A sellout crowd of 15,967 jammed into the Bryce Jordan Center for a showdown of perennial contenders, and saw the Hawkeyes walk out with an 18-12 win.
"I think our guys fought hard, I think we lost some close matches, but it’s all in the way you look at it," Penn coach Cael Sanderson said. “[125-pounder Jordan] Conaway was on an ankle with short time to win a match, had the momentum, so that’s just encouraging for him.
"We’ve been so close, we’ve lost three duals, it’s just focusing on what we’re doing well."
Few thought this would come down to the last match of the day. The four-time defending Big Ten and NCAA champ Lions are in a bit of a rebuilding mode, and Sanderson is redshirting a pair of his best wrestlers [125-pounder Nico Megaludis and 141-pounder Zain Retherford] with an eye on making another title run next season. Iowa, meanwhile is loaded [and undefeated on the season].
And yet, it did turn into a nail-biter.
Penn State was in striking distance, down 15-12, when Jimmy Lawson strolled onto the mat at heavyweight to battle Iowa's second-ranked Bobby Telford. A win would tie the meet, and a major decision or better would give the Lions a victory.
Lawson was not able to do much, though, and his Gramby role out of a Telford shot was arguably his most exciting moment of the match. Lawson was ridden out in the second period, and unable to get in on any shots in the third, losing 3-0 and leading to the Hawkeyes' margin of victory.
Lawson seemed to lose focus after he lost a shoe — and was charged with injury time after he had to put it back on and have it taped down so as not to fall off again. It made for an anticlimactic ending to a spirited PSU rally after falling behind 12-3 on the scoreboard.
"He just didn’t do anything," Sanderson said. "Shoe comes off, got ridden for two minutes, and that was the match.
"He’s got the ability to score points he has the speed and strength, strength and power, that I don’t think can be stopped if he goes and gets it. He just has to pull that trigger."
How they got there
Penn State was arguably not a favorite in any of Sunday's bouts, so it knew it had to steal some upsets somewhere to earn a victory.
The Lions got them, first at 133 pounds, where Jimmy Gulibon's late four-point throw earned him a 8-5 victory over Iowa's Cory Clark.
"He stopped my shot earlier in the match and [it was] more of a mental thing there, that I was going to get in on that shot and get the takedown," said Guilbon [shown at top of page]. "Coach Cody [Sanderson] hit that on me a lot throughout practice, so I kind of had a feel for it."
The bear-hug throw was the highlight of the first half for the Lions, who lost the four other bouts before the break. Then, Garett Hammond provided a needed spark.
Hammond scored a takedown with a lift and throw with seven seconds left in his 165-pound bout with Nick Moore, and paired with a couple escapes, led to a 4-2 victory that drew Penn State to within 12-6.
"I was just focusing on finishing hard," Hammond said. "I knew that might be the last opportunity for me to get a takedown, and the fans helped me out.
”I just wanted to make sure when I returned him, I was returning him hard.”
Penn State then won at 174 pounds (a 2-0 decision for Matt Brown over previously unbeaten Mike Evans) and 197 pounds (7-1 win for Morgan McIntosh over Nate Burak), while Matt McCutcheon lost 7-1 at 184 pounds to Iowa's Sammy Brooks.
The Lions won the takedown battle, 8-7, and return to the mat next Sunday when it battles Oklahoma State on the road.
"I think our guys are in good shape, I think conditioning was a factor that played to our favor today, and I think we can build on that,” Sanderson said. “We’re going to push our guys and try and step it up further."