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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Iowa’s Thomas Gilman and Sam Brooks provided nice bookend final-round victories.
Gilman finally grabbed conference gold in his second finals appearance in three years. Brooks defended his 184-pound championship.
Neither planned on an extended celebration after winning individual titles and helping Iowa finish third at the Big Ten Wrestling Championships on Sunday at Indiana University’s Assembly Hall. Their attention is turning to the NCAA Championships on March 16-18 in St. Louis, Mo.
“A Big Ten title is a big deal, but it’s just one step along the way,” Gilman said after winning the 125-pound crown. “So, back to work.”
Despite conquering one of the toughest and deepest weights in the tournament, Brooks was taking the feat in stride.
“It’s a good win,” said Brooks, who became Iowa’s first back-to-back champion since Matt McDonough in 2011-12. “It’s another feather in my cap but I won it last year and didn’t perform the way I wanted to at nationals. Now, the focus is going out on top and doing what I know I can in St. Louis.”
The pair helped Iowa go .500 in championship bouts. Brooks ignited the Hawkeye fans one last time, beating Ohio State national champion Myles Martin in the final. Brooks scored early and often for a 12-2 major decision.
He broke it open by foot-sweeping Martin to his back for a 6-0 lead.
“He was really fighting those double-unders and really trying to get heavy and get out of there,” said Brooks, crediting teammate and warmup partner Jeremiah Moody, who uses the move. “It just opened up. It was right there.”
Brooks wasn’t content with holding his lead in the match either. He continued to pull away, adding in the last two periods and a point for 2:59 of riding time.
“He’s ahead 6-1 and keeps building his lead,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “That’s what you have to do to win championships at the national and international level.”
Top-seeded Gilman remained unbeaten, opening Iowa’s final round with a 4-0 victory over Nebraska’s Tim Lambert. The difference was Gilman’s first-period takedown and two escapes.
Gilman wasn’t satisfied with the performance, especially being ridden for most of the second.
“They tried to go on top again in the third and I got out quicker,” Gilman said. “Once I get to my feet I’m fine.
“I had him off balance a couple times. I got in a couple times (and) only finished once. Batten down the hatches there.”
Gilman was a national finalist last season. The conference title is not the ultimate goal, but that prize is now sitting in front of him. Bigger accomplishments await.
“I’m antsy to get back to Iowa City and get back to work,” Gilman said. “Sorry for everyone who wants a ‘Hurrah, we did it.’ This is just a step along the way. There’s a lot of trails to be blazed from here on out.”
Iowa senior Cory Clark had a chance to match Brooks’ repeat performance, but fell one point shy of a second straight 133-pound title. Clark gave up an escape with just one second on the clock and fell to Ohio State’s top-seeded Nathan Tomasello, 5-4.
The pair exchanged points in the final period after Clark’s second-period escape gave him a 1-0 edge.
Tomasello got on the board with a penalty point when Clark mistakenly placed both feet on Tomasello’s legs to trip him back to the mat.
Clark found himself in a 4-1 hole after surrendering an escape and takedown. He battled back to tie it with an escape and takedown with 17 seconds left, but couldn’t control Tomasello to the end.
“Clark’s (final) was frustrating,” Brands said. “We’re going to have to turn that around. The thing about Cory Clark is he’s not going to be the type of guy who’s going to sulk, especially this time of year.”
Tomasello’s victory helped the Buckeyes capture the team title, beating Penn State, 139 1/2-130. He was joined on the top of the podium by teammates Bo Jordan (174), 197-pounder Kollin Moore (197) and Olympic champion Kyle Snyder at heavyweight.
Iowa also received a runner-up finish from redshirt freshman Michael Kemerer. The second-seeded 157-pounder dropped an 8-2 decision to top-ranked Jason Nolf, who was one of two Penn State champs.
The margin was similar to a loss to Nolf in the January dual.
“More than the last time, I think we showed ourselves that there are things we can do,” Brands said. “It’s not like we were just holding off. We can actually do some things.”
Iowa junior 149-pounder Brandon Sorensen finished strong after a disappointing semifinal that kept him from the Big Ten finals for the first time. The two-time conference runner-up rebounded with a major decision and pinned Michigan’s Zac Hall in 2:53 for third place.
“It helps the team with team points,” Sorensen said. “It’s not giving up on myself when one thing goes wrong. It’s continuing to move forward and that’s what we did.”
Sorensen was more offensive in the consolation bouts, tallying 10 points in his first and taking a lead before the neutral-position fall to end it.
“I felt a little better in the consolation,” Sorensen said. “We talked about some things. You can’t hold on to something you don’t have, so let it fly.”
Alex Meyer joined Gilman and Sorensen in winning their final match. Meyer, a returning all-American, was one of seven Iowa placewinners, getting fifth at 174. Redshirt freshman Cash Wilcke was eighth at 197.
The Hawkeyes have seven automatic national qualifiers and will make their case for two wild-card selections.
“We have St. Louis ahead of us," Brands said. We’re excited about that.”
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