Friday night's semifinals featured no shortage of thrilling action -- three of the first four weights featured pins (including a jaw-dropping 21 second pin by #1 Nahshon Garrett over last year's national champion, #4 Cody Brewer, at 133 lbs) and there were last-second wins aplenty (including two by Iowa wrestlers). Iowa did well in semifinal action -- they won three of four matches, with Thomas Gilman, Cory Clark, and Brandon Sorensen winning to make their way into Saturday night's championship finals. Nathan Burak came up short, losing his sixth straight match against Penn State's Morgan McIntosh. The three finalists is the most Iowa has had since putting three into the finals in 2012 in St. Louis (Matt McDonough, Montell Marion, and Derek St. John).
The team title is out of reach, which is frustrating, but three Iowa wrestlers have a chance to attain individual glory -- that's worth celebrating.
1) 114.0 -- Penn State
2) 79.5 -- Oklahoma State
3) 77.5 -- Iowa
4) 69.5 -- Virginia Tech
5) 68.0 -- Ohio State
Penn State is going to win the title for the fourth time in five years. Iowa's ability to climb into 2nd place will depend a lot on the performances of their three finalists tonight.
|125||#4 Thomas Gilman||FALL (7:37)||#1 Nathan Tomasello, Ohio State|
|133||#2 Cory Clark||DEC (4-3)||#3 Zane Richards, Illinois|
|149||#2 Brandon Sorensen||DEC (4-2)||#11 Anthony Collica, Oklahoma State|
|197||#1 Morgan McIntosh, Penn State||DEC (4-2)||#4 Nathan Burak|
Gilman and Tomasello wrestled a nervy, low-scoring match, which was highlighted by some incredible defense from Gilman to defend a deep shot from Tomasello late in the third period. Gilman displayed incredible strength and balance to avoid giving up the takedown there. He was the aggressor in sudden victory and was rewarded y being able to not just take Tomasello down, but put him on his back and get the pin. It was an exhilarating moment and a richly-deserved one for Gilman, probably Iowa's best wrestler this season.
Thomas Gilman gets the PIN to lock up a spot in the NCAA finals! pic.twitter.com/7TcSxuzqK6— Black Heart (@BHGP) March 19, 2016
Clark followed up Gilman's win with one of his own, although it again involved late drama. Richards scored a first period takedown and fought off Clarks's shot attempts (and, well, stalled) until Clark was able to finally hook his leg around Richards and get the takedown that put him on top 4-3 with just seconds left in the third period. The thrilling went sent Clark to his second-straight NCAA final.
Brandon Sorensen wrestled a very methodical match against Oklahoma State's Collica, using a takedown, a strong ride, and an escape point to rack up all the points he would need while deftly defending against all of Collica's offense. It wasn't the most exciting match (and it certainly didn't have a thrilling finish), but it was effective -- which is Sorensen's calling card at this point.
In Iowa's final semifinal, Nathan Burak came up against persistent nemesis Morgan McIntosh from Penn State... with the same result we've seen from all their previous matches: no takedowns from Burak and another loss. It was frustrating, but it was hardly surprising. Burak has never been able to solve the riddle of McIntosh and he didn't in his final chance to do so.
CONSOLATION ROUND RESULTS
|174||#13 Alex Meyer||DEC (7-2)||#9 Chander Rogers, Oklahoma State|
|184||#2 Sammy Brooks||DEC (13-7)||#4 Domenic Abounader, Michigan|
|174||#8 Zach Epperly, Virginia Tech||MAJ DEC (10-2)||#13 Alex Meyer|
|184||#2 Sammy Brooks||DEC (13-7)||#4 Domenic Abounader, Michigan|
Meyer and Brooks won their first consolation matches of the night, which was necessary -- losses there and their tournaments would have been over and they would have failed to achieve All-America status. But Meyer and Brooks came through with emphatic wins in their Round of 12 matches to ensure them spots on the podium. Meyer used his strong top game to control Rogers, picking up his fourth straight win in the consolation bracket. Meyer's first round loss was incredibly disappointing, but Meyer's run since then has been tremendous and worth celebrating. Many wrestlers struggle to bounce back after the disappointment of an early loss, but Meyer was able to channel that disappointment into positive results. Well done, Meyer. His second match of the night didn't go so well, though, as Epperly got to his legs easily and dominated the match from start to finish.
Brooks' match with Abounader was the source of considerable controversy, as Brooks took Abounader down in a headlock and appeared to have him in position to get a pin when... the match was stopped for an alleged illegal hold. Video review confirmed that there was no illegal hold, but Brooks' strong position was lost. In the ensuing furor, Iowa was docked a team point, although the whole incident really cost Iowa three team points -- one for the point lost via penalty and two for the bonus points for the pin that appeared to be seconds away from coming when the move was interrupted. Had Iowa still been in the team title race, this would have been truly outrageous. Brooks' second match featured much less controversy, but much poorer results -- Miller whipped him to the mat in pinning situations twice, finally getting him the second time.
CHAMPIONSHIP FINALS MATCH-UPS
|125||#4 Thomas GIlman||vs||#3 Nico Megaludis, Penn State|
|133||#2 Cory Clark||vs||#1 Nahshon Garrett, Cornell|
|149||#2 Brandon Sorensen||vs||#1 Zain Retherford, Penn State|
Gilman is 0-2 against Nico, most recently losing to him in OT in the Big Ten Tournament after an ill-advised takedown attempt that Nico countered into points of his own. Will the third time be the charm for Gilman? Let's hope so.
Clark has never wrestled Garrett before, but he'll need to be in top form to counter Garrett's incredible blend of strength, quickness, and ability to generate explosive action. Clark is a much more methodical wrestler and he's going to need to find a way to impose his style to win the match.
The last finals match-up features Sorensen and Retherford, a rematch of the Big Ten Tournament finals at 149. Retherford won that match 4-0 and Sorensen was never close to scoring on Retherford. Hopefully he has a new strategy for tonight's match.
CONSOLATION ROUND MATCH-UPS
|174||#13 Alex Meyer||vs||#7 Cody Walters, Ohio|
|184||#2 Sammy Brooks||vs||#10 Nate Brown, Lehigh|
|197||#4 Nathan Burak||vs||UN Patrick Downey, Iowa State|
Meyer and Brooks are wrestling for 7th place. Meyer also has a chance to avenge perhaps his worst loss of the season, a 7-0 drubbing by Walters at the Midlands Tournament. Burak has never wrestled Downey before (he was not in the Iowa State lineup for the dual earlier this season). If he wins that match, Burak will wrestle for 3rd place. If he loses, he'll wrestle for 5th place. All those matches will be this morning. I'll update those results in the comments below.