BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Iowa’s Topher Carton turned to the Hawkeyes’ cheering section and briefly pumped two fists in the air.
The reaction was a little different the previous day when Carton was officially eliminated from the Big Ten Championships at Indiana University’s Assembly Hall.
Carton was pulled into a mini-bracket and defeated Michigan’s Sal Profaci, 8-3, for ninth and the Big Ten’s final automatic berth at 141 Sunday, qualifying for the NCAA tournament.
“It was big for moving forward,” Carton said. “It was big for my psyche.
“It was hard to come off that mat after that consolation loss. I thought my season was over. I had new life and took advantage of it. I wrestled hard.”
The fifth-year senior has toiled in the program, competing for a lineup spot in the past. He earned his chance to be the full-time starter in his final campaign. Carton will be able to finish his career with national title and all-American hopes intact.
“This is a qualifier for the real show,” Carton said. “It was big to put in all that work for five years for this performance.
“Obviously, not my best performance.”
Carton, ranked 14th nationally by trackwrestling, entered the tournament as the sixth seed. He has demonstrated the ability to compete with the top guys in his weight, expecting to fight more for a conference title than the conference’s last national bid.
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A bad habit of momentary lapses in matches resurfaced in his two losses. Carton noted that Iowa coaches Tom and Terry Brands said he gave up 10 nearfall points in matches he lost by a combined seven points.
“That can’t happen,” Carton said. “It was the clear difference in the consolation match and one I lost in the quarterfinals.”
Carton (24-8) scored three takedowns in the win over Profaci and outscored his two opponents in the mini-bracket by a combined score of 14-4.
“Can’t be rolling around,” Carton said. “Fundamental wrestling. That match was a perfect example.”
Carton has beaten three of the medalists that took the podium, including Michigan State finalist Javier Gasca III. He said he has 10 days and will use all the time he can to unseat them and finish his Hawkeye career on the NCAA podium.
“Coming in I knew I was I could compete with those guys,” Carton said. “It’s just time to go out and do it. I’ve shown I can wrestle close matches with these guys but close matches don’t win national championships.”
The final gesture was a sign of appreciation to his supporters, including his parents and girlfriend. Carton said he received a boost from a number of Facebook friends sharing encouragement and confidence he would win.
“They’ve been my support, my rock,” Carton said about his family. “These fans are the greatest. It could have been so easy for them to turn on me after those ridiculous bonehead mistakes in those matches. They didn’t. They stuck with me the whole time.”
RYAN CLAIMS SECOND COACHING CROWN
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Former Iowa Hawkeye Tom Ryan earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors, leading Ohio State to its fourth conference tournament team championship and just the second outright title for the program since 1951.
The Buckeyes crowned four champions and totaled 139 1/2 points, topping top-ranked Penn State by 9 1/2.
“As the season wore on, it looked like there was no way of getting Penn State,” Ryan said. “I thought we’d win the one two years ago, and this one I knew we could.
“We just keep believing and keep training. You can’t change the things they’re doing. You can do the things you’re doing and keep working, so I’m proud of the way it ended.”
FORMER IOWA PREP ADVANCES
In his second postseason appearance for Nebraska, former Sergeant Bluff-Luton prep Colton McCrystal earned his first trip to the NCAA tournament.
Fourth-seeded McCrystal (31-9) placed third at 141 pounds, earning one of the nine automatic berths for the Big Ten at his weight. As a true freshman, he was winless at the conference tournament. McCrystal red-shirted the following season and was not in the postseason lineup last year.
McCrystal was a four-time state finalist at SBL, winning two Class 2A titles in 2012 and 2013. He was 192-8 with 108 pins for the Warriors, according to Iowa High School Athletic Association records.
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