Dramatic pin gets Iowa's Sammy Brooks over NCAA hump

Chad Leistikow

ST. LOUIS — There isn’t a wrestling term to describe the move that sent Iowa’s Sammy Brooks into the NCAA semifinals Friday morning.

So, let’s just call it a winning one.

“I’ve been wrestling my whole life,” Brooks said after his stunning third-period pin of Illinois’ Emery Parker pushed him through the 184-pound quarterfinals at the NCAA Wrestling Championships. “I don’t know if I’ve ever hit something like that in a real match.”

Brooks was one of four Hawkeyes to advance to Friday night’s semifinals, joining Thomas Gilman at 125 pounds, Cory Clark at 133 and Brandon Sorensen at 149.

Iowa's Sammy Brooks celebrates after his stunning pin of Illinois' Emery Parker sent him into the NCAA semifinals at 184 pounds.

His outcome, despite being the No. 3 seed to Parker’s No. 11, was certainly the most improbable.

And it probably came with the most relief. For the first time in three NCAA quarterfinal tries, Brooks emerged with his hand in the air.

No wonder already-excitable coaches Tom and Terry Brands were extra-animated in their celebration following Brooks’ result. The twins were bounding up and down on Mat 6 as the hundreds of Hawkeye fans in the Scottrade Center gave a booming roar.

“That’s why you do it. That’s so fun, getting those two little maniacs in there screaming at me. It’s great,” Brooks said. “I’ve had it the other way, too. You don’t want to let two guys like that down.”

Brooks lost a year ago in this spot as a No. 2 seed, and it looked like another disappointing defeat was at hand in his final try. Even after working off Parker’s riding-time advantage from the top position in the third period, Brooks was trailing, 2-1, and in a bind.

But, he would say later, he never panicked.

“Just got to stay cool and keep wrestling. No matter where you’re at,” Brooks said. “If you start panicking, that guy’s going to feel it.”

While trying to execute what Tom Brands called a "cow-catcher" on Parker, Brooks actually got thrown to the mat, nearly flat on his back. But in a moment of pure strength, he emerged on top of the scramble – and it was Parker who was flat on his back.

And pinned, with 59 seconds left in the third period.

“Hat’s off to my opponent, you know, he came to frickin’ wrestle,” said Brooks, who was set to face No. 2 Bo Nickal of Penn State in the semis. “This is the NCAAs. This is where it’s at. That’s why you get the best wrestling and the crazy moments.”

Brooks and Gilman had scored 13 team points each entering the semis, with each getting quarterfinal pins worth two bonus points.

Iowa had seven wrestlers alive and was in third place with 58 points, trailing team leader Penn State (74) and Ohio State (59). Oklahoma State (47.5) and Cornell (47) were in fourth and fifth.

Gilman got the arena rocking early in Session 3 with his third-period pin of Oklahoma State's Nick Piccininni, who earlier got a two-point near fall on the top-ranked Hawkeye. Gilman led 7-4 at the time of the fall.

"Shucks, gave him one. That was the only chance he had, was to catch me in that tilt," said Gilman, who improved to 30-0 and was set to face Lehigh's No. 4 Darian Cruz (29-2). "They were kind of excited I went down.

"He got me. Congrats. Good job. He got two points. But you know what? If he would have gotten two or four or zero points there ... I got the pin. I don't get caught up in points."

At 133, Clark became Iowa's 19th four-time all-American and first since Derek St. John (2011-14) with his 6-4 decision over Michigan's Stevan Micic.

It's an especially impressive accomplishment for the senior from Southeast Polk, considering he is battling through a limiting left-shoulder injury that has him wearing a cumbersome harness.

"I feel great. Obviously, I'm dinged up here and there. Nothing serious ... nothing I can't push through," said the fourth-seeded Clark, who got a rematch of the Big Ten Conference final won by No. 1 Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State. "Everyone in this tournament, they might be hiding things that bother them. Mine might be more obvious, but I try not to let guys get to it. If they do, I don't let it show out there on the mat."

At 149, Brandon Sorensen got one dose of revenge in beating Ohio State's Micah Jordan with an impressive 3-0 win.

The junior was back in the semifinals for the second straight year and is a three-time all-American. He's 0-3 against his Friday night opponent, No. 1 and defending national champion Zain Retherford of Penn State.

“That feels good, moving on, avenging a loss," Sorensen said. "But it's the semifinals, there's work to be done."

Penn State might be tough to catch in the team race, but if the Hawkeyes have any chance, fifth-seeded Sorensen would need to pull the upset.

Scoring points in the consolation bracket with second-seeded 157-pounder Michael Kemerer (who was pinned by Cornell's Dylan Palacio), 174-pounder Alex Meyer (who lost his quarterfinal bout at the wire to Ohio State's Bo Jordan, 4-3) and 197-pounder Cash Wilcke will be key as the scramble for team points continues.

“We have seven alive," Tom Brands said, "and you control what you control.”