Mayhem Averted: Iowa Wrestling Advances To Semifinals of NWCA National Duals Tournament

(This is not from yesterday's meets; you can find some nice pics from yesterday's duals at this Daily Iowan gallery, though, including some excellent shots of Mike Evans' amazing 'stache.)

Heading into Sunday's Ames regional, there wasn't a lot of doubt about the most likely outcome: Iowa advancing to the semifinals of the NWCA National Duals Tournament. They already had lopsided dual meet wins over three of the teams in the regional (UNI, Iowa State, and Wisconsin) and, on paper, appeared to be too much for either Virginia Tech or Oregon State. If Vegas set odds on college wrestling (and, um, they don't), Iowa probably would have been something like a -800 favorite to advance to the semis. And, indeed, they proved to have too much firepower for either Virginia Tech or Oregon State.

After receiving a first round bye, Iowa blitzed a Tech team that had narrowly escaped UNI (20-17) in the first round. Their 31-3 win included four major decisions and the lone loss was (where else?) at perennial problem spot, 197 lbs. Tech had just three ranked wrestlers in their lineup (Devin Carter at 133, Zach Neibert at 141, and Peter Yates at 165) and Iowa beat all three, the latter two with bonus point victories. Unlike Tech, Oregon State at least had a plausible route to beating Iowa: win the matches they were favored in (149, 197, HWT), pull an upset, win the swing matches (141, 184), and avoid conceding bonus points. They were successful in the first two parts of that plan (they won all three matches at 149, 197, and HWT) and grabbed an upset win (Pena's dominant major decision over St. John), but they failed in the other two parts: Iowa won both swing bouts and picked up a pair of tech falls (at 133 and 174). So Iowa does what was expected of them: win the regional and move on to next Sunday's final four in Stillwater, OK.

#5 Iowa (12-3) 31, #23 Virginia Tech (8-5) 3
125: #1 Matt McDonough MAJ DEC (16-5) Erik Spjut (Iowa 4-0)
133: #4 Tony Ramos DEC (3-2) #1 Devin Carter (Iowa 7-0)
141: #6 Montell Marion MAJ DEC (13-2) #19 Zach Neibert (Iowa 11-0)
149: Michael Kelly DEC (2-1) Nick Brascetta (Iowa 14-0)
157: Nick Moore DEC (5-2) Matt Stephens (Iowa 17-0)
165: #8 Mike Evans MAJ DEC (9-0) #7 Peter Yates (Iowa 21-0)
174: #9 Ethen Lofthouse MAJ DEC (12-3) Chris Moon (Iowa 25-0)
184: Vinnie Wagner DEC (9-2) John Dickson (Iowa 28-0)
197: Nick Vetterlein (?) DEC (11-7) Tomas Lira (Iowa 28-3)
HWT: #14 Bobby Telford DEC (4-2) Chris Penny (Iowa 31-3)

#5 Iowa (13-3) 22, #18 Oregon State (10-3) 14
125: #1 Matt McDonough DEC (7-2) Pat Rollins (Iowa 3-0)
133: #4
Tony Ramos TECH FALL (24-8, 7:00) Garrett Drucker (Iowa 8-0)
141: #6
Montell Marion DEC (6-4 SV) #4 Mike Mangrum (Iowa 11-0)
149: #16
Scott Sakaguchi DEC (8-3) Michael Kelly (Iowa 11-3)
157: #18
R.J. Pena MAJ DEC (9-1) #5 Derek St. John (Iowa 11-7)
165: #8
Mike Evans DEC (4-0) Joe Latham (Iowa 14-7)
174: #9
Ethen Lofthouse TECH FALL (21-6, 7:00) Cody Weishoff (Iowa 19-7)
184:
Vinnie Wagner DEC (7-6) Ty Vinson (Iowa 22-7)
197: #17
Taylor Meeks MAJ DEC (14-3) Tomas Lira (Iowa 22-11)
HWT: #5
Clayton Jack DEC (5-3) #14 Bobby Telford (Iowa 22-14)

A few weight-by-weight thoughts...

125: Two ho-hum wins for McD. It was disappointing that he couldn't get bonus points in the OSU match, but he seemed to spend most of the match practicing his ability to turn guys with a chicken wing hold (watch out, Bob Backlund!). He just couldn't quite get the turn on Rollins. It might have been wiser to just run a takedown clinic on Rollins to guarantee at least a major decision.

