The University of Iowa took second this past weekend at the 2016 Big Ten Championships, which were hosted in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Penn State led all teams with 150.5 points, including three champions, with Iowa finishing with 127 points, and Ohio State a close third at 126.
The Hawkeyes came into Sunday’s finals matches looking to buck a nasty trend, losing eight consecutive conference final matches in a row, dating back to 2014. That trend would end with junior Cory Clark winning the 133 pound title over Illinois Zane Richards, 2-1 in the tiebreaks. Fittingly enough Clark’s former roommate Tony Ramos was the last Hawkeye to win a conference title at the same weight back in 2014.
Clark opened the tournament with a 7-3 quarterfinal victory over the #7 seed Johnni DiJulius of Ohio State following a first round bye. Clark then earned a 10-7 semifinals victory against Wisconsin’s Ryan Taylor to reach the Big Ten finals for the first time in his career.
It was there that Clark faced off with Richards, who was one of two undefeated wrestlers at the 133 weight class in the entire nation, and the only wrestler to hand Clark a loss in the regular season. With the two evenly matched on their feet, Clark got the win by riding Richards out in overtime.
“It’s a unique feeling,” Clark said on getting his hand raised in the finals, “It’s almost like the work I have been putting in throughout the year is starting to pay off. I feel a sense of relief a little bit, but the season is not over.
With Clark ending the drought Sammy Brooks was able to make it double, downing Nebraska’s TJ Dudley 6-4 on the way to the 184 pound crown. Like Clark, Brooks was facing an oppoenent who had beaten him previously in the regular season.
Iowa also grabbed a pair of silver medals in the final session, where Brandon Sorensen picked up just his first loss of the season when he lost a tight bout to Penn State sophomore Zain Retherford, 4-0 in the 149 pound finals. Penn State’s Morgan McIntosh defeated Hawkeye senior Nathan Burak in the 197 pound finals, 3-2.
The Hawkeyes will now have a week off to prepare for the NCAA championships held in New York City March 17-19th. Seven Iowa wrestlers earned automatic bids to the tournament, and two additional wrestlers will wait to learn their fate on receiving a wildcard later this week.
Earning auto-berths were: Thomas Gilman (3rd at 125), Clark, Sorensen, Edwin Cooper Jr. (5th at 157), Alex Meyer (5th at 174), Brooks, and Burak.
Waiting to hear on wildcard status is senior Patrick Rhoads (7th at 165), and Stoll (8th at 285). Stoll should be a shoo in for the at-large bid, but Rhoads’s future remains uncertain. All 11 losses Rhoads suffered this season came to top 10 wrestlers in the coach’s panel rankings, and his win in the seventh place match was over the #9 ranked wrestler in the last NCAA RPI rankings.