ST. LOUIS – Thursday night became gut-check time for Iowa seniors Bobby Telford and Josh Dziewa.
After jarring first-round losses, both responded with bonus-point victories — Dziewa by major decision, Telford by fall — in the consolation bracket, a spot neither expected they'd be this early at the NCAA Wrestling Championships.
Telford gave up four quick points and fell to unseeded Maryland heavyweight Spencer Myers 7-5 in his opening match. Telford had not allowed Myers to score a point in two previous meetings.
"There's pain (for Telford)," Iowa coach Tom Brands said after Thursday, which ended with his team in second place with 21 points — nine from bonus points. "But at least he's going about it the right way. Use it for the right things."
If they make the most of their wrestle-back opportunities, Telford and Dziewa can dig up a lot of points in the consolation bracket.
Each win in the consolation bracket is worth a half point (as opposed to a full point in the championships bracket). Each pin is worth two bonus points, regardless of bracket, and major decisions earn an extra team point.
If Telford, seeded third, can rally to third place and get another pin or two along the way, he could acquire nearly 20 team points for the Hawkeyes.
Dziewa, seeded fifth, was knocked off by North Carolina State freshman Kevin Jack 6-3 at 141 pounds, but rallied from a 3-0 deficit with eight near-fall points for a major decision against Chattanooga's Mike Pongracz.
"Those points are real important," Brands said. "Wrestle free, score points the entire match. I've said it a lot for a long time — these guys have a lot of firepower."
Mike Evans, at 174 pounds, is Iowa's last of five seniors standing in the championship bracket. Michael Kelly (157) and Nick Moore (165), the Hawkeyes' only two unseeded wrestlers, exited the tournament without contributing a team point.
Brands liked what he saw in Telford and Dziewa on Thursday night. He needs more of the same Friday.
"Telford, green light. Dziewa ... more urgency out of him," Brands said. "The things that matter are getting ready to go when you go out and wrestle. The things that don't matter are how I feel, the things that don't really matter to maybe anybody in the building except maybe you.
"If you're not going to do it for any other reason, then do it for the team."