Evans Provides Thrill In Hawkeye Romp Of OSU
By K.J. Pilcher and Chelsi McDonald, Reporters
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Many came to see a matchup between two of the top 133-pounders in the country.
When that didn't come to fruition, University of Iowa's Mike Evans provided the excitement to the 8,687 fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The sophomore 174-pounder sent the crowd and his coaches into a frenzy, dropping Ohio State's second-ranked Nick Heflin to his back in overtime for a 9-4 win. The timely move helped the fifth-ranked Hawkeyes to a 22-9 win over the No. 4 Buckeyes in the Big Ten dual opener Friday night. Iowa improved to 11-0, handing Ohio State its first loss in seven duals.
Evans said it was one of his most electric wins, mentioning last year's pin over Minnesota's Cody Yohn, at home. He raised his arms and flexed briefly at center mat as the crowd erupted after the win.
"That's what you train for," said seventh-ranked Evans, who improved to 9-0 this season and 12-0 at CHA. "That's what you want every single time."
Evans flipped the script on Heflin, who scored his opening takedown during a scramble from a throw attempt. In the overtime period, Evans cinched a body-lock on the edge of the mat in front of the Hawkeyes bench, scoring the winning takedown and three nearfall points.
Evans prefers not to be in a position that could go either way, even though it worked in his favor. Almost catching Heflin on his back in the first didn't make him more confidence, but a tired opponent did.
"I was definitely more confident in that position just because of the fact that he wanted the match to be over," said Evans, noting that he caught eyes with a nervous Hawkeye assistant Kurt Backes. "It was more of a desperation attempt in my eyes. As the match went on, his offense started to decline, so he wanted to lock up and get somewhere he was successful before. That's what he did and lost the (coin) flip."
Evans had to overcome an early deficit, trailing 4-2 after Helfin's scored a second-period reversal. He made his move late in the second, just missing a takedown as time expired, which was confirmed by video replay - a new rule adopted by the Big Ten this season.
Evans scored an escape, trimming Heflin's lead to one. He continued the pressure on Heflin, taking multiple shots, forcing a second stall call and a point to tie it at four apiece and sending it into overtime.
Iowa Coach Tom Brands saw a positive in the final outcome, but stressed Evans and the rest of the team could have widened the gap or scored more in regulation.
"I'll give some guys like Mike Evans (credit)," said Brands, noting that Evans appeared to have Heflin flat for a pin before he fought off. "He went for the hold, but they don't have to be that close."
The win gave Iowa a 16-6 lead with just three matches remaining. Momentum swung in favor of the Hawkeyes.
"It was kind of close," Evans said. "I think my match gave us a little bit of a cushion."
That match earned top billing when it became apparent Ohio State's defending NCAA champion and top-ranked Logan Stieber wasn't wrestling against Iowa's No. 2 Tony Ramos at 133. Before the dual, Ohio State Coach Tom Ryan said Stieber was injured Dec.21 and was still recovering. Stieber was listed in the initial probable lineups, but Ryan said they had hoped he could still compete and kept the injury quiet until the dual neared.
A disappointed crowd booed when freshman Kyle Visconti (2-5) was announced in Stieber's place. Ramos took his aggression out on the Buckeye, tallying 14 takedowns in a 30-14 technical fall.
Nathan Burak capped the Hawkeyes with a big win at 197. The highly-touted freshman used a first-period takedown for a 3-2 decision over No. 9 Andrew Campolattano, giving Iowa a 22-6 advantage.
Top-ranked 125-pounder opened the dual with a 10-5 decision over No. 12 Nikko Triggas. Top-ranked Derek St. John (157), 165-pounder Nick Moore and Ethen Lofthouse at 184 added two-point decisions, contributing to Iowa's 24-9 takedown edge.
But Brands was far from content with the effort Friday night. He fumed in his post-meet press conference.
Sure, they dumped a highly-ranked opponent, winning seven matches. They struggled mat awareness and hustle at times, according to the coach. Rolling around with the Buckeyes in scrambles cost them individual points and the team matches.
"I'm waiting for a team to emerge," Brands said. "I don't have a team right now, but don't get hard on them. Get hard on me, because you cannot have a team go out there and wrestle like that and take it off me and put it always on them. My goodness when something happens over and over and over again."
The Hawkeyes have work to do and they will start before hosting Purdue on Sunday at 5 p.m. They have improvement to make to near their potential.
"These guys are good," Brands said. "We can be good but we weren't good tonight."
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