Iowa's Telford continues tough conference stretch


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Holding the top-ranked spot at heavyweight in college wrestling this season has been somewhat of a curse as of late. In the last four weeks alone, three different wrestlers have assumed InterMat’s No. 1 spot at college wrestling’s biggest weight.

Those rankings don’t mean much to Iowa’s Bobby Telford, of course — which is why, when it was announced that he was the new No. 1 at heavyweight earlier in the week, he shrugged it off.

“I don’t look at the polls, to be honest with you,” he said on Tuesday. “That’s why there’s three or four of them. Everybody has their own opinion.”

And there’s a bit of truth to that. Telford holds the top spot at heavyweight according to both InterMat and Amateur Wrestling News. Flowrestling ranks Telford No. 2, while a fourth outlet that releases rankings, Wrestling Insider Newsmagazine, have him pegged at fourth.

But perhaps even more impressive is that, in the last four weeks, it’s been a Big Ten heavyweight who has reached the top.

On Jan. 7, Minnesota’s Tony Nelson had a firm grip on InterMat’s No. 1 ranking at heavyweight, where he opened the season with. Michigan’s Adam Coon unseated Nelson for the top spot on Jan. 14 and held it for two weeks until Telford claimed it on Tuesday.

It’s no surprise to Telford that it’s a cluster of Big Ten heavyweights that crowd the top of the rankings — six of the top seven spots are held by wrestlers in the conference.

Those six heavyweights — Telford, Coon, Nelson, Northwestern’s Mike McMullan, Indiana’s Adam Chalfant, and Michigan State’s Mike McClure — have combined to create some insane parity.

“That’s why you come to wrestle here, to wrestle in the Big Ten,” Telford said. “It’s a strong schedule, and you can make it even stronger with [statement wins].”

There have been plenty of those statement wins — perhaps even more than usual — this season.

During 2013-14, each of the six heavyweights has lost to one of his Big Ten counterparts. Telford lost to Coon, who lost to McClure, who lost Nelson, who lost to McMullan, who lost to Chalfant, who lost to (you guessed it) Telford.

The circle of wins and losses can give some of the smartest wrestling gurus migraines, because each result throws a wrench into the Big Ten seeding picture at heavyweight.

“Every week is a battle. Every week you’ve got a tough opponent,” Nelson told the Minnesota Daily on Jan. 30. “It’s never easy, but you just have to really stay focused and go out there and wrestle your style.”

Telford knows this all too well. Currently, he’s hit a stretch where he’ll wrestle three of those top six heavyweights in back-to-back-to-back duals. He started this run by beating Nelson, 3-1, in sudden victory on Jan. 25.

His next bout will be tonight against McMullan when No. 2 Iowa squares off with No. 12 Northwestern at Welsh-Ryan Arena.

A win over McMullan would not only serve as revenge for Telford — the Northwestern big man bested Iowa’s the last time they stepped on the mat against each other — but will surely give him a stranglehold on the weight.

Well, at least according to those meaningless rankings.

“So open it up, and create some separation there,” Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands said. “Then that parity goes away.”

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