For many of the nation’s top wrestlers, those who’ve seen the NCAA’s big stage or stood on the podium a few times, their opponents don’t always take the mat in attack mode. A seven-minute match against a superior opponent can seem like a half hour, so sometimes tactics are used to frustrate, annoy, and eat clock. Iowa senior Thomas Gilman knows the tactic.

Irritated Hawkeye

The top-rated 125-pounder always seems to be in attack mode, and like former teammate Tony Ramos, expresses his frustration when the other guy in a singlet doesn’t open up.

During last Saturday’s match with Iowa State, Gilman dominated Markus Simmons to the tune of a technical fall at the 5:09 mark. Following the Hawkeyes’ victory over the Cyclones, Gilman — again like his old teammate — provided plenty of sound bites.

With his most-recent win, Gilman improved to 8-0 on the year with five pins and three technical falls.
Iowa Athletics
With his most-recent win, Gilman improved to 8-0 on the year with five pins and three technical falls.
“I feel like I syphoned his gas into my gas tank when the guy was sitting there stalling,” Gilman said. “It fires me up a little bit. These guys come here and they say they want to wrestle, but do they want to wrestle? They go out there and they kind of sit on their butt and they don’t want to come back to the center. I’m getting fired up now.

“Do they want to wrestle? I don’t know. They want to wrestle their match and where they’re comfortable. I take them to where they’re uncomfortable. I take them to deep water.”

With the win over Simmons, Gilman improved to 8-0 with five pins and three technical falls. A year ago he was 28-2 with one of the losses coming in the NCAA finals. Iowa wrestles at the Midlands in Evanston, Illinois, Dec. 29-30.

Moving on up

In early November, longtime Rider head coach Gary Taylor announced he would retire at the end the 2016-17 season, his 39th with the program. Rider beat Penn last Saturday night to give Taylor his 431st career dual victory. Only Dale Thomas, Harold Nichols, J Robinson, and Bobby Douglas have produced more dual wins among Division I coaches. Thomas coached Oregon State to 616 dual meet wins; Nichols, Iowa State’s legendary leader, led the Cyclones to 493; and Minnesota’s J Robinson and Bobby Douglas, who led Arizona State and Iowa State, each finished with 440 victories.

Rider's coach Gary Taylor enters his final season with the most wins among active DI wrestling coaches.
Rider Athletics
Rider's coach Gary Taylor enters his final season with the most wins among active DI wrestling coaches.
Rider (2-0) has 12 duals remaining and fans might circle a Feb. 11 date with Drexel or a Feb. 16 matchup with Princeton as a possible chance for Taylor to tie Robinson and Douglas.

“I believe every career coach would love to retire at a point where the program is in really good shape,” Taylor said during the first week of November. “Having just won the (Eastern Wrestling League) championship last year, produced our 15th All-American (the second in two years and the fourth in the past 10 years), and having been ranked as high as 10th in the nation in the last three years — Rider wrestling is clearly at that point.

“The program is poised for even greater success, with two All-Americans returning for the next two years (first time ever in the program’s history). Our wrestling room is filled with outstanding young student-athletes who are working hard to make their mark. The program is clearly in a very good place both within the conference and nationally.”

Pittsburgh-Johnstown’s Pat Pecora has 561 career victories at the Division II level. The current boss of the Mountain Cats ranks third all-time (all divisions) behind Thomas and Olivet College’s Jare Klein, who has 569.

Big Bison start

North Dakota State University is known as a football factory. And for good reason. Last Saturday, the Bison advanced to the FCS semifinals for the sixth consecutive season and seek a sixth straight national title. The school is also no stranger to mat success. 

Under legendary head coach Bucky Maughan, inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2003, NDSU won four NCAA Division II national championships (1988, 1998, 2000, and 2001). Maughan’s 467 dual wins rank 11th all-time.

In 2007-08, NDSU made the move from DII to Division I and scored 3 ½ points to finish 50th at the national tournament. Last March, the Bison tied for 44th, the seventh time the program has finished outside the top 30 at an NCAA DI meet. The dual record was 4-6 a year ago and the Bison were seventh out of 10 teams in their inaugural foray into the Big 12 Conference. The 2016-17 squad expects different March outcomes.

