EVANSTON, Ill. – Cory Clark mumbled a self-critique for anyone within earshot Tuesday afternoon as he scaled the steps to Welsh-Ryan Arena's top level.
Nearly an hour later behind the bleachers, Bobby Telford expressed his displeasure in clear terms.
From start to finish, mixed results aggravated Iowa's top-ranked wrestling team during the semifinal round at the Midlands Championships.
The Hawkeyes clinched their 24th Midlands team title, finished the session with 173 points – 47.5 more than second-place Illinois – and locked up top-four podium spots at all 10 weights.
But none of their five finalists won in overwhelming fashion during the semis and five others stumbled, including four in bouts that tipped in the final minute.
Clark's championship hopes teetered until the final seconds when he finished a scramble takedown with three ticks left to beat Lehigh assistant Jarrod Garnett 7-6 at 133 pounds. Though it marked the Iowa sophomore's first win in three Midlands semifinal tries against Garnett, the manner of the victory aggravated Clark.
"I'm not impressed with the way I wrestled in that match," he said after digging out of 6-3 third-period deficit.
"He's one of these guys who wants to score a lot of points," Iowa coach Tom Brands said. "His opponent (led) 6-3 going to the third period and four of those points were almost gimmes. That's probably how he looks at it."
There were certainly no gimmes for the Hawkeyes during the semifinals.
Their most comfortable win came at 174, where defending tournament champ Mike Evans handled Southern Oregon three-time NAIA champ Brock Gutches 4-0 at 174.
Nearly all of Iowa's other semifinal bouts left Hawkeye fans on edge.
Top seed Thomas Gilman spun around Stevan Micic with 55 seconds remaining and rode the Northwestern true freshman the rest of the way for a 4-3 win at 125.
Junior Brody Grothus fell five riding-time seconds short in a 3-2 tiebreaker defeat at 149 against defending NCAA champion Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern. Simultaneously, freshman Brandon Sorensen dropped a 3-2 decision against Edinboro All-American David Habat in the other semifinal at 149.
Moments later, Iowa senior Nick Moore lost a last-minute scramble to Northwestern All-American Pierce Harger and fell 8-5 at 165. And Old Dominion All-American Jack Dechow wiggled loose for an escape with five seconds left to win 6-5 at 184 against Sam Brooks, who had scored three points in a 20-second span to tie the bout.
The coin flipped in Iowa's favor in a couple other semifinal bouts, too.
Junior Nathan Burak, wrestling unattached to preserve the possibility of a redshirt, scored on the edge of the mat with 11 seconds remaining to win a 3-1 decision at 197 against Harvard's James Fox.
Telford fought through sluggishness and scrambled off his back in one sequence to fend off Wisconsin's Connor Medbery in a 3-1 win at heavyweight.
"I'm kind of embarrassed with the way I wrestled," he said. "I felt good in the beginning. I've got to work on ending the match. I was in on shots I know I can finish. I might as well call myself out, I was being lazy and didn't finish the shots I needed."