Having already knocked off two top 10 opponents this season, No. 1 Ed Ruth will be tested when he wrestles a familiar opponent on Friday against Iowa.
No. 14 Ethan Lofthouse will be the second ranked wrestler that Ruth faces in a span of five days and the fourth time that the junior matches up against the Iowa wrestler. Ruth was the winner in the previous three meetings.
The 184-pound wrestler was matched up against No. 8 Josh Ihnen of Nebraska on Sunday. After falling behind 2-0 to Ihnen, Ruth said his focus shifted since he gave up the first takedown. He won 18 of the next 19 points to win the match by technical fall, 18-3.
“Giving up little points like that really gets to me,” Ruth said after Sunday’s dual about the first takedown. “It makes you want to go at the kid even harder.”
When Ruth steps up to face Lofthouse Friday night, it will be the seventh ranked Hawkeye wrestler that the Lions will see. In a dual meet that is billed to be one where each team could potentially win five bouts, bonus points could be crucial in swinging the match in one team’s favor.
That’s where the team will look toward Ruth.
The junior is second among Lions’ wrestlers in points accumulated this season. Ruth has gone 19-0 in his matches, earning the team 41 points in duals. Only David Taylor (42) has earned more.
“Bonus points are huge, an upset, bonus points can make that match not even a close match and it's a huge momentum boost too,” Taylor said. “When you go out and there's a lot of decisions, sometimes a bonus point can be like picking up another win, so it's pretty important.”
While senior Bryan Pearsall is the only Penn State wrestler to face the Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in a dual meet, Ruth wrestled at the building in the Olympic trials in April.
Ruth said the experience in the trials was a completely different challenge that will help him on Friday.
“The style and the type of wrestling completely switches up. You think you're supposed to go in there and hit the guys hard, but these guys, they're more meditated, they're more concentrated, the moves are more specific,” Ruth said. “You have to decide on your move, you could be out of it just like that. You take one bad shot and you could shut down for the rest of the [period].”
With the intimidation factor of the team entering from the top of the crowd and having to work its way down to get to the mat, Ruth has helped keep the team informed on what to expect on Friday.
Head coach Cael Sanderson said Rec Hall has prepared his team for the intensity of Carver-Hawkeye.
“Our atmosphere is as intense as any atmosphere in the nation. These guys are used to it, they're ready,” Sanderson said. “Our team has always wrestled well on the road so there's not anything these guys haven't experienced.”