IOWA CITY – University of Iowa Coach Tom Brands has seen a lot during his wrestling career. Minnesota Coach J Robinson is even a little longer in the tooth.
Neither could have expected the way things unfolded, and might need some time to process what occurred Saturday. It might be easier for Robinson since his Gophers came out on top of a weird and wild dual.
Minnesota received a surprising pin from 125-pounder Sam Brancale and an upset win from Dylan Ness at 157 for a 19-15 Big Ten Conference victory in front of 10, 588 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. It snapped a 26-dual home win streak in the conference and Minnesota’s first in Iowa City since 2007.
"This is Big Ten, Division I wrestling," Brands said. "We have to be sharper than that. We have to be ready to battle. It's pretty clear that we regressed a little bit as a team, but made strides individually. That's probably how you would sum it up."
Half of the 10 matches would be considered upsets based on rankings, including three against the Gophers (8-1, 5-1 Big Ten).
“If you’ve done this long enough, whether it is Iowa, Oklahoma State or any of those, it doesn’t make any difference,” Robinson said. “Anything can happen. It doesn’t make any difference where you’re ranked or who you are. It just means you have to wrestle the whole time because the other side is going to bring their ‘A’ game.”
Minnesota stunned and staggered Iowa immediately, and Brancale delivered the crucial haymaker. The unranked freshman decked third-ranked Thomas Gilman in 2:03, putting the Gophers up 6-0 after the opening match.
“It makes a big difference,” Robinson said. “There’s a lot of momentum and all those things that go into it. It gets the guys going.”
The process was as interesting as the result. Brancale caught Gilman on his back for a takedown and three nearfall when Gilman fought off, following with an escape and takedown and cutting the deficit to 5-3. Gilman released Brancale, who tossed him to his back for the fall.
Brands said it was bizarre to see Gilman go from feet to back twice in two minutes, especially when you fight through the first and claw back into the match.
“He got caught and he got caught again,” Brands said. “How many times does that happen? I don’t know what the odds are and that’s why it’s silliness.”
The Hawkeyes (11-2, 4-1) regrouped with a pair of wins, including Josh Dziewa’s 1-0 win over No. 5 Chris Dardanes at 141. Just when they were on the verge of pulling even at the midway point Minnesota’s Dylan Ness landed another blow. This time to defending NCAA champion Derek St. John.
Ness trailed 3-2 in the final minute when he set up a reversal, elevating St. John with his leg and taking him belly-to-back for five points and a 7-4 win.
Robinson said Ness was comfortable in the position, despite almost giving up nearfall points, and recognized what he was setting up. He has seen it before and it played to the strength of his 157-pounder.
“It’s not something you can coach,” Robinson said. “It’s something that he has an ability to do and he has ability at any time to do what he did today. That’s why he’s so dangerous.”
Brands said St. John was not ready at the start, surrendering the first takedown. He also could have stayed out of the late situation by better performance in neutral and releasing Ness since riding time gave him a two-point lead.
Both 125 and 157 hampered the chances for a team win, especially with fourth-ranked Ethen Lofthouse out at 184 and freshman backup Sam Brooks losing an 8-6 decision to No. 9 Kevin Steinhaus. The issues can be ironed out in the future at 125 and 157.
“What on earth were they doing, especially at 125?” Brands said. “That’s what they have to figure out and we’ll help them but let’s just do the things you’re good at and we didn’t do those things.”
Iowa’s Mike Evans (174) and heavyweight Bobby Telford wrestled monkeys off their backs. Evans and Telford had been winless against Minnesota’s Logan Storley and Tony Nelson.
Evans, ranked sixth, scored an escape in the final tiebreaker after riding No. 5 Storley the first 30-second period for a 2-1 win. Third-ranked Telford scored a takedown with five seconds left in the one-minute sudden victory overtime for a 3-1 win, handing the two-time NCAA champion his third consecutive loss.