133: Speaking of takedown clinics... that's precisely what Tony Ramos did to Garrett Drucker, taking him down early and often in their match before securing a nearfall at the very end of the match to get the tech fall. It was a brilliant performance against a clearly overwhelmed opponent. His earlier match with Carter was a much cagier affair, but that was to be expected with Carter being a top-ranked guy and already having a win over Ramos this season. Tony managed to get the decisive takedown this time, though, and avoided Carter's own takedown attempts. Carter getting an escape with less than ten seconds remaining in the second period was disappointing, though -- in a close match, it's important not to give away cheap points like that.

141: A fine day of work for Marion, honestly. He blew past his first opponent after a slow start and, somewhat unexpectedly, looked aggressive and energetic against the highly-ranked Mangrum in his second bout. Mangrum was able to get the first takedown of the match, but Marion continued to push the pace and got a key takedown in the third period and the winning takedown in sudden victory. There were also some highly entertaining scrambles and it was, all in all, a very good match and a very solid win for Marion. If he continues to wrestle like this the rest of the year, we'll have very little to complain about.

149: More of the same from Mike Kelly. He edged a narrow win over a lesser opponent but was overmatched against a higher-ranked opponent. Right now, Kelly really does seem like essentially Vinnie Wagner minus 40 points: great effort but not enough skill to win matches when effort alone won't do the job. He is just a redshirt freshman, though, so hopefully greater skill will come with more experience.

157: A decent (but not eye-opening) win from Nick Moore kicked things off for Iowa at this weight, but the headline story was Derek St. John's miserable showing in the OSU match. He looked nothing like himself, easily conceding takedowns and getting ridden like a dimestore pony (Pena had over five minutes of riding time in the match). One of DSJ's strengths has always been his ability to give opponents his leg, but use his defense and scrambling ability to both avoid conceding points and score points himself. Between his injured leg and his lack of match fitness (he's looked gassed every time he's seen the mat lately), he doesn't seem to be able to do that at all, which leaves him severely limited. There's some scuttlebutt on the Iowa message boards that DSJ is going to shut down for the rest of the season and work on healing up for next year, which is probably the wisest course of action. In his current state, he's just too limited to offer much to the team and it's not worth jeopardizing his long-term future. Hopefully Nick Moore can surprise us at 157 the rest of the way.

165: A bit of a tale of two meets for Mike Evans. In the first meet, he picked up his third-straight bonus point win over a ranked wrestler (and may have had his third-straight pin if not for a questionable "potentially dangerous" call), which is the good news. The bad news is that Evans looked listless and lethargic in this second match, a sub-par 4-0 decision win over a guy who was 1-10 entering the match. Evans should be tearing guys like that apart, frankly. I don't know if he was gassed from the earlier match (if so, he really needs to get his conditioning in order, because wrestling multiple matches in one day is business as usual at Big Tens and NCAAs) or if he didn't take Latham seriously, but he needs to be sharper than he was. The lack of bonus points didn't hurt Iowa here, but bonus points will be vital in all of Iowa's remaining events. At this stage of the season, you aren't going to see too many guys who are 1-10, so you need to take advantage of them when you do.

174: It's not often this year that I would have said that the rest of the team would have been well-served to take a page from Ethen Lofthouse's playbook, but it would have been accurate on Sunday. Lofthouse took care of business with a pair of lopsided wins, a major decision against Virginia Tech and an ultra-aggressive tech fall against Oregon State. Neither opponent that Lofthouse beat down was especially challenging, but hey, neither were the OSU guys that McD and Evans beat and they didn't get bonus points for the team. It's nice to see Lofthouse wrestling with so much confidence and aggression; fingers crossed that he can keep it up next weekend, when the going gets much tougher.

184: A 2-0 weekend for Vinnie Wagner? That's cause for celebration. Like Lofthouse, he wasn't facing the greatest competition, but he still managed to get the job done. His win against OSU officially clinched the dual for Iowa and featured a nice comeback from Wagner, which highlighted his best attribute: that non-stop motor. If this was indeed Vinnie's swan song in the Iowa lineup (Gambrall is expected to be back at 184 next weekend and for the remainder of the season), it was very satisfying to see him go out with two wins. Vinnie's far from the best wrestler on the Iowa team, but he's certainly one of the easiest to root for.

197: This weight just makes me sad. I have no further comment.

HWT: A 1-1 weekend for Telford, which is not terribly surprising given the opponents he was facing. He beat the unranked Penny but came up short against the highly ranked Jack. So it goes. Telford seems to be lacking confidence in his offense -- as well as the strength to finish a lot of his shots. Hopefully he's able to get stronger this off-season.

NEXT: Iowa faces Minnesota next Sunday at 2pm CT in Stillwater, OK in the semifinal of the NWCA National Duals. The winner of that semifinal will face the winner of the Illinois-Oklahoma State semifinal in the finals at 6pm CT later that evening.

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