Hawkeye wrestlers looking for more pins


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As Matt McDonough racked up takedown after takedown on Dec. 1, Iowa State’s Ryak Finch went into a shell.

Determined to avoid any movement that would give Iowa’s two-time national champion a chance to turn him onto his back, Finch stayed tightly curled on the ground.

McDonough racked up over three minutes of riding time, and Finch was hit with three stalling penalties. But the Cyclone stayed off his back.

“It really doesn’t matter what the other team is coming in to do,” McDonough said. “They could fall right onto their face and lie there completely closed off. You have to find ways to get that turn and that pin.”

That’s something neither McDonough nor any of his teammates were able to do against Iowa State. It was easy to miss while Iowa ran up a 35-3 advantage in takedowns, but the Hawkeyes failed to turn the Cyclones over for any near-fall points.

Head coach Tom Brands said Tuesday the Cyclone wrestlers sometimes went into a “prevent, to keep it close” once they had been taken down. Brands said Iowa wrestlers, with a big lead and a takedown, were too often content to ride the match out.

“Pinning’s the name of the game, and we need to really, really move forward in that,” he said. “We’ve got some pinners … We’ve got a lot of guys on board with that, but you’ve got to work really hard. It’s an art that we need to master better.”

McDonough, Mike Evans, and Michael Kelly all earned more than three full minutes of riding time. Seven Hawkeyes picked up the riding time point given to a wrestler with a one-minute advantage in the category.

But Iowa couldn’t score points from the top position.

McDonough and junior Ethen Lofthouse both said the team is emphasizing those turns in the practice room. McDonough said it’s often easy to work on it halfway in practice, where there is no clock or referee to provide urgency. But when opponents are doing everything they can just avoid giving up the turn, that won’t help.

“It’s something you’ve got to deal with,” Lofthouse said. “You deal with it in the practice room, so when it happens on the mat you’re not just lying on them. You wear them down, and you start to execute your holds. That’s how it works.”

The Hawkeyes know that once the competition is ramped up, those back points will lead to extra team points on the scoreboard. And in order to beat fierce Big Ten rivals Penn State, Minnesota, and Ohio State, they’ll need every point they can get.

“I think we tried, but I don’t know if we worked really hard to put the screws on somebody,” Brands said. “It’s tough. It’s hard work to pin people. I think we can be a little bit smarter in our wrestling.”
McDonough emphatically agreed.

“There should be back points in every match. Especially if we have that many takedowns,” he said. “We have 35 takedowns, you’ve got to be scoring back points off those to really widen the gap.”

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