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March-like atmosphere awaits Cyclones in West Gym

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Redshirt senior Willie Miklus wrestles redshirt freshman Ashton Seely during the Iowa State vs Utah Valley dual meet Feb. 3 in Hilton Coliseum. Miklus won by major decision 17-6 and the Cyclones defeated the Wolverines 53-0.

Is it March yet? It certainly feels like it.

No. 11 Iowa State battles a pair of stellar wrestling programs this week with No. 17 Northern Iowa at 7 p.m. Thursday at West Gym in Cedar Falls, Iowa, and No. 5 Missouri at 5 p.m. Sunday at home.

"Obviously a big week for us — a really big week for us," said coach Kevin Dresser. "[We have] two really, really tough opponents. We're excited about talking about Missouri and getting a lot of people here Sunday, but we definitely can't take our eye off the ball with what we've got to do with UNI on Thursday night.

"That's going to be a huge test for us — a very, very good team, a well-coached program."

The build-up of the wrestling season takes place in March with conference tournaments followed by the NCAA Tournament, but the final two duals for Iowa State provide somewhat of a trial run before March.

Northern Iowa brings a solid dual team, but the Panthers also have strong individual pieces throughout the lineup.

Using WrestleStat.com's dual comparison tool that accounts for previous head-to-head matches and common opponents, the website has the Cyclones sneaking out of Cedar Falls with a 17-16 win.

Wrestle Stat projects three matches being decided by one point and two being decided by two points. Needless to say, there's a handful of toss-ups.

One of the top toss-up matches highlighted in this dual is between juggernauts redshirt sophomore Ian Parker of Iowa State and redshirt senior Josh Alber of Northern Iowa.

History favors the No. 7 in the latest coaches panel, Alber, over Parker, No. 12 in the panel, slightly. 

Last season at the Big 12 Tournament, Parker was fighting for an NCAA bid, but he fell to Alber in a 3-2 decision. During his redshirt season, Parker lost to Alber, 16-0, in his first collegiate tournament at the Grand View Open.

Despite the tight loss last season, Wrestle Stat values Parker's stellar 2018-19 campaign and gives Parker a 7-5 advantage.

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Redshirt sophomore Ian Parker wrestles freshman Dylan Gregerson during the Iowa State vs Utah Valley dual meet Feb. 3 in Hilton Coliseum. Parker won by fall at 6 minuets and 29 seconds and the Cyclones defeated the Wolverines 53-0.

"It's the end of the season, our team has two of the biggest duals that we've had and I have the two biggest matches that I've had," Parker said. 

Outside of 141-pounds, the dual features plenty of close matches sprinkled throughout. On the flip side, though, each team has at least one weight where they should rack up some bonus points.

While the toss-ups could decide the dual, it could also come down to if the Cyclones or Panthers can win big in the matches they're supposed to.

For Iowa State, the obvious candidate is redshirt senior 197-pounder Willie Miklus. Miklus is one of the most talented athletes in the Cyclone lineup with the most experience.

Miklus is one of the newest Cyclones, joining the team in the summer as a graduate transfer. Since his arrival, Iowa State's had a spark this season that fans saw flashes of at times last year.

"I think they had a lot of things going on in the right direction before I showed up," Miklus said.

For the Panthers, true freshman Tyrell Gordon will likely trot out for a potential dual-deciding match.

Wrestle Stat pegs this one as a technical fall for Miklus, netting five team points for Iowa State. 

If the Cyclones want to knock off Northern Iowa, they'll likely need not only a win, but bonus points, too.

In duals this year, Miklus is 9-2. Of his nine wins, he secured two pins, a technical fall, two major decisions and four decisions. 

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