MINNEAPOLIS – Bobby Telford has grown accustomed to wrestling with the weight of his team’s fortunes on his shoulders.
Most times, the Iowa sophomore all-American has been prepared for those last-match, winner-take-all scenarios, with the outcome of a dual meet riding on the result of the heavyweight bout.
Friday night wasn’t one of those times when Telford figured he’d be doing the heavy lifting for the Hawkeyes.
But the heavyweight came through in a pinch, and second-ranked Iowa survived a quarterfinal scare to edge No. 7 seed Cornell 21-16 and advance to the Mat Mayhem final day at Williams Arena.
“Someone texted me earlier today and said: ‘You guys have a pretty good matchup,’ ” Telford said. “I didn’t answer. I didn’t think much of it. … I was surprised it came down to me. But it wasn’t a big deal.”
The Hawkeyes (20-1) wound up in a last-match predicament after dropping five of the first nine bouts, but Telford’s 9-0 victory against Jacob Aiken-Phillips punched Iowa’s ticket to a 1 p.m. semifinal dual today against third-seeded Minnesota.
“I don’t know how much talking about this one really does except individually, except maybe there’s a little frustration there,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “It’s five to five in matches. That’s tight. In a tournament, you’ve got five guys in the consolation bracket.”
Iowa advanced in the dual tournament bracket, thanks to a pin from Tony Ramos at 133 and major decisions from Telford, Derek St. John at 157 and Mike Evans at 174, which helped the Hawkeyes offset four defeats by a collective eight points.
“Bonus points win the dual, but we don’t want to be there,” Brands said. “We don’t want to be there five and five in matches.”
Iowa was the only narrow winner in the quarterfinals. Top-seeded Oklahoma State blew out Illinois 33-3, Missouri hammered Ohio State 28-6 and Minnesota handled Virginia Tech 28-8 to set up a rematch with the Hawkeyes.
Iowa defeated Minnesota 16-15 on criteria on Jan. 26, winning the dual on a 41-33 advantage in match points after the two teams split 10 bouts. That was one of four duals this season that rested on Telford’s shoulders in the final match.
“I’ve got a lot of practice at it,” he said. “It’s just another match.”
Iowa appeared to be in a comfortable position early Friday after Matt McDonough brushed off giving up a takedown in the opening seconds to beat sixth-ranked Nahshon Garrett 8-3 at 125. Ramos then decked Bricker Dixon in the third period at 133.
But the Big Red (14-4) rallied when Mike Nevinger scored a late takedown to beat Mark Ballweg 3-1 at 141, and Chris Villalonga clipped Michael Kelly by the same score at 149. Cornell tacked on a major decision from three-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake at 165 before defending NCAA winner Steve Bosak edged Ethen Lofthouse 3-2 at 184 and Jace Bennett beat Nathan Burak 6-3 at 197.
“All in all, I was pleased with the team performance,” Cornell coach Rob Koll said. “The reality is, Iowa has an extremely tough team, and where we’re not strong, they’re brutally tough. And it would be hard to turn those pins and major decisions against us into wins. For me to say we should’ve won would be a little disingenuous. … All in all, I can’t be too upset about taking five.”
IOWA 21, CORNELL 16
125: McDonough (I) dec. Garrett, 8-3; 133: Ramos (I) pinned Dixon, 6:11; 141: Nevinger (C) dec. Ballweg, 3-1; 149: Villalonga (C) dec. Kelly, 3-1; 157: St. John (I) major dec. Shanaman, 12-3; 165: Dake (C) major dec. Moore, 13-4; 174: Evans (I) major dec. Pickett, 11-2; 184: Bosak (C) dec. Lofthouse, 3-2; 197: Bennett (C) dec. Burak, 6-3; hwt: Telford (I) major dec. Aiken-Phillips, 9-0.
Iowa 21, Cornell 16; Minnesota 28, Virginia Tech 8; Missouri 28, Ohio State 6; Oklahoma State 33, Illinois 3
Iowa vs. Minnesota, 1 p.m.; Oklahoma State vs. Missouri, 1 p.m.
Winners, 7 p.m. (BTN2Go)