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The only thing that separated Iowa from winning the 2015 Big Ten championship outright — instead of sharing it with Ohio State two weeks ago — was crowning an individual champion.
Based on NCAA seedings, none of the ten Hawkeyes who qualified for the 2015 Nationals, are ranked among the top two in their weight class. (The highest seeded Iowa wrestlers are Cory Clark (3rd at 133), Brandon Sorensen (4th at 149), Mike Evans (3rd at 174) and Bobby Telford (3rd at Hwt).
Do Iowa wrestlers have to fare better than their seeds — and actually have someone win an individual title — if the Hawkeyes hope to claim their first NCAA team title since 2010?
“Obviously you give your team a big advantage if you personally win it all,” said Telford a two-time All-American. “Coming in with 10 guys is a good way to give your team the best shot at the team title. You have some high-power offense guys, and this is something our program, and most programs in the nation have focused on all year.
“The best way to win a team title is to have 10 guys come to the tournament and 10 guys win the individual titles. It definitely wouldn’t hurt our team title chances for me to win the title here.”
Telford is still angry that he lost to Northwestern’s Mike McMullan in the Big Ten championship match. A win would have given Iowa the team crown. But he relishes the opportunity to win his final NCAA bout in the heavyweight final, especially if it claims a team championship.
“You always want to be the guy that it comes down to,” he said. “Everyone is a competitor here who didn’t come here by chance. You want to be on the big stage, and be the big player making big time plays. Everyone wants to be that guy.”
Of Minnesota’s eight NCAA qualifiers, five are seniors: twins Chris and Nick Dardanes (133 and 141), Dylan Ness (157), Logan Storley (174) and Scott Schiller (197).
Could one of these wrestlers who are all seeded, especially Chris Dardanes (No. 1) and Ness (No. 3), become one of coach J Robinson’s final champions?
“I would be proud to be one of J’s last champions, but people have been saying that about J since Jayson (Dylan’s brother and 2010 NCAA champion) wrestled here,” said Ness, a two-time national runner-up.
Over the past 29 years, Robinson has led his Gophers to three national team championships — the last coming in 2007 — as well as 14 individual titles and 62 All-Americans … and many wonder if this might be the veteran coach’s final national tournament.
“I don’t know,” said the 68-year-old Robinson. “I enjoy what I do. Someday I’ll probably just walk in and say, ‘I’m done.’ Everybody talks about it, especially in recruiting. But I don’t believe age has anything to do with anything. I enjoy what I’m doing and will continue to do so.”