Sunday was Senior Day for the Iowa wrestling team, the final home dual meet for a very strong senior class that includes the likes of Tony Ramos, Derek St. John, and Ethen Lofthouse. Only two senior wrestled on Sunday -- Ramos and St. John; Lofthouse was apparently rested again for his ever-mysterious knee injury -- but both won. They were joined by six other Iowa wrestlers in the winning column, which led to a lopsided rout over Michigan, 26-6. This was a Michigan team that had beat Minnesota earlier this year -- the same Minnesota who beat Iowa a few weeks ago and edged out Penn State on Sunday -- so they're not a bunch of bums. But as always with dual meets, it comes down to matchups and those overwhelmingly favored Iowa in this contest. Michigan's two best wrestlers (Adam Coon and Dan Yates) faced two of Iowa's top wrestlers and only managed a split. Michigan won one another toss-up match (with Dutton beating Dziewa at 141), but failed to spring any upsets at the other weights, which was a necessity if they were going to win the dual.
Still, despite the comfortable win in the dual meet itself, several matches were close and there were some disappointing results for Iowa even in victory. Namely, the lack of bonus points for Iowa wrestlers was disappointing. Mike Evans came through a 16-0 utter dismantling of Collin Zeerip at 174, but that was it. While some Iowa wrestlers faced stout Michigan opposition (141, 165, and 285, to be precise), there were some seemingly lopsided matchups in Iowa's favor that didn't pan out for bonus points. Cory Clark, a potential top-5 guy if he was ranked at 125, could only put together a 4-1 win over a fringe top-20 opponent. Nathan Burak faced an unranked wrestler with a 7-15 record... and needed a third period takedown to win 4-1. And while Tony Ramos has had a fantastic career and ended it with a perfect record inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena, it was still a bit disappointing that he was only able to procure a 6-1 victory over a fringe top-20 opponent and a guy that he pinned a year ago. It's matches like those three where Iowa really needs to be picking up bonus points if they want to win Big Ten or NCAA titles this year.
#3 IOWA 26, #11 MICHIGAN 6
125: UN Cory Clark DEC (4-1) #19 Conor Youtsey (IOWA 3-0)
133: #3 Tony Ramos DEC (6-1) #19 Rossi Bruno (IOWA 6-0)
141: #13 Steve Dutton DEC (3-2) #9 Josh Dziewa (IOWA 6-3)
149: #12 Brody Grothus DEC (17-14) #7 Eric Grajales (IOWA 9-3)
157: #2 Derek St. John DEC (3-1) #14 Brian Murphy (IOWA 12-3)
165: #4 Nick Moore DEC (8-2) #6 Dan Yates (IOWA 15-3)
174: #5 Mike Evans TECH FALL (16-0) UN Collin Zeerip (IOWA 20-3)
184: UN Sammy Brooks DEC (9-4) #16 Domenic Abounader (IOWA 23-3)
197: #16 Nathan Burak DEC (4-1) UN Chris Heald (IOWA 26-3)
285: #2 Adam Coon DEC (3-3*) #3 Bobby Telford (IOWA 26-6)
* Coon won via a tiebreaker: riding time advantage following TB2 (second set of tiebreakers)
125: Clark got the nod again and won comfortably over Youtsey, but not quite as impressively as he had in recent weeks. To be fair, he did put in his usual aggressive work on top and just couldn't manage to get Youtsey turned for any back points or a potential pin. Still, it's times like that when it might be prudent to move on to plan B and try to get a few more takedowns. There are two more matches left for Iowa before the Big Ten Tournament -- at Lehigh this Friday night and at Wisconsin in a little under two weeks -- and it will be interesting to see who Iowa sends out at this weight in those dual meets.
133: It feels churlish to be upset with Ramos's performance, but that's kind of the nature of the beast with the standards he's set for Iowa at this weight in his four years in the starting lineup. We've become so accustomed to him dominating lesser opponents that it's surprising -- and disappointing -- when he merely has an easy, cruise control win over an opponent like that. We know Ramos is capable of much more. That said, we still doff our caps to Tony for his excellent Carver career -- going 34-0 inside those halls is a damn fine accomplishment and he provided some amazing memories in those matches. Thanks for everything, Tony.
141: What's eating Josh Dziewa? I knew this would be a difficult match -- Dutton is a legit opponent -- but the way this match progressed made it infinitely more aggravating. Dziewa ended the first period with a 2-0 lead and a mammoth riding time advantage: over 1:40. He proceeded to get ridden the entire second period to erase his riding time advantage and then give up a takedown in the final minute of the third period to ultimately lose. All while taking barely any shots. The takedown he conceded was frustrating, but more frustrating by far was watching him just get ridden for the entire second period. That just shouldn't happen. That probably cost Dziewa two points -- he should have gotten an escape (1 point) and he probably should have been able to do so before his riding time advantage was lost (another 1 point), although that point is more debatable. Instead, he got rode and rode and rode and spent too much time looking for a reversal. He was close a few times, but never secured it... maybe make sure you get the escape next time? Eh? Iowa's tournament fortunes ride heavily on what they can get out of 141 and 149; matches like this give us ample reason for pessimism.
