Feb. 28, 2007
IOWA CITY, IA -With winter freezing much of the Midwest this past week, the Iowa wrestling team is hoping to heat up on the mats this weekend. The Hawkeyes will be competing in the Big Ten Wrestling Tournament in East Lansing, MI, March 3 and 4.
"I feel good. I feel good," said Head Coach Tom Brands. "But, I believe in this group. I believe that this group is ready. I know this group wants to win. I know these guys want to win. I know they're hungry. That's not enough though. They've got to be smart. They've got to be tough in tough situations."
The Hawkeyes enter the competition without a No. 1 seed, but Brands said the seeding turned out just as he and the rest of the coaching staff expected.
"No surprise there. We didn't do our job enough," he said. "You're not upset. You've got to do your job during the year."
The Hawkeyes finished the season with a 14-5 overall record and 5-3 in the Big Ten. While Brands was hoping for a higher finish, he's confident in their ability to finish the season strong.
"We've got a lot of work to do. We had a lot of work to do at the start of the season. It's not different now, and maybe even more so now because of the position that we put ourselves in at individual weight classes," he said.
One thing Brands is happy about is the return of two of starters. Senior Mario Galanakis is scheduled to wrestle at 133 pounds. He missed the last two meets of the regular season with an injury. With a 12-5 dual record and a 20-9 overall record for the season, Galanakis is seeded seventh.
"Yesterday I told him he was 51-49. He told me after practice that he's 100 percent. So he's virtually 100 percent good to go," said Brands.
Sophomore 197-pounder Dan Erekson also missed time due to injuries. He hurt his shoulder on Jan. 19 in a match against Oklahoma State. Before his injury, Erekson was 13-7 overall and 5-5 in duals.
Even though he missed over a month of competition, Erekson says he feels ready to compete again.
"My confidence is good. I have to not even think about my shoulder right now going into Big Ten's. I have to think about winning and do my best. I think my confidence will be fine," Erekson said. "I'm really excited to get back out there."
Brands is also excited to see junior heavyweight Matt Fields compete. As a fourth seed, Brands believes Fields will succeed if he wrestles with confidence.
"He's going to have to have a lot of belief in the distance that he's come. And if he doesn't believe in himself, he needs to listen to what we're telling him," said Brands. "He is something else talent-wise."
Fields enters the tournament ranked seventh by the N.W.C.A./Intermat/N.W.M.A and TheWrestlingMall.com. He has a 24-8 overall record this year with a 5-2 dual mark in the Big Ten.
"We want 10 qualifiers. We want 10 champions. It's still doable. From the outside looking it, it's not even remotely doable. But that still doesn't mean that the standard changes."
Head Coach Tom Brands
"I know that this is his time of year. This is what he talks about. He tends to come on this time of year," said Brands.
The Hawkeyes have had two weeks to prepare for the Big Ten Tournament. Brands said that practices have been going well with the team improving every time they step on the mat.
"Always progress. Don't let a day go by without getting better. That's the philosophy of the program, that's the philosophy of the coaching staff, and it's being communicated," he said.
With seven wrestlers seeded in the top seven, Iowa would be "living up to their seed" if they have seven wrestlers qualify for the NCAA Championships. However, Brands said that would not be wrestling to Iowa standards.
"We want 10 qualifiers. We want 10 champions," he said. "It's still doable. From the outside looking it, it's not even remotely doable. But that still doesn't mean that the standard changes."
Although Brands recognized it will be tough to live up to Iowa standards, he said all it takes is going one match at a time.
"What they haven't been able to do up to this point is be able to put a string of victories together in tough matches. Every time out there are top notch, top-level capacity, and that starts with getting ready for one match," he said. "You get ready for one match at a time, and you have to perform to your best in a series of tough matches and come out on top in every one of them."
Jennifer Bissell, Iowa Sports Information