah: My pick to win the whole thing is Finn Balor.  They’ve clearly got huge plans for Finn and as I stated before the WWE’s favorite thing is guys coming back from injury and winning the Rumble.  Also, there’s a good chance that he enters at 30 and everyone could get eliminated while he does a 5 minute entrance making him the automatic winner.

Joe: Now that would be a shocking Rumble ending. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

The Andrew Dice Clay of the Alt-Right

I was scrolling through Twitter a couple weeks ago when I found something funny.

I had no idea who this person is, but the fact that he is arguing on the internet is never a good sign. Also, if you have to explicitly state that the sex you are having is the good sex, um, methinks the lady doth protest too much.

But since I was on the road traveling back to Florida after the holidays, I had some time to waste so I looked at this man's profile, and I was very happy that I did. Here is his profile: I am the Andrew Dice Clay of the 

Oh, hell yeah! The neo-nazi version of DICE is exactly what I am looking for. I mean, the jokes would be on point.

"Muslim? What kind of guy you think I am? More like muslher, OH!"

Or, "Immigrants? More like ImmaGet me a fence and build a wall, BADA BOOM!"

Plus, the nursery rhymes would be amazing.

Hickory Dickory Dock
The only black life that matters is the Rock

Roses are Red
Violets are Blue
All lives matter
Especially Blue.

But he didn't have any of that. His website was a bunch of nonsense that isn't even worth resposting. Like, it was offensive in its stupidity, but not so offensive that it was even funny ironically. It was just lazy and tired. I mean, I could do a better job of being the Diceman of the AltRight, just by being lewd, ignorant, and adding some rhymes. It's not that hard.

Old Mother Hubbard
Went to her cupboard
Unfortunately, her cupboard was bare.
She must have run out of food stamps
And great Americans simply don't care...
Get a job, you lazy broad.

Jack and Jill went up the hill
Each with a message for Allah
Jill says you can lick my ass
Jack said it'll only cost a dollar, OH!

Aw shit, I think I just became the Andrew Dice Clay of the Alt-Right. God damnit.

Monday, January 23, 2017

I Loved Tito Ortiz vs. Chael Sonnen

I am a sucker for the previous generation of mixed martial arts. I can't watch Michael Jordan nailing fadeaways in basketball, Glenallen Hill swinging for the fences in baseball, or, uh, Jim Miller? throwing that pigskin around at a competitive level anymore, but I can still watch MMA legends compete well past their prime. Bellator is delivering me those desired fights by matching up Tito Ortiz vs. Chael Sonnen.

I was never a big Tito Ortiz fan. His biggest run was during a pretty dark age for the UFC, and he had gone downhill by the time that MMA started to gain popularity again under new ownership and piggybacking off the success of The Ultimate Fighter. Still, he's an important part of the history of MMA, and he was known as a good trash talker back in the day. This man is a Donald Trump supporter who can barely string together a sentence, but he was able to talk circles around Ken Shamrock, who somehow managed to get worse at talking after spending years in professional wrestling.

On the other hand, Chael Sonnen was my jam. Sonnen played the part of the heel, and he enjoyed every second of it. Sonnen is incredibly intelligent, and he knows how to play the game and was the ultimate provocateur. He once accused the Nogueiras of petting a bus, because they thought it was a horse. I was nearly in tears at the ways that he insulted Brazilians, even though Big Nog and Wanderlei Silva are two of my favorite fighters ever. But when you were a fan of Sonnen, you kind of knew that you were in on the joke with him. None of it was said with animosity, and if you took it seriously, you had already lost. On top of all of this, he was a wrestler, and I have an incredible bias towards favoring wrestlers in mixed martial arts. He came incredibly close to winning titles in two different weight classes. Sure, everyone remembers how he was only a couple minutes away from completing a beatdown on Anderson Silva, but don't forget his match with Jon Jones. Sonnen got absolutely annihilated and finished in the first round, but had he lasted a minute longer, the ref would have had to stop the fight since Jones broke a toe while he was beating on Sonnen. It would have been the most Chael Sonnen win in history. Instead, we have Sonnen facing off against Ortiz.

Now was this fight objectively good? Oh, God no. But was it entertaining? Of course it was. Despite it being Tito Ortiz's retirement fight and a fight that is about three years after Chael Sonnen's retirement, I was still totally jacked to see these two fight. And for the two minutes that this fight went on, it gave me everything I needed.

Tito got some good shots in standing, looked to have a takedown but got outgrappled by the superior wrestler in Sonnen. Sonnen could have legitimately had a choke but didn't have enough confidence in his jiu jitsu to actually go all out for it. Then he did something stupid, let Ortiz mount him and gave up on the fight at that point. Ortiz finished him with a neck crank, because when things went south for Sonnen, there was no need for him to fight on; he already got paid.

Afterwards, Tito actually gave one of his best speeches for his retirement, and it's good that he goes out on "top" because he's an important figure who, with his delusions, will think that this cements his legacy, even though his legacy was decided a decade ago. Still, crazy people living in a world of crazy is the safest place they can be. Let Tito stay in his safe space.

