Watch as the Register’s wrestling writer breaks down the Hawkeyes’ 20-12 win over the Cowboys. Cody Goodwin/HawkCentral
IOWA CITY, Ia. — Mitch Bowman is talking about the Iowa wrestling team’s 20-12 win over Oklahoma State, and when asked about the Hawkeyes’ overall toughness, he smiles. Because he is talking to reporters, he takes a moment before offering a PG-rated answer.
“Our guys are just tough-nosed S-O-Bs,” Bowman says with a smile. “We are not afraid to get into a hard scrap. Our conditioning is good. We have a bunch of hard-nosed guys that, when it comes down to the wire, we’re willing to go get a score.”
There were many huge matches in the Hawkeyes’ win on Sunday, and Bowman’s was near the top. The junior muscled out a 10-6 win over Keegan Moore at 184 pounds, helping Iowa, now 9-0 overall, secure its fourth win over the Cowboys in their last five meetings.
Bowman is now 9-4 in his first year as the full-time starter. Of his nine victories, six have come in bonus-point fashion. Three of his four losses have come to wrestlers currently ranked in the top 15 at the weight, according to Trackwrestling, and all have been by five points or fewer.
Sunday’s victory over Moore — who, like Bowman, is on the fringe of being nationally ranked, and actually is by other outlets (19th by Flowrestling) — was perhaps Bowman’s best outing yet. Two first-period takedowns led to a 4-2 lead, but Moore countered with a reversal and a takedown of his own to tie the match at six after two.
Bowman then escaped and scored a third takedown in the final period to close out the victory and bring the 13,485 inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena to their feet.
“When he gave up that takedown, it was a silly takedown,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “We’re in strong, and then the guy gets away, we let our arms go away and we end up on our belly and he runs around behind us. You have a choice there to unravel or get tough, and he stayed tough.
“When he’s tough, he’s tough.”
The junior 184-pounder discusses his victory on Sunday.
And here’s where things get interesting: Brands closed his press conference Sunday by answering a question about Pat Downey, the mercurial-yet-talented wrestler who committed to Iowa back in August. He could potentially join the program as early as this week.
“We are recruiting Pat Downey,” Brands said. “That’s all I can say about Pat Downey.”
Downey was in attendance Sunday. He has tweeted out both his graduation announcement from Iowa State and his Iowa graduate school acceptance letter, two hurdles he needed to clear before possibly joining the program. The university’s spring semester begins Tuesday.
Downey is a talented wrestler, to be sure. He was a junior world silver medalist at 84 kilograms (roughly 185 pounds) in 2012, a junior-college national champion at 197 pounds with Iowa Central in 2015 and a Division I All-American with Iowa State at the same weight in 2016.
Should he officially join the Iowa wrestling program, Downey is expected to wrestle at 184. He has proven he can beat collegiate wrestling’s best — at the 2017 U.S. Open, he beat Vic Avery, a former All-American at Edinboro; Pete Renda, a returning All-American at N.C. State who is currently ranked third at 184; Gabe Dean, a two-time NCAA champion for Cornell; and Kyle Crutchmer, a two-time All-American for Oklahoma State.
Granted, those results were in freestyle, one of the Olympic disciplines that closely resembles folkstyle. But Bowman, a native of Donahue, Iowa and a product of North Scott High School, has only shown he can compete with ranked wrestlers, for he has yet to register a win over them.
He scored the first takedown against Illinois’s Emery Parker, ranked eighth nationally by Track, last month, but Parker stormed back in the third to win, 5-3. Bowman also took Central Michigan’s Jordan Ellingwood, ranked 14th, to overtime at the Midlands, but lost in the tiebreaker.
“He’s a little bit out of my weight class, so I haven’t felt his horses 100 percent,” Brands said, “but everybody up there that works out with him in those weights say he’s a horse. We just need to keep bringing him along and keep his shape coming.
“When he can stay in there for seven minutes, good things happen.”
Bowman’s shown progress over the course of the season. Back in November, at the Iowa City Duals, he needed a late takedown to beat North Dakota State’s Tyler McNutt, who is just 10-11 this season. On Sunday, he handily beat Moore, an expected NCAA qualifier come March.
“I knew I could do things like that; I just needed to relax and go to my gameplan, which is just attacking, attacking and attacking,” Bowman said. “Before the dual, (assistant coach Ryan Morningstar) was just, like, ‘Go out there and have a blast.’ That’s what I was thinking.
“So I went out there, fired off some attacks and had a great time. It’s fun scoring points. The more attacks you have, the more likely you are to score, and that’s what helped me in the third (period).”
It will be interesting to see what happens with Iowa’s 184-pound lineup spot once Downey joins the program — if he does at all. Until then, Bowman has shown he can be the guy at the weight. He won the spot with a pin over Myles Wilson in the wrestle-offs in November, and has only gotten better since.
“I think that I proved that I can control this spot, that I can be a guy that’s in the conversation,” Bowman said. “I knew that I could be it from the start, but (Sunday) definitely puts me in the conversation.”
Cody Goodwin covers wrestling and high school sports the Des Moines Register. Follow him on Twitter at @codygoodwin.