AMES, Ia. — There are easier ways to win a wrestling match than trying to do it with one arm behind your back.
But Cory Clark wrestles with the guts of a Wallenda, the craftiness of a guy well beyond his eighth match as a starter, and the Iowa freshman wiggled free from a couple of hazardous positions Sunday to keep his team out of danger.
The fourth-ranked Hawkeyes won seven matches — including Clark’s high-wire act at 125 pounds — and picked up a pair major decisions along the way to beat No. 15 Iowa State 23-9 in front of 6,261 at Hilton Coliseum.
Unlike a year ago, Iowa had to sweat a little to register its 10th straight win in the series and 40th victory in the last 42 meetings. The perspiration peaked in the closing three minutes of Clark’s 8-7 win.
Earl Hall connected on a pair of cement mixers during the last two periods, scoring takedowns off the front-headlock roll and nearly putting Clark in trouble as the sixth-ranked Iowa freshman had his right arm pinned behind his back.
“It’s a position I’m sure he’s comfortable with and he had plans of hitting it when it was there and I wasn’t exactly expecting it,” said Clark, who ran his record to 8-0. “He hit it and I knew I was in danger, so (I did) what I always do — fight hard to get out of that position and get back to a better position.”
Said Iowa coach Tom Brands: “You could see him in (the first instance) where (Hall) stayed tough on it and (Clark) reached back and pushed that hand off his back. I can’t even get my arm back there, let alone (have the awareness to reach back and free it) there.”
Clark’s victory came at a critical point in the dual with the Cyclones threatening to take the lead. Iowa State pulled out the previous two matches when All-American Kyven Gadson held off Sam Brooks 3-2 at 197 and Quean Smith followed it up with a takedown 5 seconds into overtime to beat Terrance Jean-Jacques 6-4 at heavyweight.
Hall, a prized recruit with explosive scoring skills, nearly delivered his first big win with the Cyclones. Iowa State coach Kevin Jackson said the sophomore “learned a little” about himself.
“You haven’t seen the real Earl Hall yet,” Jackson said. “But matches like this are going to give him a lot of confidence to reach his full potential and get to where he wants to be.”
Ultimately, though, Hall fell victim to a problem that plagued the Cyclones (5-1) throughout the day — their inability to escape. Iowa (4-0) secured riding-time points in five of its seven wins, including Clark’s 2-minute, 44-second advantage.
The Hawkeyes used the top to build leads, change the complexion of matches and put bouts away.
Josh Dziewa scored a dozen points without a takedown, using a pair of second-period tilts to rack up half of his points in a 12-5 win against Gabe Moreno at 141, and seventh-ranked Nick Moore rode No. 3 Michael Moreno for the final minute to after a scramble takedown to win 3-1 at 165.
“I got that same win last year,” said Moore, who topped Moreno 3-2 last year in Iowa City before dropping their rematch in the first round of the NCAA Championships. “I think you just keep building from here and keep everything in perspective and take it for what it’s worth.”
Minutes after Moore left the interview room, Jackson sat at the same table pondering the big picture and assessing the palpable one-year improvement of his program.
A year ago, a 32-3 loss to the Hawkeyes in Iowa City left the Iowa State coach questioning his team’s fight. The Cyclones didn’t lose on fight Sunday.
“I’m excited about the direction of our program, the direction of what we’re going to accomplish when March rolls around,” Jackson said. “We’re better than what we showed tonight. I know it, they know it and we’re going to continue to improve. We’re going to beat the Hawks. It’s coming.”