What is most important for Sonnen is that he ran circles around Tito in the pre-match buildup, and that means he'll continue to get paid. We kind of knew that Sonnen was not likely to win the fight, and we'll likely know that he won't win his next fight. But I'll still watch. Because with both guys, winning the fight wasn't the main point. They were spectacles on their own. The fight was the sideshow.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Rewatching Game Seven and Rediscovering My Chicago Cubs Fandom

Not sure if you heard about this in between all of the celebrity deaths and a nincompoop winning the presidential election, but the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. This is a pretty big deal, because it had been quite a while since they had won one of those. People in Chicago were pumped; in fact, people all over the country were pumped as the number of Cubs fans have increased exponentially over the last two years. I'm not sure what caused that, but everybody loves the Cubbies these days.

I am a lifelong Cubs fan. I remember those years where Les Lancaster was a legitimate reliever, when I thought Rick Wilkins was a legit catcher, when Mickey Morandini and Jeff Blauser were a legitimate combo up the middle, when Brant Brown was a thing, when the Cubs acquried my favorite non-Cub, Rich Harden, and thought for sure that the drought was over (they got swept in the first round of the playoffs). I could probably list at least another 500 things I remember about this stupid team, as I have spent an unhealthy amount of time watching and thinking about the Chicago Cubs.

A few years ago, I moved away from the Midwest to Florida to set up permanent shop. I remembered the essentials, like my wife and my dog, but admittedly, my entire Cubs fandom didn't make the trip. I'm an adult in Florida, and not even near a stadium that the Cubs make a trip to every year. It's just hard to keep up that level of fandom, so I didn't. I mean, I still followed along, knew everything that was happening, but I wasn't there. I was here, away from things.

I watched the playoff games, but I'll admit, I fell asleep before the last out for most of them. This didn't really bother me too much, as it was actually a pretty boring postseason. People forget that the World Series games kind of stunk until Game Seven. That game was amazing, but I was out of town on business, and I had been up since 4:00 AM. By the time the first pitch was thrown, I had been up for over 16 hours and was working for 12 of those hours. I watched the first half of the game around strangers before retiring to my hotel room to watch the rest in the comfort of my temporary bed. I managed to stay awake until the end, but by the time it was over, I used my last bit of energy to whisper "Awesome" before rolling over and falling asleep. It was not the raucous celebration I imagined.

That bummed me out. I loved the Cubs, but I wasn't sure if I still loved the Cubs. I mean, it should have meant more. A couple weeks later I went home and visited my family. I tried to talk to my Grandma about the Cubs winning the World Series, but she has been having health troubles, and at 96, she really didn't have the mental or physical strength to really take it all in. I think we were both left with an empty feeling. It made me wonder if it's all worth it.

Let's face it. It's probably not. We don't care about sports because it's the logical decision. We spit in the face of logic when we cheer for players and teams, and that's part of the fun. Escaping the rational world to act irrationally and passionately about things that shouldn't actually matter in our day-to-day lives.

I wanted that stupid feeling. I needed to try to find it. So I waited a few months, and last week, I rewatched the final game of the World Series in its entirety, from the pregame analysis from Joe Buck, to the ups and downs, the rain delay, and the celebration. I wasn't sure if it would matter, but I at least wanted to try.

The first batter of the game was Dexter Fowler, and even though I remembered how that at bat ended, it didn't stop me from getting goosebumps when he launched the ball over the center field fence. It wasn't the home run itself, but it was the moment after Fowler rounded first base during his home run trot to turn backwards and point at the Cubs dugout as half of the crowd was erupting in cheers.

I was hooked.

Usually, I'll read a lot while watching baseball games, because baseball games are rather uneventful, but despite this game being two months old, I couldn't take my eyes off of it. Here were the most affecting moments during the game.

Good - Dexter Fowler home run
I already talked about this one.

Good - Jose Ramirez being picked off
Because there were a lot of big moments, I feel like this is going to get overlooked as time goes on, but picking off a runner is enough of a rarity where it felt special, like nothing was going to go wrong for the Cubs and destiny (the abstract idea, not the stripper) could take them to the title.

Bad - Javier Baez dropped ball when trying to turn a double play
The Indians had just tied the game at one, and Baez dropped what could have been an inning ending double play. Instead the Indians had two runners on and one out. All of my confidence from Fowler's home run and the pickoff move were gone.

Good - Kris Bryant's base running
Kris Bryant's two runs involved some of the best baserunning of the postseason. He scored on a very shallow fly ball that Rajai Davis misplayed to not give himself momentum into his throw and Bryant was barely able to slide under the tag. Then, when he managed to score from first on an Anthony Rizzo single, because of a hit and run, that was just incredible. The Cubs took a 4-1 lead shortly after that, and things were looking rosy yet again.

Bad - The passed ball that caused two runs to score
The Cubs were up 5-1 and in control and for some reason, they pulled Kyle Hendricks after allowing a two out walk in the fifth. They were almost too into the idea of Lester being a postseason hero, so they brought him in, and he gave up two runs on a David Ross passed ball when Kipnis hustled all the way from second to score on the play. It was then 5-3 and the Cubs inevitable World Series win didn't feel inevitable anymore.

Good - David Ross home run
Uh, yeah, if old ass David Ross is hitting a bomb, then yeah, I'd say this one is in the bag.

