March 12, 2013
Editor's Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa's Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Ethen Lofthouse wasn't on top of the world when he entered the 2013 Big Ten tournament, and he wasn't on top of bracket at the end of the championships, but he's back on top of the Hawkeye depth chart and is poised to take advantage of the opportunity.
Lofthouse, the No. 5 seed at the conference tournament last weekend, placed third at the Big Ten Championships for the third straight season, recording three wins over ranked opponents at the University of Illinois' Assembly Hall.
Second runner-up wasn't the finish he was looking for, but it was an encouraging result considering he had won just three of his last eight matches entering the tournament, and needed to win a best-of-three wrestle-off to reserve the 184-pound spot in the lineup.
"I know what I'm capable of, and all I can do is control my actions out there on the mat," said Lofthouse. "There was a little time where I struggled during the season, and I'm trying to get back to that point where I think I need to be. Third place is not where I want to be and isn't where I think I am. There is still room for improvement there."
Lofthouse was an All-American at 174 pounds in 2012, but he bumped up a weight class in the offseason and opened the year with an 11-1 record at 184. His early season performance leant reason for optimism and silenced any outside doubts regarding his offseason move, but he dropped 3-of-4 matches at the end of January, and when the calendar turned he found himself in a platoon with former All-American Grant Gambrall.
He went 2-2 in a part-time roll, winning his first two matches, but losing a pair of 3-2 decisions at the NWCA National Duals.
Since then, he has made mental adjustments to rediscover his offense.
"I'm shutting my mind off and thinking good thoughts," said Lofthouse. "Every night before I go to bed, every morning before I wake up -- this sounds kind of silly, probably -- but I've been thinking positive, and when I'm out on the mat, I'm relaxed and thinking positive."
The results last weekend included a pin, a near major decision against a top 10 opponent, and an avenged loss from the regular season. His corner appreciated the results, but also saw room to improve.
"It was good," said UI head coach Tom Brands, "but get the major decision and finish that match up. But hey, good job. We just have to keep moving forward."
The Hawkeyes placed nine wrestlers inside the top four at the conference championships, more than any other school, but still finished third behind Penn State and Minnesota. All nine Hawkeyes earned automatic berths to the NCAA Championships, and Lofthouse says the Hawkeyes know where they need to improve.
"We know what we need to improve on," he said. "We need to go out and control what you can control and the team takes care of itself."
The NCAA will announce tournament qualifiers Wednesday beginning at 12 p.m. (CT). The 125-pound qualifiers will be announced first, and the subsequent weight-class qualifiers will be released approximately 30 minutes after each preceding weight.
The final qualifiers will be released prior to the NCAA selection show at 5 p.m. (CT). The selection show, streamed live on NCAA.com, will announce the tournament seeds and matchups.