Iowa shares Big Ten title

BY CODY GOODWIN | MARCH 09, 2015 5:00 AM

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COLUMBUS, Ohio — Tom Brands stood at the center mat in St. John Arena with a restless look on his face and a trophy in his hands. It was the 2015 Big Ten Championship trophy, and to his left was an old friend, a former teammate — and, during this season at least, a fierce rival.

Tom Ryan, the coach of the Ohio State wrestling team, had his hands on the same trophy. He smiled and wore a hat that read “2015 Big Ten Champions” across the top. Together they stood, making small talk and posing for pictures.

“He said if we were going to share it with anybody, might as well be with each other,” Brands said. “There’s a lot of history there, being on the same team, same classmates. [Iowa associate head coach Terry Brands] and he roomed together for three years. There was a lot of winning there together as teammates.

“But it stings anytime you have to share the hardware.”

For just the sixth time in conference history — and the first since the point system was introduced in 1934 — co-champs were crowned at this season’s Big Ten Wrestling Tournament. After two days, three sessions, and more than 250 matches, Iowa and Ohio State both scored exactly 120 points to finish in a tie for first place.

“The way the team scoring is now — I’ll tell you what. There are a lot of ways to score points, and it ends up 120 to 120,” said Brands, whose team earned its 35th conference tournament title in its storied history, just the second it’s ever had to share.

“To me, that’s crazy.”

The Hawkeyes had their chances and were even given some help on Sunday. When the day began, the Buckeyes led Iowa in the team race by 1.5 points. After a round of wrestlebacks ahead of the finals, Brands and Company regained the lead by 5.5.

From there, the placement bouts decided the tie. Ohio State and Iowa wrestlers met head-to-head in three matches — in the finals at both 125 and 141 and for third at 133. In all, eight Hawkeyes had chances to help extend and ultimately run away with their first outright conference crown since 2010. Eight Buckeyes had the same opportunity.

“We learned all year that every point matters,” Ryan said. “We discussed many times because we’ve had a lot of close duals.

“… Bottom line, I’m really proud of my team. We have not won this since 1951, so it’s been a 64-year drought. Now, the drought’s over.”

Each team had four wrestlers vying for individual Big Ten championships. Ohio State’s Nathan Tomasello and Logan Stieber won titles at 125 and 141 pounds, respectively. Even more, both beat their Hawkeye counterparts — Thomas Gilman and Josh Dziewa — scoring crucial team points in the process.

Both Bo Jordan and Kyle Snyder, the other two Buckeye finalists, dropped their finals matches at 165 pounds and 197 pounds, respectively. Jordan lost to his cousin, Wisconsin’s Isaac Jordan, 3-2; Snyder dropped a 4-1 decision to Penn State’s Morgan McIntosh.

Iowa’s other two finalists also failed to bring home gold. Brandon Sorensen dropped a 2-1 decision to Northwestern’s Jason Tsirtsis in the 149-pound finals. Bobby Telford also lost by a point, 4-3, to another Wildcat wrestler, longtime rival Mike McMullan. This was the second time in the last three seasons that Iowa went without an individual Big Ten championship.

“Those are 4-point matches,” Brands said. “You have to win those finals matches.”

Despite striking out in all four finals bouts, Iowa managed to salvage some points on the backside. Cory Clark, Mike Evans, and Sammy Brooks placed third at 133, 174, and 184. Brooks won his third-place bout by forfeit, which tied the team score at 120.

After Snyder, Nathan Burak, and Telford all lost, commemorative shirts and hats were passed out to both teams. Ohio State wrestlers smiled and cheered while Iowa wrestlers disposed of their hats and only wore their shirts until the pictures were done, then shed them before even reaching the locker room — a telltale sign that they did not want to share.

Instead, they produced unsatisfied looks with glares to match. The goal wasn’t met — which, technically, is fine, as Brands noted the goal is, and always has been, to win the NCAA title, and that’s not for two more weeks.

Until then, he said, there’s still some work to do.

“You know what? This isn’t the culminating event of the year,” Brands said. “The culminating event of the year is in St. Louis, Missouri. That’s where we’re headed.”

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

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