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IOWA CITY — Iowa and Penn State stepped to the forefront.
The two conference powers lead the way with seven semifinalists apiece after the first session of the Big Ten Wrestling Championships Saturday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The top-ranked Nittany Lions tallied eight bonus points in the opening round, leading Iowa, 74-68, before the second session Saturday night.
Nebraska was third with 63 points and six semifinalists, while Ohio State was fourth with 43 1/2 points and four in the semifinals. Illinois and Michigan also had four semifinalists and tied for fifth with 41 1/2.
The Hawkeyes' Edwin Cooper Jr. helped spark the home crowd, advancing to the 157-pound semifinals and securing a berth to the NCAA Championships. Fifth-seeded Cooper opened with a first-period pin over Northwestern’s Anthony Petrone. In the quarterfinals, he used a third-period escape and a point from riding time to drop Ohio State’s fourth-seeded Jake Ryan, 2-1.
“It’s a great feeling, but we have a lot of work to do this weekend,” Cooper said. “I have to keep moving my feet, improving on my feet. I just have to keep to going for a leg attack. I have to finish.”
Cooper, a former NJCAA national champion for Iowa Central and NCAA Division II finalist for Upper Iowa, circled in during the final seconds, avoiding a second stall call and preserved his lead. He maintained his focused and moved on to face Penn State’s top-ranked Jason Nolf in one of three critical Iowa-Penn State semifinal matchups.
“He did a good job,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “It doesn’t have to come down to that. The biggest thing with him is when he gets to the leg (then) finish. He got to the leg a lot, so finish.”
Sammy Brooks (184) faces Penn State’s Matt McCutcheon in the semifinals. Brooks posted a first-period fall and then beat Ohio State’s sixth-seeded Kenny Courts, 8-3, in the quarterfinal.
Second-seeded Thomas Gilman (125) sparked Iowa in the quarterfinals. He handled Michigan’s Conor Youtsey, 14-4, breaking things open late in the match, setting a semifinal with Penn State’s two-time NCAA finalist and third-seeded Nico Megaludis.
“Tough, tough bonus points there, riding tough and scoring points to get bonus points,” Brands said of Gilman’s performance. “That’s what we have to keep going.”
Brands also praised 174-pounder Alex Meyer. Meyer cinched up a cradle for four nearfall as time expired for a 16-0 technical fall over Minnesota’s Nick Wanzek. He will face Illinois’ No. 3 Zach Brunson in the semifinal.
Second-seeded Cory Clark (133) and Brandon Sorensen advanced, as did 197-pounder Nathan Burak. Brody Grothus (141), Patrick Rhoads (165) and heavyweight Sam Stoll are alive in consolation, matching the Nittany Lions with 10 remaining. Rhoads and Stoll won their first match.
The semifinal is a chance for someone to separate from the field.
“We have a lot of wrestling to go,” Brands said after the first session. “We have a round coming up and we have to keep it going and every round we have to get tougher.
“That’s been the philosophy a long, long time in wrestling. As you get in the tournament, you have to get tougher. Our guys are doing a good job.”
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