Hartung slips past Iowa foe for third title

Sarah Mitchell

ANN ARBOR, Mich. — On the eve of his last Big Ten finals appearance, Gophers senior wrestler Tim Hartung had an obstructed view of a Minnesota-record third conference crown.
That obstacle was 2nd-ranked Lee Fullhart from Iowa.
The reigning 190-pound NCAA champion sailed through the past two seasons, with only Fullhart standing in his way. The Hawkeyes senior handed Hartung his only loss last season, a 7-6 double overtime defeat at last year’s national duals. Since then, Hartung has doled out the defeats, edging out Fullhart in their past three meetings.
On Sunday, Hartung strung together a fourth consecutive defeat of Fullhart, this time by a 2-1 score.
When asked if his third Big Ten title is more meaningful than the first two, Hartung said, “It is. The individual title means more now because we also won as a team.”
Reminiscent of past Hartung-Fullhart matches, the pair wrestled through a scoreless first period. The shutout stuck as Fullhart rode out the entire second period.
With Fullhart having accumulated two minutes of riding time, Hartung released his nemesis at the start of the third period, giving the Hawkeyes grappler a one-point advantage — which looked like a considerable lead at the time, since the two have defensive history.
With 1:22 remaining on the clock, Hartung recorded a two-point takedown and rode Fullhart until the Hawkeye’s advantage time dwindled to 55 seconds.
Hartung’s latest victory helped Minnesota to its first Big Ten title since 1959, and knocked Iowa off the pedestal for the first time in 25 years.
“I think it’s just faith in the program,” Hartung said. “Today and in the past, at no time did I feel that I wasn’t going to win.”
With the win, Hartung remained perfect on the season with a 37-0 mark. The flawless year and a third Big Ten title earned the Durand, Wis., native another award on Sunday — Big Ten wrestler of the year.
“Tim Hartung is a hero in Minnesota, the state and in our program,” said Gophers coach J Robinson, who was named Big Ten coach of the year.
“You have to have people to emulate,” he said. “What you hang around rubs off on you.”
In two weeks, Hartung and Fullhart could again square off again at the NCAA tournament. Talent-wise, the 197-pound weight class drops off considerably after the second-ranked Fullhart, meaning that if both wrestlers perform as expected, Fullhart could seek revenge against the top-ranked Hartung in the title match.
While Sunday’s battle provides motivation for Fullhart, it gives Hartung more leverage psychologically. With the NCAAs approaching, a loss to Fullhart would’ve come at the worst possible time.
“I think it’s important not have a letdown,” Hartung said.