The Gophers won four straight matches to close out a dual for the second week in a row Saturday.
It wasn’t enough to pull out a win this time around, as No. 3 Minnesota lost in a tiebreaker to No. 4 Iowa at Williams Arena.
Tony Nelson found himself in a familiar position Saturday. He completed the Gophers’ comeback last week against Illinois and was in position to do so again against the Hawkeyes.
He marched out of the tunnel with his team behind 15-12 on the scoreboard. He said he knew he needed a bonus to pull out the dual win.
That was a little too much to ask in a heavyweight bout, where points are hard to find.
Nelson earned a decision with his 2-1 win, which was good for only three points. Minnesota tied Iowa 15-15 after all 10 matches concluded, and the Hawkeyes won the tiebreaker with a 41-33 edge in total match points.
“If I had the chance, I would have [gone] for the bonus points,” Nelson said, visibly distraught after the match. “I was able to win, but in the future, that’s time I’ve got to go out and win it for the team.”
It was Minnesota’s first Big Ten loss this season.
“This is a match we should’ve won,” assistant coach Brandon Eggum said. “We know we’re the better team … and we had our opportunities tonight.”
Eggum led the team in place of head coach J Robinson, who missed his fourth straight meet. Robinson is recovering from surgery he had for a knee infection.
Eggum pointed to myriad missed chances after the match and didn’t put the sole blame on Nelson, though he made it clear he wants the reigning NCAA champion to be more aggressive on the mat.
“Tony has to go out there and score more points,” Eggum said. “I don’t think he went out with the attacks he’s good at tonight.”
The Gophers dropped five of the first six matches in the rivalry matchup and couldn’t win what assistant coach Luke Becker called “swing matches” at 141 and 165 pounds.
Minnesota did manage to fight off potential bonus points in the weights in which they were clearly overmatched. David Thorn (125 pounds) and Danny Zilverberg (157) kept their matches close and lost via decision.
Eggum said he was satisfied with the way Thorn wrestled in his match against the defending NCAA champion at 125 pounds, Matt McDonough. Eggum said he felt that was the first time all season Thorn wrestled a higher-ranked opponent with a belief he could win the fight.
Dylan Ness produced the lone win for the Gophers in the first six matches. Ness rebounded from a bad loss a week ago with a dominant 8-2 decision at 149 pounds. Still, the win fell two points short of a major decision, which Eggum said could’ve swung momentum in Minnesota’s favor.
The Gophers trailed 15-3 with four matches left and needed to win out to have a chance in the dual.
Minnesota was favored in all four matches, and redshirt junior Kevin Steinhaus said he was confident in his squad.
Logan Storley started the comeback with a 4-3 decision after he fended off a late takedown attempt.
Steinhaus followed suit, but he was unable to generate bonus points in a pivotal match. He was ranked much higher than his foe, but he only won with a 6-3 decision.
“I wrestled far from a perfect match,” Steinhaus said. “I didn’t do a very good job at the end of the match to get takedowns.”
Scott Schiller was also unable to collect bonus points in his bout, but he managed to win in overtime and gave Nelson a chance.
Steinhaus said the loss is a big disappointment, but he said he’s confident the two teams will meet again.
“It’s no fun to tie, and they won on criteria, so it doesn’t feel very good,” Steinhaus said. “It feels like a loss.
“We’ve just got to wait until next time now.”