This past weekend was certainly one Iowa wrestlers, coaches, and fans would like to forget.
The Iowa Hawkeyes wrestling team, ranked No. 2 in both dual and tournament team rankings, fell twice over the weekend at the hands of No. 4 Minnesota and No. 6 Missouri while competing at the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Dual Championships hosted in Minneapolis.
Iowa’s grapplers started off sluggish in their defeat of No. 9 Cornell Friday night, winning by a final score of 21-16. The two teams split the ten matches, 5-5. The Hawkeyes scored bonus points in four of their fives wins via major decisions by Derek St. John, Mike Evans, and Bobby Telford, in addition to a Tony Ramos fall at 133 pounds. Despite the victory, the Hawkeyes didn’t appear to be in top form as No. 8 ranked Mark Ballweg lost to No. 10 Mike Nevinger, 3-1.
The Hawks were lucky to survive round one in advancing to the semifinals, but would run into a coveted rematch with the home-favorite Minnesota Gophers.
In their first meeting at “The Barn,” the Hawkeyes prevailed, winning on a tie-breaker, 16-15. Both teams split the ten bouts five and five, with no bonus points scored in any of the matches.
Similar to the Cornell meet, Iowa again jumped out to an early 9-0 lead. Top-ranked 125 pounder Matt McDonough won by a decision, 8-2, over No. 13 David Thorn. Tony Ramos then pinned No. 7 Chris Dardanes before the Hawkeyes lost at 141 and 149 pounds.
St. John righted the ship with a 7-4 decision at 157 and Iowa’s Nick Moore hung on to a 3-2 victory to make the score 15-10 in favor of Iowa.
The highly anticipated rematch between Minnesota’s No. 1 ranked Logan Storley and Iowa’s No. 3 Mike Evans took place at 174, but once again, Storley scored a reversal in the second period, eventually winning by a 3-1 final. Minnesota closed out the dual with three more victories, winning six of the ten matches and ultimately winning the dual, 22-15.
The Hawkeyes didn’t have much time to regroup in their preparation for No. 6 Missouri and it showed on the mat. McDonough was upset 4-0 by Missouri’s fourth-ranked Alan Waters. Ramos won by forfeit at 133 pounds, and Iowa’s Josh Dziewa won by a major decision at 141 to give Iowa a 10-3 advantage, but Iowa would win just two more matches the rest of the evening.
Top-ranked 157 pounder, St. John, was upset 4-3 on a last-second takedown by No. 19 Kyle Bradley, in one of the more shocking upsets of the dual championships. Nick Moore and Mike Evans both earned decisions at 165 and 174, respectively, to give Iowa a 16-9 lead going into the final three matches.
However, Iowa’s upper weights were all underdogs in their matches and none of the three could pull off victories when Iowa needed one most. Iowa’s No. 14 Ethan Lofthouse fell 3-2 to No. 13 Mike Larson and 197 pounder Nathan Burak followed that with a 1-0 loss to No. 17 Brent Haynes. Heavyweight Bobby Telford, ranked as high as sixth, had a chance to salvage the dual but faced stiff competition in Missouri’s No. 1 Dom Bradley. Telford fought hard but surrended a takedown in the second tiebreak overtime period, losing 4-2, and sending the Hawkeyes back to Iowa City with a 18-16 defeat and a fourth place finish at the NWCA Duals.
Three weeks ago, the Iowa wrestling team seemed to be peaking. Hopefully, it wasn’t too soon.
They defeated then-No. 1 Penn State 22-16 in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and McDonough, Ramos, St. John, and Evans had all shown glimpses of being national title contenders, even favorites. In no way are these individuals out of the national title talk, especially Ramos, but McDonough has lost twice in the past two weeks, Evans hasn’t gotten over the hump against the Gophers’ Storley, and many of St. John’s matches have gone down to the wire in recent memory, finally losing a nail-biter this weekend.
The Hawkeyes will look to regroup and make a statement at the Big Ten Championships in Champaign, Illinois, on March 9th and 10th.
By then, this past weekend will be a distant memory.