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Iowa tops Minn. for Big Ten Wrestling title

Iowa tops Minn. for Big Ten title
The Gophers had the lead going into Sunday but lost all four of the day's championship matches.
By Trevor Born

Minnesota wrestlers went 0-4 in championship matches Sunday, as the Gophers took second place in the Big Ten Wrestling Tournament at Williams Arena. It was the first time since 1996 that the team didn't have an individual champion.
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The Gophers finished with 112.5 points, 14.5 points behind first-place Iowa. Top-ranked Jayson Ness, Manuel Rivera, Dustin Schlatter and Gabe Dretsch all lost their championship matches. In all, Minnesota wrestlers went 1-10 on Sunday.

It was the first title since 2004 for the Hawkeyes, and just the third since the Gophers broke their 25-year championship streak in 1999.

Minnesota's chances of winning a second-straight title were stunted when two of their top wrestlers suffered tournament-ending injuries - C.P. Schlatter at 157 pounds and Roger Kish at 184 pounds. Gophers head coach J Robinson said that it were the NCAA tournament, he might have allowed the two to wrestle.

Because the team scores are based on how well each individual wrestler places, the Gophers lost a potential 28 points from the two forfeits.

The Gophers were in first place by 12.5 points coming into the final round, but a combination of the injuries and poor performance from those who did wrestle caused that lead to disappear quickly.

"It's pretty hard when you take the two of the best guys from a team, which has happened all year," Robinson said. "Then everybody has to pull extra weight and it makes it hard on them. That puts a lot of pressure on guys."

This season the Gophers have seen three of their top wrestlers - Kish, Dustin Schlatter and C.P. Schlatter - miss time with injuries. The tournament was the first time all season that the Gophers had their 10 best wrestlers competing at the same time, Robinson said.

Because the top seven finishers in each weight class advance to the NCAA tournament, both Kish and C.P. Schlatter qualified. The only Minnesota wrestler who didn't qualify was Tyler Safratowich.

The first collegiate meeting between Dustin Schlatter and Iowa's Brent Metcalf was the most anticipated match of the day, or of the season for that matter.

"That's what everyone in our sport has been looking forward to for years and years," Gophers head coach J Robinson said.

Metcalf came into the match ranked No. 1 and Schlatter No. 3 in the 149-pound weight class, which is widely considered the most talent-rich class in the country.

The match lived up to its billing. Schlatter led 3-2 until the final seconds, when Metcalf's two-point takedown with 12 seconds left gave him a 4-3 win.

Both wrestlers were four-time state champions in high school - Metcalf in Michigan and Schlatter in Ohio. Schlatter won his last meeting, which was in the championship of the Senior High School Nationals in 2005.

The two were supposed to meet in the dual-meet between Iowa and the Gophers this season, which Iowa won, but Schlatter missed it with the same hamstring injury that kept him out of more than half the season.

"He's been waiting for it, I've been waiting for it and the world has been waiting for it. Let's do it," Metcalf said after his semifinal win.

Ness upset

Sophomore Jayson Ness suffered his first loss of the year in the 125-pound championship, being upset 4-2 by third-seeded Angel Escobedo of Indiana. The loss ended Ness' 37-match winning streak, which was the second-longest active streak in Division I.

Escobedo was in control for almost the entire match, finishing with 3 minutes, 38 seconds more riding time - a statistic that keeps track of which wrestler is in control throughout the match - than Ness.

"I beat him at his own game," Escobedo said.

Ness was nearly pinned in his semifinal match, being caught by a quick move from fifth-seed Gabe Flores of Illinois, and was held on his back for more than a minute before escaping and winning 7-5.

The total attendance for the two-day, three-session tournament was 19,891.