U, Benjamin pin loss on Hawkeyes

Allison Younge

IOWA CITY, Iowa — After a moment of hesitation Sunday, Gophers senior heavyweight wrestler Shelton Benjamin came to the conclusion that pinning Iowa’s Wes Hand to clinch the National Duals title was the most important match victory of his career.
“Ah, yeah,” Benjamin said. “I would say at this point it is.”
No drama was lost in the answer after the Gophers’ 18-17 win over Iowa at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Minnesota trailed 17-12 going into the final match, meaning a pin from Benjamin was the only way second-ranked Minnesota could down the third-ranked Hawkeyes. With nearly every voice in the arena against him, Benjamin caught Iowa’s Wes Hand in an inescapable hold and pinned him to the mat two minutes into the match.
“We got into a scramble and he was coming at me like a bull and just walked into a lateral drop,” said Benjamin, who recorded the only pin of the meet. “It was just reaction on my part. I didn’t have much set up. He just walked right into it.”
The win marks the first time Minnesota has ever defeated the Hawkeyes at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, and only the Gophers second win over Iowa since J Robinson has been coach at Minnesota. The Gophers downed the Hawkeyes at Williams Arena in 1994.
The match pressure was placed on Benjamin after Gophers’ No. 2-ranked Tim Hartung was defeated 7-6 in double overtime by Iowa’s No. 3 ranked Lee Fullhart. Hartung took a 4-1 lead after two periods. Both wrestlers remained on their feet for most of the match battling in and out of bounds. Hartung went up 6-2 in the third, before Fullhart scored an escape, was awarded a point for stalling, and scored a takedown to tie the match.
Intensity heightened as the two-minute overtime clock ran out, sending the match into a 30-second surprise overtime. Fullhart won the toss and opted to start down. Hartung was penalized for locking his hands, and Fullhart was awarded a point and the win.
While the call was questioned by the Gophers’ bench, last year’s national champion Fullhart spoke confidently about his performance in the match.
“I didn’t feel like he was riding me very well,” Fullhart said. “He was more just hanging on. He gave me that last point by locking his hands because he couldn’t hang on.”
Relied on by his teammates to come through during pressure situations, Hartung was disappointed with his efforts.
“I just lost focus out there,” Hartung said. “I got ahead and I stopped attacking. I guess whenever you do that you’re going to get beat, and that’s what happened.”
Iowa took control from the beginning, scoring a decision and two major decisions for an 11-0 lead after the first three matches. Minnesota’s top-ranked senior Jason Davids battled fourth-ranked Jeff McGinness into overtime at 142 pounds. Davids quickly scored a takedown, earning a 3-1 decision win and securing his 23rd victory this season.
“I wasn’t nervous in my match,” Davids said. “I knew he was going to want to take it into overtime. He’s been doing that all year.”
Davids’ victory was key for the Gophers even though the score remained a lopsided 11-3. Springing off the match momentum, the Gophers middle weights went to work.
No sooner had Davids’ arm been raised in victory, when Gophers No. 1 ranked Chad Kraft exploded onto the mat. Minnesota’s top-ranked 150-pounder earned the Gophers’ largest margin win before Benjamin’s, downing Kasey Gilliss 8-3.
Gophers 158-pounder Josh Holiday and 177-pounder Brandon Eggum used different approaches to down their Hawkeye opponents. Holiday left Iowa’s Ben Uker spinning with his quick acrobatic stunts. One minute the Hawkeye fans would applaud Uker for being on top, and suddenly Holiday would change directions and land a quick takedown. Up by two with a minute to go, Holiday held on to claim a 9-7 victory.
Eggum put the clamps on Iowa’s Paul Jenn at 177 pounds. A grudge-match from the start, Eggum scored a takedown with seven seconds remaining to capture a 7-3 decision, lifting the Gophers’ team score to 12 — just two points shy of the Hawkeyes’ 14.
Along with the Gophers’ first three weights and Hartung, senior Zac Taylor lost a close match to Iowa’s No. 1-ranked Joe Williams by a score of 5-3.
The Gophers, who also defeated Missouri Valley, West Virginia and Michigan State over the weekend, only have four days before they meet Iowa again at center circle. On Friday, competitive personalities are sure to be flaring as the Hawkeyes come to Williams Arena for a rematch.
Immediately after being thrown to the mat by Benjamin, Iowa’s Hand offered Minnesota’s match-winning heavyweight a warning.
“He said I better be ready for him next weekend,” Benjamin said. “I was like, ‘OK.’ We’re looking forward to beating them again.”