Iowa grabs first NCAA team wrestling title since 2000

Updated: March 23, 2008, 1:34 AM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Iowa got individual titles from Brent Metcalf and Mark Perry to go with its runaway team title in the NCAA wrestling championships Saturday night.

The top-ranked Hawkeyes put a stranglehold on their first championship since 2000 and 21st overall a day earlier. Ohio State also won two individual titles and finished a distant second, the school's best finish, and just missed a third when top-ranked heavyweight Dustin Fox of Northwestern beat the Buckeyes' J.D. Bergman 4-2 in the second sudden victory period.

Metcalf and Jay Borschel, the third-place finisher at 174 pounds, are transfers from Virginia Tech who helped boost Iowa's profile under second-year coach Tom Brands. Iowa was eighth last year, 41 points behind champion Minnesota, and last challenged for the title with a second-place finish in 2004.

"The program is building and it's working toward dominance," Metcalf said. "We've had a dramatic change."

Two wrestlers wrapped up unbeaten seasons, Keith Gavin of Pittsburgh at 174 and Mike Pucillo of Ohio State at 184. Pucillo spoiled an unbeaten season for Jake Varner of Iowa State, who had been 29-0. Chad Mendes of Cal Poly, that school's first finalist since 1983, was upset 5-2 by sixth seed J Jaggers of Ohio State at 141.

Cornell's Jordan Leen, the eighth seed at 157 pounds, was the biggest long shot to prevail with a 5-4 victory over second seed Michael Poeta, the crucial point coming on an escape in the final minute. Leen knocked off top seed Gregor Gillespie of Edinboro in the semifinals.

"I don't know what this feels like," Leen said. "I'm just kind of a mess right now, to be honest with you. It just happened to be my weekend."

Six schools entered the final day with a chance to finish second, giving the meet a dose of secondary drama beyond Iowa's victory lap after the Hawkeyes entered the championship round with a 35.5-point cushion. Pucillo's overtime victory over Varner, with all the scoring coming on escapes, clinched second place for Ohio State after a 10th-place finish last year.

"There is a buzz around the state like there has never been before," Jaggers said. "It shows younger kids that you can win national titles at Ohio State.

"We should be the one to take down Iowa."

Metcalf, top-ranked at 149 pounds as a sophomore, rallied from an early 4-1 deficit to beat Bubba Jenkins of Penn State 14-8. Metcalf took control in the second period, at one point slamming the sixth-seeded Jenkins to the mat.

Perry, a senior, defended his title at 165 pounds with a 5-2 victory over top seed Eric Tannenbaum of Michigan. Perry was the second seed after losing by a point to Tannenbaum in the Big Ten championships, and finished strong after reinjuring a knee that required surgery last fall.

"I don't know if I'm getting too old or what, but my knee popped and it hurt worse than the first time I popped it," Perry said. "I wasn't going to forfeit in the finals, but obviously I went on the defensive after that.

"I could hardly squat in my stance without caving in."

Minnesota 125-pounder Jayson Ness lost twice in 41 matches this season, both times to Indiana's Angel Escobedo. Escobedo pulled away in the final minute for a 10-3 victory that ended with a near fall when Ness attempted to flip him in desperation, giving the Hoosiers the title at the lightest weight class for the third time in four years.

Coleman Scott of Oklahoma State gave the finals early buzz when he needed only 49 seconds to pin Iowa's Joey Slaton at 133 pounds. It's believed to be the fastest pin in the finals since a 30-second fall by Ohio University's Andy Daniels in 1978.

Phil Davis of Penn State was the most enthusiastic winner, leaping and pointing to the school's fans after a 7-2 victory over Wynn Michalak of Central Michigan at 197. Pittsburgh's Gavin was perhaps the most methodical throughout the meet, calmly winning his last three matches by 3, 1 and 2 points to finish at 27-0.


Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press