ST. LOUIS –– Montell Marion has tried to bury the memories of past near-misses in his quest to claim an NCAA title, but every now and then they resurface.
Once in a while the Iowa senior finds his mind drifting back to the loss two years ago in the NCAA finals against Cornell’s Kyle Dake or the tiebreaker defeat in last year’s semifinals against eventual champion Kellen Russell of Michigan. Marion said there’s a lot of regret attached to those bouts.
The Roosevelt graduate has one more chance to rewrite the ending to his pursuit of a title.
Marion — one of three Iowa finalists — scored an overtime takedown to win a 3-1 decision Friday night against Oklahoma’s Kendric Maple in the 141-pound semifinals in front of 18,695 at the Scottrade Center. His victory set up a rematch against Russell in the title bout.
“It’s not necessarily about correcting those things from the past, but basically going out there and proving this year that I’m the best,” Marion said. “That’s what I plan on doing — righting some wrongs.”
Iowa’s two Big Ten champions — Matt McDonough and Derek St. John — continued their postseason runs and reached the finals at 125 and 157, respectively. But their team’s title hopes, which flickered throughout the day, went dim Friday night.
Penn State won all five of its semifinal bouts and finished the night with 124 points to hold a commanding 22.5-point lead over second-place Minnesota. Iowa is third with 93 points.
The Hawkeyes aren’t mathematically eliminated, but their title hopes disappeared when they lost four of their last five matches in the morning after briefly leading.
Iowa’s Tony Ramos, Bobby Telford and Ethen Lofthouse secured all-America honors for the first time.
Iowa State senior Andrew Sorenson, wrestling with an injured ankle, dropped a pair of decisions Friday at 165, leaving the Cyclones without an all-American for the first time in 50 years.
“He wasn’t even 50 percent,” Iowa State coach Kevin Jackson said of Sorenson, who suffered the ankle injury Thursday night in the second round. “If it was any other situation he wouldn’t have even gone out there and wrestled. He wasn’t the same guy you’ve seen out there all year long.”
Northern Iowa’s Joe Colon and Ryan Loder also dropped decisions in the round of 12, falling one victory short of the medal podium.
McDonough rolled into the finals for the third straight year with a 15-7 major decision against Kent State’s Nic Bedelyon. The top-seeded junior beat his first two tournament opponents by fall before registering a pair of major decisions Friday.
“This is my favorite time of year,” said McDonough, who will take on Penn State true freshman Nico Megaludis, the No. 10 seed, tonight in the finals. “It’s been like that since I started coming to these when I was in seventh grade. Spring break, everyone goes to Cancun. I went to the NCAA tournament. I got to watch tough wrestling. Now I get to live the dream, I get to do it.”
St. John scrambled into the finals for the first time. He came out on top of an overtime quarterfinal flurry with the winning takedown in a 3-1 victory against Penn State’s Dylan Alton and then outscrambled Northwestern’s Jason Welch on his way to a 5-1 win in the semis.
“It’s pretty much all instinct,” he said. “In wrestling, you don’t ever want to stop moving or you’ll be in trouble.”
St. John will take his shot at Dake, a junior in pursuit of his third title. The No. 1 seed from Cornell is 34-0 and has allowed only one takedown this season.
Iowa dropped its other semifinal when Ramos couldn’t finish a shot to tie in the final 30 seconds against Ohio State’s Logan Stieber and lost 4-2.
“We want to win individual titles and we want to win individual matches,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “Is it OK that we went 3-for-4? No, because there’s one guy who’s hurting right now.”