Jan. 17, 2014
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Derek St. John has won an NCAA title, a Midlands title, and 27 consecutive matches since the last time he left a wrestling mat without his hand raised above his head.
The last person to outscore the University of Iowa senior was Nebraska's James Green on March 9, 2013, in the semifinals of the Big Ten Conference Championships in Champaign, Ill. Green used two takedowns and 1:05 of riding time to win, 5-4.
St. John (20-0), ranked No. 1 nationally at 157 pounds, and Green (21-0), a junior ranked No. 3, comprise the headline bout Saturday when No. 3 Iowa (10-1 overall, 3-0 Big Ten) and No. 8 Nebraska (8-0, 2-0) wrestle in the Devaney Center in Lincoln, Neb. Six-of-10 matches feature two competitors ranked in a top 15 poll.
It will be St. John-Green IV, with St. John winning the first two meetings: 6-4 in overtime at the 2012 Big Ten Championships in West Lafayette, Ind., and 6-4 in the dual last season in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
"It's another big match, just like getting ready last week, and the week before that, and the week before that. It doesn't matter where you're at or who you are wrestling, it's you and him out on the mat and that's the way it's going to be. Nobody can control it but me."
Derek St. John
UI 157-pound wrestler
By controlling, St. John means starting fast, scoring early, and keeping the pressure on by hand-fighting.
"If I do those things it will keep him off my legs," St. John said.
St. John is a three-time All-American and a two-time NCAA finalist; Green is a two-time All-American (seventh as both a freshman and sophomore).
"That's a big one," UI head coach Tom Brands said of the match at 157. "We have to get our hands on him and we don't want to be in position where we're chasing. (Green) does some good things and we can't get derailed by the fact that he can do some good things or that we didn't have a great match against him last year at the Big Tens. We have to wrestle the way we wrestle best -- close the gap, get our hands on him, move him."
For St. John, facing Green will be the second straight match where he has competed against someone ranked in the top three in the country. Six of his last eight bouts have been against opponents ranked No. 9 or higher. That was one reason St. John was given a break Jan. 12 and didn't meet No. 5 Taylor Walsh of Indiana. St. John defeated Walsh 9-3 in the finals at Midlands on Dec. 30. IN his last outing, St. John defeated No. 2 Alex Dieringer of Oklahoma State, 2-1.
"It wasn't my call but it's good (to take a break), the coaches looking out for me," St. John said. "It will help me get ready for (Saturday)."
The Iowa-Nebraska dual begins at 4:30 p.m. (CT) and will be televised by BTN. The Hawkeyes lead the all-time series 28-10-2; since the Cornhuskers joined the Big Ten in 2011, Iowa is 2-0, winning 24-9 in 2012 in Lincoln, and 31-7 in 2013 in Iowa City.
Brands says the Hawkeyes will enter a hornet's nest Saturday, but there will also be plenty of friendly hornets wearing black and gold.
St. John can give them plenty to buzz about.