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Hawkeyes clinch third straight NCAA wrestling title

March 22, 1997

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa (AP) _ Iowa’s Jessie Whitmer, Mike Mena and Lee Fullhart had upset semifinal victories Friday to help the Hawkeyes clinch their third straight NCAA wrestling title.

Iowa’s Mark Ironside, Lincoln McIlravy and Joe Williams into Saturday’s championships as the Hawkeyes had the most dominant day in NCAA history.

They won a record 23 straight matches before Tony Ersland lost in the consolation rounds. Overall, Iowa has won 40 of 46 matches in the tournament.

Iowa, which entered the day with a 13-point lead over top-ranked Oklahoma State, had 148 points to the Cowboys’ 87.5.

``We have a lot of kids who still have a lot to accomplish. The sting of individual defeat can overshadow a team victory,″ said Dan Gable, who has clinched his 15th NCAA title, and sixth in the last seven years.

Rounding out the top 10 were Iowa State (60.5), Lock Haven (50), Minnesota (47.5), Edinboro (44), Oklahoma (43.5), Cal-Bakersfield (39.5), Penn State (36), and Illinois (34).

The Cowboys had a chance to stay close but lost head-to-head bouts against Whitmer and Williams. Oklahoma State still advanced three to the finals, Eric Guerrero at 126, Steven Schmidt at 134 and Mark Branch at 167.

``Iowa got on a roll and picked up momentum as they progressed. Iowa had an outstanding performance,″ Oklahoma State coach John Smith said.

Iowa, 14-0 in the quarterfinals, kept up the pace in the semifinals.

Whitmer, the No. 6 seed at 118, stopped second-seeded Teague Moore 10-7 and avenged an 8-5 loss to the Cowboy in the National Duals. Williams beat Hardell Moore 8-3 at 158 and has a chance to defend his title.

Mena, a No. 4 seed at 126, upended top-seeded Dwight Hinson of Iowa State 4-3 to advance. Fullhart, the fifth seed at 190, capped Iowa’s upsets with a 7-4 decision over top-seeded Jason Robison of Edinboro.

Whitmer will face Illinois’ Lindsey Durlacher, who upset defending champion and top-seeded Sheldon Thomas of Clarion 3-1.

Durlacher was confident he’ll stop Whitmer.

``I’m looking forward to wrestling him. The way I’m wrestling, there’s no way he is going to beat me,″ Durlacher said.

Mena has beaten Hinson in two of three bouts this season.

``The whole object is to win the big dance. I’m in it, and we’ll see what happens,″ said Mena, who will face Guerrero, an 11-6 winner over Wisconsin’s Eric Jetton.

In a battle of unbeaten wrestlers, Ironside, the No. 1 seed at 134, outpointed James Guzzio of Maryland 8-4 to improve to 29-0. It was the first loss in 39 matches for Guzzio, the No. 5 seed.

Ironside will meet Schmidt, who decisioned Oregon’s Jeremy Ensrud 9-6.

Ironside, who has beaten Schmidt in five previous meetings, credited Gable for getting the Hawkeyes ready for the three-day tournament in which they were underdogs to Oklahoma State.

``This is where Gable works his magic. That’s why Gable is Gable,″ Ironside said.

In other matches, defending champion Cary Kolat of Lock Haven advanced to the 142 final with a 10-3 victory over Oklahoma State’s Scott Reyna. Kolat will meet Roger Chandler of Indiana, a 10-4 winner over Minnesota’s Jason Davids.

McIlravy, who won the 150-pound championship in 1994 and was a runner-up in 1995 before redshirting last season, will meet Iowa State’s Chris Bono in the final. Bono, a 4-2 winner over Oregon’s Scott Norton, has lost to McIlravy twice this season.

At 158, Williams will face Edinboro’s Tony Robie, who upset No. 2 seed and 1996 runner-up Ernest Benion of Illinois by a 7-5 margin in sudden death.

Others in the finals include: Oklahoma State’s Mark Branch and Penn’s Brandon Slay at 167; Ohio State’s Mitch Clark and Iowa State’s Barry Weldon at 177; Oklahoma’s John Kading, who will face Fullhart at 190; and Penn State’s Kerry McCoy and Stephen Neal of Cal-Bakersfield at heavyweight.

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