Top-ranked Iowa downs Minnesota

Heavyweight Brock Lesnar ran out of the Williams Arena tunnel and onto the mats with a record 13,128 fans screaming for him.
The second-ranked Minnesota wrestling team had No. 1 Iowa right where they wanted them.
The Gophers led 13-10 through seven matches on Sunday, and with No. 1 Lesnar and No. 3 Leroy Vega (125 pounds) set to take to the mats in consecutive matches, the Gophers were poised to send the Hawkeyes flying south.
But in the end, it wasn’t the Gophers’ (17-2, 7-1 Big Ten) day. The Hawkeyes (18-0, 8-0) escaped The Barn with a 20-13 win.
“If you would have looked at their bench, they were scared — they were scared,” Minnesota coach J Robinson said. “We had them right there.”
That’s where the bravery of Iowa came through.
The Hawkeyes’ Wes Hand wasn’t supposed to give Lesnar a tough match, but after Hand took a 4-0 lead, Lesnar was in trouble.
Brock “The Rock” couldn’t come back — he was crushed. Hand pulled off the upset decision and Iowa tied the meet at 13.
Lesnar was at a loss for words after the match.
“No excuses,” Lesnar said. “Hand did what he needed to do.
“When I came out, I looked across at their bench and saw a lot of stoned faces. I really believe they thought they were going to lose the match. But give them a lot of credit, give Wes Hand a lot of credit.”
Following Lesnar’s loss, the meet went from the big man to the little one when 125-pound Vega took to the mat.
All the freshman needed to do was get the job done by beating Iowa’s second-ranked Jody Strittmatter and momentum would have been restored.
Vega grabbed the quick 6-2 lead, and the Gophers appeared to be on the verge of tying things up. But Strittmatter fought back, and by the final horn, Vega fell in an 8-6 decision.
A clearly frustrated Vega tried to understand how he let it slip away.
“I should have beat him today; I beat myself today.” Vega said. “I gave away the match. I was taking him down at will and then I didn’t know what to do at the end.”
Following Lesnar and Vega’s tough losses, Iowa’s top-ranked Eric Juergens defeated Brett Lawrence in the final match to give Iowa the win.
That’s when the finger-pointing began.
“It went in the second half,” Robinson said. “It went with Vega and Brock. That is where it got away, both those guys should have won.
“It’s not so much about them winning and losing, it’s about the way they wrestled. They just stood around and didn’t do anything, they didn’t make it happen.”
Senior Brandon Eggum, who won his last match at home, was disappointed with the efforts of some of his teammates.
“What’s the point of going out if you’re not going to give it all you got?” Eggum asked.
But the blame cannot be pointed in every direction for the Gophers. Minnesota had a couple of bright spots at The Barn as well.
Minnesota’s fifth-ranked Jared Lawrence defeated the Hawkeyes’ No. 3 Mike Zadick at 149 pounds.
But perhaps even more impressive was the showing from the Gophers’ Luke Becker. Facing defending national champion and top-ranked T.J. Williams, the ninth-ranked Becker was on the verge of an upset with under two seconds left.
That’s when Williams came through with a two-point reversal to take an 11-10 decision.
Although Williams said he was never worried about a possible loss to Becker, Iowa coach Jim Zalesky said he was disappointed with Williams’ performance.
“Give Becker credit, he kept wrestling hard, and went after him” Zalesky said. “(Williams) stopped wrestling. It doesn’t matter who, if you stop wrestling a guy can feel it.”
The Gophers now have two weeks to prepare for the Big Ten tournament in West Lafayette on March 4 and 5.
The tournament will probably come down to the Gophers and Hawkeyes, although sixth-ranked Illinois will give them a run.
Lesnar said Sunday was only the beginning. Minnesota expects to run into Iowa at the Big Ten tourney as well as the NCAA.
“We’re not going to just lay down and die,” Lesnar said. “This is just fuel in the fire.”
Fairmont Fun
Overshadowed by the big meet with Iowa, was the Gophers’ opponent Friday night in Fairmont, Minn.
Minnesota dominated Northwestern 35-6, winning eight of the 10 matches. The Gophers were led by Lesnar and Jared Lawrence, who each pinned their man in the rout of the Wildcats.

John R. Carter covers wrestling and welcomes comments at [email protected]