"Some people told me we peaked too early," Gable said. "But you can peak more than once."
The Hawkeyes were certain they could peak again at Ames, where they wanted to prove themselves not only by winning again, but also by winning big. At last year's NCAAs they edged Iowa State by half a point, the narrowest margin in the history of the event—and they might not have achieved that had it not been for outside help. The assistance came from J. Carl Guymon of The Daily Oklahoman, who caught a one-point error in the official scoring on the first day.
There was something else the Hawkeyes felt they had to accomplish at Ames. As Gable said, "If we don't have any individual champs, it'll take the edge off our team victory." The reason for this concern also goes back to last year, when Iowa became the first NCAA champion without a first-place finisher.
As soon as last week's wrestling began—with 351 competitors from 125 schools—it was apparent that it would be one of the liveliest of tournaments. Aware that they could be penalized heavily for stalling, the contestants waged furious battles. More than that, they exerted extra effort to pick up precious added points and fractions. In the past few years rules have provided for bonus points by awarding a full point for a pin, three-quarters of a point for a superior decision (winning by 12 or more points) and half a point for a major decision (winning by between eight and 11 points).
Most dynamic of all were the Hawkeyes, who won 16 of 17 bouts in Thursday's first two rounds. Their only loser was heavyweight John Bowlsby, a three-time NCAA place winner, who was pinned. Wisconsin kept early pressure on Iowa and briefly led 13-12 on the first day. From there on, however, the Hawkeyes stormed through the field. When the tournament was over, Iowa had won 31 of 38 bouts, 13 by falls, two by superior margins and seven by major decisions. Also two individual titles. All of this gave the Hawkeyes 122� points, 34� more than runner-up Iowa State.
Lehigh, which qualified only five men for the tournament, was third with 69� points and also had two champions, Mark Lieberman, who won at 177 pounds for the second straight time, and 134-pounder Darryl Burley, the first freshman titlist since 1973. Lieberman was leading 7-0 when his opponent was disqualified for stalling, the first such ruling in the NCAAs. Burley was a 9-7 victor over Iowa State's Mike Land, who won last season at 126 pounds and had an 84-match winning streak going, the longest in the country. Oklahoma State wound up sixth, equaling its worst showing, and Oklahoma finished ninth.
"Now we're going to celebrate the same way we did last year, by having a pig roast at Jim Tucker's farm back home," said J. Robinson, an assistant coach at Iowa. "Tucker is a big Iowa supporter. Last year Gable dug the pit for the roast and he'll probably do it again because he always likes to do the hard work. Bowlsby will probably be the chef again. After he got pinned, he was really down, but the kids on the team did all they could to make him feel better.
"This team is closer knit than any we've had," Robinson said. "It's like a fraternity. There's also a looseness that keeps the kids going. If anyone gets too high on himself, the others cut him down to where he belongs. You need that kind of closeness and attitude because everyone on our team works out all year round and there gets to be a lot of physical and mental strain."
"So much of wrestling is mental," Gable said. "My kids are so tough mentally. Being mentally tough means battling from beginning to end. I think I generate that attitude in the kids because I don't think they've ever seen me quit at anything.
"I still work out with the kids a lot, but I have to watch out for Kinseth. If I don't wrestle him smart and make him wear himself down, he'll run me into the ground. He just keeps going and going."