ST. LOUIS (AP) -- It's been a while since Iowa State was the front-runner, and the Cyclones like the feeling.
Iowa State is closing in on its first NCAA wrestling title in 13 years, entering tonight's finals with a big lead and finalists in four of the 10 weight classes.
Cael Sanderson, the most valuable wrestler last year as a freshman, remained unbeaten for his career. He easily advanced at 184 pounds and ran his career record to 78-0.
Cody Sanderson, a senior and Cael's brother, made it to the finals as the second seed at 133. Iowa State was most impressive at the higher weights, also qualifying top seed Joe Heskett at 165 pounds and No. 4 seed Zach Thompson at 197.
''This has truly been an outstanding day,'' coach Bobby Douglas said. ''I've never had a day like today. To see the work pay off and to see the fire come back in our fans, we've worked hard and have done an outstanding job.''
Iowa State lost only one of its five semifinal matches. Iowa, which sent two wrestlers to the finals, faces an uphill battle in its quest for a sixth straight championship.
''We're deciding our own destiny,'' Douglas said. ''Iowa State has been down for a long time, and we need to get back up there.''
Iowa State tied for fourth last year and its highest finish in recent years was second in 1996.
''We are excited,'' Cody Sanderson said. ''But we are still concentrating on our individual results.''
The Cyclones led by seven points after the quarterfinals helped by upsets to two No. 1 Iowa seeds, Jody Strittmatter at 125 and defending champion Doug Schwab at 141. The Hawkeyes lost a third top seed when T.J. Williams, the champion at 149 pounds last year and the top seed at 157 this year, lost 3-1 in overtime to No. 5 seed Larry Quisel of Boise State.
''It was a real long day,'' coach Jim Zalesky said. ''They weren't wrestling like they're capable of doing.''
Iowa State had a 17.5-point lead over Iowa after the semifinals, although wrestleback results shaved it to 98-88.5 heading into the finals. Minnesota was third with 67.5 points, followed by Oklahoma (63.5), Oklahoma State (55.5) and Illinois (54.5).
Six of the 10 top seeds made it to the finals. Illinois and Oklahoma also qualified two wrestlers.
For consolation, Iowa won the only head-to-head matchup with its in-state rival when heavyweight Wes Hand decisioned previously undefeated Trent Hynek 8-3. Hand gets the right to face the biggest brute force of the tournament, Minnesota's Brock Lesnar.
Lesnar, the top seed, twice lifted Bandele Adeniyi-Bada of Penn off the mat before recording his third straight pin in 6:41. Lesnar lost in the finals last year.
''Last year was really motivating for me,'' Lesnar said. ''I just threw myself out there and had fun. I'm trying to do the same thing this year.''
Sanderson rang up his fourth big score of the tournament, beating Brandon Eggum of Minnesota 16-5. He won his previous two matches 20-5 and 21-6 and led his opening-round match 19-6 before recording a pin.
Byron Tucker, a 174-pounder from Oklahoma, has rivaled him. He defeated Ryan Cunningham of Central Michigan 12-1 in the semifinals, on the heels of 16-9, 21-8 and 14-3 victories.
Both of the semifinals at 125 went to double overtime. No. 8 Steve Garland of Virginia escaped with five seconds left in the second extra period for a 6-5 victory over T.J. Hill, the only unseeded wrestler in the semifinals. He'll face No. 2 Jeremy Hunter of Penn State, the runner-up last year who won 2-1 when No. 3 Leroy Vega of Minnesota was called for locking his hands.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.