Dynasties, by definition, are not permanent. The Roman Empire, the Cincinnati Reds and the Chicago Bulls all ruled without rival before falling from grace.
Perhaps the Iowa Hawkeye dynasty is falling in collegiate wrestling.
Big Ten champion Minnesota used superior balance to upend the Hawkeyes in their home arena for the Golden Gophers” first NCAA championship.
Iowa had won six consecutive team titles and ten of the last 11.
Minnesota, which proved itself to be the best dual meet team in the country at the National Duals in January, did not place a single wrestler in the finals, becoming the first squad to win a team championship without individual championship contenders.
The Gophers set another first when all ten of their wrestlers finished in the top-eight of their classes, becoming All-Americans.
“We had a game plan for this year. I thought that we could win with 10 All-Americans and that became our game plan for the year,”
Minnesota coach J. Robinson said. “We knew that the only way we could win was with a team effort, and that is what it came down to.”
Iowa finished second by placing four wrestlers in the finals, claiming two championships. But the Hawkeyes only qualified eight wrestlers for the tournament, with seven All-America finishes.
“Minnesota had 10 guys coming in and 10 guys who scored points,” Iowa coach Jim Zalesky said. “We had eight, so we knew we were behind going in.”
The trouble for the Hawkeyes could continue in the future. All four of Iowa”s wrestlers that made the finals were seniors, as was All-American 174-pounder Gabe McMahan. Iowa will have to find five new starters to replace their stars.
Minnesota”s victory was even more impressive because of the tournament scoring system, which favors teams with individual champions.
Though teams like Iowa and Oklahoma State placed multiple wrestlers in the finals, only the Hawkeyes and Illinois fielded two champions.
Five wrestlers finished the season as undefeated champions Cael Sanderson of Iowa State (184 pounds), who was named the meet”s outstanding wrestler, Stephen Abas of Fresno State (125 pounds), T.J. Williams of Iowa (157 pounds), Josh Koscheck of Edinboro (174 pounds) and Michael Lightner from Oklahoma (141 pounds).
Abas, who redshirted last season to prepare for the Olympic Trials, clinched the team victory for Minnesota by defeating Iowa”s Jody Strittmatter in the finals.
“It feels good to help Minnesota win a team title. I”m just glad to see Iowa not win it again,” Abas said. “Minnesota did a great job. All of their guys are All-Americans and that”s unbelievable.”
The only team to defeat Minnesota during the regular season, Oklahoma State finished third, with only 197-pound senior Mark Munoz claiming a championship.
Munoz summed up the theme of the tournament for the seniors.
“Since high school, I wanted to be the NCAA Champion. This year, I was focused,” Munoz said.
But the secret?
“I did what Hulk Hogan does pray, eat vitamins and eat right,” Munoz said.