IOWA CITY – The last two years have been full of more downs than ups for University of Iowa redshirt freshman wrestler Nick Moore.
Moore, a four-time state champion at Iowa City West High School and was 183-1 for his career, spent last season competing in open tournaments as a redshirt freshman and went 19-4.
This year, Moore cut down from 165 pounds to 157 and broke into the lineup when All-American Derek St. John suffered a knee injury.
Moore was 10-7 coming into Sunday afternoon’s Big Ten Conference showdown against third-ranked Minnesota.
Given a chance to shine in the spotlight, Moore capitalized. He scored a five-point move off a headlock in the first period and rolled to a major decision over Alec Ortiz, helping sixth-ranked Iowa end a two-dual losing skid with a 19-17 victory over the Golden Gophers in front of 9,511 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Moore, who has had his share of ups and downs the last two years, was back in the spotlight. And the redshirt freshman was savoring every last second of it.
“It was nice for once. It’s important. It sets the tone for the match. Lately I’ve been getting too far down in matches. It helps you all the way through the match, to control the whole match, rather than just coming on at the end,” said Moore, who added an escape and a takedown in the third period for an 11-2 major decision which gave Iowa a 13-4 lead. “I’m just the guy right now. For me, I’m the guy at 157.”
Not to be outdone, Iowa freshman Mike Evans took a cue from Moore. Eighth-ranked Evans built an 11-0 lead against 11th-ranked Cody Yohn at 165. Evans then turned Yohn for a fall in 6 minutes, 2 seconds, bringing the crowd to its feet in a thunderous ovation an giving the Hawkeyes a 19-4 lead.
Those four bonus points ended up being the difference in a dual in which the matches were split, five to five.
“It was real important. Coach kept saying all week that our backs are up against the wall. Once you find yourself in that position, everyone gets fired up because no one likes to have their back against the wall. We like doing the exact opposite to our opponents,” Evans said. “There’s pressure for each match. But I think I got a little more excited for this match. Not so much pressure. To actually start scoring points on top in a big match like that, it’s awesome.”
“I give my hat’s off to both those guys, especially Mike Evans. The dual was decided by two points, by bonus points,” said Iowa junior Matt McDonough, who scored a convincing 7-1 win over top-ranked Zach Sanders at 125 to open the dual. “Those guys went out there and got bonus points,” .
“This is a team win. Regardless of how pretty it is, if it’s five to five in team matches, it’s a team win. Sometimes you’ve got to give credit for a team win. I don’t do a good job of giving credit,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “In a fire fight like that, you’ve got to give credit where credit is due, especially where we’ve been at the last couple weeks.”
Minnesota coach J. Robinson knew the dual would come down to 157, 165 and 174. Iowa won two of those matches and got bonus points in both. Robinson was not figuring on that.
“There was some great effort on individuals, but we didn’t win. You come to win. You have to put all that together,” Robinson said. “It came down the way we thought it would. We thought it would be decided in the middle – 157, 165, 174. That, in the essence, made the difference.”
McDonough, Ramos and Montell Marion (141) got Iowa out to a 9-0 lead. McDonough improved to 5-0 against Sanders, scoring two takedowns and a reversal before riding Sanders out for the third period.
“You have to wrestle tough opponents hard because they’re going to fight back every chance,” McDonough said. “I love that challenge, getting a chance to do that. If I could wrestle a guy like that every single time, I would.”
“There are some things you have to do to prepare a different way. We’ll go back and look at it,” Robinson said. “You only have to beat him once, at the right place. That’s what you’ve got to work for.”
Minnesota (9-3 overall, 6-1 Big Ten) won the final four matches, but Iowa’s lead was too much to overcome, thanks to Moore and Evans.
“It was real important because it was a really tight dual and we needed every bonus point we could get,” Moore said. “Before I went out there, Coach said, ‘Be smart, wrestle and when you can get bonus points, stick it to them.'”
“I feel like for the Ohio State and Penn State matches, when we got points, our team didn’t continue to build off each other,” Evans added. “For example, when Nick went out there and got bonus points, that’s pushing me to go out there and get bonus points, too. We rolled well off each other in those matches.”
“Guys came out hard. They came out hard for seven minutes. They started a match and they finished it,” McDonough said. “We didn’t do a good enough job on the road of that. Guys were coming out timid. Guys come out here, they come out like they’re warriors, like they’re savages, like they’re barbarians. We’ve got plenty of work to do. We’re going to bust our (butts).”
No. 6 Iowa 19, No. 3 Minnesota 17
125 – Matt McDonough (I) dec. Zach Sanders, 7-1. 133 – Tony Ramos (I) dec. Chris Dardanes, 5-2. 141 – Montell Marion (I) dec. Nick Dardanes, 3-2. 149 – Dylan Ness (M) maj. dec. Mike Kelly, 15-7. 157 – Nick Moore (I) maj. dec. Alec Ortiz, 11-2. 165 – Mike Evans (I) pinned Cody Yohn, 6:02. 174 – Logan Storley (M) dec. Ethen Lofthouse, 5-3. 184 – Kevin Steinhaus (M) maj. dec. Vinnie Wagner, 12-4. 197 – Sonny Yohn (M) dec. Grant Gambrall, 5-3. Hwt – Tony Nelson (M) dec Blake Rasing, 7-2.
Records: Minnesota 9-3 overall (6-1 Big Ten), Iowa 10-3 (5-2).