Wrestler makes statement with a pair of upsets


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Derek St. John brought a frenzied Carver-Hawkeye Arena crowd to its feet and drew emphatic fist pumps from his coaching staff when he pinned Indiana’s fifth-ranked Paul Young on Feb. 4.

But the least excited person in the building seemed to be the redshirt freshman himself. After the match — which No. 6 Iowa won, 35-6 — St. John answered questions about his surprisingly dominant win with a shrug.

“I mean, I was just going to my offense,” he said. “It’s about getting to where I need to be, and I’m not there yet. But yeah, it’s important for Big Ten seeding.”

St. John’s first win over a top-five opponent was a decisive one. He recorded an escape and two takedowns, carrying a 5-0 lead into the match’s final minute, when a wild scramble ended with Young flat on his back.

Head coach Tom Brands said St. John did a good job matching Young’s intensity in the match and said the Hawkeyes need to wrestle at a high pace in order to beat top-ranked opponents.

“Young really kept the pace high, and St. John matched him,” Brands said. “Good for St. John, because he’s going to have to match these guys at that high pace. He capitalized in some areas there, and put the guy away.

“Those firefights, we have to embrace that. Because that’s what it’s going to be about with all those guys.”

It was the end of a week in which all three of the Parnell, Iowa, native’s matches were against opponents ranked in the top 10 by Intermat. On Jan. 28, he used two third-period takedowns to pull off a 4-2 upset over then-No. 7 Jason Welch of Northwestern. That win made St. John a top-10 wrestler himself, bumping his ranking up five spots to No. 9.

The Penn State dual on Jan. 30 brought undefeated and third-ranked Nittany Lion redshirt freshman David Taylor. St. John dropped a 12-4 major decision in that match, but bounced back with the win over Young.

His impressive performance drew praise from teammate Montell Marion, who won a 13-5 decision in his first home match since being reinstated to the team.

“I didn’t see Derek St. John wrestle, but I know he had a tough opponent, and I heard he put him on his back,” Marion said. “And that’s what we’re about. We’re about bonus points and we’re about pins.”

Marion said he wrestled against St. John in high school and had some insight into his teammate’s attitude on the mat.

“I know he’s ornery and tough, I’ll tell you that much right now,” he said.

St. John played down his impressive scramble at the end of the match — he said, “That’s just something I’ve got to do. It’s just the way it ended.” — but even he had to admit, albeit reluctantly, that finishing the match with a pin was gratifying.

“I mean, it’s always good to finish with a pin,” he said. “It always feels good to put him away.”

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