Iowa seniors can't follow young stars as title dream ends
ST. LOUIS – In the end, depth didn't deliver in Iowa's quest for a 24th NCAA wrestling championship.
Only three Hawkeyes — Thomas Gilman, Cory Clark and Brandon Sorensen — wrestled at or above their seeds in what was set to amount to a second-place team finish to Ohio State.
"We had some guys that really performed well and some guys that didn't perform well, including myself," said sixth-seeded Gilman, a sophomore who wrestled his way to fourth in Saturday morning's medal round at the Scottrade Center. "I take full responsibility for this, on our team's part."
Though nobody was pointing fingers, Iowa's five seniors generated just 25½ of the 84 points the Hawkeyes had entering sophomore Clark's 133-pound championship match Saturday night.
Third-seeded Mike Evans finished sixth at the NCAAs at 174 pounds for the third consecutive year and third-seeded heavyweight Bobby Telford fought all the way back from a jarring first-round loss to get fifth — adding to his fourth-place finish in 2012 and sixth last year.
Iowa's other three seniors — Josh Dziewa (141), Michael Kelly (157) and Nick Moore (165) — combined for three team points.
"We had two that are three-time All-Americans. That's the positive there," Iowa coach Tom Brands said of a group that was the No. 1 recruiting class nationally in 2010. "I'm not trying to spin it, but that's definitely the way you talk about your seniors. They did a lot of good work. You look as the season went on, those seniors dug us out of some holes, too."
Telford, who was ranked No. 1 for a stretch this season, declined an interview request. He wrestled eight matches over three days. A sudden-victory loss to Wisconsin's Connor Medbery knocked him into the fifth-place match.
Evans nearly reached the third-place match, scoring a late takedown in a consolation semifinal against top-ranked Robert Kokesh of Nebraska to force overtime — but got taken down in sudden victory, then lost 2-1 in a tiebreaker to Oklahoma State's Kyle Crutchmer.
Iowa's two highest medal-round finishers were NCAA first-timers.
Gilman, who sat behind Clark last year at 125, got to the third-place match by pinning Cornell's second-ranked Nahshon Garrett in Saturday's first bout — a strong rebound from getting pinned in Friday night's semifinal in 52 seconds by an unseeded freshman.
"I've got a short memory. I'm proud of that," Gilman said. "That's why guys have these hangovers in later matches. They don't address it because it's embarrassing. Getting stuck on national TV is embarrassing. But I addressed it."
Gilman led top-ranked Alan Waters of Missouri 4-1, but lost 8-4 after Waters countered his third-period attack for a takedown and back points.
Fourth-seeded Sorensen, a redshirt freshman, wound up with a 40-6 record and a fourth-place finish in his NCAA debut despite losing his second-round match Thursday.
"It stings. Getting beat early in the rounds, that's not what I wanted," said Sorensen, who lost in overtime to defending national champion Jason Tsirtsis of Northwestern in the third-place bout. "I came here to win. That's what I wanted to do."
Iowa can take solace in the fact that it'll have four returning All-Americans (junior Nathan Burak finished seventh) and another sophomore, 184-pounder Sammy Brooks, that reached the quarterfinals.
Gilman noted with the seniors struggling, the younger core "took the reins and ran with it and put these guys under our wings. And we're going to take these guys under our wings and run with it again next year. We've got a lot of big shoes to fill. But then again, the shoes aren't that big."
WHO SCORED IOWA'S TEAM POINTS
Cory Clark, 133 (soph). — 17* (finalist)
Thomas Gilman, 125 (soph.) — 15.5 (fourth)
Brandon Sorensen, 149 (fr.) — 14.5 (fourth)
Bobby Telford, Hwt. (sr.) — 13.5 (fifth)
Mike Evans, 174 (sr.) — 9 (sixth)
Nathan Burak, 197 (jr.) — 8.5 (seventh)
Sammy Brooks, 184 (soph.) — 3 (DNP)
Josh Dziewa, 141 (sr.) — 3 (DNP)
Michael Kelly, 157 (sr.) — 0
Nick Moore, 165 (sr.) — 0
*—total entering Saturday night's championship bout