Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands talked about toughness in the days leading up to Saturday’s showdown with Minnesota.
His word of choice after the match was silliness.
That’s how Brands described the approach used by two of his wrestlers who lost pivotal matches that contributed largely to fourth-ranked Minnesota’s 19-15 victory before an announced crowd of 10,588 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The dual couldn’t have started any worse for second-ranked Iowa as freshman Thomas Gilman lost the opening match at 125 pounds by getting pinned by fellow freshman Sam Brancale at the 2:03 mark of the first period.
“What on earth were they doing, especially at ’25? That’s what they have to figure out, and we’ll help them,” Brands said. “But do the things that you’re good at. And we didn’t do those things. It was bizarre to me except it happened.”
Gilman was in big trouble early on his back, but he avoided the pin and briefly launched his own attack before landing on his back again. He couldn’t shake free this time as Brancale continued to drive Gilman’s shoulders to the mat.
Gilman entered Saturday’s match with a 15-2 record and ranked third at 125 pounds, while Brancale was 11-5 and unranked.
“He got caught and he got caught again,” Brands said of Gilman. “How many times does that happen? I don’t know what the odds are, and that’s why it’s silliness.”
Iowa fell to 11-2 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten, while Minnesota improved to 8-1 overall and 5-1 in the conference. Iowa had won eight of the previous 11 matches against the Gophers.
Third-ranked Tony Ramos did his part to inspire the Iowa fans in the second match by recording a methodical 6-2 victory over ninth-ranked David Thorn at 133 pounds. Ramos improved his record to 19-2 on the season and to 33-0 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for his career.
Iowa tied the score at 6-6 as 11th-ranked Josh Dziewa hung on to defeat No. 5 Chris Dardanes 1-0 at 141 pounds.
The other half of the Dardanes brothers got Minnesota back on track in the next match at 149 pounds as third-ranked Nick Dardanes edged Brody Grothus 5-3.
That set the stage for the 157-pound match between Iowa’s Derek St. John and Dylan Ness from Minnesota.
St. John was leading 3-2 in the third period when Ness reversed him and recorded a near fall in the closing seconds to prevail 7-4.
It marked the first time that St. John, who is the defending NCAA champion at 157 pounds, has lost back-to-back matches as a Hawkeye. The former West High standout was trying to bounce back from a 9-7 loss against Nebraska’s James Green last Sunday in Lincoln, Neb.
“There are a lot of things we could have done,” Brands said of the St. John match. “I saw a guy that didn’t come out ready. The guy was in on our ankles early. We weren’t ready.
“We have to move our feet to create opportunities for us, not to prevent opportunities for our opponent. That’s how I would evaluate it.”
Both teams won five matches, but it was the pin at 125 pounds combined with top-ranked Scott Schiller’s major decision over Nathan Burak at 197 pounds that gave Minnesota the edge. Schiller improved his record to 23-0 with the 16-5 victory.
Minnesota was clearly the aggressor throughout the match, recording 14 takedowns, while Iowa only had five.
“I don’t know how many takedowns we got, but it wasn’t very dang many,” Brands said. “I don’t know how many first-period takedowns we got, but it wasn’t very dang many. We have to do some better things.”
Juniors Mike Evans and Bobby Telford provided two of the highlights for Iowa with victories at 174 and 285 pounds, respectively. Evans nipped fifth-ranked Logan Storley 2-1, while Telford defeated two-time defending NCAA champion Tony Nelson 3-1.
“I think these kinds of wins are pretty important,” Evans said. “Nelson and Storley are kind of nemeses to us. They have a few wins over both of us. And regardless whether the team is winning or losing, you have to go out there with the attitude that you’re going to win for your team and you’re going to win for yourself.”
Evans and Storley had to be separated when the first period ended. That helped to ignite the crowd.
“I just wanted him to know that he was going to be in a fight,” said Evans, who improved his record to 19-3 on the season.
Telford was winless against Nelson heading into Saturday’s match.
“Telford had never beaten Nelson and he dictated that match for the most part and controlled it,” Brands said. “Good job, he wrestled the entire match and he didn’t get rattled on the bottom. That’s big when a guy is good at something and he’s beaten you there before and you don’t get rattled and it’s starting to look like it’s going to go the guy’s way.”
Evans said it was tough watching Gilman get pinned in a match in which Iowa was favored on paper.
“First of all, you can’t get wing-dinged,” Evans said. “And second of all, you can’t wing-dinged twice. That definitely hurt the momentum, especially on paper you’re looking at a win.”
Former West High star Nick Moore also was victorious for Iowa, edging Danny Zilverberg 3-2 at 165 pounds.
Minnesota prevailed Saturday even though three of its top wrestlers — Chris Dardanes, Storley and Nelson — were defeated.
“It doesn’t make any difference, when you get into this kind of thing anything can happen,” Minnesota coach J Robinson said. “It doesn’t make any difference where you’re ranked. It doesn’t make any difference who you are. It just means that you better wrestle the whole time because the other side is bringing their A game.”
MINNESOTA 19, IOWA 15
125 – Sam Brancale (M) pinned Thomas Gilman 2:03.
133 – Tony Ramos (UI) dec. David Thorn 6-2.
141 – Josh Dziewa (UI) dec. Chris Dardanes 1-0.
149 – Nick Dardanes (M) dec. Brody Grothus 5-3.
157 – Dylan Ness (M) dec. Derek St. John 7-4.
165 – Nick Moore (UI) dec. Danny Zilverberg 3-2.
174 – Mike Evans (UI) dec. Logan Storley 2-1 (TB1).
184 – Kevin Steinhaus (M) dec. Sammy Brooks 8-6.
197 – Scott Schiller (M) dec. Nathan Burak 16-5.
285 – Bobby Telford (UI) dec. Tony Nelson 3-1.