NCAA Title Hunt Continues

March 18, 2011

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

PHILADELPHIA — The University of Iowa faces a new round of wrestling and a new round of challenges this morning as it tries to cut into Penn State’s 5 1/2-point lead with two days left of the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

The Hawkeyes have five competitors in the championship round and four in consolations heading into Session III at 9:30 a.m. (CT) Saturday at Wells Fargo Center. Iowa is tied for third with 25 points; Penn State has 30 ½ points with seven in the championship round.

“We have to get ready to go the next round and you can break this down as deep as you want, but the bottom line is we have to come back for another round,” UI head coach Tom Brands said. “We have nine guys left in the tournament and we have to get ready to go. The deeper you get in the tournament — both sides of the bracket — you have to be stronger and come back stronger.”

Hawkeyes in the quarterfinals are sophomore Matt McDonough at 125 pounds, junior Montell Marion at 141, freshman Derek St. John at 157, sophomore Grant Gambrall at 184 and senior Luke Lofthouse at 197. McDonough has mowed through the competition, pinning Manuel Ramirez of North Carolina-Greensboro in 2:31 in the first round and winning by 14-4 major decision over Sean Boyle of Michigan in the second round.

“He’s been our best example and he certainly has been consistent,” Brands said. “I know good things are happening with bonus points and that sort of thing. Guys are going to ball up and he has to seize the opportunity to put the clamps on them. He’s wrestling very well and very efficient.”

McDonough faces seventh-seeded Ryan Mango of Stanford in the quarterfinals. McDonough is 2-0 lifetime against Mango, winning by major decision in the 2009 and ’10 Midlands Championships.

The defending national champion epitomizes what is right in the championship round; senior Aaron Janssen demonstrated how exciting it can be to experience success in the consolations. After suffering a 4-2 loss to Peter Yates of Virginia Tech, Janssen bounced back in the Hawkeye’s final bout on Thursday evening to upset No. 6 Dallas Bailey of Oklahoma State, 10-6.

Perhaps the biggest win for Iowa was by Gambrall. He not only defeated two-time defending All-American Joe LeBlanc of Wyoming, 8-3, but the official slapped the mat for a pin before the call was reversed because time had expired. Gambrall sees Wisconin’s Travis Rutt in the quarterfinals today. Rutt pinned Gambrall at the Big Ten Tournament on March 6 in Evanston, Ill., but Gambrall defeated Rutt, 3-2, at the 2009 Midlands.

“At this point you keep winning,” Brands said. “He’s feeling pretty good right now about it and that’s important. Winning solves a lot of mentality problems and when he’s winning like that, I know his mood level goes up and (today) he has Rutt and we have to be ready. That’s another big match because the last result isn’t what we wanted it to be. Just plain old simple winning solves a lot of things and the next step is widening the gap.”

The deeper you get in the tournament, both sides of the bracket you have to be stronger and come back stronger.

Janssen is joined in the consolations by freshman Tony Ramos at 133, freshman Ethen Lofthouse at 174 and junior Blake Rasing at 285.

Iowa roared through the first round, winning 10 of 11 matches and finished the first session in second place by two points to Penn State. After Rasing’s 2-0 win over Kyle Simonson of Iowa State, Brands addressed the media.

The first item on his agenda was the lone loss of the round.

“Good things don’t happen when you wait,” said Brands, referring to a 4-2 loss by Janssen. “We have to widen the gap a little bit, too. That’s being critical but that’s why we’re going to build.”

McDonough provided bonus points in the Hawkeye’s third bout of the morning, with a win by fall.

“McDonough was big,” Brands said. “That’s what I like to see and that’s what I like to talk about. He went out and wrestled his match.”