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Lowney battles back against disappointment for the team



Imagine winning an Olympic bronze medal at the age of 20. Imagine coming home and going undefeated as a freshman and holding the top ranking in the nation going into your first NCAA Championships. Imagine losing your semifinal match to a guy you handled just two weeks ago, all due to the flip of a coin. That was the kind of night that Garrett Lowney faced last evening. The most celebrated member of the Minnesota Gopher wrestling team was about as low as he could be after dropping a tie-breaker match to Illinois John Lockhart in the heavyweight finals. After so much success and achievement, Lowney was reminded about the pain of losing. How do you get up for the wrestle-backs after that? For Lowney, it was all about the team. "I was disappointed about how I lost last night. It was a hard way to lose. It was hard to get motivated today," said Lowney. Lowney wasn't the only Gopher who had some bruises to heal since last night's session. "We lost all five matches in the semifinals," said Lowney. "We held a team meeting. We went through all the things we had to do to win it. We decided that the only way we'd feel better was to win the team title." In his first consolation match, Lowney was not his explosive self. After trailing 3-0 early, Lowney came back for a 4-3 win at heavyweight over Billy Blunt of Fresno State and qualified for the third-place match. "I had to be patient and work to score, and keep my focus on my game plan. Last night was hard to deal with. I owe it to my teammates though to step it up." Lowney's final match of the college season was against Oklahoma's surprising Leonce Crump, another freshman. Crump was a relative unknown all year, while Lowney had received constant attention and media coverage. It was a battle of opposites. "I came out this morning a little slower than I wanted to. The team score was on the line. I knew I had to do something big," said Lowney. The big thing that Lowney did was throw Crump to the mat, and pin him in 42 seconds. On a nearby mat, a few minutes earlier, teammate Owen Elzen also pinned an opponent to take third at 197 pounds. The Gopher cheering section went into a frenzy. "We are confident right now as a team," said Lowney. "With a pin at 197 and heavyweight, we think we've wrapped it up. We knew what we had to do and we did it." When asked about his year, with the Olympic medal, the great dual season, placing third and the NCAA meet and winning the NCAA team title, Lowney was candidly honest. "First place would have been better for me," he said. "I'll take the team title. We worked all year for it. We have nobody in the finals, but we have 10 All-Americans." There will always be the pain of the loss to Lockhart, a tied match determined on who gets the choice for the 30-second period. Lowney couldn't ride Lockhart, and his dream of NCAA gold fell short. "I am not yet over that loss," said Lowney. "To lose that way, to a toss of the coin, it's very hard to take." At least tonight, unless some kind of miracle by Iowa's four finalists changes things, Lowney will be able to lift the team trophy to the sky and feel a little bit better about his first loss as a collegian.
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