Well, as I feared they might, things didn't go so hot for Iowa in the semifinals.
149: #6 Caleb Ervin (Illinois) DEC (3-2) UN Josh Dziewa
Thus ends Josh Dziewa's tournament and any hopes Iowa had for getting 10 wrestlers into the NCAA Tournament. (Iowa did qualify wrestlers at the other nine weights.) Dziewa gave it a game effort, but unfortunately at the end of the day he had the same results we would have had with Kelly or Grothus: 0-2. On the bright side, Dziewa was a lot of fun to watch and gives me hope for him at 141 (his preferred weight) next year.
125: #1 Matt McDonough FALL (2:46) #4 Sean Boyle (Michigan)
133: #2 Tony Ramos DEC (3-1) #3 Tyler Graff (WIsconsin)
141: #3 Mark Ballweg DEC (3-1 OT) #2 Nick Dardanes (Minnesota)
157: #4 James Green (Nebraska) DEC (5-4) #1 Derek St. John
165: #1 David Taylor (Penn State) TECH FALL (16-0; 2:37) #4 Nick Moore
174: #2 Mike Evans DEC (6-0) #6 Jordan Blanton (Illinois)
184: #1 Ed Ruth (Penn State) MAJ DEC (10-1) #5 Ethen Lofthouse
197: #2 Scott Schiller (Minnesota) DEC (3-1 OT) #6 Nathan Burak
285: #1 Tony Nelson (Minnesota) DEC (1-0) #4 Bobby Telford
I was nervous about the semifinal sessions because they featured a lot of unfavorable match-ups for Iowa -- four where they were clear underdogs, another match where they were a slight underdog, and two matches were they were slight favorites, but facing tricky opponents. Well, they lost all four matches were they were clear underdogs, won the match where they were a slight underdog and split the matches where they were slight favorites against tricky opponents.
The evening started well, with McDonough scoring a pinfall out of the blue in a crazy scramble situation. Unfortunately, Ramos followed that up with probably his worst match all season, a match where he barely took any shots and seemed far too content to let Graff simply circle away from him. In fact, his only takedown came on a counter off a Graff shot. But a win's a win and now Tony gets his long-awaited rematch with Stieber tomorrow. Hopefully he can make it count. Following Ramos' win, Ballweg hit the mat for the rubber match against Dardanes and thankfully this match was a virtual carbon copy of their match from the regular season dual meet (when Ballweg won 3-1 with a late TD) and not a repeat of their match from National Duals (when Dardanes broke Ballweg and beat him via major decision). This match was also excellent proof that final scorelines can be deceiving; this ended with the same 3-1 scoreline as the Ramos-Graff match, but it featured 10x the excitement.
Unfortunately, after that match things started going downhill for Iowa. St. John again found himself behind early against James Green and his powerful double leg takedowns. Green used his lightning-fast shots to build a lead that held up for the win, but what really killed DSJ was the late takedown he conceded in the 2nd period and all the riding time he gave up in the 1st period. Moore-Taylor was... goddamn. They should film that match and use it as an instructional video on how to score points on the mat. Taylor simply manhandled Moore effortlessly and racked up an easy 16-0 tech fall.
Evans turned the tide for Iowa at 174 with a smothering 6-0 win. After a scoreless first period, Evans rode Blanton the entire 2nd period, then reversed him in the 3rd, got a tilt, and rode him out. It was an impressive display for riding, but it's still concerning to see Evans struggle to get takedowns from neutral. Lofthouse ran into the beastly Ed Ruth at 184 and, predictably, lost, although the fact that it was only a 10-1 major decision and that Ruth didn't achieve that until late in the 3rd period is mildly impressive. Lofthouse got beat, but he didn't get massacred. The night drew to a close with a pair of Iowa-Minnesota matches at 197 and 285. Like Ballweg-Dardanes, round three between Burak and Schiller was a repeat of their dual meet match; Schiller won that match 3-1 in OT, just as he did here. Burak was achingly close to getting the winning takedown on a few occasions, but just couldn't quite finish them (story of the season for him, unfortunately). Telford-Nelson was the usual snoozer between those two, although at least we were spared the sight of Bobby laboring under a never-ending Nelson spiral ride.
TEAM SCORE AFTER SEMIFINALS
1) Penn State --123 pts
2) Minnesota -- 112.5 pts
3) Iowa -- 109 pts
4) Ohio State -- 92 pts
5) Illinois --73.5 pts
6) Michigan -- 61 pts
7) Nebraska -- 52 pts
8) Northwestern -- 50 pts
9) Purdue -- 28 pts
10) Indiana -- 26.5 pts
11) Wisconsin -- 26 pts
12) Michigan State -- 17 pts
Here's the updated bracket.
Up next in Session III on Sunday morning:
157: #1 Derek St. John vs. #3 Dylan Alton (Penn State)
165: #4 Nick Moore vs. #6 Pierce Harger (jNW)
184: #5 Ethen Lofthouse vs. #6 Tony Dallago (Illinois)
197: #6 Nathan Burak vs. #8 Max Huntley (Michigan)
285: #4 Bobby Telford vs. #6 Adam Chalfant (Indiana)
I don't really fancy Iowa's ability to turn things around and win the team title, but any chance they have is reliant on them coming out on fire in the consolation rounds Sunday morning. They must win these matches and bonus points wouldn't hurt. The most difficult match by far is St. John's showdown with Alton; their previous matches have been nail-biters and there's little reason to expect that won't be the case again tomorrow.
The good news is that Iowa will be favored in all of these consolation matches. Lofthouse owns a win already this season over Dallago (9-5) and Burak also beat Huntley earlier this year (5-2). Telford and Moore have never wrestled their opponents before.
And in Session IV on Sunday afternoon:
125: #1 Matt McDonough vs. #3 Jesse Delgado (Illinois)
133: #2 Tony Ramos vs. #1 Logan Stieber (Ohio State)
141: #3 Mark Ballweg vs. #1 Hunter Stieber (Ohio State)
174: #2 Mike Evans vs. #5 Matt Brown (Penn State)
Rematches aplenty here. McD is 2-2 lifetime against Delgado, but most recently he lost to Delgado at a dual meet this year (9-4). Ramos is 0-3 against Stieber (7-0, 5-2, 4-2). Ballweg is 0-1 against Stieber (6-4). Evans is 1-0 against Brown (4-3).
In essence, Iowa is an underdog in two of these matches (the two involving the Stiebers) and a coin-flip in the other two. There's a chance this tournament could end on a very sour note for Iowa. Let's hope that doesn't happen.