Same situation, different result for wrestlers

by Allison Younge

Shelton Benjamin no doubt hoped he would be in a different position during the Gophers wrestling team’s second encounter with Iowa than he was when the teams met five days earlier. But after nine matches Friday, Benjamin’s situation was exactly the same.
The same match-deciding pressure, the same opponent, the same five-point deficit and the same thing necessary for the Gophers to win the match — a pin from Benjamin. But a second pin over the same opponent in one week was a little too much to ask this time. Iowa’s Wes Hand won the match by a score of 7-3, lifting Iowa to a 20-12 victory over Minnesota in front of a dual meet record 11,284 fans at Williams Arena.
“I was out there to win,” Benjamin said. “I was thinking more about getting him on his back than taking the shot or anything.”
In their first meeting this year, at the National Dual Meet championship match, Benjamin pinned Hand to capture an unexpected 18-17 victory for Minnesota. After that day, the Hawkeyes heavyweight resolved himself to the fact that he wouldn’t be caught by Benjamin again.
“I thought about it all week. I knew what he was going to try to do,” Hand said. “He did it last time. I wasn’t going to let it happen again.”
Knowing Benjamin’s strength, Hand guarded against the pin — making a second match-winning fall all but impossible for the Gophers’ heavyweight. With Iowa craving revenge after Minnesota’s one-point victory Sunday, the Hawkeyes’ focus proved unsurmountable. After the match, Hand offered his take on the week’s turn of events.
“It’s a big win for us, no doubt about it,” Hand said. “We had them beat last time, and things didn’t happen right. I think we’re the better team; it’s just that they were better on that given day.”
Minnesota’s coach J Robinson offered no excuses for the Gophers’ performance.
“We didn’t go out there and do what we were capable of doing, and we got beat. We deserved to get beat,” Robinson said. “You’ve got to look at the positive side and say it’s better to learn now, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.”
Competing in front of the large Williams Arena crowd made the loss even harder to take for the Gophers. But despite the lopsided final score, the match remained close throughout.
After Minnesota’s freshman Brett Lawrence was defeated by major decision at 118 pounds to start the match, Pat Connors came through with a 6-3 decision win to put the Gophers within one point of Iowa.
Following the first two weights, Minnesota held a prime position — at least five of the eight matches remaining were expected victories. But as the meet progressed, the early 4-3 mark proved to be the closest the Gophers would come to the Hawkeyes on the scoreboard.
While the Gophers’ ultimately lost six matches to the Hawkeyes, two Minnesota upsets in particular proved costly in the end.
Both Brandon Eggum (177 pounds) and Jason Davids (142 pounds) received their first loss this season at the hands of the Hawkeyes.
Following an overtime win against Iowa’s Jeff McGinness in their first meeting, Davids thought some technical changes might allow him to avoid another close match. Normally aggressive and offensive-minded, the Gophers’ No. 1-ranked senior appeared tentative and out of sorts. By the time Davids realized his new tactics weren’t scoring points, it was too late. McGinness landed two takedowns in the third period to claim the 6-2 win.
“I changed my style a little bit, to what I thought was going to help me, and it actually kind of backfired,” Davids said.
Eggum’s lead was also snatched in the third period of the 177-pound bout. With a minute remaining, Iowa’s Paul Jenn scored a takedown and a nearfall to claim an 8-7 victory.
“Eggum’s and Davids’ matches just killed us,” Robinson said. “You can’t be losing matches like that.”
While Minnesota’s performance was shadowed by the loss to Iowa, two Gophers veterans proved strong against their highly-ranked opponents. Even though they met different outcomes, junior Tim Hartung (190 pounds) and senior Zac Taylor (167 pounds) showed vast improvement in their second encounter with the Hawkeyes.
The third-ranked Hartung avenged last Sunday’s one point double-overtime loss to Iowa’s second-ranked Lee Fullhart by downing him 6-1. Focused and intense, Hartung brought the Gophers fans to their feet, controlling Fullhart throughout the match.
Even though Taylor took a 6-5 loss on his record, it wasn’t before offering Iowa’s No. 1-ranked Joe Williams a challenge. The solid 167-pounders battled in and out of bounds throughout the match. As Williams slowly returned to center mat, Taylor waited there intensified — ready for more.
“Taylor wrestled a great match,” Robinson said. “It was obvious by the crowd if he hadn’t been taken down twice in the first period it would’ve been a whole different match.”
As the Gophers prepare for the final stretch of the dual-meet season, Hartung predicted that losing to Iowa now might ultimately prove beneficial for Minnesota in their quest to be No. 1.
“This loss is only going to make us hungry in the end, and that’s what we’re shooting for — a national title,” Hartung said. “I’d rather give up this dual meet than lose in the end. Hopefully, that’s what will happen.”

Friday’s match summary

No. 3 Iowa — 20
No. 2 Minnesota — 12

118 pounds — Eric Juergens (Iowa) maj. dec. Brett Lawrence (Minn.) 18-4
126 pounds — Pat Connors (Minn.) dec. Doug Schwab (Iowa) 6-3
134 pounds — Mark Ironside (Iowa) maj. dec. Troy Marr (Minn.) 17-6
142 pounds — Jeff McGinness (Iowa) dec. Jason Davids (Minn.) 6-2
150 pounds — Chad Kraft (Minn.) dec. Jamie Heidt (Iowa) 4-0
158 pounds — Josh Holiday (Minn.) dec. Ben Uker (Iowa) 9-3
167 pounds — Joe Williams (Iowa) dec Zac Taylor (Minn.) 6-5
177 pounds — Paul Jenn (Iowa) dec. Brandon Eggum (Minn.) 8-7
190 pounds — Tim Hartung (Minn.) dec Lee Fullhart (Iowa) 6-1
Heavyweight — Wes Hand (Iowa) dec. Shelton Benjamin (Minn.) 7-3