The Sun Devils won the opening bout when Knight was manhandled 19-9 by sophomore Zeke Jones, who exemplifies the Arizona State style with his relentlessness. "Never give a guy a chance to rest or breathe," says Douglas. "Our philosophy is to stay in our opponents' faces and keep them backing up."
Another adherent of the Douglas philosophy is Jim Gibbons, the Cyclones' 28-year-old coach. "When they were growing up, Jim and his brothers tore Bobby's books apart and taped the pages on the wall," says Iowa State assistant coach Les Anderson. "They studied them for hours." The research paid off in a 5-0 win for 134-pound All-America Jeff Gibbons, the youngest of those four brothers (two of them, Jim and Joe, were also All-America at Iowa State). Then a pin by Krieger put Iowa State ahead 12-7 with the match half over.
Then a strange thing happened. With less than 30 seconds left in the 158-pound bout, the Cyclones' Bill Tate was riding out an apparent 7-2 victory over Dan St. John. Suddenly, St. John arched his back, forced Tate's shoulders to the mat and—without ever gaining control—scored a rare defensive pin. The Cyclones were stunned. Instead of leading 15-7, they now trailed 13-12.
With two bouts left, Arizona State was still ahead, 17-15. Even with Voelker taking to the mat, Iowa State was in trouble. Voelker's opponent at 190 was Sun Devil senior Mike Davies, who had defeated Voelker in overtime in the Las Vegas tournament. Davies had subsequently leapfrogged over Voelker to No. 1 in the Amateur Wrestling News ranking of 190-pounders.
Douglas cites the 1983 signing of Davies and heavyweight Rod Severn as a watershed in his 13 years at Arizona State. "Before then we had to settle for fourth-and fifth-best recruits," he says. "But these two were true blue-chippers. Ever since then we've been able to sign the prospects we want."
Davies chose Arizona State because the school agreed to let him both play football—which he quit after one year—and wrestle. Severn followed three older brothers who had wrestled for the Sun Devils, two of whom were All-Americas. With the match winding down on Saturday, it seemed unimaginable that neither man would earn a victory.
But Davies lost a 6-2 decision, and Severn, who underwent surgery on his right knee in mid-December, stepped onto the mat feeling exhausted from a grueling match he had wrestled earlier in the day—in spite of Douglas's objection. In it, he had tied the nation's No. 2-ranked heavy, Joel Greenlee of Northern Iowa. "Bobby wanted me to sit that one out so I could rest for tonight," Severn said later. "But I wanted to wrestle Greenlee. It turned out to be a big mistake."
Big indeed. Severn's opponent was Cyclone senior Andy Cope, whom he had pinned in a match last season. "I figured, the guy's good, I've never beat him—but I'm going to go after him," said Cope later. "I thought he would come at me a lot harder."
Given Iowa State's 18-17 lead after Davies's loss, all Cope needed to do was earn a tie to clinch the Cyclone victory. And sure enough, the score stood at 1-1 with only 30 seconds remaining. "I knew he'd be going for the tie," said Severn. "I was just too out of shape to do anything. This tournament was the first time I'd been on the mat in more than a month."
Severn shot in desperately, sloppily, for an attempted takedown as time ticked away. Cope eluded him at the edge of the mat. The buzzer sounded, and the wrestlers on the Iowa State bench leaped up in unison. The Cyclones had won 20-19.