IOWA CITY — Topher Carton ran off the mat at Carver-Hawkeye Arena one last time Sunday in a fist-pumping sprint.
Wrestling his final home match, the Iowa senior 141-pounder from Davenport Assumption earned his first career victory over an opponent rated in the top 10 in the nation to help the third-ranked Hawkeyes roll to a 27-9 victory over the Cornhuskers.
Carton used a third-period escape and a takedown with 1 minute, 24 seconds remaining to edge Nebraska’s 10th-rated Colton McCrystal, 6-4.
“Going into this match, getting ready, even walking across the street from my apartment, I was just trying to take everything in,’’ Carton said.
“I knew this was going to be my last time walking down this tunnel with this group of guys, the last time in front of these fans. I wanted to go out on a positive note, give them something to cheer about.’’
Carton collected a takedown in the first period, taking a 3-2 lead to erase a takedown by McCrystal five seconds into the match.
The Nebraska junior from Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, scored the only point of the second period on an escape, forging a 3-3 tie which stuck until Carton broke free six seconds into the third period to move ahead to stay, 30 seconds before his final takedown.
“It was a great feeling, coming off the mat after a win over a tough opponent like that, hearing all those fans,’’ Carton said. “It’s something I don’t take for granted, something I’ll remember for the rest of my life.’’
The match was the seventh against a top-20 opponent in Carton’s last nine matches and the third the 18th-ranked Hawkeye has won as part of a 20-6 season.
“I can do more,’’ Carton said. “The third period, I think I need to score more. I sat around, couple of under hooks, I circled him one time with the under hook. I’ve just go to pull the trigger. Come March, third-period takedowns are going to be the difference. It was a good win, though.’’
Carton’s effort mirrored what the Hawkeyes got in the seven matches they won Sunday, including victories by Michael Kemerer at 157 and Thomas Gilman at 125 in matchups between opponents ranked in the top-five nationally.
A first-period takedown separated second-ranked Kemerer from the Cornhuskers’ third-rated Tyler Berger in a 3-2 match at 157 and Gilman, ranked first at 125, used two first-period takedowns to earn a 6-3 decision over fifth-rated Tim Lambert at 125.
“I like to score more than three points, but it was a good match to win,’’ said Kemerer, whose 24-1 record has been topped only by Gilman’s 23-0 start.
Nebraska won the other matchup pairing top-five wrestlers, with fifth-ranked 133-pounder Eric Montoya using a reversal with 45 seconds remaining followed by four back points to get past fourth-rated Cory Clark 9-6.
When it was over, Montoya flexed and blew kisses to the crowd of 9,830, drawing an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that cost the Cornhuskers a team point.
“We were going for the side headlock and we gave the guy six points. It’s happened three times, at Michigan, at Oklahoma State and against Nebraska and it has gotten us in trouble all three times. We have to be smarter than that,’’ Iowa coach Tom Brands said.
“It got them all riled up, but then came Carton, and (Brandon) Sorensen, and Kemerer, and (Joey) Gunther, and (Alex) Meyer and (Sammy) Brooks. That seemed to calm things down.’’
Sorensen, Meyer and Brooks all picked up bonus points for Iowa (12-2, 8-1).
Three third-period takedowns led Sorensen to a 13-5 major decision at 149, Meyer scored a technical fall at 174 and Brooks recorded a pin in 5 minutes, 46 seconds at 184 over Jaquan Sowell after the Cornhuskers opted to sit third-ranked T.J. Dudley.
“That was a good Nebraska team and they came in here for blood,’’ Brands said. “I liked the way we handled it.’’