The Iowa wrestlers hit the road to officially welcome Nebraska to the Big Ten, erase the taste of last Saturday's stinging 17-16 loss to Oklahoma State, and make a little program history (a win would be Iowa's 900th dual meet win). They succeeded in fairly emphatic fashion, winning 24-9 in a dual meet where Iowa looked decidedly more Iowa-like than a week ago and where Nebraska had as many stoppages to deal with bloody noses as they did wins. All the blood timeouts in the world were of little use against a focused, hungry Iowa team that looked determine to attack more often and more effectively than they did in the loss to Oklahoma State.
The meet started at 197, where Grant Gambrall outwrestled James Nakashima and got a deserved win after coming out on top in a hectic scramble in sudden victory (overtime). Nebraska evened the dual up after a dominant win from Tucker Lane at heavyweight, but then Iowa took over: they won four straight matches (including a pin for Matt McDonough at 125) to take a commanding 18-3 lead. Mike Evans' impressive upset win at 165 effectively sealed the win for Iowa and Ethen Lofthouse's decision win at 174 put the finishing touches on the win.
#4 Iowa 24, #8 Nebraska 9
197: #19 Grant Gambrall DEC (3-1 SV) James Nakashima (Iowa 3-0)
HWT: #9 Tucker Lane DEC (4-1) #8 Bobby Telford (tied 3-3)
125: #2 Matt McDonough FALL (4:50) Shawn Nagel (Iowa 9-3)
133: #2 Tony Ramos DEC (10-3) #18 Ridge Kiley (Iowa 12-3)
141: #3 Montell Marion DEC (9-6) #6 Jake Sueflohn (Iowa 15-3)
149: Mike Kelly DEC (7-3) Brandon Wilbourn (Iowa 18-3)
157: #10 James Green DEC (12-7) Nick Moore (Iowa 18-6)
165: #9 Mike Evans DEC (7-3) #3 Robert Kokesh (Iowa 21-6)
174: #11 Ethen Lofthouse DEC (8-1) #20 Tyler Koehn (Iowa 24-6)
184: #7 Josh Ihnen DEC (10-5) Vinnie Wagner (Iowa 24-9)
* Welcome to the big show, Mike Evans. The standout performer of the night was undoubtedly Mike Evans, who scored the biggest win of the meet by beating 3rd-ranked Robert Kokesh. This was the performance we've been waiting for out of Evans and the first one where his stellar prep reputation and prodigious hype began to seem justified. His offense on his feet looked far better than he'd ever previously shown, attacking with impressive quickness and from different angles, and he rode Kokesh well in the second and third periods. Aside from giving up a reversal in the first period, he made very few mistakes against a tough wrestler. The most notable aspect of his win was how effective he was on his feet -- if he can maintain that and add it to his already excellent riding ability, he'll have a chance to go far at 165 this year.
* McMachine and the Tiger. The packed crowd of Nebraska fans was waiting for something to cheer for and keep alive their hopes of an upset, which they got with Lane's smothering win over Telford that evened up the meet. McDonough and Ramos killed that hope in its tracks, with a pair of lopsided wins (and especially McD's pin) that erased Nebraska's momentum and put Iowa in control of the dual. McD continued to show that he's just getting better and better as the season progresses, thoroughly outclassing Nagle and running a takedown clinic on him before wrenching him over for a pin at the end of the second period. Meanwhile, Ramos was stifled by Kiley's length for a period, but his unstoppable motor (and Kiley's lack of the same) proved to be the difference the rest of the match; once Ramos got rolling, the only thing that kept Kiley from conceding bonus points was the clock. Kiley was a good challenge for Ramos -- a lengthy wrestler with some solid defense -- and it speaks well of him that he was able to beat him so comprehensively after a slow start.
* Marion steps up to the plate. I've been critical of Marion lately and even picked him to lose to Sueflohn here. So credit where it's due: he wrestled well in this match. His reversal at the end of the first period was a huge turning point in the match and he did an excellent job of battling off Sueflohn's takedowns later in the match and getting his own takedowns. There were still a few issues with him -- he again took a while to get going and struggled to ride Sueflohn -- but his attacks looked crisper tonight and it was good to see him finishing the match well. Sueflohn is a tough opponent, so this was a very nice win for Marion.
* Kelly and Lofthouse define "workmanlike" performances. After a positive showing at Midlands, Mike Kelly came back down to earth a bit in a pair of losses last weekend. This was a key match, both for Kelly (he needed the confidence boost that comes with a win) and the team (this was a swing bout). It didn't look good after he gave up an early takedown after a slick trip from Wilbourn, but he was as advertised after getting the escape from that takedown: a hard-nosed, tenacious wrestler who ground away at his opponent. "Slick" will probably not often be used to describe Kelly's wrestling, but it was brutally effective: after securing a takedown, Kelly rode Wilbourn extremely well for much of the remainder of the match. It's not often you see a wrestler on bottom dinged for stalling as much as Wilbourn was, but it's a credit to how active Kelly was on top and how hard his ride was; he had Wilbourn totally flustered. Meanwhile, Ethen Lofthouse ground out his own no frills win: he picked up a takedown late in the first, rode Koehn throughout the second period, and tacked on a few more easy takedowns late in the match. It would be nice to see Ethen get his offense going a little sooner in the match, but this was still a solid win where he was never really threatened.
* About the losses. Finally, three Iowa wrestlers came up short in their quest to join their teammates in the W column: Telford, Moore, and Wagner. Wagner hustled his ass off in his match, but he's simply at a talent disadvantage when it comes to the top guys at this weight: they're a little too quick and too slick for him. Moore and Telford both looked like redshirt freshmen lacking in experience: Telford looked good in the first period but was unable to convert any of his activity into completed shots and then struggled badly to get an escape against a very motivated, very experienced Lane. Moore also made errors of inexperience (he practically walked into several of Green's completed shots), despite being ostensibly the more experienced wrestler in the match (Green is a true freshman). Moore did stage a spirited comeback at the end of the match and could certainly still come good (it's worth remembering that not every top wrestler was a world-beater from the start), but in the meantime I'll be glad to see Derek St. John reclaim his starting spot in the lineup soon.
NEXT: Iowa returns home to face #17 Northwestern on Sunday at 1pm CT.