When Iowa’s third-ranked wrestling team visits ninth-ranked Nebraska at noon on Sunday, the potential exists for two matches to feature a pair of top-10 opponents.
But will they?
That remains to be seen.
As Iowa coach Tom Brands demonstrated Sunday, potential marquee match-ups in a dual setting take a backseat to the big-picture needs of Hawkeye wrestlers.
"It’s something we talk about as coaches all the time," Brands said.
In Iowa’s 32-7 win over Northwestern, Brands opted to withhold second-ranked Spencer Lee from a match against the Wildcats’ top-ranked Sebastian Rivera at 125 pounds and fifth-ranked Kaleb Young did not face Northwestern’s third-ranked Ryan Deakin at 157.
Rivera handed Lee the only blemish on his 12-1 record this season, winning a decision in the finals at the Midlands Championships, where Deakin also won a decision over Young in the finals.
Brands called the decision to hold both competitors out of the Iowa lineup at Northwestern as "the best decision for them."
He went on to say that had as much to do with the timing of the duals as anything.
With the Big Ten Championships five weeks away, Brands sees protecting seeds as an important part of his job, especially with a roster that has sufficient depth.
"This is an important time of year to build momentum and put yourself in the best possible position for the rankings and those types of things," Brands said. "… It’s very, very important that we do the right thing for our individuals."
Brands has followed that approach in the past as well.
At 285, Sam Stoll did not compete against top-ranked Gable Steveson in the Hawkeyes’ dual at Minnesota last month but did win twice last weekend to move to 6-0 on the season.
Last year as he worked his way back from knee surgery, Stoll saw only sporadic dual action before rejoining the lineup and finishing fifth at the NCAA Championships.
"We need to be smart about it and do the right thing," Brands said.
In Iowa’s 10-0 start to the dual season, 20 Hawkeyes have competed in at least one dual meet, and 16 of those wrestlers have recorded at least one dual victory.
Max Murin at 141, unbeaten Alex Marinelli at 165 and Cash Wilcke at 184 are the only preseason projected starters to start in every dual for Iowa this season.
Sunday, Perez Perez replaced Lee in the lineup and Jaren Glosser competed at 157. Both lost their matches against top-five opponents, but Brands believes that kind of experience can only benefit those individuals in the future.
It’s a byproduct of the kind of depth Brands considers to be a bonus, allowing coaches to mix and match lineups based on who opponents are projected to send to the mat.
"With the depth we have in our wrestling room, it’s a luxury that maybe some teams don’t have," Brands said.
Making the most of that situation remains Brands’ priority.
"We have to do what is right for each individual," Brands said. "It’s about getting them ready for where they need to be in March, putting them in the best possible position."
In the dual against the Cornhuskers, 9-3 on the season including a 3-2 record in the Big Ten, the probable lineups include possible top-10 match-ups at 157 and 165.
At 157, the Hawkeyes’ seventh-ranked Young could face the Cornhuskers’ second-ranked Tyler Berger while at 165, Iowa’s second-ranked Marinelli could put his 15-0 record on the line against sixth-ranked Nebraska junior Isaiah White.
In both weight classes, the match-ups would be the first career meetings between the wrestlers.
Will they happen?
We’ll find out Sunday.