North Dakota State received votes toward the USA Today/NWCA poll for the fourth time in five weeks.
North Dakota State Athletics
North Dakota State received votes toward the USA Today/NWCA poll for the fourth time in five weeks.
Through two months of the season, NDSU is 6-1 with victories over Big 12 foe Iowa State, and Big Ten members Northwestern, Indiana, and Maryland.

Sixth-year head coach Roger Kish likes his team, especially 125-pound senior Josh Rodriguez and junior 157-pounder Clay Ream, both unbeaten at 10-0 and two-time NCAA qualifiers. Rodriguez, from Guadalupe, California, has nine bonus-point wins, while Ream, from Wentzville, M, has produced seven bonus-pointers. Rodriguez’s technical fall was the tiebreaker in NDSU’s dual win over Indiana.

“The win over Iowa State was crucial to our teams overall mentality and early success,” Kish said. “That mentality that assures our guys that they belong in the Big 12 and can compete. We are continuing to climb and find ways to get better and improve every day. We encourage these guys to be students of the sport, to find ways to improve technically and gain a better understanding of positions, match management, and increase our overall wrestling IQ along the way.

“We do have leaders in the program. (Rodriguez and Ream) do have lofty goals this year. They are doing everything they can in their training and disciplines to position themselves at the top of the podium in March.”

Ream, who studies biochemistry and molecular biology, had a 4.0 grade point average in 2015-16 and earned the NCAA’s Elite 90 Award, given to the highest GPA of those NCAA Tournament participants.

The Bison, ranked 19th in this week’s Trackwrestling poll, return to the mat at The Midlands, Dec. 29-30.

Bounce back

Minnesota struggled out of the gates, rallying to beat South Dakota State at home, then getting waxed by top-ranked Oklahoma State, 34-3, a week later in the same venue. But the Gophers did some soul-searching and appear to be on an upward swing. UM was fourth at the Cliff Keen Las Vegas Collegiate Invitational, and last weekend swept through Michigan with wins over the Spartans and the Wolverines.

Senior Brett Pfarr and the Golden Gophers of Minnesota seem to be trending in the right direction.
Minnesota Athletics
Senior Brett Pfarr and the Golden Gophers of Minnesota seem to be trending in the right direction.
Brett Pfarr’s success at 197 has been no surprise. The All-American had five bonus-point wins in Vegas, including a major decision over Ohio State’s talented Kollin Moore in the semifinals. Pfarr’s win on Sunday provided big bonus points in the 22-18 dual win.

A small surprise has been Jake Short, a 157-pounder who was benched for the Oklahoma State dual but responded with a title in Vegas and another big win against Brian Murphy of Michigan last Sunday.

“A win like this, the way we won, builds confidence,” Gopher head coach Brandon Eggum said. “We told the guys, the difference (against Michigan) was that we out-hustled our opponents. Our body language, our energy, those things were important and they can be contagious. We showed a lot of energy (Sunday). Carrying forward, the big thing we take from this is that energy and that confidence.”

Quick Hits

  • Wrestling fans were hoping for some head-to-head battles between Cowboys and Nittany Lions at this Sunday’s Reno Tournament of Champions. But Oklahoma State head coach John Smith and staff decided it best to keep the starters home and focus on the upcoming Southern Scuffle, Jan. 1-2. PSU won a sixth-straight Scuffle title in 2016, but will not be in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to kick off 2017. Oklahoma State will be involved in the biggest dual meet of the weekend, hosting a very good Cornell squad Friday night at Gallagher-Iba Arena.
  • Lock Haven’s Ronnie Perry improved to 17-4 with a dominating performance at the PSAC Championships last Saturday. Perry had three technical falls in four matches, including a 15-0 whitewash of 2016 NCAA DII runner-up Joey Alessandro of Seton Hill (Pa.) in the finals. Perry, a junior, redshirted in 2015-16 and qualified for the NCAA Championships as a sophomore.
  • Nebraska won a pair of duals in the Carolinas last weekend, beating North Carolina State in Raleigh on Friday, then whipping the Tar Heels on Saturday. The Huskers are 7-0 and have three unbeaten wrestlers ranked inside the top five – Eric Montoya (133), Tyler Berger (157), and T.J. Dudley (184). NU kicks off the new year with Penn State in Lincoln on Jan. 8.