Telford returns to Iowa lineup


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Bobby Telford jogged out of the Carver tunnel for the first time of the season on Thursday night. He wore his black singlet with the block letters “IOWA” down on the left leg. He wore a kneepad on his right knee.

It was the first time Telford has seen the mat since the Luther Open last month, when he compiled five-straight wins — all by fall — en route to a first-place finish.

On Thursday night, he wasted no time earning his first dual win of the season by way of a 16-3 major-decision, closing the book on No. 3 Iowa’s 46-0 victory over Buffalo.

“It’s good to have Telford on the mat,” Iowa head wrestling coach Tom Brands said afterwards.

Telford, ranked third nationally at heavyweight by InterMat, scored his first with a takedown just eight seconds into his match with Buffalo’s James Benjamin. It wasn’t until around the midway point in the opening period that Telford struck again with a 2-point near-fall.

The Hockessin, Del., native really ran up the score in the second period. Telford scored another takedown just 16 seconds into the frame and continued his tough ride, causing Benjamin to accrue a stalling warning. Telford racked up 3 more near-fall points before allowing Benjamin to escape — only to take him down again.

Telford, just a junior, continued the takedown-and-release pattern into the third period. He accumulated five total takedowns in the bout and rode Benjamin for nearly five-and-a-half minutes.

It was a dominating performance over a lower-tier opponent — Benjamin entered Thursday night’s dual with just a 4-9 record — but Brands said he was happy to see Telford wrestle the whole seven minutes.

“He wasn’t hesitant,” Brands said. “I’d like to see quick falls, but I was glad to see it go longer just to see him wrestle.”

For Telford, Thursday night’s victory was a sigh of relief, of sorts, because he has wanted to take the mat since the beginning of the month, when the Hawkeyes topped in-state rival Iowa State.

“I don’t want to be off the mat,” Telford said. “I wanted to get back on the mat at Iowa State. I wanted to get back on the mat before Edinboro.”

Telford’s dual début came just in time for Iowa, which will now turn its attention to Dec. 21, when it will play host to three-time defending national champion Penn State — which is ranked second by InterMat.

“That’s where we’re going to show people that we’re in the running for the national title,” Iowa’s Tony Ramos said. “If anything, we’re better than last year.”

Many Iowa wrestling fans remember Iowa’s 22-16 upset of the then-top-ranked Nittany Lions last season. And those same wrestling fans will remember Telford’s 9-2 decision over Penn State’s Jon Gingrich that helped the Hawkeyes preserve the upset.

Telford remembers it, too, and he’s more than ready to tangle with the nation’s best again because it’s another chance to prove himself.

“Just ready to keep going,” he said. “We’ve got a tough one next Saturday. I’ll pretty much just put [Thursday night] in my back pocket.”

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