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A mostly triumphant semifinal round carries Iowa into second place at the Big Ten Tournament, just one point behind Penn State.

Tessa Hursh, Daily Iowan

So this afternoon I said the following after Iowa's Session I performance:

In all, Iowa went 10-3 in the morning session (and picked up bonus points in 7 of those wins, including 3 pins), which isn't bad... but probably isn't good enough to claim a Big Ten title, either. Iowa sits in third place after the morning session, two points back of Penn State and nine points back of Minnesota. Iowa probably needs an absolutely gangbusters semifinal round to have a hope of bringing home hardware tomorrow.

I'm not sure the semifinal performance was truly "absolutely gangbusters"... but it was pretty damn great all the same.  Iowa probably needed wins from Cory Clark and Nathan Burak to really make it "absolutely gangbusters," but it was still very good and it leaves Iowa in a position where they can legitimately contend for a Big Ten title tomorrow afternoon -- that'll certainly do for now.

The evening session got underway with a trio of matches from Iowa's three wrestlers in the consolation bracket after quarterfinal losses -- Josh Dziewa, Brody Grothus, and Bobby Telford.  The good news is that two of them scored emphatic, bonus point wins.  The bad news is that the other one lost.   That would be Brody Grothus, who gave up a late score to Illinois' Caleb Ervin to drop a 3-1 decision.  We dreamed that the Curse of 149 had been lifted after a pretty strong season from Grothus and a solid pinfall win in his Round One victory.  Alas, it seems like the curse might not be done with us just yet.  Grothus' loss means that for the fourth straight year, Iowa will fail to automatically qualify a wrestler for the NCAA Tournament.  On the bright side, Grothus is MUCH better positioned to earn a wild card than Iowa's past 149ers who failed to auto-qualify.  We'll have to wait and see if he gets one, but I'm cautiously optimistic that he will.

Sandwiched around Grothus' loss were a pinfall win from Josh Dziewa (moments after it looked like he'd already secured a pin) and a 10-0 major decision dismantling of Purdue's Alex White from Bobby Telford.  Telford followed that up with an 8-0 major decision win over Ohio State's Nick Tavanello (who had himself just knocked off #1 seed Adam Coon, ending his tournament in abrupt and shocking fashion) in his second match in the consos; he looked like a man with a serious chip on his shoulder and a fire in his belly after the disappointing 2-0 loss to Tony Nelson in the quarters.  Hopefully he keeps wrestling like that the rest of the year.  An Angry Bob Telford is my favorite Bob Telford.  Meanwhile, Dziewa followed up his pinfall win over Michigan State's Brian Gibbs with a 7-4 win over Wisconsin's Jesse Thielke that locked up an auto-qualifying spot in the NCAA Tournament for him.  Jeva actually got his offense going pretty nicely in the consos; again, like Telford, can this be the Jeva we see the rest of the season?  Pretty please?

But the real action was obviously in the semifinals, where Iowa won five straight matches, only losing their first match (125) and their last match (197).  It was a round full of nervy, heart-stopping close matches -- 6 of 7 decided by just one point -- and a funny thing happened: Iowa actually won most of them.  Clark dropped a 4-3 decision to Jesse Delgado at 125 (in a match where Delgado spent much of the last period just running away and hugging the out-of-bounds line; suffice to say, I feel good about Clark's ability to take him in a rematch).  Ramos was unexpectedly in a close match, but Quiroga borrowed Ramos' own playbook and used an insanely aggressive attacking mindset to put Ramos on his heels and secure a number of takedowns.  Only a takedown late in the third period gave Tony a narrow 7-6 decision win.  It was an undeniably rough performance from Ramos, but the important thing is that he managed to grind out the win and give himself a shot to claim a Big Ten title tomorrow.

A close, grinding match decided in the final seconds was hardly unexpected where DSJ was involved, although that didn't make it any less nerve-jangling.  St. John gave up a reversal early in the third period that put him in a hole, but a late reversal of his own enabled him to tie things up and send it to overtime, where he eventually won in the tiebreakers by getting a late escape in his thirty-second period and riding Jordan out in the other.  On the whole, it was far from pretty, but it was vintage DSJ.  Keep on grindin'.  Nick Moore appeared to have the easiest semifinal match on paper and it mostly played out that way in his 8-5 win, although it started poorly when Moore conceded an early takedown.  Moore quickly took control after that, though, and he was able to pick up a pretty easy win.

