Moore, Lofthouse wrestle poorly at wrong time

BY DANNY PAYNE | MARCH 25, 2014 5:00 AM

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OKLAHOMA CITY — Nick Moore and Ethen Lofthouse were largely the reason Iowa gave Penn State a run for its money at the Big Ten championships. Roughly two weeks later at the NCAA championships, Moore and Lofthouse were largely the reason Iowa did not give Penn State (and Minnesota and Oklahoma State, for that matter) a run for its money.

Before diving into NCAAs, take a look at the Big Tens. It’s simple, really — guys such as Cory Clark, Tony Ramos, and Mike Evans finished relatively close to where they did in Madison, Wis., roughly two weeks before. Moore and Lofthouse didn’t.

Clark took fourth at Big Tens and fifth at the NCAAs. Ramos won both tournaments at 133, Evans took second in Madison and fourth at NCAAs. Relatively similar results — not the same — but fairly similar in terms of team points.

Moore and Lofthouse appeared in the championship bouts at 165  and 184 pounds in Madison and lost to Penn State’s David Taylor and Ed Ruth. By the time Taylor wrestled, Ruth had won won his third-straight NCAA title, and Iowa was waiting to accept its fourth-place trophy.

Josh Veltre of Bloomsburg defeated Moore in a major decision during the first session of the tournament. I was shocked; Moore had been on a tear — 16 out of his last 17 matches were wins, eight came with bonus points. His only loss of the 2014 calendar year was to Taylor in the Big Ten final.

Immediately, a wrestler poised to make a deep run through his weight class and score all-important team points was sent to the backside of the 165-pound bracket.

Moore won a decision in his first match in the consolations but then dropped an 8-1 decision to Dylan Palacino of Cornell — points down the drain.

And then there was Lofthouse.

Like his teammate, he had lost one time in 2014, a 10-2 major to Ruth for the Big Ten crown. Lofthouse looked tough going through Big Tens, finding a way to win close matches.

His losses weren’t as bad, on paper, but Lofthouse looked slow, lethargic, and generally uninspired. The 184-pounder wasn’t finishing shots in a 5-3 loss to Edinboro’s Victor Avery.

He came out and defeated his next opponent in a major decision, but then got shut out by Penn’s Thomas Lawrence, 6-0. Potential points in the team race blown away.

It was surprising, Moore and Lofthouse are very tough wresters, and it was uncharacteristic of the two to wrestle as poorly as they did when the lights were brightest. But track records be damned; they flopped.

Of course, it’s not fair to pin Iowa’s underwhelming fourth-place finish only on Moore and Lofthouse’s shoulders. Returning NCAA champion Derek St. John, Josh Dziewa, and Brody Grothus, among others, could have done more for their team, but those weren’t the guys standing with a “2” at their feet just a few weeks before.

It would have taken a herculean effort for Moore and Lofthouse to beat Taylor and Ruth. Is it likely? No, not really, those Nittany Lions are absolute machines — co-Zeus of the tournament, if you will. But could it have happened? Sure, maybe.

It didn’t even need to.

They didn’t have to get that far for Iowa to, at minimum, be competitive in the team race, just further than the two did advance. But there was no Taylor-Moore or Ruth-Lofthouse rematch, just an underwhelming Iowa performance and a Penn State team celebrating its fourth-straight NCAA crown.

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