Bad - Rajai Davis home run to tie the game
I watched this two months later, and when Rajai Davis hit that home run, my hear legitimately sank into my stomach. Against all logic, I felt sickness when I saw that ball exit the park knowing full well that the Cubs still won the game. I knew what happened, and I couldn't help that feeling.

This was my favorite moment when rewatching the game, because this is when I knew that it still mattered. Yeah, I know it doesn't matter as much as it did in 1998 when I cried after the Cubs got swept by the Braves. And yeah, it probably doesn't matter as much as it did six years later when I got goosebumps when Glenallen Hill told me that had they gotten past the Braves, they would have won the World Series. But it still matters.

After that, there were obviously still more good moments. But it wasn't the baseball that stood out. When Zobrist hit the double to help the Cubs take the lead, the part that stood out most was Rizzo with his hands on his helmet in disbelief as he stood on third. And the replay of Zobrist leaping into second base out of pure excitement. It wasn't Montero's RBI single, it was the dugout erupting in cheers as it happened, and Montero turning to scream in their direction after reaching first.

And then there was the final out. The out was great, but the reaction is what really brought it home. The Chicago Cubs had finally won the World Series. My Chicago Cubs.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

I'm a Knicks Fan This Year

I am a lifelong Bulls fan. Growing up near-ish Chicago during Jordan's prime basically ensured that I would love the Bulls with all of my heart. But I remember the bad years as well, drafting guys like Marcus Fizer and signing guys like Eddie Robinson; they were awful for a really long time. Then they started drafting better, lucked into the number one pick and had one of the best coaches in the NBA, so it was a whole lot easier to like them.

Then the Bulls got rid of that coach for a guy whose best attribute was getting guys kicked out of other universities to come to his and play together. Shockingly, that did not spell success at the NBA level. Then, they basically got rid of everyone from those fun grinding Bulls teams, only keeping Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson around. And of course, I still like those guys, I even like Dwyane Wade, Doug McDermott, Nikola Mirotic, and Bobby Portis, but I like those guys more in a vacuum than on this team. Also, they picked up Rajon Rondo, the player I hate the most in the NBA, and another shocker here, it hasn't worked out too well.

So I'm a still Bulls fan, but I don't want to actually watch the Bulls. You see my predicament here? So I've watched some other NBA teams. I have to eliminate all west coast teams, because I can't stay up that late. I'm not going to watch a good team, because then I might fall in love, and I don't want to do that to the Bulls, so I glanced around the league and found the perfect solution, The New York Knickerbockers.

I mean, let's think about it. The only other decent options are the Pacers who show potential but aren't all that fun, and the Bucks, but they're a little too cool and spelling Giannis Antetokounmpo is just a giant pain to spell, so I didn't want to write that.

As a Bulls fan during the 90s, I am predisposed to hating the Knicks, and yes, I will forever hate John Starks and think that they were responsible for the worst years of basketball after Jordan retried (in my mind, Jordan retired from the Bulls and never played again). So saying out loud that I like the Knicks is difficult, but watching the Knicks is a really enjoyable experience.

Let's get the obvious out of the way. They took two of my all-time favorite Bulls when they got Joakim Noah and Derrick Rose this offseason. I still love these guys. Neither of them is the same player they were in their prime, but they show enough flashes to let you get lost in the moments and convince yourself that they are about to have a career renaissance. Rose can still make ridiculous drives and avoid contact as he lays something up high off the glass, and Noah isn't as springy, but he is wily and still more hustle plays than you can expect from any single person. I will forever love watching these guys play (Also, not concerned about Derrick Rose just disappearing from the team last week; that's part of the Derrick Rose charm).

The next reason to like the Knicks is Carmelo Anthony. Carmelo gets a bad rap, because he has never won anything in the NBA, but he's still super awesome at basketball. When Melo gets hot, it is special. I saw the Knicks play the Heat earlier this year, and it was a close game about halfway through the third quarter until Melo just decided to make a shot every time he touched the ball. It finally stopped when he took a contested three as a heat check, but by that time, the Knicks were up double digits and the game was over. Appreciate Carmelo Anthony, because even though he's not the perfect basketball player, he is one of the best.

Then there's Kristaps Porzingis. Porzingis is the guy everyone wants to talk about, but he's still a distant fourth for my favorite Knicks players to watch. Don't get me wrong. He's really good, but he doesn't compare to those top three. His game is easy to enjoy; it's effortless. He's fully appreciated, which makes it less fun to root for him but still fun to watch him.

After that, I still enjoy watching Brandon Jennings. I know he can't make a shot to save his life, but he can still dribble real nicely, and that counts for something. I guess I could say I like Kyle O'Quinn and Courtney Lee, but those are just solid players that you should like, not players that I really care about. They could easily be replaced.

The rest of the Knicks bench is hot garbage. There is nothing of notable talent or consequences, and that's fine. It gives them a ton of potential for easy upgrades. But that's nitpicking at this point.

With D-Rose, Noah, Melo, Zinger, and Young Money, this team is the perfect blend of fun and stupidity. And since they are likely to lose Rose and Jennings after this year, it will be easy to throw them to the side and start cheering for the Bulls after they ditch Rondo and Hoiberg. The Knicks are my team...for this year.

