CLEVELAND, Ohio — Taylor Lujan had nothing to lose.
Northern Iowa’s 174-pounder had two options after giving up a takedown to 10th-seeded Ethan Ramos of North Carolina, and trailing 12-10 on a restart with 18 seconds left during the second round of Thursday’s NCAA Division I wrestling championships.
The first, allowing Ramos to ride him out and win, never entered Lujan’s head. The second, go for broke and win the match.
Lujan went with option two. Immediately spinning out of Ramos’ control and turning into him, Lujan came out on top in a scramble for a two-point reversal and four near-fall points, catching Ramos on his back.
The final flurry resulted in wild 16-12 victory to reach the quarterfinals inside Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena.
“I have nothing lose and might as well try to make something happen,” Lujan said.
Ramos controlled the early aspects of the match with three first-period takedowns, and Lujan trailed 6-3 after one. But an escape and a takedown with 1:24 left in the second tied it at 6-all. Then the two exchanged reversals and it was 8-all after two.
Ramos escaped to start the third, and Lujan scored to make it 10-9 with 1:07 to go. Lujan cut Ramos with 45 seconds left to set up the final flurry.
The victory moves Lujan into a quarterfinal against defending national champion Mark Hall of Penn State, and just one win away from an all-American finish.
“That is not the goal, but it is the first step to the goal,” said Lujan of reaching the quarterfinals. “Last year not being on the podium and watching Max (Thomsen) and Foster (Drew) stand proud on that podium. It hurt bad. I was a little jealous of them.
“Hopefully I get done what I need to get done tomorrow.”
Lujan lost in the round-of-12 last year, one match from a podium finish.
“He used them all,” UNI head coach Doug Schwab said of Lujan wrestling all 420 seconds of his match. “We need more of that up and down our lineup.”
The rest of UNI’s contingent will have to battle through the consolation round to get to the podium, including Thomsen and Foster, returning all-Americans, who both lost second-round matches.
Max Thomsen lost to Oklahoma State’s eighth-seeded Boo Lewallan, 10-6, at 149, and Drew Foster was blanked 6-0 by ninth-seeded Max Dean of Cornell at 184.
Thomsen opened with a 13-5 win over Khristian Olivas of Fresno State, while Lujan beat Will Schany of Virginia, 5-3, and Foster topped Kordell Norfleet of Arizona State, 6-1.
After losing his opening match, sophomore Jacob Holschlag scored a 16-0 technical fall over Randall Diabe of Appalachian State in a wrestleback.
“This was not a good day for our team,” Schwab said. “The thing is how do you respond. You hear me say it and it gets to be a broken record a little bit, but this is really what we talk about.
“We got a couple of all-Americans on the backside and they are going to have to fight to get back on the stand. They got to make a deep, deep run one match at a time. They can’t get caught looking ahead.”
Those four are the only Panthers remaining. UNI is in 25th place with seven points.
Jay Schwarm and three-time NCAA qualifier Josh Alber went 0-2 at 125 and 141, respectively, and were eliminated. Schwarm was pinned by Sergio Mendez of Cal-State Bakersfield in 6:27 in a consolation match, and Alber was eliminated in a 7-3 loss to Nick Lee of Penn State.