The 2022 college wrestling national championships are over … but the great...
Battle Royale: Criteria helps OSU end Iowa’s dual streak and left two two teams wanting more
By Mike Finn
In the end, the Iowa wrestling team did not make history in its dual meet with Oklahoma State, Jan. 7.
But with the help of the sport’s current tie-breaking rules, both the Hawkeyes and Cowboys left a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena with another historical footnote in the remarkable series between these two historic programs.
For the second straight year, Oklahoma State and Iowa saw the scoreboard tied after all ten matches. But because the then-No. 2-ranked Cowboys outscored the top-rated Hawkeyes, 54-51, in the ten individual matches, coach John Smith’s squad was awarded a 17-16 victory.
“It was a good win. But there were some ugly (individual) wins,” said Smith. “But a lot of times on the road you have to win ugly.”
And by virtue of the final official score, Oklahoma State ended Iowa’s 84-match non-losing streak. The Hawks had tied the NCAA mark set by Oklahoma State between 1959 and 1966 the night before by downing Indiana in Bloomington.
“There is regret in seeing the streak end. That was over three years and 84 matches, which are now in the rear view mirror,” said Iowa coach Tom Brands, who admitted they moved the date of the meet up one day in order to get more fans in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
That move worked as 15,400 fans — adorned primarily in black — watched a dual that saw the team score tied four times, including 16-16 after Oklahoma State’s Blake Rosholt defeated Grant Gambrall, 8-4, in the final match of the night at 197 pounds. Prior to that match, Iowa held a 47-46 lead in overall points by claiming five of the first nine bouts.
Smith liked the idea that criteria determined the final outcome, especially after his Cowboys and Hawkeyes tied 15-15 last January. This was the only dual that marred Iowa’s non-winning streak that started on Jan. 12, 2008 … after another Oklahoma State defeat over Iowa a week earlier, 19-14, in Iowa City. With the win, OSU improved its overall winning margin over Iowa to 25-18-2.
These two programs lead college wrestling in most of the major categories, including NCAA team championships (OSU 34, Iowa 23) and individual national championships (134 and 78, respectively).
Neither coach was too impressed by their team’s performance. Smith gave his Cowboys a C-minus. Brands simply believed his Hawkeyes — despite having four freshmen in the line-up — must create more opportunities.
“There are two things we have to address as a team,” added Brands. “One we have to put an unbelievable emphasis into your wrestling. We didn’t do that. Some cases we did. The other thing is rolling and falling into positions of the opponent way too much and it bit us. I would have said the same thing had we won on criteria.”
Both teams exchanged major decisions in the first two bouts. Oklahoma State’s Alan Gelogaev used a five-point throw in the first minute and handled Bobby Telford, 10-2, at heavyweight. Iowa’s Matt McDonough used three takedowns in the final period and 2:10 of riding time to major Jon Morrison, 14-4, at 125 pounds. The remaining eight matches were all decisions; two ending in tiebreaker wins for both squads.
Tony Ramos produced the biggest upset of the night. It drew deafening noise from the capacity crowd when he defeated defending national champion and Hodge Trophy front-runner Jordan Oliver, 4-3.
“I heard (the crowd’s response) was pretty loud. I don’t remember,” said Ramos, who benefitted from a penalty point against Oliver. The OSU team leader was cautioned three times for moving early. Ramos then rode the Cowboy the final 30 seconds of his tiebreaker advantage phase.
“A lot of things were running through my head,” said the native of Carol Stream, Ill. “I was excited. I knew my family was excited.”
There was plenty of noise from this match, including from both coaches when the official timekeeper first incorrectly gave Oliver too much riding time, then took away his riding advantage. Finally, the officials Tim Shiels and Rick Stahl corrected the error; giving the Cowboy a 1:02 riding advantage and sent the match into overtime and the eventual tiebreaker phase when each wrestler had 30 seconds to escape.
Ramos also said he tried not to think about the fact that Oliver had pinned all 11 of the foes he faced before this dual.
“He had not gone seven minutes yet,” said Ramos, who could not escape. “I wasn’t going to let him go, even if I had to lock my hands.”
When Iowa’s Montell Marion defeated Josh Kindig at 141 pounds, 9-7 (after earning two nearfall points at the end), Iowa led 10-4 on the team scoreboard before OSU’s Jamal Parks beat Mike Kelly, 8-3, at 149 pounds and cut Iowa’s lead to 10-7.
Following a 15-minute intermission — in which fans watched former Hawkeyes Brent Metcalf and Steve Mocco (who also wrestled for OSU) win a pair of exhibition freestyle matches — the two teams returned to the Carver-Hawkeye floor.
The teams would split the next four matches. The most critical win for Oklahoma State came at 174 pounds, where OSU sophomore Chris Perry — the younger brother of Iowa’s former two-time national champion Mark Perry and nephew of Cowboy coach John Smith — edged Ethen Lofthouse, 3-2. The win came in a tiebreaker that saw the final margin determined by a Perry escape with 13 seconds left. Perry had riden Lofthouse for the first 30-second tiebreaker phase.
But as the match ended, both wrestlers went after each other and were separated by both their coaches and the officials. Primarily boos rained down on Perry as he ran the length of the arena before departing into the tunnel. Fans flocked to the railing to watch as Lofthouse left at about the same time.
“There was nothing going on, Perry said. “It’s inconvenient that we have to run through the same exit to get out. Coach just told me to get out of the arena after the match. I was just jogging up here. Nothing happened.”
This was Perry’s first match after dropping down from 184 pounds, where he was ranked in the top five in the country.
“I was thinking about it before the (Oklahoma) dual in December,” said Perry. “I was a little undersized. It was something we discussed over the summer, too. I was losing so much weight in practice and not putting on any weight.”
“In the end, it was about him pushing big bodies at 184,” said Smith. “I want to see him doing more.”
After that win, Iowa’s Vinnie Wagner defeated Chris McNeil, 4-3, at 184 pounds. This gave the Hawkeyes a 16-13 team lead. It set up the match at 197 pounds, where Iowa’s Grant Gambrall — an All-American at 184 pounds who was hampered by a concussion problem overt the off-season — met Blake Rosholt. The OSU starter is the other brother of two former OSU All-Americans and competed at heavyweight in 2011.
Rosholt put the individual match out of reach when he scored two of his three takedowns in the final 1:32. He may have also solidified the 197-pound spot that was held earlier this year by George Mason-transfer Cayle Byers.
Smith said Rosholt, a sophomore, simply matured and learned to come out of the shadow created by his older brothers — Jake, an NCAA champ in 2005 and 2006, and Jared Rosholt, a three-time All-American and 2010 national runner-up at heavyweight.
“(Blake has) never been a winner,” Smith said. “He never won a high school state championship. He is starting to see that and watching his brothers, who were very successful. I think he finally saw himself as that. He’s started to develop some really good habits and his attitude got a lot better.”
So how close are these two programs that basically tied the past two years.
“Last year (Iowa) finished third and we finished fourth (in the NCAA tournament),” Smith said. “Maybe we’re still are (the third and fourth-ranked teams) We’re going to have to wrestle better than that. Both teams are if they want to win the championship.”