Hawkeyes break own Midlands scoring record
Cory Clark uncovered a couple technical glitches. Mike Evans found a scratch in his personal armor.
Tom Brands looked at his record-setting team Tuesday and saw an outfit operating at less than full capacity.
The areas that need polish became apparent Tuesday for Iowa's top-ranked wrestling squad. But that's not necessarily all bad for a demanding program with tall goals.
The issues surfaced on a day when the Hawkeyes hogged the medal stand, smashed the tournament scoring record at the Midlands Championships and walked out of Welsh-Ryan Arena with four individual titles, along with a few lessons that could help them reach a higher level in the next three months.
Iowa piled up 189 points to break its year-old Midlands record and finish 58.5 ahead of second-place Illinois. A dozen Hawkeyes placed sixth or better and 11 finished in the top four, led by champions Clark, Evans, Nathan Burak and Bobby Telford.
"When you evaluate, there's a lot of us waiting where we're not really getting to our offense," Brands said. "I think we can do more where we're initiating."
The Hawkeyes won four title matches despite scoring just three takedowns in the finals, which made the corner chair a little less comfortable than Brands would like.
It was a theme that began Tuesday afternoon in the semifinals when Iowa went 5-5 and lost four bouts that tipped in the final minute.
"We have to be more aggressive and get to our holds more," Brands said. "I think of '25, I think of '33. Those two matches we want fireworks. I think the fans want fireworks. From those two guys on up we can do more to initiate."
Virginia Tech's Joey Dance shut Thomas Gilman down, holding the Hawkeye without an offensive point before he pounced in the second overtime for a takedown in a 3-1 victory.
Zane Richards bottled up Clark until the final minute when the Iowa sophomore fired off a single-leg shot and slipped his right leg around the Illinois sophomore for a takedown that keyed a 4-2 decision.
"There's so much to build from and so many positions to get better on," Clark said after winning the tournament for the first time after falling short in the semifinals the previous two years. "Well, there's not necessarily so many, but a few big positions. If I get to where I can finish on the left as well as I can finish on the right, I'll be getting two, three times as many takedowns."
Evans needed just one takedown Tuesday to get through the semifinals and finals. He reversed Zac Brunson midway through the third period and rode the Illinois sophomore the rest of the way for a 2-1 win, capturing his second straight Midlands title at 174.
"In the semifinals and finals, guys kind of kept me out," Evans said. "They'd lock up and tighten themselves up. They wouldn't want to move. In the finals, (Brunson) kept his space and tried to snipe me. He tried to back up, back up, back up and explode into me. I've got to find a way to get through that, get past their game plan and get to my game plan."
None of the Hawkeyes got more for the money this week than Burak, who paid his $75 entry fee, drove his own truck to the tournament and splurged for his lodging and food to preserve the possibility of redshirting. The junior All-American pulled out last-second victories Tuesday in the semifinals and finals, punctuating his title run with takedown with six ticks remaining to beat Wisconsin's Timmy McCall 4-3 at 197.
"I know when I want to score I can score," Burak said. "I've just got to go more instead of waiting and being too tentative. I'm good. I've just got to believe it."
Telford's title win was equally dramatic. He wiggled free from a couple precarious positions against top-ranked Mike McMullan of Northwestern before cashing in on a takedown with three seconds remaining to win 4-2 at heavyweight.
"The thing about Telford is it's not just that he won the match, he went to his shot," Brands said. "He didn't finish, but it started the flurry and the scramble where, at the end of the match, that's what you want. You want things going in your favor and we initiated."