Monday, January 16, 2017

I Was Wrong About Iowa Basketball

Going into this season, I thought that the Iowa Hawkeyes were going to be awful at basketball. Early on in the season, I felt vindicated as Iowa couldn't beat a good team to save their lives. They couldn't beat Seton Hall at home, and more embarrassingly, they only manged 41 points against Virginia, then followed that by giving up 100 points to Memphis. Their offense depended on everybody being hot from the outside, and their defense was nonexistent. They followed those two games by getting beat by Notre Dame before hitting rock bottom and losing to University of Nebraska...Omaha. Iowa wasn't going to struggle this year; they were going to be abysmal.

Then something weird happened. They beat the 25th ranked, Iowa State Cyclones. I didn't think they'd be good enough to win a game like that, but it was a rivalry game, and as the cliche goes, you can throw the record books out when those two teams get together. Then, something even more odd happened when Iowa totally handled Northern Iowa. Even if UNI wasn't strong this year, Iowa shouldn't have been able to dominate them like that.

And since then, outside of a beating they took from Purdue on the road, Iowa looks like a real basketball team, and that is something I did not see coming. In fact, they even avenged the beating that Purdue gave them by getting a win over the Boilermakers at home. I thought they were going to be the hottest garbage, but I really underestimated the talents of this team.

First, there was Peter Jok. It's not that I really underestimated Jok, because I've always been a huge fan, but I saw what he is doing this year as the absolute height of his potential; I didn't think he'd actually reach it. But the dude has been phenomenal and deserves national attention for his play so far this year. He's an incredible scorer, and he's really stepped up in his ability to contribute in other areas this season which is not easy to do while doing most of the heavy lifting on offense.

On production alone, I had Tyler Cook pegged fairly well, as nothing he has done has really surprised me, but how he is doing it is more impressive than I anticipated. He's just so damn...smooth. Everything he does in his actions are very fluid, and as he adds strength and some bulk, he's going to be very tough to deal with for any team facing the Hawkeyes.

The guy I missed the biggest on was Jordan Bohannon. Like, he's a Bohannon, so I knew he'd be able to shoot, but I did not think he'd be a competent facilitator as a true freshman. It's incredible how far he has exceeded my expectations in running the offense, as I thought Christian Williams would have to run point with Bohannon playing the off guard position to run around screens and shoot up threes. He's been way more than that, and this is an excellent sign for Iowa's future.

The guy that everybody underestimated was Cordell Pemsl. I didn't really expect him to get any minutes this year, but he's been great. He's basically what I dreamed that Ahmad Wagner would become this year. He's like a poor man's Corliss Williamson (who was one of my favorite college players ever). I don't think Pemsl has the highest ceiling, but if he could just do this for four years and maybe improve his free throw shooting, that's a really nice college player.

I also didn't expect much from Isaiah Moss who may have the most potential of any of the freshman (non Tyler Cook edition). He's athletic and can make threes fairly well, which is a really good starting point for a college player. When Jok leaves, Moss is going to get a chance to shine much brighter, and i think he'll do just that.

On top of that, you have Nicholas Baer being the ultimate hustle guy; Brady Ellingson is nailing threes like it's nobody's business; Ahmad Wagner still being a solid big that can take some minutes off the bench and do good things; Christian Williams puts in quality minutes while running the offense and playing strong defense; Dom Uhl....well, Uhl has kind of taken a step back, but he's still long and athletic; and Kriener and Dailey are a-okay young fellas.

I know I'm talking about this Iowa team as if they are real contenders, and they're not that yet. The Big Ten is down this year, but Iowa has gone from a team that I expected to win 4-5 games in conference play to a team that could be right around .500. Instead of them getting blown away consistently, they have shown they can compete, although they are inexperienced enough where the occasional blowout is going to still happen. Most importantly, this team is super fun, and they're only going to get better. I thought I was going to be excited about the future of Iowa basketball; I didn't know I'd be so excited about the present.

Sometimes it's good to be wrong.

(And of course after I wrote this, Iowa immediately got blown out by Northwestern, because I can somehow never be right about this team)

Thursday, January 12, 2017

I Need a Wrestle Buddy

Living down in Florida, especially in the Tampa area, I am near an abundance of wrestling. Just last week, there was Monday Night Raw in Tampa, an NXT show in Largo on Friday, a crummy independent show at a church in Largo on Saturday, with a pretty stacked independent card on Saturday and Sunday nights in Tampa. Also, there is a women's show this Friday in Tampa. That's a lot of wrestling, and I would have been interested in going to all of it.

Unfortunately, I was only able to make it to the NXT show, because my wife really likes going to those. She's learned to like wrestling, but she's not a total nerd like me. So when she has a friend in town, like she did this past weekend, she actually wants to hang out with them instead of going to independent wrestling shows.

This is why I need a wrestling buddy. It's just not that much fun to experience a wrestling event by yourself. You need someone to share those special moments with. Now, I still love my wife, so this would be a strictly platonic pro wrestling relationship, but it would really help improve things for me, as I wouldn't have to constantly get turned down when I ask my wife to go to five wrestling events in a week.

I mean, they have Tinder and Grindr, couldn't they come up with an app for me to meet cool wrestling fans? I don't feel like that's too much to ask.

