EAST LANSING, Mich. — Iowa secured nine berths in the NCAA Wrestling Championships, but that was about the only thing that went the Hawkeyes way on the first day of the Big Ten Championships.
Brandon Sorensen will be the only Iowa wrestler competing for a Big Ten title today, and the Hawkeyes find themselves in a distant fourth place in the team race after the opening rounds of action at the Breslin Center.
Three other Hawkeyes lost in stunning fashion in the semifinals, but coach Tom Brands will wait until the meet ends to evaluate.
"You’ve got to look at it in perspective. We have a lot of wrestling to go, yet," Brands said. "Of course it is upsetting when you don’t perform, but I know we can do better."
Two unseeded Hawkeyes, Vince Turk at 141 pounds and North Scott graduate Mitch Bowman at 184, did join seven Hawkeyes who were seeded for the Big Ten tourney in earning berths in the field for the NCAA Championships, which begin on March 15 in Cleveland.
Their efforts, part of a 9-1 night for Iowa in the consolation bracket, did draw praise from Brands.
"Those are gutsy wins," Brands said. "… The natural reaction is to wonder if you can come back. (Cash) Wilcke and (Joey) Gunther won four tough matches. You feel like you’re fighting for scraps, but you’re not. You’re fighting for future positioning, fighting for tomorrow."
Sorensen, seeded second at 149, will take a 21-1 record into his championship match against the only wrestler to defeat him this season, top-seeded Zain Retherford of Penn State.
The Nittany Lions’ senior has a 27-0 record and is 5-0 in his career against Sorensen, who used a pair of third-period takedowns to win his semifinal 7-2 against Ryan Deakin of Northwestern.
"I’ve got to let it all out there, let it fly and hold nothing back," said Sorensen, a three-time finalist looking for his first Big Ten championship.
Two of Iowa’s other three semifinalists lost by pin, including top-seeded Michael Kemerer at 157 who lost for the first time in 23 matches when Ohio State’s fourth-seeded Micah Jordan won by fall in 5 minutes, 48 seconds.
Kemerer had dominated in his first two matches, advancing through the bracket with a pin and a major decision.
Michigan’s Adam Coon, top-seeded and unbeaten at 285, pinned the Hawkeyes’ Sam Stoll in 2:13 to earn his second win of the year against the Hawkeye junior.
Iowa’s other loss in the semifinals came at 125, where Ohio State’s third-seeded Nathan Tomasello avenged a 3-2 regular-season loss to Spencer Lee by recording a takedown with 8 seconds left in the match to win a 2-1 decision over the Hawkeye freshman.
Ohio State, with seven wrestlers in the finals, leads the team race with 137.4 points while Penn State has 124 points and five finalists. Michigan is in third with 100 points, ahead of Iowa with 78 and Minnesota with 57.
Bowman, a junior from North Scott, earned his first berth in the NCAA field when he scored a takedown as time expired in the one-minute sudden victory overtime period of his consolation match with Rutgers’ fifth-seeded Nick Gavina.
Bowman fell behind 2-1 after one period, but used a takedown midway through the second period to open a short-lived 3-2 lead. He needed an escape with 1:34 remaining in the third period to tie the match at 4-4 and force the extra period.
The match remained deadlocked until Bowman connected on a shot in the final seconds to secure the win and one of the eight NCAA spots the Big Ten is ensured at 184.
Bowman found himself in the consolation bracket at 184 after losing a 13-2 major decision to third-seeded Domenic Abounader of Michigan in the opening round.
He will wrestle for seventh place today after following his win over Gavina with an 11-7 loss to Brandon Krone of Minnesota in the third round of the consolation bracket.
Bettendorf’s Paul Glynn dropped a pair of matches at 133 and was the only Hawkeye eliminated from the tournament during the first session.
Illinois’ seventh-seeded Dylan Duncan beat Glynn by a 9-1 major decision in the opening round before Garrett Pepple of Indiana defeated the Iowa sophomore 3-1 in the opening round of consolations. Pepple fell into the back draw after being edged by second-seeded Luke Pletcher of Ohio State 5-4 in the opening round.