ST. LOUIS, Mo. — If Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands was satisfied with his team’s solid start to the NCAA Championships Thursday, he wasn’t about to let anybody know it.
Brands didn’t want anyone on a Hawkeye team that had six wrestlers advance to the quarterfinals and all nine qualifiers still alive to be content, either.
Iowa sits in fourth place with 24 1/2 points, one point behind Oklahoma State, a 1 1/2 behind Ohio State and just six behind defending champion Penn State.
“Day two is on the horizon,” Brands said. “We have a one-pound weigh-in, a one-hour weigh-in and we have a lot of wrestling left to do and that is where I’m at and that is my assessment.”
For the most part, Brands got what he wanted out of his team Thursday. The Hawkeyes scored 9 1/2 bonus points, only topped by the 15.5 scored by Penn State and 13.5 by Ohio State. He saw unseeded Cash Wilcke pull off a first-round upset at 197, and Alex Meyer, seeded 11th at 174, rallied to top sixth-seeded Ryan Preisch of Lehigh, 7-5.
In addition to Meyer, top-seeded Thomas Gilman at 125, fourth-seeded Cory Clark at 133, fifth-seeded Brandon Sorensen at 149, second-seeded Michael Kemerer at 157 and third-seeded Sammy Brooks at 184 also advanced to the quarterfinals where Iowa has some huge head-to-head matches against teams above them in the team standings.
“We have a lot of big match-ups tomorrow, not that any wouldn’t be a big match-up, but it is going to be head-to-head for the teams that are in it for the team race,” Brands said. “We’ve got to be ready to go.”
Gilman, who registered a pair of major decisions, including a 22-8 win over Campbell’s Nathan Kraisser in the round of 16, will face Nicholas Piccininni in the quarterfinals. Sorensen, 6-2 winner over Andrew Crown to get to the quarterfinals, has a rematch against Mitch Jordan of Ohio State, who beat him in the Big Ten semifinals. Alex Meyer gets Bo Jordan of Ohio State, and Topher Carton will face a Buckeye in an elimination match at 141.
Sorensen, the Cedar Falls native, scored early and often in his opening two wins and says he needs to stay active if he wants to get back to the finals.
“I’ve got to keep my hands and feet moving because that is where my best wrestling comes from,” Sorensen said. “That is what we need to happen. I’ve got to keep that high pace and wrestle like I know how.”
Brooks, who advanced to the quarterfinals with a 3-minute, 44-second pin of Dakota Geer of Edinboro, hopes to shake his quarterfinal jinx today against Emery Parker of Illinois, who upset defending champion Myles Martin of Ohio State in the round of 16.
“Yeah, win instead of lose like I did the other years,” Brooks quipped. “It’s just the same thing I’ve been saying.
“Just taking it one match at a time. This is the big daddy and everybody is in the zone. Everybody’s got their best wrestling, so I have to take it one match at a time. Relax when I need to relax and come here ready to whip some tail.”
Iowa went 9-2 during the opening session, including a pin from Sorensen and major decisions from Gilman and Kemerer.
But as good as the Hawkeyes were, so were the other top contenders. Penn State went 8-0 in first-round matches with four technical falls and a pin. Oklahoma State went 9-1 with a couple of pins, and Ohio State, the Big Ten tournament champion, went 7-2 with four major decisions and two technical falls.
By the end of the day, Penn State had seven in the quarterfinals and eight alive with 15.5 bonus points scored, Ohio State has five left with three in the championship bracket, and Oklahoma State has seven alive and three moving on to the quarterfinals.
“Bonus points are big and you’ve seen a lot of bonus points from teams favored to win this thing,” Brands said. “We need bonus points and not just in the early rounds when it is expected. When you can get them, you get them, meaning get them anytime and get them all the time.”
Iowa State saw two of its three qualifiers eliminated and only All-American Lelund Weatherspoon remains alive at 174. Two-time All-American Earl Hall at 133 and sophomore Marcus Harrington at 197 both went 0-2.