Commentary: Wrestling three-peat bittersweet and incomplete

BY RYAN YOUNG | MARCH 08, 2010 7:30 AM

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — For about an hour-and-a-half Sunday afternoon, Crisler Arena became the “Twilight Zone” for the Iowa wrestling team.

The Hawkeyes were trapped within the perplexing parameters of a disorderly world in which frustration is copious and individual Big Ten title dreams don’t come true: wrestling world’s equivalent of the Bermuda Triangle.

Undefeated records were smeared. Momentum proved null.

Iowa may have won its 34th conference championship and its third straight since 2008, but not without sacrificing the program’s invincibility tag.

Only a 32.5-point lead amassed throughout the first two sessions a day earlier and Minnesota’s Sunday misfortunes saved Iowa from an Icarian freefall.

Partially, I blame myself for the team’s troubles. Earlier in the day, I used a $10 bill to buy a vanilla Starbucks frappucino and a pack of strawberry mint Orbit gum. I got $6.66 in change — an omen even the gas-station cashier picked up on.

Luckily, though, the Hawkeyes placed the bulk of the liability on themselves. And even though they tried to seal their discontent inside their broken bodies, it sporadically surfaced.

Atop the runner-up rung after his 6-4 loss to two-time defending Big Ten champion Angel Escobedo, Iowa redshirt freshman Matt McDonough stood ferociously heaving.

His face turned to granite as he posed for publicity photos, and before he disappeared into recesses of Crisler Arena, he whipped off his silver medal.

Senior 133-pounder Daniel Dennis followed suit, clearly uncomfortable on the podium following his 9-3 loss to Big Ten Wrestler of the Year Jayson Ness of Minnesota.

Dennis may have finished to his No. 2 seeding, but the idea of meeting expectations unrelated to his own butchered his craw.

Brent Metcalf, however, couldn’t be found moments before the 149-pound award ceremony. The two-time conference title winner had to be called out onto the arena floor in the wake of his third-career defeat — a 9-3 finals loss to Ohio State’s Lance Palmer that ended an undefeated run.

And alongside Palmer, he stoically basked in his own exasperation as Buckeye fans hooted and hollered for their champion as the Ohio State fight song reverberated in the background.

Granted, Montell Marion, Jake Kerr, and Ryan Morningstar earned NCAA championship berths via the consolation bracket to give Iowa 10 contenders in next week’s national meet — one more than No. 2 Iowa State.

And Jay Borschel and Dan Erekson did come away with first-place finishes to help the Hawkeyes score more team points than the Cyclones and Oklahoma State Cowboys combined in the Big 12 championships (69 and 70.5, respectively).

But based on Sunday afternoon alone, when Iowa went 2-for-6 in title matches and 6-for-14 overall, the outside consensus isn’t too flattering.

The Hawkeyes left their frail bird chests exposed and showcased Iowa’s vulnerability.

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