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West Virginia Falls to No. 14 Northern Iowa for Fourth Consecutive Loss



MORGANTOWN, W.Va.— Multiple West Virginia wrestlers called this stretch of the season between January and February crunch time, where the Mountaineers typically face more top-notch competition in preparation for the NCAA Tournament.

Taking on No. 14 Northern Iowa, its third consecutive opponent ranked within the Top 15, West Virginia showed multiple highlights throughout the lineup,  but the Panthers eventually overtook the injury-stricken Mountaineers 20-12 on Sunday afternoon inside the WVU Coliseum.

The Mountaineers, who have now dropped four straight dual meets, wrestled without 197-pound starter Austin Cooley, while heavyweight Michael Wolfgram battled through a knee injury to compete in the match. Sam Hillegas also showed discomfort during his bout at 149 pounds.

Northern Iowa, which features eight Top 25 wrestlers in its lineup, improved to 7-0 all-time versus West Virginia. The Panthers’ have won three straight matches and improved to 7-3 overall and 5-2 in the Big 12. All three of Northern Iowa’s losses have been to teams ranked in the Top 10 at the time of the match, including North Carolina State, Oklahoma State and Missouri.

The Panthers defeated the Mountaineers 31-10 last season in Cedar Falls, Iowa, with West Virginia seeing nearly the exact same wrestlers earn victories.

No. 9 ranked Killian Cardinale (125 pounds), No. 11 Peyton Hall (165) and No. 19 Wolfgram accounted for the three Mountaineers wins during last year’s matchup with the Panthers. The trio each claimed victories on Sunday, with West Virginia junior Caleb Dowling earning the final nod for the Mountaineers at 157 pounds in his first dual meet since Nov. 20 against Edinboro.

Dowling, who received a medical forfeit in his first time in the lineup, ignited the West Virginia bench by upsetting No. 20 Derek Holschlag with a 3-1 sudden death victory, and Hall followed with a 5-2 decision over No. 16 Austin Yant. This closed Northern Iowa’s lead to 10-9 through six matches, but the Mountaineers were unable to ever take the lead.

Northern Iowa pulled away with three consecutive wins in the heavyweight matches. No. 21 Lance Runyon took down West Virginia’s Scott Joll 8-1 at 174. The Panthers’ No. 2 ranked Parker Keckeisen, a two-time All-American and Big 12 champion, then defeated Anthony Carman by major decision 14-4 at 184 before Kalob Runyan beat Brian Finnerty at 197 with a 9-2 decision.

This was just Finnerty’s second dual meet appearance of the season, the first coming in a loss to No. 2 ranked Nino Bonaccorsi of Pittsburgh on Jan. 8.

West Virginia’s No. 19 heavyweight Michael Wolfgram closed the match by upsetting No. 11 Tyrell Gordon with a 7-4 decision.

Cardinale extended his unbeaten record to 10-0 by defeating Kyle Gollhofer 11-7 at 125 pounds, giving West Virginia an early 3-0 advantage. Northern Iowa answered with three straight victories, as West Virginia’s Davin Rhoads (133), Jordan Titus (141) and Hillegas were all defeated in succession.

The Mountaineers (7-5, 1-5) will compete in their final Big 12 dual meet of the season at 7 p.m. Friday night, hosting Air Force inside the WVU Coliseum.

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