WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – University of Iowa’s Derek St. John provided Hawkeye wrestling fans with another example of his toughness.
St. John overcame a 4-0 deficit to earn an exciting two-point overtime victory in his first match of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships on Saturday at Purdue’s Mackey Arena.
St. John entered the conference tournament seeded sixth, facing Green in the quarterfinals. St. John, who is still mending from a knee ligament injury originally suffered Dec. 8, scored a takedown with 11 seconds remaining in sudden victory overtime for a 6-4 win to reach the 157 semifinals.
“St. John kept wrestling and St. John’s deal there is don’t give up four for the first takedown,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “That guy’s explosive. He’ll get underneath you. Can’t give up bonus points, so to speak.”
St. John’s knee was taped as he took the mat for just the sixth time in almost three months and the fifth time after aggravating the injury in his first return in January. Green hit a double-leg takedown and continued by putting St. John on his back for two nearfall points.
That’s all St. John surrendered. He chipped away, scoring an escape in the first and second periods and adding a takedown in regulation before earning the decisive points against the athletic Green.
“St. John did what he had to do,” Brands said. “That’s a dangerous guy he wrestled.”
St. John, a sophomore, was a Big Ten finalist and All-American, placing fourth at the NCAA tournament, in 2011. By reaching the semifinals, he locked up at least a sixth-place finish and punched his ticket to a second straight year.
Big guns at small weights
The smallest wrestlers posted the biggest production in the opening session of the Big Ten tournament on Saturday.
Matt McDonough, Tony Ramos and Montell Marion propelled the Hawkeyes into second place after the quarterfinal round with bonus-point wins in their first matches. Their performances highlight Iowa’s 10-2 mark in the tournament’s first session.
Top-seeded 125-pounder McDonough led the charge with a pin in the opening round and an 11-3 major decision over Brenan Lyon of Michigan State, tallying an extra three points for the Hawkeyes. Ramos and Marion followed with identical 12-2 major decisions at 133 and 141, respectively, combining for two extra team points.
“I like how (Ramos) came on at the end,” Brands said. “Tony Ramos’ wasn’t an automatic, and McDonough, too.”
By the end of the quarterfinal round, which highlights the first session of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships, the University of Iowa already secured seven of the conference’s 74 automatic berths to the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in St. Louis, Mo.
Top-ranked 125-pounder Matt McDonough, Tony Ramos at 133, Derek St. John (157), Mike Evans (165), Ethen Lofthouse (174), Grant Gambrall at 184 and heavyweight Bobby Telford forged their way to the semifinals, which assured them a top-six and high enough finish for the number of berths allotted to their respective weight classes.
Woes in Wisconsin
The University of Wisconsin had its three top wrestlers from a year ago take an Olympic red-shirt training year. The short-handed and undermanned Badgers went 1-9 in the opening round and didn’t have a single semifinalist when their only quarterfinalist, 165-pounder Ben Jordan, lost, giving them a 1-10 first-session mark.