Commentary: Senior wrestler deserved more

BY J.T. BUGOS | MARCH 24, 2010 7:30 AM

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Daniel Dennis earned a national championship. He just didn’t win one.

Instead, it was wrenched away by Minnesota senior Jayson Ness on March 20.

Not to discredit Ness, who performed phenomenally this year and certainly deserved the title. But after the sort of season Dennis strung together, he was a little more deserving than the Golden Gopher.

He beat Ness everywhere but on the scoreboard in the NCAA finals.

He controlled the match for six minutes and 50 seconds. He scored the first takedown, and he fended off Ness’ shots — two thing he wasn’t able to do the last two times.

Dennis wrestled the perfect match for six minutes and 50 seconds. Then, Ness got lucky.
Trailing 4-2, the Golden Gopher scrambled for a takedown and finally got deep on a shot — slamming Dennis to the mat with fewer than 10 seconds remaining.

The Hawkeye ended up on his back, and Ness picked up two quick near-fall points for a 6-4 win.
One bad scrap turned the whole match around.

Ness said afterwards good things happen when you wrestle for a full seven minutes.

Well, Dennis wrestled for a full seven minutes — what good thing happened to him?

The wrestling gods, for some reason, chose Ness that night in Omaha. But in choosing their victor, they failed to look past Ness’ unblemished record — apparently thinking he earned the title because he had yet to lose.

The Iowa 133-pounder rebounded from an ankle early in the season to put together a spectacular 22-3 record through the semifinals of the NCAA championships.

Hobbled by the injury prior to the Hawkeyes’ dual meet against Northern Iowa, he missed more than a month on the mat, returning against No. 3 Oklahoma State — perhaps coming back a little too soon.

The Cowboys aren’t exactly going to allow you to slowly rebound into top form.

But his backup, Iowa City native Nate Moore, came down with a staph infection that ultimately forced the senior back into competition.

Dennis lost to Cowboy Jordan Oliver on a last-second takedown, but Oliver ended up the No. 4 seed in the national tournament — eventually losing to Ness, 1-0, in a second tiebreaker.

Dennis’ two other losses of the season before the national finals came at Ness’ hands — once in dual competition and once in the Big Ten title bout.

But Dennis didn’t lose to Franklin Gomez, Michigan State’s defending national champion.

The Hawkeye and Spartan squared off three times — twice with a trip to the finals on the line — and Dennis came out victorious in each of he matches in thrilling fashion.

Beating a defending champ counts for something, right?

Ten seconds were the difference between Dennis lying on his back with his hands over his face, and Dennis running off the mat, arms raised with a smile on his face.

He earned having those 10 seconds swing his way to win a national championship he was cruelly denied.

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