Oct. 8, 2007
IOWA CITY, IA -Two things the University of Iowa wrestling team has strived for the past 35 years have been success and domination. Head Coach Tom Brands epitomized those characteristics as a Hawkeye wrestler. Brands and his staff plan to bring a youthful, but talented and deep, squad along to achieve success both individually and as a team in 2007-08.
Iowa returns one NCAA and Big Ten champion, three all-Americans and six NCAA qualifiers from the 2006-07 squad that went 14-5 in dual competition and placed third at the Big Ten and eighth at the NCAA Championships. Brands needs veteran leadership and sparks from new faces to improve numbers in all statistical categories.
Defending national and Big Ten 165-pound champion Mark Perry (Stillwater, OK) returns for his final season with the Hawkeyes. The three-time all-American ended the 2006-07 season on a 12-match winning streak. Perry wants to add to his 76-13 collegiate career mark. He led the Hawkeyes in pins the last three seasons, and scored the most dual meet team points the last two years.
All-Americans Alex Tsirtsis (Griffith, IN) and Charlie Falck (Strawberry Point, IA) also return. Both have had flashes of greatness, tempered by inconsistency. Brands and his staff need the pair to be reliable contributors the entire season. Tsirtsis, a senior at 141 pounds, has been a mainstay in the Iowa lineup since his true freshman year and earned all-America honors as a sophomore. Falck, a junior at 125 pounds, earned all-America honors last season. NCAA qualifiers Matt Fields (senior-heavyweight), Ryan Morningstar (sophomore-157) and Phillip Keddy (sophomore-184) also return.
The Hawkeyes will get a boost from a talented group of newcomers, including the five wrestlers who transferred from Virginia Tech when Brands left the head coaching position there for Iowa. All five transfers were forced to sit out the 2006-07 season after redshirting their freshman year at Virginia Tech. To say they are eager to start the season is an understatement. Sophomores Brent Metcalf (149), Jay Borschel (174), Joe Slaton (133), Dan LeClere (141) and T.H. Leet (165) comprise the transfer group, and will each be fighting for spots in the lineup. Metcalf, Borschel and LeClere were four-time high school state champions.
Brands anticipates Iowa's 12 true freshmen will provide much-needed depth in the practice room. The group brings nine state titles to the mat and has a representative at nine of the 10 weight classes.
Iowa will send competitors to the Iowa Central Open (Nov. 10) and the Kaufman-Brand Open (Nov. 17) before opening the dual season against North Carolina State, Iowa Central, Findlay and Old Dominion at the St. Edward Duals in Lakewood, OH, on Nov. 24. The Hawkeyes host seven home duals at Carver-Hawkeye Arena - Northern Iowa and Cornell College (Dec. 13), Oklahoma State (Jan. 5), Penn State (Jan. 20), Northwestern (Jan. 27), Indiana (Feb. 15) and Michigan (Feb. 17). The Hawkeyes will face intra-state rival Iowa State Dec. 9 in Ames, and will compete at the N.W.C.A./Cliff Keen National Duals Jan. 12-13 in Cedar Falls. The Big Ten Championships are scheduled for Mar. 8-9 in Minneapolis, and the NCAA meet is set for March 20-22 in St. Louis.
Here is a weight-by-weight look at the 2007-08 Hawkeyes:
Falck's 24-10 mark from 2006-07 included a 7-1 Big Ten dual mark and a nine-match winning streak during the dual meet season. He placed second at the Big Ten meet and eighth at nationals. This will be his third year in the lineup at 125. True freshman J.J. Krutsinger (Evansdale, IA) brings a prep career record of 124-11, including a 44-0 mark and state title his junior year. The three-time state finalist also won two conference titles. True freshman Tyler Halverson (Cherokee, IA) could wrestle 125 or 133. Halverson boasts a prep career record of 166-16 with one state and four conference titles.
Tsirtsis brings three years of lineup experience and a 69-32 career mark. He will be pushed by sophomore Dan LeClere (Coggon, IA), who was a four-time state champion at North-Linn High School. LeClere went 13-4 while competing unattached last season. He and his younger brother, Nick, who is a true freshman with the Hawkeyes, are the 35th set of brothers to compete for the Iowa wrestling team. Sophomore Derek Coorough (Hillsboro, WI) and freshman Ethan Sebert (Clarion, IA) will also be at this weight.
Metcalf leads the charge to replace the graduated Alex Grunder. The four-time state champion from Davison, MI, posted an unblemished 228-0 prep record with 156 pins and brings a high school honors list a mile long. He went 14-0 while wrestling unattached last season, winning titles at the Kaufman-Brand, Northern Iowa and Glen Brand Opens. True freshman Stewart Gillmor (Donahue, IA) will provide depth, while redshirt freshman Matt Ballweg (Waverly, IA) and true freshman Nick LeClere (Coggon, IA) could compete here or at 157.
Sophomore Ryan Morningstar went 26-12 here last season, placing fifth at the Big Ten meet and qualifying for the NCAA Championships. He showed signs of excellence, like his early season 3-2 upset over top-ranked Trent Paulson of Iowa State and his 6-2 record in Big Ten dual competition. Brands and his staff hope another year of experience and his title at the University Nationals over the summer will spur the Lisbon, IA, native to more consistent performances. Ballweg and Nick LeClere will provide backup talent, as will redshirt freshmen Nick Kolegraff (Milford, IA) and Brooks Kopsa (Gilman, IA).
Replacing two-time all-American Eric Luedke will not be an easy task. He was a steady performer last year, going 33-4 in collegiate matches, 16-1 in duals and 7-1 in Big Ten duals. The sophomore trio of Chad Beatty (Wilton, IA), Jay Borschel (Marion, IA) and Rick Loera (Park Ridge, IL) will fight for the spot. Beatty was a two-time state champion with a career prep mark of 109-7. He went 7-1 while wrestling unattached as a true freshman and 4-2 last season. Borschel was a four-time state champion with a 163-1 career record. He posted a 28-5 unattached record at Virginia Tech his true freshman year and went 13-3, unattached, last season. Loera, who wrestled at 184 and 197 last year filling in for injured Hawkeye Dan Erekson, could compete here or at 184.
Sophomore Phillip Keddy (Vernal, UT) posted a 14-16 mark, placed seventh at the Big Ten meet and qualified for the NCAA Championships last season. Loera, sophomore Luke Lofthouse (Avon, UT) and true freshmen Brodie Ambrose (Long Grove, IA) and Vinnie Wagner (Osage, IA) could challenge for mat time. Lofthouse just returned from a two-year Mormon mission to Africa. He posted an 8-17 mark for the Hawkeyes at 174 as a true freshman in 2004-05.
The biggest question mark in the Iowa lineup is here. Junior two-year starter Dan Erekson (Eagle, ID) is listed here and at heavyweight. Erekson was injured for the entire Big Ten dual schedule last season, and went 16-19 as a true freshman. Junior Jordan McLaughlin (Belmond, IA), who is a fullback on the Hawkeye football team, is also listed here and heavyweight, but will not be able to compete until after Iowa's football season is complete. Lofthouse could compete here. Also listed is junior transfer Derrick Mehmen (Denver, IA), who earned NJCAA all-America honors at Ellsworth Community College last season.
Three-year starter Matt Fields (Lowden, IA) will see challenges from Erekson and McLaughlin. Fields has a 63-30 career mark and is a two-time NCAA qualifier. He placed fourth at the 2007 Big Ten Championships and posted a 24-12 record last season. True freshmen Jordan Johnson (Bettendorf, IA) and Blake Rasing (New Hampton, IA) each bring a state title to campus and will provide depth.