Late pin seals win

Heavyweight Cole Konrad pinned Iowa’s Ryan Fuller with 15 seconds to go.

Aaron Blake

With 54 seconds remaining in the third period of the final match Sunday at Williams Arena, Minnesota wrestling coach J Robinson decided it was about time to break it down for his heavyweight, redshirt freshman Cole Konrad.

“When I came off the mat, J said, ‘If you don’t turn him or you don’t major him, we lose,’ ” Konrad said.

Thanks, coach.

Despite the late information, 54 seconds and the momentum he already had were enough for the Gophers’ sixth-ranked big man. He went at Iowa heavyweight Ryan Fuller hard for about 30 seconds, drove into him and turned him over for the pin with 15 seconds left.

The six team points gave No. 13 Minnesota (10-6, 4-3 Big Ten) a dramatic 18-15 victory to the delight of most of the 4,430 in attendance.

“I was just thinking about how hard I could run into him and see if I could bump him over,” Konrad said. “He’s powerful in the hips, and I gave it everything I had, just hoping he’d go.”

A decision simply wouldn’t do for the Gophers. The eighth-ranked Hawkeyes (11-4, 5-2) would have won a draw because they had a major decision earlier in the dual.

Konrad needed to score some bonus points, and he delivered.

Fuller, who was simply trying to stay on his feet and concede the decision, battled Konrad to a scoreless stalemate through two periods.

Konrad started the third period with an escape and then scored a takedown to grab a 3-0 lead with 57 seconds remaining. Robinson explained the scenario to him during a stoppage three seconds later and after Fuller’s second stall warning made the score 4-0, Konrad scored the pin.

“Cole had to work really hard, and he finally broke him mentally,” 184-pounder Josh McLay said. “He took him down and took it to him. The kid gave up after he put him on his back.”

But Konrad wouldn’t have even had the chance to win the dual for his team was it not for McLay coming through two matches prior.

The junior, who was 1-5 in the Big Ten before Sunday, fought through a tooth-and-nail match with No. 12 Paul Bradley, coming out with a 2-1 win that kept his team alive.

Bradley and McLay began the second and third periods, respectively, with escapes to knot the match at 1.

But midway through the third period, Bradley was given his second stall warning of the match. McLay got the point he needed. He held on for the decision and brought his team within six points at 15-9.

“We had our backs to the wall, and Josh has been wrestling these big guys,” Robinson said. “We needed him to come through, and he did. If he doesn’t win that, we don’t win. I’ve got to say McLay is the guy. He deserves it.”

Senior Damion Hahn, the No. 1 wrestler at 197 pounds, then came in and took care of the Hawkeyes’ Ryan Fulsaas in a 6-1 decision, bringing Minnesota within three at 15-12.

Had Konrad only earned a decision over Fuller, Iowa would have won the 15-15 draw because the Hawkeyes’ second-ranked 125-pounder Luke Eustice scored a major decision on No. 19 Bobbe Lowe.

The tie-breaker in team wrestling goes first to the team with the most individual matches, then the most pins, then the most technical falls and then the most major decisions.

Luke Eustice’s brother, Ty Eustice, spiked his headgear after he earned an 8-5 decision at 149 pounds and was called for an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty that cost Iowa the bonus point Luke Eustice had earned.

After the 125-pound match, Quincy Osborn’s takedown of Trent Goodale five seconds into overtime gave him a 4-2 decision and brought the Gophers within one point at 4-3.

Iowa’s fifth-ranked Cliff Moore scored a 12-6 decision on No. 16 Tommy Owen at 141 pounds before Ty Eustice defeated the Gophers’ Thomas McAlpine.

The score would have stood at 10-3 had Ty Eustice simply walked off the court, but his outburst reduced the lead to six.

Minnesota’s No. 12 157-pounder Matt Nagel fell to No. 9 Joe Johnston 7-4, and Gophers All-American Jacob Volkmann beat Iowa’s Cole Pape 4-2 at 165 pounds.

No. 13 Jon Duncombe fought to the end against second-ranked Tyler Nixt, but lost 3-1 before McLay made his entrance with his team trailing 15-6.

The Gophers have now won three consecutive matches after dropping three straight in the weeks before. Minnesota upset then-No. 3 Illinois on Feb. 6 and blew out Indiana 32-7 the next day.

Overall, the wrestlers feel they are getting closer to where they want to be when the postseason starts March 6 at the Big Ten Championships in Columbus, Ohio.

“What they’ve done is they’ve changed,” Robinson said. “They realized that they’ve got to fight and they’ve got to do it every day, and they’re making progress – little, by little, by little.”