Iowa entered the quarterfinal with six wrestlers still alive in the championship bracket at the 2017 NCAA Wrestling Tournament and though they had some difficult match-ups on tap, there was still at least a chance for them to win all six and keep the pressure on Penn State. Alas, they couldn't quite manage to accomplish that feat -- they won four of their six quarterfinal match-ups. Still the path to that point was certainly rather... eventful.
The morning began at 125 lbs, where #1 Thomas Gilman faced off with #8 Nick Piccininni of Oklahoma State. They... do not get along, as we'll be reminded of in a moment. Gilman got the first takedown, but again showed some problems on bottom in the second period, but ultimately a takedown and some quick exposure points had given him a decent lead in the third period. That's when Piccininni went for broke and scrambled with Gilman. That was a bad idea.
That was exciting enough, but Gilman's post-match comments were even more explosive:
ST. LOUIS STREET FIGHT INCOMING! Like I said: these two really, really do not like each other much. But Gilman is onto the semifinals and two wins from achieving his ultimate goal, an NCAA championship.
Cory Clark was up next for Iowa, at 133 lbs, and his match was much more subdued affair, as he used a first period reversal (after he had given up a quick takedown early in the match), a second period takedown, and some powerful ride-outs to build a solid lead that he wouldn't relinquish against #5 Stevan Micic. Clark's matches haven't been flashy or high-octane affairs, but he's been getting the job done. The win gets him a semifinal rematch with #1 Nathan Tomasello and also locks up his status as a four-time All-American, which is a pretty stellar honor.
Brandon Sorensen kept the good times rolling for Iowa in his rubber match with Ohio State's Micah Jordan. He edged Jordan 2-0 at the dual this year, then lost to him 2-1 at the Big Ten Tournament semifinals a few weeks ago. He got his revenge here, though, using a second period takedown and a third period escape to win 3-0 in a very tight, cagey match. These two seem unable to wrestle any other sort of match when they meet up; fortunately, our guy again came out on the right side of the battle this time. The win ensures that Sorensen will be a three-time All-American at Iowa.
Unfortunately, Iowa's quarterfinal luck ran out at 157 lbs, as stud freshman Michael Kemerer got stunned by the funk of wily senior Dylan Palacio. I've been nervous about that match-up since the brackets were released and, unfortunately, my worst fears were borne on it. After a 0-0 first period that was devoid of scoring but not action -- over half the period was taken up by a wild, twisting, turning scramble where both guys seemed to threaten to score -- the second period started with Palacio on bottom. Kemerer has been a good rider this year, but Palacio was able to get him just a bit of position -- and he pounced, getting a reversal and scoring a pin from an awkward position. It was a brutal and sudden way to lose and it served as a gut-punch for Iowa's momentum in the quarterfinals.
That said, Alex Meyer seemed to be on the verge of turning things around for Iowa at 174, taking Big Ten champion Bo Jordan to the limit and wrestling exactly the sort of match that he wanted. After a scoreless first period, he got a reversal and rode Jordan hard for the remainder of the period. He got reversed himself in the third, but got an escape to take a 3-2 lead. He was still holding that lead late when Jordan was able to get to his ankles and get a takedown with just 20 seconds left in the match. Meyer wasn't able to get an escape and that was that: Jordan wins, 4-3. It was another gut-punch loss for Iowa in the quarters.
Unfortunately, Sammy Brooks seemed to be on the verge of making it three straight losses for Iowa in the quarters after starting the session with three straight wins. After a scoreless first period, Brooks got an escape to start the second but gave up a takedown to #11 Emery Parker to go down 2-1. He had to fight hard the rest of the period to avoid giving up nearfall points and never got an escape. That meant he entered the third period down 2-1 and needing some offense to turn things around. Parker took down and Brooks went to work, putting on a hard ride and erasing Parker's riding time advantage. He still trailed 2-1, though, so he was going to need more points somewhere -- either by cutting Parker and getting some takedowns or by turning him for some points. Sammy chose option number two -- to spectacular effect.
As Jon Miller pointed out on Twitter, he basically DDT'd Parker to the mat. Jake the Snake would have been proud of that finish. And there's only one way it could be better...
Yeah, that's the stuff. BOOM! That was a hell of a way to wrap up Iowa's quarterfinal session.