Long story short, I'm too socially awkward to make new friends who like pro wrestling, so I need one of my old friends to move down here and watch wrestling with me. Until then, I guess I'll just dress up my dog in a trenchcoat and sunglasses. She likes the independents a lot more anyway, since they lack any sort of fireworks.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

5 NXT Superstars Ready to Breakout in 2017

NXT is kind of my jam. I am way more into it than the big time WWE. It's partially that large arena shows aren't nearly as much fun as crummy little gyms with 300 people in them. Through that, I've gotten a good look at the superstars of NXT and have a pretty good idea who is going to take a big leap forward in 2017. Now, I won't be pointing out how awesome guys like Shisunke Nakamura, Bobby Roode, or Samoa Joe are, because those things are pretty clear. Instead, I'm going to look at guys who may be doing some good things, may be doing some bad things, or may be doing no things and how their fortunes can improve in 2017.

Andrade "Cien" Almas
Almas was the inspiration for this article, as he is someone who is awesome to see in person but he hasn't really translated that to NXT TV yet. At house shows, he consistently puts on the best wrestling match of the night (his match against Sami Zayn was the best match I've seen at any NXT house show). I'm glad he's a heel now since he has a natural arrogance that I think will serve him well. He's the most well known guy on this list, but he's been middling around since debuting, and I think by the end of the year he will have had at least one main event run.

Patrick Clark
I really didn't like Patrick on Tough Enough. He seemed like kind of a tool, and after seeing him at NXT, he might be a tool, but it's starting to work for him. I still miss his USA pants, because I fully support anybody who brings back the Rick Rude airbrushed tights. And I'm not sure if his Prince gimmick is going to work, but it's one of those things where he's making weird shit work. That's tough to do. He's not boring, and I don't know how far he's going to progress this year, as he's probably still years away from anything involving the main roster, but I think he can become a consistent presence on television by the end of the year, likely as somebody you love to hate.

Montez Ford
Formerly Kenneth Crawford, he now has a cool new name, gold chains, and Angelo Dawkins as a buddy. Oh, and most importantly, he has imitable dance moves. Now, they are going to be badly imitated, but white people are going to love badly imitating his dance moves. White people love the feeling of looking cool without the actual execution of looking cool. Also, Ford is just fun in the ring. Him and Patrick Clark had a really fun match at the last show that I went to, and that's not easy when the fans don't have any real characters to latch on to. They are two unknowns and had the whole crowd into it, and two other lesser known NXT wrestlers had a match later that night and the crowd was completely dead. I think Ford and Dawkins will be showing up soon on NXT TV and doing some good work this year.

Mandy Rose
I wanted to pick a female wrestler, but I didn't want to go with an obvious choice like Nikki Cross or Ember Moon. That really didn't leave me a whole lot of options. That's not to say that there aren't talented women, just that picking out who is going to be the one to take a big step forward from their current position is difficult. I'll go with Mandy Rose, because not only is she incredibly good looking, she's also showing some aptitude for wrestling. I have a hard time believing she's not going to get a pretty big push this year.

Akira Tozawa
And I figured I should also take a cruiserweight for my picks. For this, there are plenty of guys to choose from since they've only really acknowledged the existence of like four guys. I think there are some obvious ones like Cedric Alexander or Jack Gallagher, but I figured I'd go a little deeper. I almost went with Noam Dar, because I laugh out loud every time he talks about Alicia Fox, but I'm going with Tozawa based off seeing him live at the last show I went to. He's a guy who is going to chop the crap out of guys and is willing to take it right back. A lot of times foreign wrestlers struggle getting over with crowds, but him yelling "ACH" during his matches will definitely catch on. It caught on with the three kids (probably ranging from ages 3-10), as they were doing it through his match and for the following five minutes. Their parents seemed terrified at the new fun thing they had learned. I just hope that adults can be as open minded as those children were. If so, Tozawa could have a big impact this year.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Iowa Football Seniors I Will Miss The Most

Iowa ended its season on a three game winning streak, highlighted by a last second win over Michigan and destroying Nebraska football to end the year. Yep, that's how they ended. No bowl game this year; that definitely didn't happen 20 minutes from my house. Anyway, these last four years have had some really fun Iowa players, so now is the time to look back on these guys' contributions to see who Iowa football fans will miss the most in 2017.

14. Steve Ferentz - Center
If his name wasn't Ferentz, would you have any idea he was on the team? No offense to him. He stuck it out, kept plugging along while getting an education. Also, somebody has to be last, and I figure he'll have the easiest time bouncing back from coming in last place on this list. Sorry, Steve.

12 (tie). Mitch Keppy and Ryan Ward - Offensive Linemen
I remember being excited when Iowa signed these guys. I do not remember a moment of them on the field, so it was impossible to separate them. At least they didn't come in last.

11. Anthony Gair - Safety
Before this year, I would have had no thoughts on Gair. He was just a guy that hung around the program and played on special teams. Then, halfway through the year, he was forced to play some when Miles Taylor got injured, and he actually played pretty well. Did he benefit from some overthrown deep passes? Sure, but that may have been because opposing quarterbacks were sGAIRed.

