IOWA CITY, Ia. The events that transpired Thursday afternoon from start to intermission left Iowa wrestling with a fix-it list that only a perfectionist’s eye could spot.
The fifth-ranked Hawkeyes bullied Lehigh around for the first five matches, scoring bonus points in three, winning a marquee bout easily and leaving Iowa coach Tom Brands with only a couple early hiccups to critique.
But those memories weren’t fresh in Brands’ mind by the end of the afternoon when he sat in the interview room after the Hawkeyes dropped three straight matches at one point and watched a 20-point intermission lead shrink to a 26-9 victory against the No.23 Mountain Hawks in front of 5,326 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“You go out there and you don’t work, you don’t hustle, you don’t do things to put points on the board, it’s not going to happen,” Brands said. “We were managing damage on our end — it can’t happen — instead of doing damage on our end.”
The Hawkeyes (7-0) did enough destruction during the first five matches that the outcome was never in doubt late in the dual.
Two-time NCAA champion Matt McDonough registered a first-period fall at 125, Tony Ramos rolled up 4 minutes, 47 seconds of riding time on his way to a 12-3 major decision at 133, Mark Ballweg and Michael Kelly brushed off early deficits to win big and top-ranked Derek St.John controlled No. 4 Joey Napoli 6-0 at 157.
It was the type of exclamatory performance that Iowa will need during the next three months when the Hawkeyes tangle with the rest of the NCAA title contenders. But Brands insisted his team needed production at all 10 weights, and the Hawkeyes tailed off after the break Thursday.
Senior Grant Gambrall, battling with teammate Mike Evans for Iowa’s 174-pound starting job, managed just two escapes in a 3-2 loss to Nathaniel Brown.
Second-ranked Robert Hamlin, an NCAA finalist in 2011, scored a takedown in every period on his way to a 9-4 victory against No. 7 Ethen Lofthouse in a 184-pound bout that Brands said looked as if Iowa’s junior all-American “was just trying to keep it close.”
Lehigh’s John Bolich used a 1:31 advantage in riding time to edge Nathan Burak 3-2 in a battle of freshmen at 197.
The three-match sequence cast a cloud over a dual that seemed at one point as if it might be Iowa’s most sparkling performance of the season.
St. John picked Napoli apart with his counter offense and riding skills, scoring a pair of takedowns on his way to a 6-0 win against Lehigh’s previously unbeaten junior 157-pounder.
The top-ranked Iowa junior said it’s the type of margin that might make others around the country “more aware,” but St. John felt he missed opportunities to widen the gap.
“I felt like there were a lot of points left out there, especially at the end of that third period — being in on the legs two, three different times and not finishing,” St. John said. “That’s the difference between a decision and a major.”
Ballweg fell behind 2-0 before scoring the next eight points on his way to a 15-5 major decision at 141 against No. 18 Anthony Salupo.
The next bout followed a similar script. No. 19 Shane Welsh slammed Kelly down 27 seconds into the match for first points, but the Iowa sophomore rallied for a 9-4 win at 149.
“I’ve got to be more aware and more ready starting the match,” Kelly said. “I thought it was good in spurts, but there’s got to be more. When I’m on a leg attack, it’s got to be all me and it’s got to be quick finishes. There was too much messing around when I’m in on a leg and wasting time, letting that clock tick when I should be on the guy with more attacks.”
IOWA 26, LEHIGH 9
125 – Matt McDonough (I) pinned Alex Abreu in 2:05
133 – Tony Ramos (I) major dec. Cody Kievman 12-3
141 – Mark Ballweg (I) major dec. Anthony Salupo 15-5
149 – Michael Kelly (I) dec. Shane Welsh 9-4
157 – Derek St. John (I) dec. Joey Napoli 6-0
165 – Nick Moore (I) dec. Eric Hess 7-4
174 – Nathaniel Brown (L) dec. Grant Gambrall 3-2
184 – Robert Hamlin (L) dec. Ethen Lofthouse 9-4
197 – John Bolich (L) dec. Nathan Burak 3-2
Hwt. – Bobby Telford (I) dec. Jack Delia 11-4