Penn State provides Iowa with a “gut check”


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Bobby Telford did not mince his words. After the top-ranked Iowa wrestling team’s 18-12 win over No. 6 Penn State on Sunday, a somewhat disappointing result for the Black and Gold despite another tough win on the road, he did what all team leaders do: He held his team accountable.

“I wouldn’t say we need to get our heads out of our asses, but there needs to be a fire,” said Telford, whose 3-0 win over Jimmy Lawson at heavyweight clinched the dual for Iowa. “There needs to be — a lot of guys seemed like they were dull.

“We need to get out some sharpening knives and really get ready to gut some people.”

For Iowa, there are plenty of spots in need of sharpening, if only because the team’s performance against Penn State — a high-stakes dual that was much closer than the victors had originally planned — provided, as Telford put it, a gut check for the entire team.

Those tests of might came primarily during the third periods, in which Penn State wrestlers had their way with their Hawkeye counterparts. This became apparent in the afternoon’s very first match.

At 125 pounds, Iowa’s Thomas Gilman entered the third period with a 3-0 lead and had locked up riding time, but Penn State’s Jordan Conaway escaped quickly and scored a takedown to tie the match. He released Gilman and scored another takedown, only to release Gilman again.

The Iowa sophomore fought off a last-second effort from Conaway and won the match, 6-5, solely because of that riding-time point.

“I came out early, I scored, and I rode the piss out of him,” Gilman said. “And then that third period — you know, I controlled six minutes of the match, but I didn’t slam the door and control the last minute.

“… All I had to do was slam the door in the second period, really slam the door in the third period, and get back to my offense. I got to it relatively easy in the first period, but I didn’t really go back to it.”

Gilman was not the only one who struggled. The next match, at 133, Cory Clark gave up 4 points in the waning moments of the third period, turning what would have been a 5-4 victory into an 8-5 loss to Jimmy Gulibon.

Twice more the third-period woes hit after the intermission. At 165, unranked Garett Hammond scored a takedown with six seconds left in the bout to beat No. 9 Nick Moore, 4-2. Then, at 174, Matt Brown rode Mike Evans for the entire third period to win, 2-0.

It was an issue Iowa coach Tom Brands said caused the hair on the back of his neck stand up — “Kind of look at it like we shut down [in the third period],” he said — but added that he knew it was something his team could overcome.

“We’ve been talking about it periodically through the year, almost in steps, in stages,” Brands said. “At Ohio State, it was first-period takedowns. So we assert ourselves maybe a little bit better the next time out, but then maybe we have a little bit of a letup.

“When you’re a championship team, you make progress, and you keep making progress, but you don’t regress.”

Telford agreed, adding that, when the time comes, Iowa will be more than ready to fight for a national title. It’s a long season, he said, but these gut checks are what separates the men from the boys.

“I don’t think anybody is worried about this team or individuals on this team,” he said. “We just have to keep moving forward. This is the time of the year where the stage is big and the stakes are high, so we have to come out ready to wrestle.

“It’s that time of the year. It’s time to get tough.”

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

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