10. Ron Coluzzi - Punter
I know he only played one year, and he was just a solid punter, but that performance against Michigan was something that will stick with me for a long time. The man did a fake punt where he stumbled, flipped, and managed to get an unnecessary roughness penalty, and although that moment is more memorable, the more impressive feat was getting back-to-back running into the kicker penalties. If there is such a thing as a Punter Party, that story will make him the life of the party.

9. Faith Ekakite - Defensive Tackle
Ekakite never had a huge impact, but he got better and better and made some plays in his senior year. Also, let us not forget that he was nearly murdered for playing Pokemon Go, and I feel like that's one of those stories that will stick with me for years to come.

8. Riley McCarron - Wide Receiver
McCarron is a victim of the Peter Principle. He simply got promoted higher than his skill level really allowed. McCarron was a fine third receiver, but he was not a number one, and trying to fit him into that role after Matt VandeBerg got injured early in the season basically led to disaster for the receiving corps. Had he stayed a third receiver, I would have had nothing but positive thoughts about him. Instead, I kept hearing announcers say how reliable (aka white) he was as a pass catcher, despite dropping a ton of balls. But let's not forget that punt return touchdown against Illinois, or the huge touchdown against Nebraska. Those are some pretty nice highlights for a third receiver.

7. Cole Croston - Offensive Tackle
At a school known for producing offensive linemen, it's really tough to stand out. Croston doesn't measure up with some of the elite names, but he served a purpose. When the offensive line was supposed to be garbage, he helped them reach respectability, and they even won a vague offensive line award this year. I'm a sucker for offensive line play, so I won't be forgetting about you, Cole.

6. Greg Mabin - Cornerback
Greg Mabin was such a tease. He showed a tremendous amount of potential when he got thrusted into the cornerback role as a sophomore across from Desmond King. But that's all it was, potential. He seemed to be the same guy he was during his senior year as he was when he started. He was a solid, unspectacular cornerback. I think people will remember him as somewhat disappointing, but he had some highlight hits and interceptions while starting for three years. That's a pretty solid Hawkeye career.

5. George Kittle - Tight End
It is impossible for me to think about George Kittle without considering how awesome he would have been in a Ken O'Keefe offense. He may have won the Mackey Award if O'Keefe was in charge of the offense. Instead, it was a Greg Davis offense, so his impact was mitigated. Kittle had all of the tools except an offensive coordinator that knew how to utilize him. He'll probably be a late-round draft pick, and he'll end up becoming a starter and people will wonder why their team didn't get a solid tight end like Kittle. I'm a very big George Kittle fan.

4. LeShun Daniels Jr. - Running Back
Daniels was never the fan favorite running back. His freshman year, it was Mark Weisman (I have a Weisman for Heisman shirt; I should be embarrassed by this), sophomore and junior year, it was Jordan Canzeri, and senior year, it was Akrum Wadley. Daniels just went out and produced more and more each year. I know he didn't have the flash plays, but having a bruiser to wear defenses out does matter, and Daniels mattered. He was the first back to eclipse 1,000 yards since Marcus Coker. He's not an all-time great, but he was a damn good back.

3. Jaleel Johnson - Defensive Tackle
First off, how much fun is it to sing, "I'm sorry Miss Jackson, but I am JALEEL?" It's super fun, but Jaleel Johnson was also a monster at times. His safety against Michigan is what finally gave Iowa some momentum in that game. But there hasn't been a defensive lineman that had big plays like Jaleel since Adrian Clayborn. It seemed at times that if Jaleel Johnson decided that he was going to tear apart the opposing offense, he was able to go out there and tear apart that offense no matter what they tried to do to stop him. Iowa's defense relies so much on the defensive line play that Jaleel may be the player that is most missed next season.

2. C.J. Beathard - Quarterback
I understand that Beathard didn't end his career on the highest note, but let's not forget how fun he was at quarterback. Greg Davis made sure that his stats would not be impressive, but watching Beathard was impressive. And his pass to Tevaun Smith in last year's B1G title game may have been the greatest single moment in Iowa history. Rob Houghtlin's kick was in the middle of the season, and Holloway's catch was in a rather meaningless game, but Beathard's pass to Tevaun meant Iowa was going to be undefeated and head to the National Title. Obviously, things didn't work out in that game, but that single moment was huge. And Beathard was huge for the program. He was our Sunshine, and then he went white-trash corporate with his look when he took over the starting job. He was off to a really good start when VandeBerg was healthy, but then had no options, especially with Kittle being hurt. He was not put in a position to succeed, and he put up 20 wins in his two years as a starter. CJB, you will be missed...

1. Desmond King - Cornerback
...but not as much as this guy. Like there was ever any doubt who was going to be number one. Desmond King was so stupid awesome for Iowa. He came in as a true freshman starter and was pretty damn good. He then got better and better. People will nitpick his senior year because he gave up a few big plays, but that was only because he was so bored with nobody throwing his way that he had to try to take some risks to get involved in the action. We all know that the best part about King was the fact that he was a total ballhawk, but don't forget how good of a tackler he was. Oh yeah, and he was also an awesome return guy. He was just such a football player in every way. It made no sense for him to come back this season, but getting four years of watching him play football was an amazing experience. I'm going to tell my kids about watching Desmond King play college football. That's how good he was.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

A Look at the 2016-2017 Iowa Wrestling Season So Far - Part 2

Earlier this week, I looked at the lighter weights on Iowa's roster and how they are performing so far this season. Now it's on to the big boys, who aren't quite as glamorous in their performances but may be more interesting as there are still a lot of things to be decided, and it's nearly impossible to tell where some of these guys will end up.

