Iowa ekes out 18-12 win over Penn State


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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pennsylvania — The ushers wore black-and-white striped shirts, making them resemble referees as they helped people to their seats. The mat was staged, giving it a Saturday-night-at-the-NCAA-championships feel. Strobe lights flew around in all directions and flashed relentlessly when a Penn State wrestler scored.

The crowd members — 15,967, the second-largest dual crowd in NCAA history — were mostly decked out in blue and white, shouted their “WE ARE” chant fearlessly, and were just as ruthless with their pleas for stalling as their Black and Gold counterparts who occupy Carver-Hawkeye Arena this time of year.

This is the house party Bobby Telford talked about crashing early last week, a full-on wrestling extravaganza for top-ranked Iowa and sixth-ranked Penn State, two titans of the sport, winners of the last seven national team titles. In the end, the Hawkeyes did not vandalize the Bryce Jordan Center but left it slightly less clean than when they first came, eking out an 18-12 win.

“Am I happy? I tell ya what: You have to give some credit to us,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “But that’s more of a private question between me and my team.”

The Hawkeyes (13-0, 8-0), now owners of at least a share of the Big Ten regular-season title for the seventh time in the last eight seasons, won the dual thanks to Telford’s 3-0 win over Jimmy Lawson at heavyweight. Brands said he liked that the dual was in Telford’s hands, but Telford was upset that it ultimately came down to him.

“I was kind of shocked, upset, disappointed — whatever you want to call it — when I came out and saw the score,” Telford said. “This is an arena where you can hear the fans in the back. There was a lot of noise, and when you’re in an enemy arena and you hear a lot of noise, it’s probably not a good thing.”

Iowa soared to a 12-3 lead after the first five weights and was around 12 seconds away from leading 15-0. At 133 pounds, Penn State’s Jimmy Gulibon, ranked sixth by Flowrestling, took No. 3 Cory Clark feet-to-back in the waning moments for a 4-point move to win, 8-5.

After the intermission, Penn State, now 10-3, 6-3, won three of the next four bouts to make the score 15-12 before Telford came out and sealed the win. Of those three Nittany Lion wins, the most impressive was Garett Hammond’s 4-2 decision over No. 9 Nick Moore at 165 pounds.

In all, the two teams finished with eight takedowns apiece, though four of Penn State’s came in the third period. Of those four, two helped decide matches (133 and 165). The other two, by Jordan Conaway at 125 pounds, nearly decided a third; Thomas Gilman won that match, 6-5, with the help of a riding-time point.

“Those are situations where that’s not by accident. That’s coach. That’s strategy. That’s their awareness of the clock and our lack of awareness of what our opponent is trying to do to us,” Brands said. “… You can feel when someone has one eye on the clock, and they try to hoodwink you a little bit. We can do a better job of that in being aware of those types of things. That’s a lot of points on the board.

“Every match out is something we prepare for. And we don’t prepare to keep it close. That’s not part of our strategy.”

Of Iowa’s eight takedowns, Josh Dziewa and Brandon Sorensen, at 141 and 149, respectively, combined for five, and both scored two in the first period of their individual matches, which were each decision victories. Even more, no Hawkeye wrestler scored any takedowns in the third period.

With work still to do, Iowa returns to Iowa City with the opportunity to claim the Big Ten regular-season title outright with a win over No. 17 Michigan on Friday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

But the Hawkeyes can find solace in that, after wins over No. 2 Minnesota, No. 4 Ohio State, No. 8 Oklahoma State, and now over No. 6 Penn State — all on the road, at that — they are, without a doubt, the team to beat come March.

“We wrestled hard the whole time, and we were pushing the pace the whole time,” Penn State coach Cael Sanderson said. “I was real happy with our team and the way they competed, because that’s a good team — the No. 1 team in the country.”

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa wrestling team.

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