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Iowa’s Schwab avoids upset with powerful semifinal comeback



Sometimes, it takes a near upset loss to bring out the best in a champion. For 1999 NCAA champion and top-seeded Doug Schwab of Iowa, a gut-check in the NCAA semifinals revealed his character and commitment to victory. His opponent in the 133-pound semifinal match was No. 4 Sean Gray of Virginia Tech, the EWL champion and a talented junior star. Schwab entered the tournament with a 33-0 record, and a great deal of momentum. However, at the opening whistle, it was Gray who took control of the match. Fueled by a pair of first period takedowns, Gray quieted the normally vocal Iowa crowd with a 5-2 lead. In the second period, Schwab tied the score with an escape and a takedown at 5-5, then almost blew the roof off the facility by turning Gray with a leg turk for three backpoints and an 8-5 lead. Many would expect that this match was over, but Gray had other plans. In the third period, Gray escaped, but Schwab quickly banged another takedown for a 10-6 lead. Not giving up, Gray came back with an escape, and locked up a cradle for a takedown and a 10-9 deficit with just 30 seconds left. Schwab was able to get out of bounds, stopping Gray from driving for backpoints. Gray cut Schwab loose, making the score 11-9. In spite of a number of attacks, Gray could not get another takedown in the closing seconds, and Schwab survived 11-9. He pumped his fists to the roar of the Iowa crowd on the mat, then ran into the tunnel, pumping the fist again and again to the excited fans. "That was not the plan," said Schwab in his post-event press conference. "I wrestled him before in the All-Star meet, and he got a little bit ahead. In this match, he started to come out a little bit slower at the whistle. I knew I had to turn up the heat. That last takedown upset me. I let him back into the match. The third period is when I should dominate. I want to finish up strong." Schwab understands losing big matches at the NCAA meet. After winning the entire thing in 1999, he came into the 2000 NCAA Tournament looking for a second title. However, Schwab had a disappointing experience, losing a match and placing third. As a senior, he is back for another title, as well as redemption. "I have thought about it every day since I lost," said Schwab. "I will do my best to make amends." Wrestling is also about rivalries, and Schwab's victory gives him another shot at an old adversary, No. 2 Michael Lightner of Oklahoma. It was Lightner who Schwab beat in the 1999 NCAA finals, and it will be Lightner who he has to beat if he is to win a second title.Both are undefeated this year, and both want to end their careers with a gold. As Schwab was sweating through his wild semifinal war, Lightner was taking apart his semifinal opponent No. 11 Grant Hoerr, with a solid major decision victory. Lightner and Schwab have met many times, and Lightner can recite, match by match, their shared history. "It goes back to high school," said Lightner. "We met in the Junior Nationals and the Junior National duals, and I got him there. The next year, when we were in college, we wrestled in the Espoir Nationals, and I beat him. Since then, in college, the last three times, he's won: the National Duals, the National Finals and the Arlington Duals. We have a good history. I respect him a lot. He's a great competitor, and I look forward to meeting him." Schwab is also looking ahead to a great challenge against a worthy adversary. "I'm excited. He's undefeated and I'm undefeated. We were in the finals two years ago. It will be a battle for seven minutes," said Schwab. The truth will be told on Saturday night. Will 1999 be repeated with a Schwab victory, or can Lightner, after three finals appearances, finally take home the title. Tune in tomorrow night…
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