Wrestling Big Ten champs again

BY RYAN YOUNG | MARCH 9, 2009 7:27 AM

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STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Just as it did a year ago, Iowa stamped its 33rd Big Ten championship with a big red warning: Do not underestimate us before the NCAA championships.

Amassing 141 total points by the final day of competition to oust runner-up Illinois, the Hawkeyes concluded with its second-straight team title, nine national qualifiers, and a pair of individual champions in 149-pounder Brent Metcalf and heavyweight Dan Erekson — the first time since 2003 that Iowa has crowned more than one.

Metcalf also became the first wrestler in Hawkeye history to be name Outstanding Wrestler in back-to-back years.

“We had two categories today,” said Iowa head coach Tom Brands, who was once again honored as the Big Ten Coach of the Year on Sunday and joined former coach Dan Gable as the only other Hawkeye headman to win the accolade in consecutive seasons. “We had the category where when we woke up, and guys were where they wanted to be — wrestling for a championship. We won two out of those four. And we had a category of five guys where they were wrestling for where they didn’t want to be.”

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The Hawkeyes were only successful in two of the matches falling under that category, though. Senior 125-pounder Charlie Falck and junior 174-pounder Jay Borschel both placed third in the consolation finals as No. 2 seeds, and Iowa’s three other wrestle-back competitors fumbled their chances at bronze in between.

Junior 133-pounder Daniel Dennis finished the furthest from his No. 1 seed after dropping out of championship contention following a 5-2 loss to Ohio State’s Reece Humphrey in the semifinals on March 7. Ultimately, Dennis took fifth, fending off No. 6 seed Jake Strayer of Penn State to do so.

Similarly, Alex Tsirtsis at 141 and Chad Beatty at 197 each came in fourth; however, Beatty conceded because of a knee injury he suffered during his bout with Michigan’s Tyrel Todd the night before. Regardless of his health at the end of the next two weeks, the junior said, he expects to wrestle at the NCAA championships in St. Louis.

“I’ll just keep improving,” Beatty said. “I’ve got a little bit of time here before nationals, and I’ll be ready to go. It won’t matter. It doesn’t matter how you feel, and the opponents won’t care how I feel either.

“I’m already starting to recover, so I feel pretty good.”

From a team perspective, pretty good is a drastic overstatement considering nine Hawkeyes advanced to the championship semifinals no more than 12 hours before Metcalf and Erekson stood atop the podium with hardware around their necks.

“Our goal is 10 weight classes, but we fell short,” Erekson said. “We just have to refocus here for NCAAs. We had some guys pull it out, you know, this second day. They didn’t get what they wanted. But they came out and took third, so that’s big encouragement that they continued to work hard and finish things out strong.”

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