IOWA CITY, Iowa — Pyrotechnics burned bright and hot in four corners of at Carver-Hawkeye Arena for the beginning and end of Iowa’s wrestling dual Sunday with Oklahoma State.
The Hawkeyes saved their fire for the meet itself and for one afternoon they were smoking. Iowa’s wrestlers battered their long-time rivals with points scored in the first period, on the edge of the mat and in overtime. With more than 13,000 in attendance, the sound popped many an ear and standing ovations welcomed multiple Hawkeyes as they left the mat.
The 20-12 victory for No. 6 Iowa showed the Hawkeyes have potential in deciding who earns what in March. With a 9-0 dual record and a victory against the No. 3 Cowboys, Iowa took a step forward as a program. With two months left until the NCAA Tournament, that’s important for every team, especially one as young and talented as Iowa.
“You don’t congratulate yourself many times in January, but maybe this is one time you take a little bit of a breath because we did point to this dual,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “This was a dual about two teams that were in the same category and they’re trying to get to the next category meaning to the Penn State and Ohio State, kind of. They’re both 1 and 2 and they’re close, and everybody else seems to be on the outside.”
Iowa has to worry about the Buckeyes next week and the Nittany Lions in February. That’s a story for another day. The one from the Hawkeyes’ win against Oklahoma State is about how they battled and wore down the Cowboys with their traditional Iowa tenacity. In the first period, Iowa had 9 takedowns to Oklahoma State’s 4. In three of the four matches between ranked opponents, Iowa came out ahead.
There were victories small and large. At 133 and 141 pounds, unranked Iowa wrestlers lost but didn’t give up more than a major decision to Oklahoma State’s No. 4 and No. 5-ranked competitors. At 149 pounds, Iowa’s Brandon Sorensen went for the kill against Boo Lewallen with a 23-8 technical fall. Sorensen was aggressive and tough.
At heavyweight, Iowa’s Sam Stoll, who is ranked No. 3, outlasted his No. 10 competitor Derek White 6-4 in a second sudden victory period. Stoll battled and battled until he scored a takedown with 39 seconds left. Freshman Alex Marinelli, who’s ranked No. 11 at 165 pounds, stayed undefeated with a 5-2 victory against No. 8 Chandler Rogers.
In perhaps the gutsiest display of the dual, unranked Mitch Bowman of Iowa kept pressing No. 19 Keegan Moore. With the score tied entering the final period, Bowman escaped, took down Moore and rode him out to claim a 10-6 victory.
“You have a choice there to unravel or get tough. He stayed tough,” Brands said. “When he’s tough, he’s tough.”
The collective performance was worth celebrating, not only because of the win, but because Iowa’s persistence matched its time-honored mindset.
“That’s what it’s going to take against the best guys in the country,” Sorensen said. “You’re going to have to go out there, it might be close, the score might be close, but you’re beating that guy up, you’re freaking heavy hands, you’re heavy on his head. He’s wearing down and getting to your scores. That’s what it’s going to take to beat the best guys in the country.”
“This says we’re that we’re not afraid to get in a hard scrap if we need to,” Bowman said. Our conditioning’s good, we have a bunch of tough-nosed guys that when it comes down to the wire, we’re willing to go get a score.”
With only one ranked senior in its lineup, Iowa has set itself up as a true NCAA contender in 2019. But in the way in which they wrestled Sunday, maybe it’s too early to rule out the Hawkeyes as a factor this March, too.