149: ...and then matches like this give us ample reason to chuck that pessimism to the curb. Wow. What. A. Freaking. Match. Here's the raw summary of what happened:
* Grajales takedown (T2) 2-0 Grajales
* Grothus escape (E1) 2-1 Grajales
* Grothus takedown (T2) 3-2 Grothus
* Grajales reversal (R2) 4-3 Grajales
* Grajales 3-point nearfall (N3) 7-3 Grajales
* Grothus reversal (R2) 7-5 Grothus
* Grajales reversal (R2) 9-5 Grajales
* Grothus chooses down
* Grothus reversal (R2) 9-7 Grajales
* Grothus 2-point nearfall (N2) 9-9 tie
* Grajales chooses down
* Grajales reversal (R2) 11-9 Grajales
* Grothus reversal (R2) 11-11 tie
* Grothus 2-point nearfall (N2) 13-11 Grothus
* Grajales escape (E1) 13-12 Grothus
* Grajales takedown (T2) 14-13 Grajales
* Grothus riding time point (RT1) 14-14 tie
SUDDEN VICTORY 1
* Grothus 2-point nearfall (N2) 16-14 Grothus
* Grothus escape (E1) 17-14 Grothus
WHEW. This match... I mean, THIS FREAKING MATCH. It was crazy. It was wild. It was unreal. It was spectacular. Sure, you can quibble about things like the ref calling a... dubious takedown at the end of the match for Grajales and they were certainly quick to give reversals (and far too lax at not handing out stalling warnings, especially for Grajales who was taking a short siesta between every period), but, honestly, this was such a maniacally entertaining 10+ minutes of wrestling that it's hard to complain too much. We saw another 10+ minute match in this meet that was pretty much the EXACT OPPOSITE of this one in terms of excitement and activity, so let's just enjoy fun, highly watchable wrestling. Especially since our guy won!
157: Murphy has a number of close losses over top guys at this weight (Green, Alton, now St. John) but lacks the actual wins to rank too much higher than he does right now. That said, he's definitely a real talent and one to watch at 157 for the next few years. St. John wasn't able to get much of his own offense going against Murphy, but he used his usual excellent countering skills to turn Murphy's one good shot of the match into a scoring opportunity of his own, then put on a very solid ride to finish him off. A fitting way for DSJ to end the Carver chapter of his career, I'd say.
165: This was one of two spotlight duals in the meet and, happily, it was one of the most impressive Iowa wins of the day. Nick Moore faced a top-10 opponent here -- and absolutely blitzed him. Moore's shots were good, his takedowns were crisp, and he rode Yates effectively. It would have been nice to see him get another takedown or two and secure the major decision, but this was still a very impressive win over a very credible opponent. The best part of this match was just seeing Moore remain aggressive for the full seven minutes; he was looking for more points in the third period, which is not something that Moore has always done.
174: By score alone, this was easily the most impressive Iowa win of the day. Evans just manhandled Zeerip from start to finish. I mean, you know it's a dominant match for The 'Stache when even his offense from neutral looks pretty damn good. And once he got Zeerip on the mat... goodnight, fellas. Evans was at his mat-wrestling best here, whipping Zeerip around the mat for back points aplenty. This didn't tell us anything new about Evans whatsoever -- but it was fun to see him maul a dude.
184: Surprisingly, Ethen Lofthouse didn't get the call on Senior Day for Iowa; perhaps that knee injury is continuing to linger and bother him. Sammy Brooks got the nod again and once again proved that, if he was ranked, he'd be another very solid top-10 wrestler for Iowa. Brooks had little trouble with Abounader and he continued to show the attacking, offense-happy mindset that makes him so much fun to watch. Let's hope he doesn't lose that as his career progresses.
197: Hawkeye All-Access lost video near the beginning of this match, so I didn't see much of this match (or the following match at heavyweight). From the sounds of things, though, I didn't miss much. The fact that it took Burak until the third period to get a takedown is a bit alarming. This looked like a match where Burak might be able to get his offensive groove back and build some momentum heading into the climax of the season, but... no dice. Burak had some struggles a year ago before turning it on at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, so hopefully history repeats itself on that front.
285: Finally, the other match of the day, featuring the #2 ranked shaved bear (Coon) and the #3 ranked shaved bear (Telford). Yea, verily they engaged in a pretty typical shaved bear match, too. Telford came much closer to scoring that elusive, vital takedown -- he had a solid grip on Coon's leg at least three times during the match, but was unable to finish the takedown. And so they wrestled through sudden victory. And then through tiebreakers. And then through more sudden victory. And then through more tiebreakers. And then through... well, not more anything. Then they just looked at the riding time -- which favored Coon by six freaking seconds -- and called it a day. (Well, not arbitrarily -- that actually is the rule.) This match seemed like a fairly typical heavyweight match -- a whole lot of nothin' by either guy -- and, even more, a fairly typical Telford heavyweight match against a top guy -- he just can't quite get that vital takedown. That was the story for years against Tony Nelson (though he broke that curse this year), it was the story against Northwestern's Mike McMullan last week, and it's been the story against Coon in their two meetings this year. He's close -- oh so close -- but just hasn't been able to seal the deal in those matches. The good news? He should get more chances to do so at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. And that's where getting these elusive wins would REALLY be valuable (and memorable), so... keep faith alive. But in the meantime, Bobby, maybe take a few more shots? I continue to believe that he would be better off taking more chances and attempting more shots and trusting in his offense more. He may give up a few more takedowns, but I think it's likely that he'll also be able to score more takedowns. That's my hope anyway.
NEXT: Iowa heads out east to take on Lehigh on Valentine's Day.