“I think those kinds of wins are pretty important,” Evans said. “Nelson and Storley are nemeses to us. They have a few wins over both of us. Regardless of the team winning or losing, you have to go out there with the attitude that you're going to win for your team and you're going to win for yourself."
Evans and Storley have a history of heated competition and both brought a physical approach to parts of the match. They had brief confrontations on the edge of the mat and at the end of a period.
“I just wanted him to know it was going to be a fight,” Evans said. “That’s all.”
Evans was in control during the tiebreaker, needing eight seconds to get out. Brands said he liked the confidence he displayed. Evans even discouraged Brands from questioning a quick stalemate call so he could get back to working on top and finish the match.
“Every Hawkeye has got lungs,” said Evans, whose win tied the team score, 12-12, with three matches left. “I love when coach Brands fights for me, but in a situation like that I know my ride is hurting on the guy. I’d rather just get to the wrestling.”
Telford cleared a major hurdle when he was able to escape from No. 2 Nelson, exchanging points in regulation. He has picked up certain things in each previous loss and worked to improve.
“The way this year has been playing out this is the best I’ve ever felt for a match,” Telford said. “It is one of those matches that you see on the calendar, you mark it.”
Evans said the opening bout affected the atmosphere, which livened up when Evans and Storley exchanged pleasantries in the first couple periods. He said he could hear a pin drop in CHA, which is not supposed to happen during duals.
“First of all, you don’t get wing-dinged,” Evans said of Gilman, noting the freshman did battle back. “Second of all, you can’t get wing-dinged twice.”
The earlier bouts didn’t impact their focus for their matches. Telford said he would do anything to help his teammates win, but it all comes down to the individual’s performance and his preparation.
“I’m not worried about those guys at all,” Telford said. “Let them go out and do their thing and when it’s time for me they’re counting on me to do my thing. That’s all I can ask of them.”
The Hawkeyes did not show much offense on their feet, recording only five takedowns. Tony Ramos had two of them in a 6-2 decision over No. 9 David Thorn at 133. Iowa did earn a takedown in wins from Dziewa, Evans and fourth-ranked 165-pounder Nick Moore.
“I don’t know how many takedowns we got,” Brands said, “but it wasn’t very dang many.”
Robinson said that dual defines the college wrestling programs at each institution. Fans were treated to a hard-fought battle from teams that share traits that lead to success.
"It's about winning, but it's about the intensity and effort and everything that goes along with it," Robinson said. "I think people that came (Saturday) got to see a great exhibition of what college wrestling is all about."
AT IOWA CITY
Minnesota 19, Iowa 15
(Individual takedowns in parentheses)
125 pounds - Sam Brancale (M) pinned Thomas Gilman, 2:03 (2, 1); 133 - Tony Ramos (I) dec. David Thorn, 6-2 (2, 0); 141 - Josh Dziewa (I) dec. Chris Dardanes, 1-0 (0, 0); 149 - Nick Dardanes (I) dec. Brody Grothus, 5-3 (2, 0); 157 - Dylan Ness (M) dec. Derek St. John, 7-4 (1, 0); 165 - Nick Moore (I) dec. Danny Zilverberg, 3-2 (0, 1); 174 - Mike Evans (I) dec. Logan Storley, 2-1, TB1 (0, 0); 184 - Kevin Steinhaus (M) dec. Sammy Brooks, 8-6 (3, 1); 197 - Scott Schiller (M) major dec. Nathan Burak, 16-5 (5, 0); Hwt. - Bobby Telford (I) dec. Tony Nelson, 3-1 SV (1, 0)
MEET STATISTICSTakedowns - Minnesota 14, Iowa 5; Reversals - Minnesota 1, Iowa 1; Escapes - Minnesota 8, Iowa 20; Nearfall points - Minnesota 10, Iowa 0; Penalty points (awarded) - Minnesota 0, Iowa 1; Riding time points - Minnesota 2, Iowa 3; Total match points - Minnesota 50, Iowa 36; Attendance - 10,588.