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Notebook: Bonus points, bottom position key to Iowa's NCAA wrestling strategy

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | MARCH 09, 2012 6:30 AM

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The Iowa wrestling lineup narrowed from 10 weight classes to eight for the NCAA championships next week. The Hawkeyes' 149-pound Mike Kelly and 197-pound Vinnie Wagner failed to earn berths for nationals at the Big Ten meet on March 3-4.

While the No. 4 Black and Gold will only have eight men to score points in St. Louis, seven of these are seeded in the top five of their classes — including first-seeded Matt McDonough at 125 pounds and No. 2 Derek St. John at 157 pounds. Tony Ramos (133 pounds) and Montell Marion (141) are seeded third, and Mike Evans (165), Ethen Lofthouse (174), and Bobby Telford (285) are fifth. Grant Gambrall enters the tournament unseeded at 184 pounds.

Missing two men makes earning bonus points crucial, but Iowa's nationals lineup features the most seeded wrestlers of any school. The team is more than capable of scoring the extra points even though they didn't do so at Big Tens, head coach Tom Brands said.

"We weren't going to win the Big Ten Tournament by wrestling at our seeds," Brands said. "You have to slam the door on opponents with big wins, with pins, with bonus points. We didn't do that enough."

Big Ten champion Penn State racked up 24.5 bonus points in West Lafayette, Ind., last weekend; the Hawkeyes only earned 5.5, even though they entered the finals with more wrestlers in title matches than any of their opponents.

"[Bonus points] were the difference in the Big Ten Tournament right there," Ramos said. "If we want to win nationals, we've got to go out there are win more than five and a half bonus points."

Brands said he expects top wrestlers like Ramos to "widen the gap" by earning more bonus points. Ramos scored bonus points in 18 of 28 wins this season, including 6 pins and 7 technical falls.

Big Ten champion McDonough also scored a plethora of bonus points this season, earning them in 19 wins with 10 pins, a technical fall, and 8 majors.

But McDonough's bonus-point productivity fizzled near the end of the season. Brands said he needs the returning NCAA champion and All-American to revive his ability to pin and earn majors.

"We just got to get him to start blowing the doors off people in higher level matches, in championship-type matches," Brands said. "They don't have to be close. He's shown that … but let's take the next step."

Iowa focuses to improve escapes

Telford entered the Big Ten Tournament seeded sixth but battled his way to the championship match last weekend. But Telford struggled to escape after starting down in the third period against Minnesota's Tony Nelson; the Iowa heavyweight was shut out, 2-0.

The Hawkeyes are working to improve on the bottom as they prepare for the NCAA championships.

"I need to stop being so static on bottom," Telford said. "Looking back on my matches … I'm real static. I've got to get my hips in it. I need to get those kids off me right away."

Lofthouse to see a familiar face in pigtail round

Lofthouse will wrestle Brown's Dave Foxen in the first round at 174 pounds. The two have never met in competition, but they used to train in the same facility.

Ivy League schools don't allow freshmen to redshirt; they can only take a year off, which Foxen did and spent training in Iowa City during Lofthouse's freshman year in 2009-10.

Follow DI wrestling reporter Molly Irene Olmstead on Twitter.


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