March 19, 2010

By Roger Moore

Special to

OMAHA, Neb. - They won in a variety of ways, but the bottom line is that the Iowa Hawkeyes won.

About the only thing that went wrong for Iowa on Friday was a singlet malfunction by heavyweight Dan Erekson. The senior wrestled his last match of the night with his singlet on backwards.

"When you're five-for-five in the semifinals, you might as well be five-for-five in the finals," said Iowa head coach Tom Brands. "I'm not making a prediction there. I'm just saying that's the philosophy, that's the marching orders, that's how we go forward."

When competition starts on Saturday morning, Iowa will lead the field by 45.5 points. With 120.5 points and five in the finals nobody in the field will catch Iowa as they win their 23rd overall NCAA title and third straight.

The variety of ways included a dominating major decision by Matt McDonough in the 125-pound semifinals; a thrilling 7-6 victory by sophomore Montel Marion at 141; and a wild come-from-behind 10-9 decision by senior Jay Borschel at 174.

Borschel (36-0) trailed 5-0 to Virginia's Chris Henrich early but slowly mounted a comeback that finished with a takedown in the final 40 seconds and a ride-out to earn a riding time point and the one-point win.

"Sometimes I get in trouble with my laid back style and approach, and sometimes come out slow," Borschel said. "It's our mentality as a team that when you go deeper and deeper into the tournament you get stronger. Coach (Tom) Brands says every session our best wrestling is now and everything else is behind us. I just stayed calm and tried to take them one at a time to get those points."

Senior Daniel Dennis knocked off Michigan State's Franklin Gomez for the third time this season in advancing to the 133-pound finals. Iowa's fifth finalist, senior Brent Metcalf (35-1), will wrestle his third NCAA final after beating Oklahoma senior Kyle Terry in the semifinals.

Metcalf will face Ohio State senior Lance Palmer (31-2) in a much-anticipated rematch of the Big Tens where Palmer beat the 2008 NCAA champ.

"I'm excited. It's an opportunity to correct a wrong," Metcalf said. "I've been waiting the last two weeks maybe to get to this point and we both had to do our job, and we have. It's time to go out and compete and work it out."

Said Palmer, "It's going to be fun. I love wrestling Brent. He's a great wrestler. It's not fun because people make him out to be the person he is, it's great because he is a great wrestler and it gives us a chance to see who is the best in the country."

McDonough will face fellow freshman Andrew Long of Iowa State, who improved to 27-6 with a victory over 2008 national champion Angel Escobedo from Indiana. McDonough has beaten Long twice this season.

"It's going to be a big match," Long said. "We always have close matches that are always entertaining."

Iowa State, third in the team race with 67 points, also pushed 197-pound senior Jake Varner (30-0) and senior 285-pounder David Zabriskie (25-2) to the finals. Varner will meet old rival Craig Brester of Nebraska, whose only two losses this season are to Varner and who also lost to the Cyclone in the NCAA finals last season.

Brester (30-2) just got by Maryland senior Hudson Taylor, 1-0, in his semifinal bout.

Zabriskie will also face a familiar foe when he gets Oklahoma State's Jared Rosholt (34-2). The New Jersey native beat Rosholt in the Big 12 Championship finals two weeks ago and owns a 6-3 all-time record against the fellow senior.

Cornell, eight points in front of Iowa State but 45.5 behind Iowa, pushed two to the finals led by junior 174-pounder Mack Lewnes (40-0), who edged American's Steve Fittery in the semis. Lewnes will face Borschel in the finals.

Freshman Kyle Dake (33-2) beat Ohio State's Reece Humphrey, 3-2, and will meet Marion in the 141-pound title bout.

Twelve different schools will be represented in Saturday night's finals. Behind the Hawkeyes' six, Iowa State will have three and Cornell two. Nine others will have one to step on the big stage in front of the 15,000-plus.

Minnesota senior Jayson Ness (30-0), now a four-time All-American, will try and win a title on Saturday when he takes on Dennis. Ness won a marathon with Oklahoma State rookie Jordan Oliver in the 133-pound semis. The only point scored came on a Ness escape in the second tiebreaker.

"It's all about heart when you get into those long overtime matches, just gutting it out and wanting that win real bad" said Ness.

Harvard's J.P. O'Connor (34-0) had a dominating win in the 157-pound semis. He'll face Cal Poly senior Chase Pami, who ended Binghamton's Justin Lister's run by major decision.

Wisconsin's Andrew Howe (36-0) remained perfect and meets Penn State's Dan Vallimont (31-7), who beat 2009 NCAA champion Jarrod King of Edinboro in overtime, in the 165-pound finals. Howe, a sophomore, lost to King in the finals last season.

The 184-pound final will see Kirk Smith of Boise State, who hammered American's Mike Cannon, 11-2, in his semi, against Missouri senior Max Askren (19-2), who won a wild bout with Wyoming's Joe LeBlanc in the other half.