Hawkeyes Loaded with Passion, Vigor
Nov. 7, 2012
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Tom Brands says his University of Iowa wrestling team is moving in the right direction, and it could be because many of the Hawkeyes are loaded with P and V.
For censorship reasons, let's say the Hawkeyes are loaded with passion and vigor.
Brands opened the team's annual media day Wednesday with a news conference before unveiling the 2012-13 squad in the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex. Last season Iowa finished 14-4 in duals and placed third at both the Big Ten Conference and NCAA championships.
"Anybody know what P and V is?" Brands asked. "They're full of P and V the right way; they're serious about wrestling."
Brands was referring to another talented class of incoming freshmen, although it is safe to assume the label describes a majority of upperclassmen in the room as well. For instance, senior 125-pounder Matt McDonough, a two-time national champion with a 100-4 career record.
"I want to win a national title and do it in a way that brings a lot of attention to Iowa wrestling, but more importantly, makes a statement for myself," McDonough said. "There is no peak. I want to separate myself from the rest of the country. That's what makes you remembered."
Junior Tony Ramos (33-4) returns at 133 after finishing runner-up in the Big Ten and third in the NCAA tournaments. A fierce battle is brewing at 141 between senior Mark Ballweg, sophomore Josh Dziewa, sophomore Ethan Owens and freshman Connor Ryan.
"The biggest competition in our room is at 141, it's deep," Brands said.
"At 149, the No. 1 seed in the room is Mike Kelly, based on last year," Brands said. "But he knows he has to do better as well."
2012 Big Ten champion and NCAA runner-up Derek St. John is back at 157 -- with two healthy knees.
"He's one of the toughest guys I have seen for being able to rebound from what I call a catastrophe," Brands said. "There is a reason why he is relevant and his name is familiar to people."
St. John is a two-time All-American; he was 21-3 last season, and ranked No. 1 in preseason polls.
"You make it work," St. John said of his return from last season's knee injury. "If not, you might as well not walk out there, or stay home."
St. John said he feels great health-wise and continues to build.
The next three weights for the Hawkeyes should be filled by sophomore Mike Evans, senior Grant Gambrall, and junior Ethen Lofthouse -- in that order. Gambrall, who competed at 184 and 197 last season, has cut to 174; Lofthouse is moving from 174 to 184.
Evans remains at 165, where as a freshman, he went 26-8 with seven falls.
"I'm feeling strong and I'm feeling confident," Evans said. "The challenge happens every year -- beating everyone, beating them down, and making them quit. Everyone has a bad taste in their mouths; we want something sweet in our mouths."
Gambrall was an All-American in 2011, placing third at NCAAs at 184 pounds; Lofthouse was seventh last season at NCAAs at 174.
"There was very little dialogue," Brands said about the weight-class shuffle. "Things seemed to work themselves out. I don't think anything is set in stone by any means, either. We have three good guys and some depth there as well."
The battle at 197 is between junior Tomas Lira, who was 11-10 a year ago, and freshman Nathan Burak. Sophomore Bobby Telford returns at 285. Telford was a conference runner-up and finished fifth at the NCAA Championships.
"(Telford) had a good off-season," Brands said. "From where I sit, all things are good."
Iowa is ranked fourth in the preseason NWCA/USA Today poll that includes five Big Ten teams in the top six. The three teams above the Hawkeyes are Minnesota, Penn State, and Oklahoma State.
"It's irrelevant how tough the Big Ten is," Brands said. "When you talk about individuals, now it becomes more relevant. The Big Ten has always been competitive and there are always competitive individuals. Our guys thrive on that."
Iowa will hold wrestle-offs Thursday-Saturday, Nov. 8-10, in the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex. The season-opener is Nov. 16 in Chattanooga, Tenn.