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Wrestling still undefeated on the mats

BY RYAN YOUNG | FEBRUARY 23, 2009 7:30 AM

It’s official. Wrestling world’s postseason field includes No. 1 Iowa and everyone else.

The top-ranked Hawkeyes routed No. 19 Northwestern on Sunday in Evanston, Ill., 34-13, claiming their second-straight Big Ten regular-season title. More significantly, Iowa finished its dual-meet schedule with an undefeated mark (24-0) for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

Tallying three pins, a technical fall, a pair of major decisions, and a decision against the Wildcats, Iowa took seven of the 10 matches in Welsh-Ryan Arena to extend its dual-meet winning streak to 38.

But with two weeks remaining before the Big Ten championships in State College, Pa., Iowa head coach Tom Brands is questioning his team’s cohesion.

“I’m not sure that we’ve all come together yet this year,” the third-year Hawkeye head coach said during a post-meet radio interview. “We were undefeated in dual meets, but we have to come together as a group and put a string of matches together as a group. And when that happens, real good things are in store.”

Iowa faltered early in the meet, dropping the opening 125-pound bout between Northwestern’s No. 4 Brandon Precin and senior Charlie Falck before seizing the three ensuing matches, including a 4:28 fall by defending 149-pound NCAA champion Brent Metcalf.

Falck, who toppled Indiana’s defending NCAA champion Angel Escodebo, 3-1, in sudden victory on Feb. 20, got caught on his back during a second-period scramble and was slapped with a pin in 4:19.

“If you’re Charlie Falck, you’re going to have to realize when you’re in trouble,” Brands said. “You’re going to have to also realize that when a guy gets in deep, you just don’t keep digging yourself a bigger hole, and that’s what he did.”

Three matches later at 157, sophomore Matt Ballweg found himself overpowered by Wildcat freshman Jason Welch, surrendering an 11-3 major decision that moved Northwestern closer to Iowa in the team score, 13-10.

But bonus-point wins by juniors Ryan Morningstar and Jay Borschel at 165 and 174 gave the Hawkeyes a momentum boost before the evening’s marquee matchup between No. 3 Phillip Keddy and No. 1 Jake Herbert at 184.

Herbert managed an early 2-0 lead, but by the close of the third period, Keddy threatened to upset the former 2007 national champion with a last-second takedown.

Instead, the Vernal, Utah, native settled for a 3-2 defeat, and he isn’t taking any moral victories out of his one-point loss.

“You know, a close match does me no good,” Keddy said. “I know I’m capable of competing and beating him, so going in there and losing 3-2 doesn’t do me a whole lot of good.”

Afterward, the Hawkeyes impressively closed out the dual with a pair of first-period pins at 197 and heavyweight.

No. 7 285-pounder Dan Erekson returned to the mat after spraining his ankle on Feb. 6. He sat out against Indiana after Brands noticed Erekson wince during pre-meet warm-ups against the Hoosiers.

“The ankle is fine, and he has the green light with everybody,” the coach said in a post-meet radio interview on Feb. 20. “We just have to get him through where he is completely confident.”


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