Wrestlers look past Iowa loss to postseason play

The event was so big, fans stood outside Williams Arena, scalping tickets in hopes of seeing the top-ranked Iowa wrestlers take on No. 2 Minnesota.
What the lucky fans with tickets got to see was one of the loudest and most exciting wrestling meets in Minnesota history.
It was also the largest, with 13,128 wrestling fans crammed into The Barn.
Now, two days after the Hawkeyes came back Sunday to beat the Gophers, Minnesota’s focus shifts toward the Big Ten tournament in two weeks.
Senior heavyweight Brock Lesnar, one of the Gophers who struggled against Iowa, said Minnesota can’t dwell on Sunday and must begin to prepare for the postseason.
“What you drive for, what you go to practice every single day for, why you wrestle: it’s is all wrapped up into the last four weeks,” Lesnar said. “What’s done is done now; you can’t go back and change anything.
“What you’ve done in the practice room, what you’ve done in the dual meets will all pay off at the end.”
Freshman Luke Becker, who nearly upset Iowa’s top-ranked T.J. Williams at 157 pounds, is already looking forward to Minnesota’s rematch with Iowa.
He’s also thinking ahead to his next showdown with Williams.
“Anytime we wrestle Iowa, we hate to lose,” Becker said. “I mean, it’s are our archrival. But we have two weeks to train and come back for them at Big Tens.
“I lost, and I didn’t want to lose. I went out to win and wrestle as hard as I could for seven minutes. I think that’s what I did, but I didn’t get the win at the end.”
Sophomore Leroy Vega perhaps put the Gophers’ position in the best perspective.
“In the process of becoming a champion, you always take two steps forward, and then there’s always that step back,” Vega said. “This is our step back, and we’ll have to take two steps forward going into Big Tens.”
Added Lesnar: “It’s not the end of the world. Better now than then.”

Senior sorrow
Minnesota honored its six seniors prior to the match with Iowa. Three of the six — Delaney Berger, Brandon Eggum and Brock Lesnar — took to the mats against the Hawkeyes.
But only Eggum, who won at 184 pounds, came out of his match with a win.
Although he was happy with the personal victory, Eggum really wanted the team win.
“I’m really disappointed,” Eggum said. “This was my last time here, and I was really looking forward to the win and just going out on top.”

Poll power
Despite the loss to Iowa, the Gophers still remain the favorite to win the NCAA tourney — at least that’s what fans who surf the Web are thinking.
A poll on the NCAA’s wrestling Web page, www.ncaawrestling.com, lists Minnesota in first place among fans with 1,400 votes and 31 percent.
Iowa comes in second with 896 votes and 19.9 percent. Oklahoma rounds out the top three with 755 votes and 16.7 percent.

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