CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Oh, what a finish?!
The phrase applies to the move and the match of University of Iowa 197-pound freshman Nathan Burak turned around an inability to secure takedowns in spectacular fashion.
Burak scored a takedown with 23 seconds remaining for the decisive score in a 3-2 win over defending Big Ten champion and third-seeded Marion Gonzalez of the University of Illinois in the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships Saturday at Assembly Hall. The win assured Burak of a top-six finish and a berth to the NCAA Division I Championships March 21-23 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
With the score tied 1-1, Burak hit a high-crotch single-leg attempt, dropping Gonzalez to his hip and reversing an earlier 3-1 loss to Gonzalez.
“I’ve struggled finishing throughout the season,” Burak said. “I had to finish strong and fast, hook the leg and I had the takedown. I really threw my head a lot quicker and cut the corner.”
Burak has not had a problem initiating offense from his feet, but finishing the moves and putting points on the board have been the issue. He didn’t allow that to happen in the quarterfinal. He continued his motion with the shot, closing in on the score before Gonzalez could fend off his attack. It proved to be the difference.
“It wasn’t quick, but it was quick where you put the guy in danger,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “It wasn’t like when you’re in deep and kind of lose it. It was in deep, corner cut and weight on the guy and then you’re finishing the last little itty-bitty part of the hold instead of the last big percentage of the hold.”
The moved was an example of his progress, even though he didn’t score a takedown and won on riding-time advantage in his 4-3 first-round win in a second tiebreaker over Nebraska’s Caleb Kolb. The Iowa staff has worked with Burak, emphasizing staying in good position throughout the move.
“I’ve definitely been working it a lot with all the coaches in the room,” Burak said. “I think part of is stay on him, staying on my feet when I get to my shot. Before I had a tendency to trip them or go down on my knees before he’d go down. The difference is staying on my feet and driving through the guy.”
It was Burak’s defense that helped him avoid a late deficit. Gonzalez was in on a low-single takedown attempt that Burak fought off with strong mat awareness and hips. He could feel that missed opportunity drained Gonzalez a bit.
“I think he got a lot more tired,” Burak said. “It made the takedown all the more ready to be there.”
All it takes is one, and now Burak has a good example he can transfer his ability in practice to competition.
“It helps a lot,” Burak said. “I always knew I could finish in the practice room. I was having a hard time finishing in matches. This definitely helps though.”
Iowa’s Nick Moore had no alternative. It was find a way to win or find his way to the consolation bracket to fight his way to the NCAA Championships.
Moore rose to the challenge, scoring a takedown with 22 seconds left to beat Minnesota’s Cody Yohn, 5-4, in the 165-pound. He advanced to the semifinals, locking up his first national tournament berth.
“You have to fight back, especially this time of year (and) at this tournament,” fourth-seeded Moore said. “It’s the most important tournament of the year so far. It’s just what you have to do.”
Moore opened the scoring with a takedown late in the first, but found himself in trouble in the second. Yohn used a wrist-tilt to get three nearfall points for a lead. Moore tied it with an escape before Yohn added an escape in the third for a 4-3 lead.
Iowa Coach Tom Brands said Moore demonstrated pressure and confidence to earn the victory.
“Good job finishing that and keeping him down,” Brands said about Moore’s first-period takedown. “Then, not getting rattled when you get a five-count against you.”
Moore never panicked and stayed aggressive. It was key to maintain his offensive approach. He admitted he could do it better early, avoiding a big move putting him in peril on the scoreboard.
“I’m still working on it and improving,” Moore said. “I need to do that in the first period. Maybe be ahead 4-1 or 6-2 and then a three-point nearfall doesn’t really matter.”
Moore had beaten Yohn twice previously this year. He almost scored a major in their first bout in January, but the margin shrunk to one in a match at the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals Feb. 23. It can be a chore beating someone three times.
“It’s tough if you make it tough,” Moore said. “If I go out there thinking this kid knows me and knows my stuff, but I know him and his stuff. It goes both ways.”
The victory is a product an improved Moore. He has carved his niche in the Hawkeyes lineup and will return to Wells Fargo, where he won four Iowa state titles as a prep for Iowa City West.
“I think I’ve matured a little bit mentally,” said Moore, adding he would like to think he’s progressed physically also. “The thought process and positive self-talk goers a long way.”
DZIEWA DROPS TWO
Iowa’s Josh Dziewa earned the nod at 149 after wrestling as Mark Ballweg’s backup at 141 the entire regular season. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes sophomore, he finished 0-2, dropping 3-2 losses to Penn State’s fifth-seeded Andrew Alton and No. 6 seed Caleb Ervin, of Illinois.
Dziewa consolation match against Ervin came down to the very end. Dziewa scored a takedown in the last 25 seconds of the third for a 2-1 lead, but Ervin, who rode Dziewa the entire second, escaped with four seconds left to tie it 2-2 and kept 1:01 of riding time for the decisive point.
He ended the season 15-4 overall.
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