To that point, Iowa's semifinal round had gone well, but hadn't been particularly surprising -- Ramos and Moore were expected to win and did, while the results of the Clark and St. John matches shouldn't have surprised anyone, either.  But for Iowa to really make a push at Penn State in the title race they needed more wins in the semifinal round -- and they got them, with Mike Evans using a first period takedown (!) to secure a 3-2 win over Matt Brown and Ethen Lofthouse using a pair of takedowns of his own (one in the first period, one in the third) to lock up a 5-4 win of his own over Kevin Steinhaus.  Brown and Steinhaus are dangerous opponents who had beaten Evans and Lofthouse in the past (although it should be noted that Evans and Lofthouse had also beaten them in the past, so the results here weren't totally out of nowhere), so beating them here was impressive.  Evans' win over Brown was also huge in the team title race, since it both boosted Iowa's own point total and reduced Penn State's potential point total.  Lofthouse's win over Steinhaus also continued Minnesota's nightmarish semifinal round: the Gophers placed nine wrestlers in the semifinals... and only one (Tony Nelson) won.  LOL MINNESOTA.

Iowa's semifinal round concluded with Nathan Burak just barely losing a 3-2 decision in the tiebreakers.  Burak got a late escape in his own tiebreaker period, but McIntosh was able to secure a late reversal of his own to get the win.  It was a disappointing loss -- especially since a win would have really benefited Iowa's title aspirations -- but it was a very good showing for Burak against a tough opponent.  That's a decent consolation prize.

125: #2 Jesse Delgado (ILL) DEC (4-3) #3 Cory Clark
133: #1 Tony Ramos DEC (7-6) #4 Cashe Quiroga (PUR)
157: #4 Derek St. John DEC (4-3 OT) #1 Isaac Jordan (WIS)
165: #2 Nick Moore DEC (8-5) #6 Danny Zilverberg (MIN)
174: #3 Mike Evans DEC (3-2) #2 Matt Brown (PSU)
184: #3 Ethen Lofthouse DEC (5-4) #2 Kevin Steinhaus (MIN)
197: #1 Morgan McIntosh (PSU) DEC (3-2 OT) #5 Nathan Burak

141: #5 Josh Dziewa FALL (4:58) Brian Gibbs (MSU)
149: Caleb Ervin (ILL) DEC (3-1) #4 Brody Grothus
285: #4 Bobby Telford MAJ DEC (10-0) #11 Alex White (PUR)

141: #5 Josh Dzieiwa DEC (7-4) Jesse Thielke (WIS)
285: #4 Bobby Telford MAJ DEC (8-0) #10 Nick Tavanello (OSU)

On tap tomorrow we have...

133: #1 Tony Ramos vs. #2 Tyler Graff (WIS)
157: #4 Derek St. John vs. #2 James Green (NEB)
165: #2 Nick Moore vs. #1 David Taylor (PSU)
174: #3 Mike Evans vs. #1 Robert Kokesh (NEB)
184: #3 Ethen Lofthouse vs. #1 Ed Ruth (PSU)

125: #3 Cory Clark vs. #8 Nick Roberts (OSU)
141: #5 Josh Dziewa vs. #3 Chris Dardanes (MIN)
197: #5 Nathan Burak vs. #7 Alex Polizzi (NW)
285: #4 Bobby Telford vs. #3 Mike McMullan (NW)

1) Penn State -- 122.0 (5 wrestlers in championship bracket, 5 in consolation bracket)
2) Iowa -- 121.0 (5 wrestlers in championship bracket, 4 in consolation bracket)
3) Minnesota -- 86.0 (1 wrestler in championship bracket, 8 in consolation bracket)
4) Ohio State -- 73.5 
5) Illinois -- 69.5 
6) Nebraska -- 68.0
7) Wisconsin -- 58.0
8) Michigan -- 49.5
9) Northwestern -- 44.0
10) Indiana -- 34.0
11) Purdue -- 30.0
12) Michigan State -- 15.0

Iowa has five in the finals, but only one (Ramos at 133) is likely to be favored in his match.  St. John, Moore, Evans and Lofthouse all face opponents who beat them earlier this season -- and Moore and Lofthouse, of course, face David Taylor and Ed Ruth, so... yeah.  (BTW, David Taylor pinned a dude in forty seconds in his semifinal match.  Good grief.)  Iowa probably needs to win their non-Taylor and Ruth title matches, hope Penn State loses most of their title matches, and try to match or better Penn State's results in the consolation matches.  That won't be be easy... but after their triumphant semifinal round performance, at least it's a possibility.  Let's just hope that the Hawkeyes saved a little more magic for tomorrow's matches.