Unfortunately, the team race is not looking good for anyone except those of a Penn State persuasion. That 15-point lead (16 points on Iowa) is pretty significant, especially with them still having five wrestlers active in the semifinals. Iowa probably needed a perfect quarterfinal round in order to be able to really challenge for the team title; they didn't quite get that. They definitely need a perfect semifinal round in order to retain any hope of winning a team title tomorrow. Iowa still has a mathematical chance at the title, but practically speaking, it doesn't seem like anyone but Penn State is winning this thing unless they get locked in their hotel.
|125||#1 Thomas Gilman||FALL (6:04)||#8 Nick Piccininni (Oklahoma State)|
|133||#4 Cory Clark||DEC (6-4)||#5 Stevan Micic (Michigan)|
|149||#5 Brandon Sorensen||DEC (3-0)||#4 Micah Jordan (Ohio State)|
|157||#7 Dylan Palacio (Cornell)||FALL (3:28)||#2 Michael Kemerer|
|174||#3 Bo Jordan (Ohio State)||DEC (4-3)||#11 Alex Meyer|
|184||#3 Sammy Brooks||FALL (6:01)||#11 Emery Parker (Illinois)|
|141||#12 Luke Pletcher (Ohio State)||DEC (9-6)||Topher Carton|
|165||Joey Gunther||DEC (6-3)||#14 Branson Ashworth (Wyoming)|
|197||Cash Wilcke||DEC (6-2)||Josh Marchok (Stanford)|
|165||#11 Bryce Steiert (UNI)||DEC (8-3)||Joey Gunther|
|197||Cash Wilcke||DEC (4-3 3OT)||#12 Frank Mattiace (Penn)|
Iowa ended up going 3-3 in consolation round matches in Friday's early session. Topher Carton began things with a narrow loss to Pletcher; that loss ended his run at this tournament and, a senior, also ended his career at Iowa. Thanks for the memories, Topher. Joey Gunther and Cash Wilcke picked up wins in the consos, though, edging their opponents 6-3 and 6-2, respectively. Alas, Gunther's ran came to an end in his next match, dropping an 8-3 decision to UNI's Steiert after digging himself an early 6-0 hole. The Cash Money podium run is still trucking along, though, after a wild 4-3 overtime win over Mattiace.
The match was tied 1-1 after regulation and after a first scoreless period in overtime. Wilcke got an escape to go up 2-1 after the first tiebreaker, but Penn challenged a call by the official. The video replay didn't overturn anything, but it did cost Penn their final challenge. (That part is important.) In the second tiebreaker, Mattiace got a reversal to go up 3-2 with just seconds remaining. After a restart with just two seconds left, Wilcke exploded out from bottom and got the escape with no time remaining to tie the match at 3-3. The Penn coaches were mad, but remember: they had no challenges left to initiate a video review. (For the record, I do think Wilcke got the escape just in the nick of time; also, I've yet to see the officials overturn anything on video replay in this entire tournament, so it seems likely that the call on the mat -- a Wilcke escape -- would have stood.) So they went into a third overtime period, featuring more sudden death action. Some back-and-forth action near the edge of the mat eventually led to a restart -- where Mattiace was cautioned for a false start. Unfortunately for him, it was his third false start, which meant a point -- and the match -- for Wilcke. Wrestling!
|125||#1 Thomas Gilman||vs||#4 Darian Cruz (Lehigh)|
|133||#4 Cory Clark||vs||#1 Nathan Tomasello (Ohio State)|
|149||#5 Brandon Sorensen||vs||#1 Zain Retherford (Penn State)|
|184||#3 Sammy Brooks||vs||#2 Bo Nickal (Penn State)|
Iowa has four in the semis, but outside of Gilman they do not have especially favorable match-ups at all. Clark, Sorensen, and Brooks have all lost to their respective opponents this year (Sorensen is 0-3 lifetime against Retherford). Clark was at least close to beating Tomasello in the Big Ten finals a few weeks ago -- hopefully fortune smiles on him in the rematch tonight. Sorensen and Brooks have steep hills to climb against Zain and Bo. At least Brooks can fall back on the fact that he's wrestling very well lately -- hopefully that's enough.
|157||#2 Michael Kemerer||vs||May Bethea (Penn)|
|174||#11 Alex Meyer||vs||#7 Kyle Crutchmer (Oklahoma State)|
|197||Cash Wilcke||vs||#10 Kevin Beazley (Old Dominion)|
This is a very significant round of consolations -- the blood round, as it's called -- because the winners here lock up All-America status: they can finish no worse than 8th. The losers, on the other hand, are done, falling just shy of becoming an All-American. Hopefully Kemerer and Meyer can bounce back from their disappointing quarterfinal defeats and Wilcke can keep his improbable run going.