Wrestlers snag third-straight Big Ten title

BY J.T. BUGOS | MARCH 08, 2010 7:30 AM

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The wrestling world spun on its head Sunday afternoon when Iowa’s first three championship contenders fell, but order was restored when the Hawkeyes captured their third-straight Big Ten title.

Led by individual champions Jay Borschel (174) and Dan Erekson (285), Iowa scored 156.5 team points to best second-place Minnesota by 37.

Borschel captured his first Big Ten title with an 8-1 decision over Golden Gopher Scott Glasser. The 174-pound Hawkeye scored three takedowns in his match, but afterwards, he said he had already started to focus on the NCAA championships.

“It was the next event on the calendar,” he said. “We have a lot of focus on it, but I can’t really think about anything else but the next two weeks here. That’s kind of what your career is defined by — winning championships.”

Borschel said he moved on from his title-winning bout “pretty quickly,” and he frequently thinks about an NCAA title.

Erekson needed fewer than two minutes to put Indiana’s top-seeded Nathan Everhart in an insurmountable deficit.

Twelve seconds in, Erekson scored a takedown and moments later had the Hoosier in a cradle. The Hawkeye senior couldn’t stick both shoulders to the mat, though, instead collecting three near-fall points for a 5-0 lead that turned into a 9-6 victory.

“That shot was open, and I took it right off the bat,” the Eagle, Idaho, native said. “He stood up with his head right next to his knee, and I just locked it up. I was a little surprised I got it, but if you see an opening, you just take it. You don’t think about it.”

Erekson wasn’t entirely happy with his second-straight Big Ten title, however. He said he wanted to wrestle a lot tougher and he should have gone hard the entire seven minutes.

The heavyweight wasn’t the only Iowa grappler less than pleased with his performance. Four Hawkeyes who advanced to the finals fell short of capturing a title.

Matt McDonough (125), Daniel Dennis (133), Brent Metcalf (149), and Phillip Keddy (184) all took second place.

McDonough fell to three-time Big Ten champion Angel Escobedo of Indiana, 6-4.

“You never want to lose, but you have to take away from a loss what you can,” the Big Ten Freshman of the Year said. “Sometimes you can take more away from a loss than a win. But either way, every match I had there’s something I can improve on, and I’ll definitely use that match to build myself as a wrestler.”

Dennis dropped a 9-3 decision to Minnesota’s Jayson Ness, and Keddy fell to Illinois’ John Dergo, 5-3.

Top-ranked Metcalf was bested by Ohio State’s Lance Palmer, 9-3.

“Some of those matches got away from us in ways that are like it’s a landslide, and there’s nothing you can do but manage it at the front end,” said Iowa head coach Tom Brands, the Big Ten’s Coach of the Year. “It’s like you’re letting things go against you that are building against you, and when you feel that coming, you have to stop it, and then get the momentum going back in your favor with good, tough wrestling.”

Brands said the Big Ten championships mean nothing going forward. Just as the whole year wasn’t cumulative, Iowa enters the national tournament with a blank slate.

“We’re going to find out how tough we are,” Brands said. “We’re going to find out if we’re sucking our thumb or if we’re getting tough.”

After crowning just two of six finalists, Brands said, the coaching staff has some explaining to do, noting the Hawkeyes weren’t ready.

“You don’t always get your way in this sport, and you don’t always get your way in this life, no matter who you are,” he said. “When things get out of your control a little bit and go against you, your character is what’s going to get you back on track, and then some.”

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