Morningstar notches wins over in-state foes

March 21, 2009

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. — Before the University of Iowa wrestling team could return to the top of the national team standings, Hawkeye junior Ryan Morningstar needed to be tops in the state of Iowa.

Morningstar (32-6) placed third at 165 pounds this morning following victories against in-state opponents Moza Fay of Northern Iowa and Jon Reader of Iowa State. Morningstar avenged a 3-2 loss earlier in the season to Fay with a 5-3 decision in sudden victory. He improved to 3-0 all-time against Reader with a come-from-behind 7-5 win in the third-place bout.

“It was great to go out and get those wins and winning your home state,” Morningstar said. “It was important to go out and get these two wins and finish the season strong and on a positive note.”

Five of Morningstar’s six matches at the NCAA tournament this weekend went overtime. There was a noticeable increase in his offensive tempo Saturday.

“I knew what I needed to change and I changed it in those last two matches,” Morningstar said. “That means a lot more attempts and scoring takedowns.”

Every takedowns and every point continues to be critical as the tournament heads into the sixth and final round this evening inside the Scottrade Center. Thanks to Morningstar’s third-place showing, fourth-place finishes by Phillip Keddy (184) and Daniel Erekson (285) and a seventh-place effort from Daniel Dennis (133), the Hawkeyes have regained the lead in the team standings by 9 ½ points over Ohio State (97 ½ to 88). Iowa has a finalist in top-ranked and defending 149-pound champion Brent Metcalf, but the Buckeyes have three finalists — 133 (Reece Humphrey), 141 (J Jaggers) and 184 (Mike Pucillo). Jaggers and Pucillo are defending national champions, but Pucillo will be an underdog against Northwestern’s Jake Herbert, the Big Ten Conference Wrestler of the Year.

“There’s wrestling to do yet,” UI head coach Tom Brands said. “We’re giving Metcalf some help for tonight. It feels good to be in the lead, but we want to be there at the end of the day.”

Efforts from Morningstar, Keddy and Erekson (Dennis received a medical forfeit) brought the Iowa fans to their feet several times for thunderous ovations during Session V. The loudest moment was when Erekson decked top-seeded David Zabriskie of Iowa State in 1-minute, 31-seconds, sending Erekson to the match for third and fourth place.

Morningstar was the lone Hawkeye to win twice Saturday.

“That’s how we expect to wrestle…Morningstar doing offense to win,” Brands said.

This is the first All-American honor for Morningstar, who said he will still leave St. Louis a little empty.

“It feels good, but I feel like I should be wrestling tonight (in the finals),” he said. “I had those two big wins, but in the next 10-15 minutes it will sink in that I should be on top of the stand for sure.”