For wrestling uniforms, it’s back to the Gable era

BY ZACH SMITH | MARCH 5, 2009 7:19 AM

Iowa wrestling is defined by its tradition.

A tradition built by hard work and execution, a tradition of all business all the time.

A legacy of domination.

Iowa head coach Tom Brands has become the Mickey Mantle to Dan Gable’s Joe DiMaggio.

But aside from the broad shoulders, cauliflower ears, and an intense devotion to dominate … everything, a simple change in appearance has the 2009 Hawkeyes adding their mark to the history books.

For 141⁄2 seasons, a wrestling Herky — complete with singlet and Asics wrestling shoes — appeared on the right leg of the all black singlet; opposite a yellow I-O-W-A on the left leg.

Débuted by the 1994-95 Iowa team, Herky spent many a winter on the Iowa singlets, but junior 149-pounder Brent Metcalf prefers the old-school uniform not because it looks “clean” or more “business-like” but because of what it represents.

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“I think it’s going back to when Coach Brands was a wrestler. I like it. I like the philosophy behind it,” the defending national champion said. “It’s definitely part of Iowa’s tradition. It’s the roots.

When you think about Iowa wrestling, you think about Brands, you think about Gable, that’s what we’re trying to recreate here, but in our own sort of fashion.”

Besides winning Big Ten and NCAA titles in Iowa “style,” Brands and the rest of the coaching staff decided it was time to instill a new tradition, reverting the nation’s toughest singlet back to its original form — the same singlet he wore en route to three NCAA titles as a Hawkeye.

The original blueprint from Brands was to display the new singlets at the beginning of the season.

But wrestling equipment manager Larry Cookman encountered a problem — the new singlets were too small. So instead of accepting non-uniformity, Brands opted to stick with the singlets until each starter had a matching singlet.

“We didn’t have enough sizes. These sizes run a little small, so the sizes didn’t match up with the sizes we needed,” Cookman said. “When we ordered them, we ordered them small, but they were way too small. If a guy wore a small, he needed a medium.”

Herky was still part of the singlet at the beginning of this season in November and for Iowa’s epic showdown with then-no. 2 Iowa State on Dec. 6. He also was there for a repeat national title at the NWCA/Cliff Keen National Duals in Cedar Falls on Jan. 10 and 11.

Then, after Iowa’s 20-13 win over Oklahoma State on Jan. 18, Herky disappeared. However, the disappearance was not a planned a one.

“I don’t think it was after the Oklahoma State dual. It was more something, when the new staff came in, that we were going to go back to the way it was,” Brands said. “It’s not something you throw away because you did bad at a meet.

“I think [the singlet] looks clean without [Herky]. Herky is certainly a big part of the culture, but if you were gonna design the perfect singlet for competition, I think you go back to the ones the Banachs wore and Barry Davis and Randy Lewis. To me, that’s the perfect singlet.”

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