U can’t hold off Iowa, denied title

Aaron Blake

COLUMBUS, Ohio – When Minnesota’s 184-pound wrestler Josh McLay shocked first-seeded Brian Glynn of Illinois in the quarterfinals at the Big Ten Championships on Saturday, the Gophers had a surprise semifinal contributor and a legitimate chance to win their fourth straight conference title.

When the eighth-seeded McLay fell to fifth seed Paul Bradley of Iowa on a takedown with seven seconds left in the semifinals, it served as a reminder that Iowa was still there, and they wanted that title back.

The McLay-Bradley match gave Iowa its fourth of five finalists in the tournament, and the 18-point deficit the second-place Gophers inherited for Sunday’s matches proved insurmountable as the Hawkeyes reclaimed the conference title they had a stranglehold on for 25 years before Minnesota stole it in 1999.

The Gophers’ 124.5 points earned them second place, but Iowa held on with 129.5 points in the two-day tournament.

“It was ours to win today, and we didn’t do what we had to do,” Gophers coach J Robinson said. “If you look at the score, it was ours to win.”

Minnesota was led by 197-pound champion Damion Hahn and 165-pound champion Jacob Volkmann. Hahn and Volkmann were the only finalists for the Gophers, and the rest of the team struggled in the consolation brackets Sunday.

“I think so many times our guys don’t realize that one match can make a difference,” Robinson said. “And it did.”

McLay finished fifth thanks to his upset of Glynn. In that match, McLay scored a takedown to break a 1-1 tie with 16 seconds left.

But against Bradley, McLay got caught in a bad position late and couldn’t hold off Bradley, whom he beat 2-1 in the dual win over Iowa on Feb. 15 at Williams Arena.

“It hurt me doubly because it was basically worth twice the points if I would have beat him, because he’s from Iowa,” McLay said. “He just basically out-muscled me. He’s a strong kid.”

The Gophers had three other fifth-place finishers, including 125-pounder Bobbe Lowe, 141-pounder Tommy Owen and 157-pounder Matt Nagel. Lowe and Nagel were sixth seeds and Owen was a fourth.

Overall, Minnesota lost its first four matches Sunday, putting Lowe, 133-pounder Quincy Osborn, Owen and Nagel all in fifth-place matches.

Minnesota’s fourth-seeded heavyweight Cole Konrad scored a 9-2 decision on Michigan’s second-seeded Greg Wagner in the third-place match after falling to eventual champion Tommy Rowlands of Ohio State in the semifinals.

Third-seeded 174-pounder Jon Duncombe came up short in his third-place match against fifth-seeded Pete Friedl of Illinois.

The only Minnesota wrestler who didn’t qualify for the NCAA Championships on March 18-20 in St. Louis was 149-pounder Jeremy Anderson, who lost his first two matches Saturday.

Though Robinson was disappointed with the second-place finish, Hahn saw the bright side.

“Taking second was an accomplishment,” he said. “It’s not exactly what we wanted. We wanted another Big Ten title as a team. We didn’t get it but, but we showed people that we’re not taking a backseat to anybody.”