Iowa wrestling crowns two but falls short of team title at Big Tens

BY J.T. BUGOS | MARCH 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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EVANSTON, Ill. — There were few smiles from the Iowa wrestlers on Sunday at the conclusion of the Big Ten championships. Despite placing seven wrestlers in the top three of their weight class – including titles from Matt McDonough and Blake Rasing – the Hawkeyes weren’t satisfied with their showing.

That’s because Iowa finished one point behind Penn State in the team race, and the Nittany Lions snapped the Hawkeyes’ streak of three-straight Big Ten championships. Iowa finished second with 138 points.

Five Hawkeye wrestlers had tough losses on March 5 to bounce them into the consolations, but three — Tony Ramos, Aaron Janssen, and Ethen Lofthouse — rebounded for third-place finishes on Sunday.

“Everyone wants first, but when you can’t get it, you need to come back, and help the team, and take that third place,” Ramos said. “It’s tough to come back when you lose in a semifinal match, but that’s what makes you better. It makes you tougher, it makes you better, and it helps the team.”

Ramos bested Illinois’ B.J. Futrell in the third-place match, scoring two first-period takedowns on his way to a 6-2 decision. The redshirt freshman said he hadn’t been entirely confident in his offense earlier in the tournament but knew he needed to come out and get an early takedown to dictate the tempo of the match.

Head coach Tom Brands was happy with the way his squad bounced back in the consolation matches.

“I feel they came back strong,” he said. “And there’s going to be a lot of guys that realize when they do good things, they can win consistently, and you have to do those things even in the tight situations. We’re OK if we improve. We’re not OK if we don’t improve.”

McDonough’s grudge match with Northwestern’s Brandon Precin was likely the highlight of the day for Iowa. Precin beat McDonough, 3-1, at the Midlands Championships on Jan. 30, but McDonough got his revenge in dual competition with a pin in 6:11.

In Sunday’s finals, a third-period takedown off a wild scramble was all McDonough needed to secure his first Big Ten title in his 3-1 decision.

“It wasn’t a perfect move. I can’t even remember who took the shot, but I felt comfortable,” the sophomore said. “I knew they weren’t going to stop it, and he wasn’t going for a stalemate, so I kept trying to score working through the whole position. You can’t think, you just have to go. I got a single leg, and once I got that single leg, I wasn’t going to let it go.”

McDonough said there’s still more for him to work on and build on, and that’s true for all the Hawkeyes.

Montell Marion dropped a hard-fought match with Illinois’ Jimmy Kennedy to finish fourth, and both Derek St. John and Luke Lofthouse left Welsh-Ryan Arena with the bitter feeling of a finals defeat. St. John fell to Penn State’s David Taylor, 8-3, and Lofthouse was beaten by Wisconsin’s Trevor Brandvold, 5-2.

Brands said he has no “earth-shattering” speech to give to the team, and Ramos noted there’s little time to be upset about the lack of a team title with the national tournament approaching. Still, the disappointment of second-place stings.

“Thing I feel most about it is what could you have done to change it,” Ramos said. “But when it comes down to it, we all had to wrestle our best if we wanted to get that title, and a couple of us had a few letdowns here and there.”

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