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IOWA CITY The perception was the University of Iowa wrestling team had its back against the wall.
After a two-dual losing streak, a pair of red-shirt freshmen led the Hawkeyes' fight back.
Nick Moore and Mike Evans gained praise from Coach Tom Brands and other Hawkeyes as they scored bonus points in third-ranked Iowa's 19-17 Big Ten dual victory over No. 3 Minnesota in front of 9,511 fans Sunday at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Iowa (10-3, 5-2) dropped the Gophers (9-3, 6-1 Big Ten), who the last team unbeaten in conference duals.
"Coach kept saying our backs are up against the wall ... maybe," Evans said about Iowa Coach Tom Brands. "Once you find yourself in that position you get fired up because no one likes their back against the wall. We like doing the exact opposite to our opponent.
"We like to be the ones on top not trying to fight our way up to the top."
After the dual, attention turned quickly to the young middleweights who won by major decision and pin.
"I'm going to say two things. Glory to God," Brands said before pointing at Evans and Moore. "And ask these guys because they're the ones that did it."
The duo sandwiched a midway intermission with impressive victories. Evans (165) returned from the break, putting the Hawkeyes up for good. He built a 7-0 lead over 14th-ranked Cody Yohn before turning him for the fall in 6:02, and Iowa led, 19-4.
Sixth-ranked Evans, a strong rider, flattened Yohn in the third, turning him with a power-half and adjusting to flatten Yohn. Once he built a big lead, Evans was seeking bonus points and delivered the decisive ones.
"I've been pretty sloppy in my last couple matches," Evans said. "To actually start scoring points on top in a big match like that is awesome."
In recent road losses to Ohio State and Penn State, the Hawkeyes proved susceptible to momentum shifts. This time they used it to their advantage.
"When Nick went out there and got bonus points that was pushing me," Evans said. "I've got to go out there and get bonus points. We rolled well off each other for this match."
Moore (157) helped thwart a Minnesota role with his major decision, answering the major decision by Gopher Dylan Ness a match earlier. Moore used an early takedown and a five-point headlock to handle Alec Ortiz, 11-2.
"It was nice for once," Moore said. "It's important. It sets the tone for the match. Lately, I've been getting too far down in matches. It helps you all the way through the match just to control the whole match rather than trying to come on at the end."
Moore was given instructions to be smart, wrestle and pounce on extra points. He responded, adding a takedown and 3:26 of riding time.
"It was a pretty tight dual," Moore said. "You needed every bonus point you can get."
Iowa received a spark from its regular igniter, Matt McDonough. The second-ranked McDonough faced top-ranked Zach Sanders in a marquee match at 125.
The Hawkeyes' former NCAA champion and two-time finalist thumped Sanders, 7-1, to open the dual.
"There are a lot of emotions," McDonough said. "You're naturally a little anxious, a little nervous. You've got to recognize and embrace it, but you also have to be excited for the challenge."
McDonough scored a takedown and rode Sanders the remainder of the first period. He posted a reversal and takedown, riding Sanders the entire third period, dominating him for a fifth win in as many meetings. McDonough said he didn't have a precise explanation for success against Sanders.
"I don't have a special answer besides just hard wrestling," McDonough said. "You've got to wrestle tough opponents hard, because they're going to fight back."
Tony Ramos (133) and Montell Marion (141) won by decision, helping the Hawkeyes to a 9-0 lead. The entire team helped Iowa fight back from a short tough slide.
"First thing is this is a team win," Brands said. "Regardless of how pretty it is, if it's five to five in matches, it's a team win. Sometimes you have to give credit for a team win."
The Gophers were favored in the upper weights and closed with four straight wins. It wasn't enough to overcome the damage by Moore and Evans. The Gophers received good performances in spots, but couldn't manage a balanced team performance.
"We thought it would be decided in the middle," Minnesota Coach J. Robinson said. "In the essence, that made the difference."
IOWA 19, MINNESOTA 17
(Individual takedowns in parentheses)
125 pounds – Matt McDonough (I) dec. Zach Sanders, 7-1 (2, 0); 133 – Tony Ramos (I) dec. Chris Dardanes, 5-2 (1, 0); 141 – Montell Marion (I) dec. Nick Dardanes, 3-2 (1, 0); 149 – Dylan Ness (M) major dec. Mike Kelly, 15-7 (3, 2); 157 – Nick Moore (I) major dec. Alec Ortiz, 11-2 (3, 0); 165 – Mike Evans (I) pinned Cody Yohn, 6:02 (2, 0); 174 – Logan Storley (M) dec. Ethen Lofthouse, 5-3 (1, 1); 184 – Kevin Steinhaus (M) major dec. Vinnie Wagner, 12-4 (5, 0); 197 – Sonny Yohn (M) dec. Grant Gambrall, 5-3 (2, 1); Hwt. – Tony Nelson (M) dec. Blake Rasing, 7-2 (2, 0)
Takedowns – Iowa 13, Minnesota 13. Reversals - Iowa 1, Minnesota 2. Escapes – Iowa 16, Minnesota 11. Nearfall points – Iowa 3, Minnesota 5. Penalty points (awarded) – Iowa 2, Minnesota 2. Riding time points – Iowa 3, Minnesota 3. Total match points – Iowa 52, Minnesota 51.