IOWA CITY, Ia. – The bright lights inside Iowa’s interview room shined directly in Nick Moore’s eyes Sunday evening, and the freshman squinted through six minutes of questions and answers.
He didn’t blink during seven minutes on the mat with the spotlight burning even brighter.
In a dual that Minnesota coach J Robinson figured would tilt in the middle, Moore and freshman Mike Evans tipped a 19-17 victory in Iowa’s favor with bonus-point wins that helped the sixth-ranked Hawkeyes dodge a third consecutive defeat.
“Coach (Tom Brands) kept saying our backs are up against the wall — maybe,” Evans said. “Once you find yourself in that position, you get a little fired up because no one likes their back against the wall. We like doing the exact opposite to our opponents.”
Moore won for the first time in three weeks, hammering Alec Ortiz 11-2 at 157 pounds, and eighth-ranked Evans earned an ovation from the crowd of 9,511 when he pinned No. 14 Cody Yohn at 165.
The performance of Iowa’s freshmen left even second-ranked Matt McDonough feeling upstaged on a day when he handled top-ranked Zach Sanders 7-1 at 125.
“I want to be in the middle of the spotlight and I put Mike Evans and Nick Moore in the middle of the spotlight for going out there and dominating,” McDonough said.
The Hawkeyes (10-3, 5-2) needed all the points they could find to hold off the Gophers (9-3, 6-1), who swept the last four matches. Iowa held a 52-51 edge in match points and both teams scored 13 takedowns.
“It pretty much went down the way we thought it would go down,” Robinson said. “We thought it would be decided in the middle at ’57, ’65 and ’74. In essence, that made the difference.”
The Hawkeyes were coming off consecutive losses for the first time in Brands’ six seasons as Iowa head coach after losing 14 of 20 matches during a road trip to Ohio State and Penn State. Brands made a brief statement during his post-meet news conference and didn’t take questions.
McDonough said the Hawkeyes didn’t start fast and finish strong last weekend.
“Guys came out too timid,” he said. “The guys coming out here were coming out like warriors, like they’re savages, like they’re barbarians.”
<SW,40>Evans was the most-barbaric Hawkeye. He built a 7-0 lead in the third period against Yohn, who was knocked woozy after a shot to the head early in the match, before cranking the Minnesota junior over midway through the third period.
There were no surprises in the first four bouts. McDonough, although he wasn’t favored in the rankings, entered with a track record of success against Sanders. His win Sunday was his fourth in four career tries against the Minnesota senior.
Iowa’s Tony Ramos and Montell Marion scraped past twins Chris and Nick Dardanes at 133 and 141, respectively, and No. 12 Dylan Ness registered the first win for the Gophers with a major decision at 149.
“It was a pretty tight dual and we needed every bonus point we could get,” said Moore, a four-time Iowa state high school champion at Iowa City West. “Before I went out there, coach said, ‘Be smart, wrestle and when you can get bonus points, stick it to him.’ ”
Moore stepped to the mat with losses in four consecutive matches and a recent habit of falling behind early during his cameo as a replacement for injured all-American Derek St. John. He said it was nice for a change to look up at the scoreboard at the end of the first period and see a 7-1 lead — the product of a five-point headlock.
“I’m the guy right now, it doesn’t really matter what people consider me,” Moore said. “It was not that easy for me to get down to ’57 and get (my weight) controlled like it is, so I’m going to keep on trucking now that it is controlled and make the most of my situation. I have not been told (about the status of) St. John, so for me, I’m the guy at ’57.”
Iowa 19, Minnesota 17
125 – Matt McDonough (I) dec. Zach Sanders 7-1
133 – Tony Ramos (I) dec. Chris Dardanes 5-2
141 – Montell Marion (I) dec. Nick Dardanes 3-2
149 – Dylan Ness (M) major dec. Mike Kelly 15-7
157 – Nick Moore (I) major dec. Alec Ortiz 11-2
165 – Mike Evans (I) pinned Cody Yohn 6:02
174 – Logan Storley (M) dec. Ethen Lofthouse 5-3
184 – Kevin Steinhaus (M) major dec. Vinnie Wagner 12-4
197 – Sonny Yohn (M) dec. Grant Gambrall 5-3
Hwt. – Tony Nelson (M) dec. Blake Rasing 7-2.