With 30 seconds to go in Mark Perry's match with Johny Hendricks, there was no score. Johny Hendricks had over a minute of riding time, and Mark Perry was riding Hendricks tough. In my house, there were three Hawkeye fans standing in the middle of the living room, holding hands, and nearly silent. Hendricks reverses Perry, expletives fly.
This is Perry's last shot to beat Johny Hendricks. Both growing up in Oklahoma, Perry and Hendricks have been wrestling each other since they could walk. Perry has never beaten Hendricks in a collegiate matchup. Hendricks has beaten Perry twice this year alone. Hendricks has gotten to the point that'll critique Perry after a match, telling the media how Perry just seems to shut down his offense. He says how Perry only has one move, and everyone knows it.
Can Perry pull it off? Can he overcome all of this and send Johny Hendricks, a senior, home with a loss in his final collegiate match?
All these storylines flash through my head as I'm watching Mark Perry smush (yes, smush) his forehead into the mat, raised off the ground, at the Palace of Auburn Hills (yes, that Palace of Auburn Hills, the one that the Hawks last saw one year ago today).
Then, Mark Perry just rolls, and somehow, ends up on top. There is yelling, there is jumping. I need a cough drop, I can't hear Mark Ironside and Stephen Grace on the radio (we had turned down the TV to listen to the hometown call.)
Perry rolls with Hendricks, putting him on his side for a pair of one counts, not enough to score any points. Perry tries it again, and holds it just long enough to earn two near fall points.
Perry sits on it, a stalemate is called, and they restart. Perry is called for a (very) questionable caution on the restart, and I start to worry. Perry is emotional. He's been known to talk back to the referees, questioning calls and things. Can Perry keep his cool and keep Hendricks from reversing him? 10 seconds to go.
Perry covers, the referee blows the whistle.
Hendricks sits forward, reaching back for Perry's head.
Perry doesn't want any part of that, pushing Hendricks free. Riding time is not a factor.
Hendricks gets to his feet, facing Perry, who has been warned for stalling, at the edge of the match.
Hendricks lunges at Perry's near ankle. Perry takes a few steps back
Perry lunges at Hendricks, wrapping up a front headlock.
Hendricks pushes Perry towards the boundary, is he going to get the stall call to tie it up?
Perry circles around, his back to the center of the mat.
The arena, significantly (and surprisingly) pro-Perry, erupts. Brands and Doug Schwab are jumping up and down, Hendricks is still on the mat. Perry's 3 feet in the air, into the arms of Schwab, with tears in his eyes. Perry looks reluctant to leave the mat. He's savoring the moment, as he should be. He's looking for his family. He runs into the stands, climbs over two sections and finds his family.
Yes, Iowa finished outside the top 5. Yes, Iowa only had one wrestler in the finals. Yes, Iowa State completely outclassed Iowa as a team since Iowa's dual meet win. But Mark Perry is a national champion, and he did it against the one person nobody thought he could beat.
That's what Iowa wrestling is about. When it counts, you don't sit there and wait. You don't see what the other guy is going to do. You see what you want, and you take it from the other wrestler. This is what Tom Brands has been talking about since day one back in April. Perry bought in a few weeks ago, and this is what happens.
If the other 9 guys can buy in next year, it'll be a return to what Iowa fans want to see. It'll be a long off-season, folks.