Hawkeyes take second at Big Ten championships

BY DANNY PAYNE | MARCH 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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MADISON, Wis. — Session II of the Big Ten championships went extremely well for Iowa on March 8. Derek St. John, Nick Moore, Mike Evans, and Ethen Lofthouse advanced to the finals on Sunday and brought Iowa within 1 point of leader Penn State.

But during Session III, those four wrestlers couldn’t find the same magic — and it crippled the Hawkeyes.

Up by a small margin over the Nittany Lions heading into the 157-pound championship match, Iowa had the chance to distance itself heading into the next three bouts.

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But St. John, the defending NCAA champion at the weight, dropped his second match of the season to James Green. The Cornhusker 157-pounder fired and connected on a quick double-leg shot at the opening of the match and took down St. John for an early lead.

St. John made the last moments of the fight interesting when he scored a takedown, but he couldn’t do anything else and dropped the championship, 6-4

“Weather that storm early and then start to take it out of the guy,” head coach Tom Brands said in regards to St. John’s match. “The guy takes us down right away and then basically effortlessly rides us through the first period. That’s a tough hole to dig yourself out of.”

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While Brands was speaking of a hole in the 157-pound match, the hole Iowa dug for itself was too big to climb out of.

Nick Moore, wrestling three-time defending Big Ten champion David Taylor, fell victim to the Nittany Lions’ 165-pounder in major fashion. There was a point in the second period that, in hindsight, told the story for the next two matches.

When it appeared Moore had all but taken him down, Taylor, staying true to his nickname of “Magic Man,” somehow contorted his body and managed to score 2 on Moore. Moore looked like he was going to chip away at his opponent’s lead, but he failed to convert the opportunity.

“It’s just wrestling,” Taylor said. “You just don’t give up the takedown, you just keep wrestling until the ref stops you or until you get the takedown.”

Evans followed with a 6-4 loss to Robert Kokesh of Nebraska, in which he scored only one takedown. While Iowa’s chances of taking first as a team were virtually nonexistent once Lofthouse stepped on the mat, the senior suffered a 10-2 defeat to the Nittany Lions’ Ed Ruth.

Despite those losses, Iowa did pick up a pair of victories on the backside of the bracket to end the tournament. Nathan Burak and Josh Dziewa took fifth at 197 and 141 pounds, respectively, and Bobby Telford took third at heavyweight. Cory Clark won fourth at 125, and Tony Ramos won the 133-pound bracket.

Despite those accolades, and the four second-place finishes, Iowa was in position to dethrone Penn State — whose title was its fourth in as many years.

The Nittany Lions were heavily favored going into the tournament, and Iowa finished within 10 points of Penn State (141.5-134.0). For some, the results could be viewed as encouraging — which may be valid considering Iowa’s overall performance — but for others, the strong results weren’t enough.

“A loss is a loss, and it’s not a win. So still a long way to go,” Moore said. “… No moral victories.”

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