St. John wins first national title, Hawks finish fourth
DES MOINES – Iowa junior Derek St. John got close to the pinnacle of NCAA wrestling last year when he climbed to the runner-up spot on the podium.
St. John hoped to take one more step this season and capped off his junior season with a national championship at 157 pounds Saturday during the NCAA Wrestling Championships at Wells Fargo Arena.
The former Iowa City West star St. John improved to 6-0 lifetime against top-seeded Jason Welch, beating the Northwestern grappler, 3-2, with riding time.
Iowa junior Tony Ramos also wrestled in the championship match at 133 pounds but lost 7-4 to now two-time defending champion Logan Stieber of Ohio State. Stieber improved to 6-0 all-time against Ramos but the win did not come without controversy.
Ramos, who was third at 133 a season ago, appeared to have locked up the title Saturday. Down 4-1, Ramos got Stieber in a nearfall position and looked to have scored at least back points. The referee though awarded two points for the takedown but did not give Ramos back points, which came at the displeasure of Iowa assistant coach Terry Brands, who was in the corner during the match.
“Not only should he have been awarded back points, but Ramos pinned him,” Terry Brands said. “You can print that.”
Penn State wrapped up the team title following Quentin Wright’s championship at 184 pounds. Oklahoma State made a late run at the Nittany Lions but came up a little short in second, while Minnesota was third and Iowa ended up fourth.
Cornell and four-time national champion Kyle Dake finished fifth.
Iowa’s other all-Americans were junior Ethen Lofthouse and sophomore Mike Evans.
Lofthouse earned his second all-American honor when he took fifth at 184. Evans lost his final two matches Saturday morning and settled for sixth at 174.
Northern Iowa’s wrestling team gave coach Doug Schwab his first pair of All-Americans when David Bonin and Ryan Loder both finished in the top eight of their respective weight classes.
Bonin was the only unseeded wrestler at 157 but took fourth overall, while Loder was seventh at 184.
“He is a great example for the rest of our team,” Schwab said of Bonin. “What he got was because of hard work.”
The other two Panthers who competed this weekend were both one win away from all-American status.
Levi Wolfensperger was 3-2 overall at 133, while Joey Lazor was 4-2 at 141.
Iowa State ended up with three all-Americans on the weekend.
Senior Matt Gibson was eighth at 285 pounds, while sophomores Michael Moreno and Kyven Gadson both placed sixth at 165 and 197, respectively.
“We may have exceeded the expectations of some people, but we didn’t exceed my expectations,” Iowa State coach Kevin Jackson said. “I would have liked to pick up more points this morning. We have a young team and have replacements for our graduation losses next season. We will have only one senior on the team next season. Our guys have learned a lot this month.”
Moreno and Gadson both joined their fathers as NCAA all-Americans. Mike Moreno finished seventh in 1992 at 134 pounds, while the late Willie Gadson was a two-time all-American in 1976 and 1977.
Penn State crowned two individual champions and the Big Ten Conference had six of the 10 individual champions. Dake also became the first wrestler to ever win four national titles at four different weight classes.