Iowa men’s wrestler Jacob Warner qualifies for national finals

No. 6 Warner defeated No. 2 Stephen Buchanan of Wyoming, 6-4, during Friday night’s NCAA semifinals to advance to Saturday’s 197-pound championship match.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa’s No. 6 Jacob Warner celebrates a win over Wyoming’s No. 2 Stephen Buchanan during session four at the NCAA Wrestling Championships at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Mich., on Friday, March 18, 2022. Warner upset Buchanan to earn a trip to a championship match with Penn State’s No. 1 Max Dean. Warner and Dean have faced each other once this year. Dean won the match in Iowa City, 8-3.

Chris Werner, Sports Reporter

DETROIT — In his post-match press conference Friday night at Little Caesars Arena, Iowa men’s wrestler Jacob Warner told reporters that he’s had more than his fair share of ups and downs in 2021-22.

On Saturday night, Warner will have a chance to end his season on the highest of notes. The sixth-seeded 197-pounder will wrestle Penn State’s Max Dean with a national title on the line.

Warner qualified for the 2022 NCAA Championship Finals by defeating Wyoming’s Stephen Buchanan, who was seeded second, in the semifinals, 6-4.

Warner — who beat Buchanan, 6-3, at last season’s NCAA Championships — began Friday’s semifinal down, 2-1, late in the second period. 

The four-time All-American escaped early in the second stanza but was taken down by Buchanan with just 12 seconds remaining in the period. Warner managed to escape before the whistle blew to send the bout to the third, tying the score at two apiece. 

Just 22 seconds into the final period, Warner made his move. From the top position, Warner turned Buchanan and nearly pinned him. Warner was awarded four nearfall points to go up, 6-2. 

“Scoring back points is a difference,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said of Warner’s match. “He didn’t let the guy rock out of it like after one count. You got the two nearfall [points] and then you anchored it for four, and that’s big. I mean, a four count for four nearfall, that’s big.”

Warner said that he used last year’s match against Buchanan to his advantage on Friday night. 

“I wrestled him last year and turned him,” Warner said. “So, I knew I could do something on top. My last two matches were won by being able to ride. So, I knew it was going to be a big factor into this match.”

Warner also said he’s been practicing his moves to turn opponents from the top position. So, when Warner secured Buchanan’s wrist, he knew what to do.

“I got that wrist and I knew as soon as I got it seatbelted to his hip, I knew I could do something with it,” Warner said. “I knew I could get it. Didn’t get it right away, had to stick with it, had to keep elevating, keep going into him and [that] made the difference.”

In the last 1:36 of the match, Buchanan earned an escape and was awarded a stalling point. Warner’s lead, however, was too much for Buchanan to overcome.

Warner said he wouldn’t call his run to the national finals a “Cinderella story.” Though, he has taken his share of lumps this season.

“I’ve had a rough year, a lot of ups, lot of downs, and I take losses really hard, probably harder than what the most common person thinks,” Warner said. “I remember sitting, after I lost the third-place match [at this season’s Big Ten Championships], showering up and Tom was sitting in there with me and we weren’t saying a lot and he asked me, “‘What’s it gonna take to win the national title?’ I said ‘I don’t know, it’s gonna take a lot of things.’

“This whole season, I’ve kind of learned a lot, have a lot of losses on the year, and it’s paid off,” Warner added. “Now, I’m here.”

Warner is 0-1 all-time against Dean, falling 8-3 in this year’s Iowa-Penn State dual. Dean is 22-1 this season, and Warner is 19-4.

Despite the seemingly uneven odds, Warner is focused on his own wrestling, not what Dean can do on the mat.

“If I’m going to win this tournament, I gotta stay in there, gotta wrestle hard, score the whole time, don’t give up easy points, finishing matches,” Warner said. “I know if I do that, I can win this tournament.”

With a win on Saturday, Warner would become the first 197-pound Hawkeye to win an individual NCAA title.

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