Tom Brands and Company remain 13.5 points back of Ohio State in the team race as six Iowa wrestlers earn All-American status after Day 2 of the national tournament.
ST. LOUIS — At the start of Friday, eight Iowa wrestlers set out to erase a 2-point Ohio State lead in the team race of the 2015 NCAA Wrestling Championships. The tournament had just weathered a weird opening day, and it had the potential to get even weirder on Day 2 in the Scottrade Center.
The bizarre circumstances that plagued Thursday — 52 upsets on the championship side, while the top 10 teams sat within 10 points of one another — weren’t nearly as potent on Friday. The Buckeyes cracked open a commanding lead after Session III, and the Hawkeyes only put a slight dent in it at the conclusion of Session IV.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time. I’ve been doing this for 20 years,” said Ohio State coach Tom Ryan, whose team has a comfortable 86.5-73 lead over second-place Iowa after Day 2. “This group of guys is just really special.”
Iowa’s eight-man team became seven after the morning session — Josh Dziewa went 1-1, hitting Minnesota’s Nick Dardanes with a major decision before losing to Missouri’s Lavion Mayes at 141 — and then the Hawks became six after Arizona State’s Blake Stauffer bounced Sammy Brooks from the tournament with a 7-2 win in the blood round.
Still, six Iowa wrestlers will return to Iowa City with All-American honors. Of the three semifinalists, only 133-pounder Cory Clark advanced to Saturday night’s finals. Clark avenged his February loss to Penn State’s Jimmy Gulibon by securing a 7-5 win over the Nittany Lion on Friday.
“I told myself over and over if I get a lead to just keep wrestling, and sometimes that’s hard to do with little time on the clock,” Clark said. “I feel like I did kind of go back a little bit and maybe shut down a little.
“But in the dual, I shut down completely. I wasn’t really getting to my ties. This time I felt like I had my ties, and I probably stopped going to my attacks, but I had ties and my head position, so it ended up working out, I guess.”
At 125, Thomas Gilman was pinned by West Virginia’s Zeke Moisey in just 52 seconds. At 174, Mike Evans lost to Penn State’s Matt Brown, 1-0. Both are still alive in the wrestlebacks, and they can finish anywhere from third to sixth.
Ohio State, meanwhile, sent three of its five semifinalists to Saturday night’s title matches. Nathan Tomasello beat top-seeded Alan Waters of Missouri, 4-2, at 125 pounds; Logan Stieber continued his trek toward a fourth individual NCAA title with a 12-2 major decision over NC State’s Kevin Jack at 141; and Kyle Snyder upset Missouri’s J’Den Cox, 3-2, at 197.
“These guys have big dreams,” Ryan said. “They’ll be ready. … All of them came here to win the tournament.”
There is still a chance Iowa could muscle out a performance that could vault it to the top of the team race on Saturday night. Five Hawkeyes remain alive in the wrestlebacks, and four are a win away from wrestling for third place — Brandon Sorensen (149) and Bobby Telford (285), in addition to Gilman and Evans.
The fifth, Nathan Burak, will wrestle for seventh at 197 pounds on Saturday against Michigan’s Max Huntley.
“Those matches are big,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “We have big matches tomorrow. I’ve been saying that for about two days now, and it continues on the third day.”
Comparatively, just two Buckeyes — Bo Jordan (165) and Kenny Courts (184) — will have the opportunity to add to their lead in the team race on Saturday morning. Both Jordan and Courts lost their respective semifinal matches on Friday evening.
Cornell, which sits in third place with 66.5 points and has two finalists, also has two more wrestlers that will compete on Saturday morning in Nahshon Garrett (125) and Chris Villalonga (149). And, as fate would have it in this already-weird tournament, both Garrett and Villalonga open Saturday with head-to-head matches against their Iowa counterparts.
“The individuals make the team,” Sorensen said. “If the individuals are doing well, then the team’s going to win. And that’s what needs to happen.”