The Iowa Hawkeyes ended up with a disappointing third place finish at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships in Champaign, Illinois this weekend. Heading into the final session, the Iowa wrestlers had an excellent chance to win the title but none of their four finalists were victorious. Iowa finished with 133.5 team points.
The Penn State Nittany Lions won their third consecutive B1G title with four individuals claiming individual crowns en route to 151 team points, while Minnesota finished in second place with 139 points, and two titles, respectively.
Entering the final session, the Hawks were in second place in the team standings as they trailed Penn State by just a half point, 131-130.5. The Nittany Lions also had four finalists.
One team left with lots of gold. The other left empty-handed.
What was a nail-biter became a round of disappointment for Iowa.
No. 2 ranked Matt McDonough, the top seed at 125 pounds, fell for the second time this season to Illinois’ Jesse Delgado, 10-4. Delgado controlled the tempo of the match from the very beginning, jumping out to a 2-0 lead and piled the points on in the latter periods. The loss was McDonough’s third on the season, and despite being the defending 125-pound national champion, will likely head to Des Moines as the No. 3 seed. As a result, McDonough may have to beat both Delgado and Missouri’s Alan Waters if he wants to claim his third NCAA championship. Waters and Delgado have beaten McDonough handily in their previous bouts.
The highly anticipated matchup between Iowa’s No. 2 Tony Ramos and Ohio State’s No. 1 ranked Logan Stieber finally happened in the 133-pound final. Ramos lost 3-1 in overtime with just three seconds left on the clock as Stieber used a body lock to earn the takedown and his second B1G title. The loss was Ramos’ first of the season. Expect to see a rematch in the NCAA finals as both Stieber and Ramos are the top two in this weight class, and showed why Sunday afternoon.
At 141 pounds, Iowa senior Mark Ballweg, ranked No. 9, made his first appearance in the B1G finals but fell to Ohio State’s Hunter Stieber, 8-3. Ballweg will look to close out his Hawkeye career as an All-American for the first time.
Three finalists for Iowa. “O” for three.
In a stacked 174-pound weight class, Iowa’s No. 3 ranked Mike Evans squared off against Penn State’s No. 7 Matt Brown. Brown entered the tournament as the fifth seed, but a very balanced field led to the first, and only, head-to-head finals matchup between the top two teams. Evans jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on an illegal move but made a rare mistake in the second period. Brown knotted the score 1-1 with an escape and caught Evans out of position, throwing the Hawkeye for a five-point move. The final score ended with a 7-3 decision, and the Hawkeyes left Assembly Hall with zero B1G champions for the first time since 2006, and just third time since 1970.
The win by Brown was Penn State’s second individual title, and they went on to claim two more at 184 (Ed Ruth) and 197 pounds (Quentin Wright). The Nittany Lions ran away with the B1G title, and enter the NCAA’s as the clear favorite to be national champions.
Meanwhile, the Hawks have a lot of work to do if they want to make any noise at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
McDonough, Ramos, Derek St. John (3rd place B1G finish), Nick Moore (4th place), and Evans all left valuable team points on the table at their respective weights. Bright spots for Iowa came from the three upper weights as each outperformed their tournament seed. 184-pounder Ethan Lofthouse finished in third place (seeded fifth), 197-pounder Nathan Burak finished fourth (seeded sixth), and HWT Bobby Telford finished third (seeded fourth).
While having no B1G champions may be a tough pill to swallow, Iowa’s grapplers do get one more chance to show their fight at the highest level. The Hawkeyes qualified nine out of ten wrestlers to the NCAA’s, and on paper, have a legitimate chance to have seven or eight All-Americans and multiple national champions. That may seem highly optimistic, but this team is capable.
They showed it during the B1G dual season.
They’ll need to show it again in two weeks.