April 2013

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Mount St. John Still Active By Chris Brewer E ighty-five years after Leslie Beers won the first NCAA wrestling championship in Iowa program history, junior Derek St. John became the 52nd Hawkeye to reach the summit of the national podium. St. John, a native of Parnell, Iowa, won the national crown under the roof of Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, just 89 miles west of his hometown. He defeated Northwestern's top-seeded Jason Welch, 3-2, becoming the first Hawkeye to win an NCAA wrestling title on state soil since Eric Juergens and T.J. Williams won titles in Iowa City in 2001. "It's unbelievable. It's awesome," St. John said at his championship news conference. "It's what I've been working for the last four years, and I finally, finally got it. It's unbelievable. It's just unbelievable." St. John finished fourth as a freshman at the national tournament in 2011, and was runner-up to four-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake in 2012. This season he had to climb over three ranked opponents to reach the finals against Welch, a wrestler he had defeated five times in five previous tries. "Every match is different, but I guess this match meant the most to both of us," St. John said of his sixth career meeting with Welch. "There's more emphasis on this match, more exclamation points put on it." On his way to the 157-pound title, St. John became the 32nd three-time All-American in program history. He was one of four Hawkeyes to reach the medal stand. Junior Tony Ramos was a national runner-up at 133, junior Ethen Lofthouse placed fifth at 184, and sophomore Mike Evan finished sixth at 174. Ramos reached the finals one year after placing third. "It's a step better," said Ramos, a two-time All-American. "But it's also a step worse. I finished my season with a loss. I would rather go out with a win." Lofthouse also ascended higher on the medal stand from his position a year ago. He placed seventh at 174 pounds as a sophomore before moving up a weight and grabbing fifth place to earn his second All-America honor. "I feel good that I finished the right way, but I didn't get what I wanted, and there's motivation right there for next year," said Lofthouse. Lofthouse faced seven ranked opponents at the 2013 tournament. His only two losses were to No. 2 Ben Bennett and No. 3 Steve Bosak, both of whom are seniors. "I'm still not where I wanted," said Lofthouse. "Fifth place isn't what I want by any means. I have a goal. My goal last year was to be a national champ, my goal this year was to be a national champ, and my goal for next year is to be a national champ." Evan's sixth-place finish earned him his first career All-America honor. He's one of seven NCAA qualifiers returning to Iowa's lineup next season. Each of Iowa's four All-Americans are back, as is sophomore heavyweight Bobby Telford. Telford earned All-America honors in 2012, but was forced to injury-default from the 2013 tournament. Freshman 197-pounder Nathan Burak beat a pair of ranked opponents to advance to the round of 12 this year — falling one step shy of the medal round — and 165-pound NCAA qualifier Nick Moore returns for his junior season. St. John will defend his national crown, and Iowa will chase its 24th team title, when the NCAA Championships return to Oklahoma City in 2014. 13

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