March 2, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Ethen Lofthouse continues to replay the 2011 NCAA Wrestling Championships over and over and over in his head. It's not a pleasant memory for the University of Iowa 174-pound wrestler.
Lofthouse won his opening bout at nationals a year ago against Dorian Henderson of Missouri, after winning 4-of-5 matches and placing third at the Big Ten Championships. But he followed the impressive victory against Henderson by dropping decisions to Mike Letts of Maryland and Hunter Meys of Boston; Lofthouse left Philadelphia feeling disappointed.
"I think about that all the time," Lofthouse said. "(Head coach) Tom (Brands) said earlier, `You think it's a long season from November to March, March to summer is even longer because you didn't accomplish what you wanted. I know what it feels like, and it motivates me going into this postseason."
Lofthouse and the Hawkeyes begin the 2012 postseason Saturday at 9 a.m. (CT) with the first session of the Big Ten Championships. Lofthouse has won five straight matches and enters the tournament as the No. 3 seed.
"I feel good, I feel confident," Lofthouse said. "Now I need to start getting more leg attacks and putting more points on the board."
According to Brands, Lofthouse is one of several Hawkeyes who have positioned themselves well for the action this weekend.
"He has to keep that going," Brands said of his 174-pounder.
"I don't know if to the fans it feels like we're an underdog, I know what they expect, and I know what we expect. We've been in some wars and we're going into another war, and it will be up to the individual performances to see where we fall."
UI head wrestling coach
"We have to uphold our tradition with good, solid, dominating wrestling," Brands said. "We're going to have to wrestle our tails off to win the tournament based on seeds. We're going to have to go above and beyond those seeds and we're going to have to be solid and smart to do that."
Defending Big Ten 125-pound champion Matt McDonough is the Hawkeyes' lone No. 1 seed. Tony Ramos (133) and Mike Evans (165) are No. 2 seeds; Montell Marion (141) and Lofthouse (174) are No. 3 seeds. Grant Gambrall is seeded fourth at 184, Derek St. John (157) and Bobby Telford (285) are seeded sixth, and Mike Kelly (10th) is one of 12 seeded wrestlers at 149.
"We want 10 guys who are going to contribute at a high level," Brands said. "You believe in all your guys. I know we have work to do, our guys know we have work to do, regardless of what seed they're in or where they're at in the bracket. So, away we go."
The Big Ten Championships will be held Saturday and Sunday at Purdue's Mackey Arena in West Lafayette, Ind. The final session begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday. Last season Penn State won the team championship by one point over the Hawkeyes, 139-138.
"It's a qualifier, which makes it important, but it's not the end-all, either," Brands said of the Big Ten tournament. "At the same time, we peak for every event. When you're peaking for the end of the year, a lot of it is mindset -- to me, it's about individual mindset, motivation, excitement."
The Hawkeyes won three straight league championships from 2008-10. According to seeds, the rest of the Big Ten appears to be looking up at the defending champion Nittany Lions. Outsiders might perceive Iowa as an underdog this weekend, but don't tell Brands or his wrestlers.
"They still have to get us, and they still know we're dangerous," Lofthouse said. "They still know what we're capable of, we just might not be favored as usual."
"I don't know if to the fans it feels like we're an underdog, I know what they expect, and I know what we expect," Brands said. "We've been in some wars and we're going into another war, and it will be up to the individual performances to see where we fall."