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The Wrestling Season is Upon Us
Brands, Hawkeyes seek 4th NCAA Championship in the last 5 seasons
University of Iowa senior Montell Marion placed second in the nation at 141 pounds in 2010 and fourth in 2011.
University of Iowa senior Montell Marion placed second in the nation at 141 pounds in 2010 and fourth in 2011.
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Nov. 9, 2011

UI Wrestling Media Day (Nov. 9) 


IOWA CITY, Iowa -- That repetitious skip, skip, skip of a broken record is music to Hawkeye ears when it's used as a metaphor for a University of Iowa wrestling program that continues to win, win, win.

Head coach Tom Brands met with media Wednesday for the team's annual media day. From 2007-10, the Hawkeyes compiled a dual record of 68-1 with three Big Ten championships and three NCAA championships. Last season was called a rebuilding year and Iowa still went 15-0-1 in duals, finished second in the Big Ten and third at nationals.

"We have a mission like we do every year," said Brands from inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena's Feller Club Room. "You try to say it a little bit differently, but it's hard when you have the same philosophy and you're coaching guys that are about that philosophy. Then they buy into that philosophy and it sounds like a broken record because it's about distancing yourself from the opponent."

Brands stressed that point while referencing the team's 2011-12 promotional poster that was made public for the first time Wednesday.

"Broken record time," Brands said. "You look at the (2011-12 team) poster and there are four guys on that poster that are returning All-Americans, and none of them got what the program is about or what they're about."

Those four are 125-pound junior Matt McDonough (national runner-up), 141-pound senior Montell Marion (fourth), 157-pound sophomore Derek St. John (fourth) and 184-pound junior Grant Gambrall (third).

Collectively, the group made four trips to the NCAA medal stand, but they watched while competitors from Arizona State (125 and 157), Michigan (141) and Penn State (184) climbed to the top rung. That didn't sit well with any Hawkeye, especially McDonough, who went 27-2 a year ago, but didn't defend his individual national crown.





"We have a mission like we do every year. You try to say it a little bit differently, but it's hard when you have the same philosophy and you're coaching guys that are about that philosophy. Then they buy into that philosophy and it sounds like a broken record because it's about distancing yourself from the opponent."
Tom Brands
UI head coach


"I haven't competed since that NCAA championship match," McDonough said. "No one wants to stop on a defeat, so I'm ready to get right back into it."

Iowa returns 18 letterwinners and seven national qualifiers. Those back who competed in the 2011 postseason for the Hawkeyes are McDonough, sophomore Tony Ramos (133), Marion, junior Mark Ballweg (149), St. Johns, sophomore Ethen Lofthouse (174), Gambrall and senior Blake Rasing (285).

Brands indicated that no spot in the lineup is guaranteed and that there could be more than two new faces on the mat this season.

"Those eight weight classes, plus the two we don't return; there is going to be more than two new faces in there," Brands said. "I'm not saying that it's going to be that way the whole year. I'm saying you're going to see these guys get a chance."

One of those wrestlers could be sophomore Tomas Lira from West Liberty, Iowa, at 197.

"I'm going to go out there and battle hard and score as many points as possible," Lira said. "That's my goal every time."

Brands said the lineup will become more clear after the team finishes its wrestle-offs from Nov. 10-12 in the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex.

McDonough joins Brands in his excitement over the "youngsters" in the room. It is a list that includes 12 redshirt freshmen and six true freshmen.

"We have some young guys who are scary to watch in the wrestling room; people that don't want to eek things out, but people that want to dominate," McDonough said. "People that want to physically and mentally demoralize their opponent -- not only their opponent, but the people watching their matches. That's the mentality that makes this program great."

Other "new faces" could be redshirt freshman Bob Telford, who Brands called "a motivated and hungry" heavyweight, sophomore Dylan Carew, who wrestled just twice last season before having knee surgery, redshirt freshmen Michael Kelly and Mike Evans, and true freshman Brody Grothus.

The month of November consists of two events that Brands calls "preseason" competition: the Lindenwood University Open on Nov. 19 and the Iowa City Duals on Nov. 25. Iowa will use the first competition as somewhat of an extended wrestle-off.

"We'll throw everybody in those brackets and that will be another tryout," Brands said. "At the Iowa City Duals, we have three dual meets and we'll be able to put different guys in there if we need to find out what we have."

Brands calls 133 his deepest and most competitive weight. There are eight names listed on the team's weight-by-weight breakdown, including seniors Tyler Clark and J.J. Krutsinger, along with Ramos. Ramos is ranked third by Internmat and Amateur Wrestling News and fourth by W.I.N. That is too low in his mind.

"I want to win a national title and go undefeated," said Ramos, who was 25-6 last season, but missed being an All-American. "Everyone's saying (Oklahoma State's) Jordan Oliver is unbeatable, but I don't believe it. I don't see it."

Oliver is the defending national champion at 133.

The preseason NWCA/USA Today Division I Coaches Poll from Nov. 3 lists Iowa second behind Penn State, the defending Big Ten and NCAA team champion. The Hawkeyes are not used to looking up at anyone on the wrestling mat.

From the tone of Brands and his wrestlers Wednesday, they don't intend to make it a habit. At Iowa, it's all about winning, winning, winning.

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