165 - Joey Gunther and Alex Marinelli
165 is the biggest question mark for Iowa this season. Gunther has been the starter and manged an undefeated record in the early meets, but the Midlands was his first real challenge, and he failed to impress as he went just 2-2 against less than elite competition. I think he's fairly borderline to make the NCAA Tournament, and if he does, I can't see him managing more than a single win there.

And then there is the true Freshman, super recruit, Alex Marinelli. He was considered the second best recruit in the entire class this year (of course the top recruit went to Penn State), so he entered with some fanfare. Maybe he was overhyped to me, but he's only been fine. At a tournament meant to showcase his talents like the Grand View Open, he only won two of his matches by decision. At the Midlands, he looked better, especially when he controlled Clark Glass of Oklahoma. He got outclassed by Isaiah Martinez of Illinois (no surprise there, I-Mar is awesome) and got pinned by Anthony Valencia of Arizona State. He took fourth place which is a great accomplishment for a true Freshman, but I'm not sure if he's going to be the first Iowa wrestler to go from high school to competing as a true Freshman under Tom Brands. He's already good enough to score points at the NCAAs, and he's only going to get better, but I have trouble seeing him as an All-American, so I'm not sure if it's worth burning that redshirt. We'll likely find out soon with Iowa facing Michigan, Oklahoma State, Penn State, and Ohio State in the month of January. If the redshirt gets pulled, it's going to happen this month.

Also, a special shoutout to Iowa's other true freshman at 165, Kaleb Young, who took fifth at the Midlands. He wrestles a fast pace and really pressures opponents. With Marinelli there, his future is likely at 174, so if he can add good weight, he could make an impact next year.

174 - Alex Meyer
Alex Meyer, like Brandon Sorensen, is going to wrestle close matches. Unfortunately, Meyer is not quite on Sorensen's level of winning those close matches. Stop me if you've heard this before, but Meyer was undefeated against mostly easy competition before going to the Midlands. He was disappointing at the Midlands as he only took fourth place. 174 is a weaker weight class this year, and Meyer can wrestle guys tough, but I don't see how he can have the consistency to be a top guy. He lost to two guys he has beaten before, but that's kind of the story with Meyer. He can compete with anybody, and he lets just about anybody compete with him.

184 - Sammy Brooks
The man with the mullet is now in one of the most stacked weight classes in NCAA wrestling. He had a solid performance at the Midlands, with a third place finish. He lost to Nate Jackson from Indiana but did manage to avenge that loss in the final match. Sometimes Brooks seems to fall too in love with big throws as he's got good lower body takedowns as well, and when he made that switch against Jackson, he took over the match. Brooks has wrestled the best at this weight class, and he's nearly impossible to blow out. He had a close match with the two-time NCAA defending champion, Gabe Dean a couple years ago, so there is nobody he should be afraid of, but consistency is key. He's the same guy he's been for the last two years. If you told me he was in the NCAA finals, I'd believe it, if you told me he wasn't even an All-American, well, I'd believe that too. Here's to hoping it's the former.

197 - Cash Wilcke and Steven Holloway
Everything I wrote about Joey Gunther above can basically be said about Wilcke. He might be good enough to make the tournament, but I can't see him making an impact when he gets there. The difference is that there isn't a super freshman breathing down Wilcke's neck.

However, that doesn't mean there are no other options. Steven Holloway has wrestled the beginning of this year at heavyweight despite having being a true 197. Now that Iowa's starter is back, Holloway could compete for that starting spot. He was very aggressive when wrestling at heavyweight, but just couldn't overcome the massive weight advantage that his opponent had. I'm not sure if he is better than Wilcke, but I wouldn't mind him getting some chances to prove himself during the second half of the year.

Heavyweight - Sam Stoll
Stoll made his debut at the Midlands, and it was about as well as could be reasonably expected. He beat two good, not great, heavyweights with Collin Jensen from Nebraska and Ross Larson from Nebraska, and he also got his first pin of the year in his third place match. His only loss was to top-10 ranked, Tanner Hall, from Arizona State, and part of that looked like a gas tank issue, which is to be expected since he hasn't been in any matches for over nine months. Still, he looked good in his matches, and outside of Kyle Snyder, he can compete with any of the top heavyweights in the nation. There's a decent chance that he puts up the most points at the NCAA Tournament out of any of the Iowa wrestlers I talked about today.

And that wraps things up. Overall, I would say Iowa is in fine shape. They are not going to be the favorites to win the National Title, but that doesn't mean that if they get guys peaking at the right time, that they couldn't pull off something special. I'm looking forward to the second half of the season.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

A Look at the 2016-2017 Iowa Wrestling Season So Far - Part 1

With the wrestling season about halfway over, I thought now would be a good time to check on how Iowa is performing so far this season. Although about half of the year is gone, there are still a lot of question marks, as most of the first half of the schedule provides more cupcakes than proven commodities. Still, things have started taking shape, and we'll go weight-by-weight to break things down.

