Three first-round losses and two of the upset variety put the Iowa wrestling team in a tough position after the first session of the NCAA Wrestling Championships at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
But a bounce-back round in the night session propelled the second-ranked Hawkeyes from ninth to fourth in the team standings and six Iowa grapplers will compete in today’s quarterfinals. The Hawkeyes are one of just two schools (Minnesota is the other) with six wrestlers still alive in the championship bracket.
Iowa sent all 10 of its wrestlers to nationals and every one of them will compete Friday. The Hawkeyes went 7-3 in the opening round and then finished 6-1 in the championship side of the bracket in the night session. All four wrestlers who lost Thursday though are still alive after securing wrestleback wins in the consolation side of the bracket.
The Hawkeyes have scored 20.5 points and trail three-time defending national champion Penn State (26.5), Minnesota (21.5) and Oklahoma State (21.5) in the team standings. Iowa also is tied for fourth with Oklahoma.
Nathan Burak’s 4-3 win in the closing seconds highlighted the championship round. Burak, ranked 11th at 197, trailed sixth-seeded Richard Perry of Bloomsburg, 3-2, before rallying with a takedown in the final seconds.
“I knew there was 12 seconds left when we came back to the middle,” said Burak, who will face No. 14 Chris Penny of Virginia Tech in the 197-pound quarterfinals. “I went for a double, got in pretty deep and just tried to finish right away. I made sure my toe was in, heard everyone yell two, and saw the ref gave me two. It felt good.”
Derek St. John will be in the 157-pound quarterfinals for the fourth straight season. The defending national champion won his first-round match by decision and then dominated The Citadel’s Aaron Walker, 18-5, in the second round. He will face Cornell’s Brian Realbuto in today’s quarterfinals.
It has not been an easy run for third-seeded Tony Ramos at 133. The senior and defending national runner-up needed a late takedown to win his opener and then punched his ticket into the quarters with an overtime 6-4 win over 14th seeded Zain Richards of Illinois. Ramos will meet sixth-seeded Mason Beckman of Lehigh in today’s quarters. Ramos beat Beckman 3-1 in a dual meet earlier this season.
Cory Clark trailed 2-0 in both of his matches Thursday before rallying to win. His final win was an 8-5 victory over ninth-seeded Tyler Cox of Wyoming.
Clark’s next opponent is defending champion Jesse Delgado of Illinois. They wrestled at the Big Ten Championships two weeks ago and Delgado won 4-3.
Fourth-seeded Mike Evans will get a rematch of the Big Ten semifinals when he faces Penn State’s Matt Brown in the quarters. Evans topped Bloomsburg’s Mike Dessino, 7-3, to reach the quarters. Evans and Brown, the No. 5 seed, have split four career meetings.
Iowa heavyweight Bobby Telford advanced to the quarters for the second time in his career. He used a third-period takedown and 2:39 of riding time to do it, beating Maryland’s Spencer Myers 3-0.
Telford, the No. 5 seed, will face Michigan’s fourth-seeded Adam Coon in the quarters. Coon won the previous two meetings this season.
As good as the six second-round wins were for Iowa, the bonus points the Hawkeyes scored in the consolation round may have been bigger.
After losing their openers, unranked Josh Dziewa (141) scored a 24-7 technical fall, while fifth-seeed Nick Moore and fifth-seeded Ethen Lofthouse both won by major decisions.
"We have to keep that going and that’s the key," said UI head coach Tom Brands. "It’s about one match at a time to get as high on the stand as you can. We’ll take those battles one at a time. We have a lot of work to do on both sides of the bracket."
Brody Grothus suffered Iowa’s lone defeat of the second session. Grothus lost 13-5 to defending champion Kendric Maple (Oklahoma) and will compete tomorrow in the consolation bracket.
Action resumes Friday at 10 a.m. Session three will be televised on ESPNU and streamed online at espn3.com.