Dec. 5, 2012
Editor's note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Monday, Aug. 6, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2012-13 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- There aren't many situations when University of Iowa heavyweight wrestler Bobby Telford feels comfortable indoors.
Being on a wrestling mat is one of them.
Telford, a native of Hockessin, Del., is an avid hunter and deep-sea fisherman. He would rather be outdoors, not in.
"I don't like to be cooped up too much," Telford said.
When he is inside, Telford prefers the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex or center mat in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. A redshirt sophomore, he is used to having company when he heads for a home dual.
"When I'm walking in two hours early and there are already people there, that's a great atmosphere," Telford said. "They are the best fans in the world; they let you know through their actions how they feel, and it helps motivate you as a person and a wrestler."
Telford has opened the 2012-13 season with six consecutive victories, including a 3-2 decision against No. 15 Matt Gibson of Iowa State on Dec. 1. The first five bouts were devoid of drama: Telford won three by fall and another by 19-2 technical fall.
That speaks to the progress Telford has made since his first season in the UI varsity lineup. As a freshman he went 29-9 with nine falls and reached All-America status by placing fifth at the NCAA Championships. But only one of his last 17 matches was decided by pin.
"I have improved a lot of top-bottom stuff, a lot of explosion," Telford said. "I got a lot of lower body and hip-explosion movement. It will help me on getting out on bottom, and help me on driving through guys, especially on my leg attacks."
UI head coach Tom Brands sees a "let's get it on" attitude from Telford.
"He's ready to show how far he has come," Brands said. "He's ready to make it real."
In the offseason Telford spent time in the Hayden Fry Football Complex, improving under the tutelage of strength and conditioning guru Chris Doyle.
Early returns have been favorable for Telford, who is ranked fifth and looking up with a keen eye at top-seeded Tony Nelson of Minnesota, the defending Big Ten Conference and NCAA champion. Telford and Nelson, a junior, met twice last season with Nelson claiming two, 2-0 victories.
Telford rattled off 14 straight wins as a freshman, then lost four in a row, before splitting varsity time with Blake Rasing, the 2011 Big Ten champion.
"I was doing things to get ready for other people, and I wasn't sticking to what I was good at and what had gotten me to that point," Telford said. "I was worrying too much about other people and what they were good at instead of worrying about what I was good at and getting to positions that I can score and win."
Once the postseason rolled around, Telford was the one on a roll. He had split his six matches leading up to the conference tournament, but when he arrived in West Lafayette, Ind., he shut out Pat Walker of Illinois (2-0), defeated Ben Apland of Michigan (6-4), and blanked Cameron Wade of Penn State (5-0) to reach the finals against Nelson.
Telford was 5-2 at his first national championships; his only losses were 2-0 to both Zachery Rey of Lehigh (the NCAA runner-up) and Clayton Jack of Oregon State (fourth-place finisher).
Eight of the top 18 heavyweights in the nation compete in the Big Ten. Telford is the highest ranked underclassmen of the bunch.
"The Big Ten is the best in the country, especially in the sport of wrestling," Telford said. "There are some good guys that are coming back and good guys filling spots, so it is always going to be the most competitive conference. That's why you wrestle in the Big Ten, that's why you come to Iowa. You want to be in that competitive atmosphere."
Telford competes at 285 pounds, but he doesn't enjoy tactical, low-scoring results, that define most heavyweight outcomes. His strengths are pace and applying pressure, which paid off in his most recent win against Gibson.
"I like pushing their conditioning and mental toughness," Telford said. "I want to get to their legs, get on top, be tough on top, and turn them. If I'm on the bottom, I want to get out and go right back it."
Fifteen of Telford's 29 wins a year ago were by six points or more; this season only two matches have gone the distance -- a 4-1 win against David Devine of Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, and 3-2 against Gibson.
He was exposed to Iowa wrestling as a youngster in the form of concession stands at youth tournaments.
"They have all this USA Wrestling stuff and there were always a couple Hawkeye things to buy there, too," Telford said.
Still, Telford didn't know what the Hawkeye wrestling mystique was about until he started exploring college options while in high school.
"You look at the history and the packed arenas; the work ethic and the tradition at the University of Iowa," Telford said. "You understand what the program is about and what the coaches are about. As soon as Tom Brands showed up in my living room, within the first minute, I knew this is where I wanted to go, and this is what I wanted to do with my life."
Telford is majoring in health and human physiology with a goal of being a coach.
The Hawkeyes are 6-0 in dual meets and ranked fourth nationally -- and third among Big Ten teams. Iowa returns to action Thursday, Dec. 6, against Lehigh, traditionally one of the top programs in the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association. The dual begins at 4 p.m. (CT).