ST. LOUIS -- Iowa appears well-positioned for a run at a seventh straight NCAA wrestling championship next year.
The Hawkeyes had only one senior on the team that overtook in-state rival Iowa State on Saturday night, heavyweight Wes Hand. Hand lost in overtime in the finals to top-seeded Brock Lesnar of Minnesota.
Eric Juergens, the 133-pound champion, is a junior. So are third-place finishers Jody Strittmatter at 125, Doug Schwab at 141 and T.J. Williams at 157. Two wrestlers Iowa brought to the national meet, 165-pound Matt Anderson and 184-pound Jessman Smith, are redshirt freshmen.
''It's big for next year,'' coach Jim Zalesky said. ''They got some experience.''
Plus, there's the home-mat advantage to consider. Next year's championships will be in Iowa City, Iowa, next March.
Runnerup Iowa State figures to be strong again also, with only two seniors on this season's team and 184-pound Cael Sanderson the most outstanding wrestler in the tournament each of his two seasons. Sanderson has a career record of 79-0, including 40-0 this season, and all of matches in the NCAA championships were mismatches.
The secret to his success?
''A lot of luck, good coaches and brothers in the program,'' Sanderson said. ''A combination of all of them has helped me.''
Senior Cody Sanderson, Cael's older brother, finished second at 133 pounds for the second straight year, losing to Juergens in the key match of the finals. Heavyweight Trent Hynek placed third.
''I can't ever be satisfied with finishing second,'' said coach Bobby Douglas, whose team led by 9.5 points after the semifinals. ''But we gave it everything we had.
''We're looking forward to next year.''
So are the rest of the challengers. Oklahoma coach Jack Spates said future meets should be close because of fewer scholarships and fewer programs.
''There are great kids going everywhere and that contributes to parity,'' Spates said. ''I think we're going to see tons of close finishes.''
The closest on Saturday came in the heavyweight bout, when Lesnar escaped from Hand with nine seconds to go in a 30-second overtime tiebreaker.
''I know nobody in the nation can ride me out,'' Lesnar said. ''The only thing going through my mind is if I don't get out, I'll regret it the rest of my life.''
The next stop for Lesnar likely could be professional wrestling. It's definitely not football and likely he won't continue wrestling as an amateur.
''I haven't decided what to do yet,'' he said. ''I'm kind of tired of wrestling, kind of tired out right now. But tomorrow morning, I might wake up and say I've got a lot left in me.''
Schools from the Big Ten and Big 12 again dominated the meet, taking the top six spots. Minnesota was a distant third, followed by Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Illinois.
The surprise of the finals was 141-pound champion Carl Perry of Illinois, an eighth seed. He beat the Nos. 1, 2 and 4 seeds to take the title.
''I am not going to doubt myself and say I was not going to win matches here,'' Perry said. ''I knew that if I came and wrestled hard, I could wrestle with anyone in the country.''
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