Iowa entered Saturday night's second session at the Big Ten Wrestling Tournament in second place behind Penn State. They exited the second session still in second place -- but much, much further behind Penn State. That six point gap is now a 27-point gap. Iowa may not be mathematically eliminated from winning a Big Ten title, but for all practical purposes they likely are. Iowa would likely need to win every remaining match on Sunday while also having Penn State lose every remaining match. Not bloody likely.
The semifinal round got off to a bad start for Iowa when Thomas Gilman fell in overtime to Penn State's Nico Megaludis. That was one of three Iowa-Penn State showdowns in the semifinals and Iowa needed to win at least two of them. Given the virtual impossibility of Edwin Cooper, Jr. beating Penn State's ridiculously dominant Jason Nolf at 157, the Gilman match was a must-win for Iowa. Unfortunately, he wasn't able to beat Megaludis, despite having one of Megaludis' legs for the better part of the third period. That loss got the semifinal round off to a bad start for Iowa and while things got better from there -- Iowa won four of their next six semifinal matches -- it was too little, too late. Hopefully we can at least see some Iowa wrestlers crowned individual champions today.
125: #3 Nico Megaludis (Penn St) DEC (4-3 OT) #2 Thomas Gilman
133: #2 Cory Clark DEC (10-7) #6 Ryan Taylor (Wisconsin)
149: #2 Brandon Sorensen DEC (5-2) #3 Jake Sueflohn (Nebraska)
157: #1 Jason Nolf (Penn St) TECH FALL (21-3) #5 Edwin Cooper, Jr.
174: #3 Zach Brunson (Illinois) FALL (2:00) #2 Alex Meyer
184: #3 Sammy Brooks DEC (6-1) #2 Matt McCutcheon (Penn St)
197: #3 Nathan Burak DEC (3-1 SV) #2 Brett Pfarr (Minnesota)
Iowa won their next two semifinals after Gilman's dispiriting loss. Clark won a wild match over Wisconsin's Ryan Taylor -- there were takedowns aplenty in that match, but Clark's superior conditioning appeared to give him just enough of an edge to win the match at the end. Sorensen made it three in a row over Nebraska's Sueflohn this year, using a pair of crisp takedowns and solid defense to earn a solid 5-2 decision win. Cooper got blasted by Nolf, which puts him in the same company as, oh, pretty much everyone else Nolf has wrestled this year. Brunson avenged his loss via fall to Meyer at the dual last year with a win via fall of his own in the semifinals -- he took Meyer down quickly, hooked up a cradle, and put Meyer on his back. It was not the most inspiring performance by Meyer. Sammy Brooks got Iowa one win in the Iowa-Penn State showdown in the semis, and also avenged a loss to McCutcheon in last year's Big Ten Tournament. He used solid defense to keep McCutcheon away from his legs and then took a sharp shot to get the decisive takedown in the second period. He tacked on another takedown late after a desperate shot from McCutcheon. Finally, like his last three semifinal matches at the Big Ten Tournament, Burak's match with Pfarr went to overtime. Unlike those last three semifinal matches, though, this time Burak got his hand raised at the end. The match was tied 1-1 after regulation, despite the fact that both wrestlers were very close to finishing takedowns in the third period, but Burak was able to finish a double-leg takedown in sudden victory to get the much-needed win.
141: #2 Tommy Thorn (Minnesota) DEC (7-5) UN Brody Grothus
165: #8 Patrick Rhoads MAJ DEC (15-7) UN Brandon Krone (Minnesota)
285: #3 Sam Stoll FALL (1:56) UN Dimitrus Renfroe (Michigan St)
165: #5 Chad Welch (Purdue) DEC (2-0) #8 Patrick Rhoads
285: #7 Brooks Black (Illinois) DEC (3-0) #3 Sam Stoll
It was also a rough night for Iowa wrestlers in the consolation bracket. A rough draw had Grothus up against the Tommy Thorn, the #2 seed in the 141 lb bracket, in his first consolation match; unfortunately, he went down again, just as he did against the #1 seed, Micah Jordan, in the first round. That ended Grothus' tournament -- and likely his season. Rhaods and Stoll won their first matches Saturday night -- and picked up bonus points, to boot -- but they came up short in their second consolation matches of the evening. Unfortunately, those losses will also prevent them from earning automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament. Stoll is still in strong position to earn an at-large bid, but Rhoads' season is likely over.
1) 133-- Penn State
2) 106 -- Iowa
3) 100 -- Ohio State
4) 98.5 -- Nebraska
5) 90.5 -- Rutgers
As you can see, Penn State is running away with the title, but hey, look at that race for second place. (Sigh.) And, what do you know, we found something Rutgers is good at in the Big Ten! To put Penn State's performance in perspective, Iowa and Ohio State were co-champions last year with 120 points. Penn State has already blasted past that total this year, with several more matches to go on Sunday.
133: #2 Cory Clark vs #1 Zane Richards (Illinois)
149: #2 Brandon Sorensen vs #1 Zain Retherford (Penn St)
184: #3 Sammy Brooks vs #4 T.J. Dudley (Nebraska)
197: #3 Nathan Burak vs #1 Morgan McIntosh (Penn St)
Four Iowa wrestlers made the finals, but all four face stiff challenges to win their first Big Ten championships. Clark lost to Richards earlier this year, although he did earn a pair of wins over him last year (he ha a lifetime record of 2-2 against Richards). Brooks got stunned by Dudley at the dual earlier this year, but he did beat him last year (6-4 in sudden victory). Burak has an 0-4 lifetime record against McIntosh and he's never so much as gotten a takedown on him in the past. No time like the present, eh? Until last night he'd never beaten a Minnesota wrestler, either. And finally Sorensen and Retherford have never wrestled one another, but given the way Retherford has been mauling his competition this year, he'll be a very formidable opponent for Sorensen.
125: #2 Thomas Gilman vs #5 Elijah Oliver (Indiana)
157: #5 Edwin Cooper, Jr. vs #3 Richie Lewis (Rutgers)
165: 7th Place Match: #8 Patrick Rhoads vs #7 Geno Morelli (Penn St)
174: #2 Alex Meyer vs. #5 Nate Jackson (Indiana)
285: 7th Place Match: #3 Sam Stoll vs UN Brock Horwath (Wisconsin)
Five Iowa wrestlers are still alive in the consolation bracket, with Gilman, Cooper, and Meyer alive for potential 3rd place finishes and Rhoads and Stoll vying for 7th place finishes. Gilman, Cooper, and Meyer all have opponents that they faced (and defeated) earlier this season. Hopefully they're able to rebound quickly from the disappointment of losing in the semifinals.