Jan. 29, 2012
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — Mike Evans said the University of Iowa wrestling team’s back was against the proverbial wall after back-to-back road losses last weekend. He figured the quickest way to get its back away from the wall was by planting Minnesota’s Cody Yohn’s back firmly to Mediacom Mat.
It was a rewarding recipe.
Evans, ranked No. 8, decked the 11th-ranked Yohn in 6-minutes, 2-seconds Sunday in a 165-pound match to lead No. 6 Iowa to a 19-17 victory against the No. 3 Gophers in front of 9,511 inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa improves to 10-3 overall, 5-2 in the Big Ten Conference; Minnesota is 9-3, 6-1.
“Coach (Tom Brands) kept saying our backs are up against the wall…maybe,” Evans said. “Once you find yourself in that position, you get a little fired up because nobody likes their back against a wall. We like doing that to our opponents — we like being the ones on top, not trying to fight our way to the top.”
Evans built a 3-0 lead in the first period with an escape (following injury time for Yohn) and a takedown. He tacked on four points in the second period via an escape, takedown and stall point. Yohn chose down for the third period and 58 seconds later, he was pinned.
The weekend of Jan. 20-22 was as painful individually to Evans as it was to the Hawkeye team. Iowa lost duals at Ohio State (21-9) on Jan. 20 and at Penn State (22-12) on Jan. 22. Evans was defeated by Derek Garcia of the Buckeyes, 6-5, and then lost, 9-4, to Penn State’s David Taylor, the defending NCAA runner-up at 157. The dual against Minnesota didn’t present more stress than usual for Evans, but he admitted to being more motivated.
“It wasn’t so much pressure as it was excitement to make a statement,” Evans said.
“Coach ( Tom Brands) kept saying our backs are up against the wall…maybe. Once you find yourself in that position, you get a little fired up because nobody likes their back against a wall. We like doing that to our opponents — we like being the ones on top, not trying to fight our way to the top.”
UI 165-pound freshman
The 165-pounders followed a 12-minute intermission and at that point, the Hawkeyes led, 13-4. But the match before the break — at 157 pounds — Iowa’s Nick Moore set the tone for the victory by Evans with an 11-2 major decision against Alec Ortiz.
“When Nick went out there and got bonus points, that pushed me,” Evans said. “I had to go out there and get bonus points, too. I think we rolled well off each other.”
A key for Moore, who snapped a four-match losing skid, was building an early and substantial lead. He was ahead 7-1 after the first period and rode Ortiz the entire second period. Moore added three more points and a riding time point over the final two minutes for the nine-point advantage.
“(Getting a major decision) was important because it was a tight dual and we needed every bonus point we could get,” Moore said. “Before I went out there, coach said, `Be smart, wrestle, and when you can get bonus points, stick it to them.'”
Iowa had all the points it needed (19) after the fall by Evans. The afternoon began with Hawkeye 125-pounder Matt McDonough improving to 5-0 against Minnesota’s Zach Sanders, who entered Carver-Hawkeye Arena with a No. 1 national ranking by two major polls. McDonough won, 7-1.
“It’s a scrap every time you go out there with someone like (Sanders),” McDonough said. “You have to go out there with that same orneriness, that same mentality of toughness, and that’s what I went out to do. The most important thing is that I’m doing everything I can on that mat to wrestle the best I can. I’m using the tools God gave me to put on a show, and that’s what I’m doing every time.”
The Hawkeyes won five of the first six matches before Minnesota closed with four straight wins — including two-point decisions at 174 and 197 pounds.
After the victory — the 107th of Brands’ career and his seventh in a row against Minnesota — the head coach deflected all praise toward his student-athletes.
“In a firefight like that, you have to give credit where credit is due, especially where we’ve been the last couple weeks,” Brands said.
Iowa closes its home dual season Sunday, Feb. 5, against Wisconsin, beginning at 1 p.m. (CT).
Now the Hawkeyes have more room between themselves and the wall.