For the first seven matches, this dual was proceeding along the lines of what I had expected. Iowa won all five matches pre-intermission, picking up bonus points in four of them and grabbing a small upset win from Joey Gunther over #15 Nick Wanzek at 165 lbs. Minnesota responded with wins at their two best weights in the first two matches after intermission, with #2 Brett Pfarr smashing Mitch Bowman for a technical fall and #9 Michael Kroells grinding out a fairly boring decision win at heavyweight.
Then we entered the Twilight Zone. Ethan Lizak got the first takedown of the match at 125, getting in deep on Thomas Gilman and finishing. He rode him hard after getting the takedown, getting not one, but two seats of nearfall points and shockingly had an 8-0 lead heading into the second period. I don't remember Gilman ever being down by that much in a match. The second period didn't go much better, as Lizak chose the top position and again put a hard ride on Gilman, but there were signs of life for Iowa's captain near the end of the period when he was finally able to get a reversal. Still, he trailed 8-2 after two periods and things were not looking good for our hero.
Gilman chose neutral to start the third and immediately started racking up takedowns. He picked up three in a cut-and-release sequence that highlighted a big problem for Lizak: he was completely gassed. Maybe he used up too much energy riding Gilman in the first and second periods. Whatever the case, Gilman was working him like a practice dummy and seemed to be on pace to take the lead with nothing but takedowns. But a gassed Lizak was also vulnerable on the mat and Gilman managed to get him in a hard headlock and expose his shoulders to the mat. And then... this:
What. A. Win. What. A. Comeback. Gilman spotted Lizak an 8-0 lead and he STILL ended up getting maximum bonus points out of the match. Unbelievable.
Also, as good as Gilman's comeback and pin was, the reaction from the Iowa bench may have been even better, as highlighted by this:
Tom Brands is everything. pic.twitter.com/6PZz7eWrx9— Dan Borwig (@DBorwig316) February 5, 2017
Anyway there were two matches after that, but whatever -- Gilman/Lizak was the damn main event and it was glorious. And it put the exclamation point on another utterly dominant Iowa win over the Gophers.
|149||#4 Brandon Sorensen (I)||MAJ DEC (13-2)||Brandon Kingsley (M)||IOWA 4-0|
|157||#2 Michael Kemerer (I)||MAJ DEC (13-5)||#9 Jake Short (M)||IOWA 8-0|
|165||Joey Gunther (I)||DEC (5-2)||#15 Nick Wanzek (M)||IOWA 11-0|
|174||#11 Alex Meyer (I)||MAJ DEC (10-1)||Chris Pfarr (M)||IOWA 15-0|
|184||#5 Sammy Brooks (I)||MAJ DEC (10-2)||Robert Steveson (M)||IOWA 19-0|
|197||#2 Brett Pfarr (M)||TECH FALL (19-4)||Mitch Bowman (I)||IOWA 19-5|
|285||#8 Michael Kroells (M)||DEC (7-0)||Steven Holloway (I)||IOWA 19-8|
|125||#1 Thomas Gilman (I)||FALL (5:54)||#6 Ethan Lizak (M)||IOWA 24-8*|
|133||#4 Cory Clark (I)||DEC (10-3)||#17 Mitch McKee (M)||IOWA 27-8|
|141||#12 Tommy Thorn (M)||DEC (3-2)||Topher Carton (I)||IOWA 27-11|
* Iowa was deducted a team point for failure to control the mat area after the team-wide freakout after Gilman's stunning comeback pin.
A few weight-by-weight thoughts...
- The dual started at 149 and Brandon Sorensen got Iowa off to a fast start with a 13-2 major decision win. Good to see him getting back to his offense and getting plenty of takedowns in a match.
- Michael Kemerer followed up Sorensen's major decision with one of his own. More impressively, he did it against #9 Jake Short, so he dusted a Top 10 opponent. Kemdawg continues to look better and better as he gains more confidence and experience -- and he's still just barely past the halfway point of his redshirt freshman season. He attacked Short off the opening whistle and kept up the attack all match long, which was great to see.
- Gunther made it three-for-three for Iowa by grinding out a 5-2 decision win at 165, scoring a small upset in the process. Gunther took a 3-0 lead off a late takedown in the first period and an escape in the second and then just tried to hold on for the remainder of the match, before getting a late takedown to ice things. He's continuing to make improvements, which is fun to see.
- Alex Meyer made it four straight Iowa wins to start the dual and picked up a major decision with a strong finishing kick in the third period. It's not often that you get to see a match get to a major decision after a 0-0 first period, but that's what happened here. Meyer used a takedown and a four-point nearfall in the third to lock up the major, but he was in control throughout (or at least he was when he was finally able to get his nose to stop bleeding).
- Sammy Brooks finished off the first half of the dual with Iowa's fifth consecutive win and fourth major decision with a controlling 10-2 win over Robert Steveson. Brooks' offense was simply too much for Steveson to handle, as he used a handful of takedowns and a tilt to rack up his 10 points.
- Minnesota bounced back after intermission, as Brett Pfarr showed exactly why's ranked #2 in the country and is a legitimate national title contender. He dismantled Mitch Bowman, filling in for Cash Wilcke, Iowa's regular starter, by taking him down with ease and getting back points with relative ease as well. About the only thing he couldn't do was pin Bowman, although not for lack of trying.
- I expected similar pain for Iowa at 285, where an undersized backup (Holloway) was going up against a fringe All-American in Kroells, but Holloway held his own fairly well. He struggled mightily on bottom, but it wasn't until late in the third that Kroells was able to turn him for back points and he was never able to do much against Holloway on his feet. Keeping the loss to a decision was a pleasant surprise.
- I already talked about Gilman's match above, so I'm not going to rehash it here, but... wow. That was a thriller.
- Cory Clark made his return to the Iowa lineup and picked up an 10-3 decision win over Mitch McKee, failing to get Iowa's fifth major decision of the day only because he gave up a takedown to McKee late in the match. Clark looked a bit rusty, but still generally took care of business against the talented but erratic McKee.
- And finally, Topher Carton put up a game effort against #12 Tommy Throrn at 141, the last match of the night, but the bout came down to a late escape from Thorn that gave him a 3-2 lead with 30 seconds to go. Carton wasn't able to get a takedown before time expired. It was a solid effort by Carton against a potential All-American in Thorn, but he needs to get a bit more going from neutral if he's going to have a real hope of beating guys like this.
All told, a satisfyingly dominant win for the Hawkeyes. They got off to a fast start, won all of the matches that they should have, pulled an upset, got a slew of bonus points, and provided plenty of bang for your buck in the Gilman match alone. I'll take that.
NEXT: Iowa hits the road for some Friday night fights with Indiana (February 10, 6 PM CT), before returning home for their regular season finale against Nebraska (February 12, 2 PM CT).