125 - Thomas Gilman
Gilman has been, without a doubt, the best Iowa wrestler so far this season. He has gone out there and destroyed everything in his path, with the exception of a tough semifinal matchup this past week at the Midlands against Josh Terao from American, who used a whole lot of funk to keep it close but still came up short. Outside of that, he's gotten bonus points against everyone else he has faced this year. With Megaludis graduating and Tomasello moving up to 133, Gilman is the favorite to take the national title at 125, and judging by his wrestling so far this year, I have every reason to believe he will live up to the hype and get an asterisk this year.

133 - Cory Clark and Phillip Laux
Clark started the year off as everyone expected, by going out and dominating his opposition. His closest match was against his teammate, Phillip Laux, but even that match was never in doubt. Unfortunately, after that, Clark suffered an injury that appeared to be non-serious. They said he could have wrestled against Iowa State had he been needed, but he took that off, and three weeks later, the Midlands came and went without Clark seeing the mat. Hopefully it is just precautionary, as Clark is Iowa's second best chance at a National Champion behind Gilman.

Laux has been his replacement, and unfortunately for him, he took over the starting job right before the competition took a big step up. He got manhandled by Seth Gross of South Dakota State but then has held his own in his other matches, including against Iowa State All-American, Earl Hall. Still, Laux is small for the weight and just doesn't have the horsepower to overcome that disadvantage against top competition. He managed to go 2-2 at the Midlands, and he always competes; that's really all you can ask for.

141 - Topher Carton
This weight was originally supposed to be contested between Carton and Vince Turk, but Turk suffered a knee injury early in the season, so Carton was given the starting job to run with. Carton looked great early in the season as he was steamrolling overmatched opponents in nearly all of his matches. However, he finally ran into real competition at the Midlands, and things got far more difficult for him. Kevin Jack of North Carolina State controlled him in their match, which isn't too surprising as Jack is a national title contender. But he also lost a close match to Rohlfing from CSU Bakersfield, and it's those kinds of matches that he needs to find ways to win. He still doesn't have a marquee win, but he also hasn't had a lot of opportunities for one. He's definitely good enough to qualify for the NCAAs, but it's tough to tell how much he can do once he gets there until he starts facing consistent competition during the B1G conference schedule.

Also, fun fact, I was super confused when he was referred to as Christopher Carton at the Midlands. My first thought was that his middle name must be Topher, and then I finally realized that Topher is short for Christopher. It is clear that I have never met a Topher in my life.

149 - Brandon Sorensen
Sorensen has gone out and nearly gotten bonus points in all of his matches, and despite that, it still seems rather unimpressive. Sorensen is clearly the second best guy at 149, but it's also clear that he's still nowhere near #1 ranked Zain Retherford. He was in way too many matches that were too close for comfort, but he managed to come out on top against everyone but the Zain Train. I guess I'm just preemptively complaining about a possible upset loss in a close match at the NCAAs that may or may not happen. He hasn't lost one of those in a long time, so I guess it's best to just sit back and enjoy the terrifyingly close ride.

157 - Michael Kemerer
I am so freaking excited about Michael Kemerer. Iowa doesn't often have explosive athletes on the wrestling team, but when they do, they are so much fun to watch. The first name that came to my mind when watching Kemerer was Montell Marion. Marion came achingly close to a couple national titles, but never could pull it off, but that doesn't diminish how great it was to be able to watch him compete. When his offense was on, he could blast through people on the feet. Marion wasn't great at scoring on top, and right now, that's still a question mark for Kemerer as well, but the guy won the Midlands as a Freshman in maybe the most exciting match of the tournament against Nebraska's Tyler Berger. He's undefeated and seen as a top-5 guy. This is going to be fun.

Note: The only disappointing thing about Kemerer is his nickname is KemDawg. How is it not KemTrails? I might have to start a petition.

That's it for today. I'll finish up tomorrow with the big boys.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Breaking Down The Most Important Women's Fight in 2016

What a wonderful night of fighting for women's mixed martial arts. The most dominant woman in the history of MMA came back to take on an experienced veteran to not only test her skills but her will to win. The eyes of everyone around the world was watching this fight, and even though it was short-lived, it certainly didn't disappoint. Of course I am talking about Gabi Garcia taking on legitimate grandmother, Yumika Hotta. If you were only watching Ronda Rousey and Amanda Nunes, I feel sorry for you, because this fight owned. Just look at these two competitors. First, our beloved grandmother:

And here is 210 pounds of Gabi Garcia:

So I was super excited to watch this match, but my expectations were not nearly high enough, because everything about this was awesome. I mean, just look at this staredown.

But the beginning of this match may have been the greatest thing I have ever seen in mixed martial arts. 
This moment belongs in the Smithsonian. I can't stop watching it, as it is absolutely mesmerizing.

Shockingly, this was not a strategy for success for Hotta. Yumika then ate a knee, but that was just to lure her into her master plan.

Unfortunately, that master plan did not quite work out as Hotta was finished in 41 seconds.

This fight was incredibly dangerous and irresponsible. It should have never happened. That being said, it was totally awesome, and I am SO glad it did. Also, was this beating really any worse than the one Ronda Rousey took from Amanda Nunes? No, and Hotta at least gets to snuggle with her grandkids at the end of the night. 

Never change, Japanese MMA.