Wrestling expects to dominate

BY J.T. BUGOS | NOVEMBER 12, 2009 7:20 AM

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The Iowa wrestling team has won the past two national championships, but head coach Tom Brands rejects the idea that the Hawkeyes dominated last season.

If legendary former head coach Dan Gable had been sitting next to him, Brands said on Wednesday during the team’s media day, the man who epitomized supremacy in college wrestling would hit him in the head if the fourth-year coach claimed Iowa dominated last year.

If Iowa had dominated last year, he said, he would have be able to cross his feet in front of him and sit back with a slow heartbeat. But there were plenty of times his pulse was too quick to relax — especially in March when the Hawkeyes won their second-straight NCAA title by 4.5 points.

From a team point of view, Iowa won everything. But Brands is focused on bringing the Hawkeyes to a level beyond the grasp of any other team.

“Nothing has changed as far as how we are approaching the season,” he said. “We’re the No. 1 team coming in, but it seems as though it’s real tight among the top four teams. Our job is to widen the gap as the year goes on. We know we have a job to do, and our awareness is at a high level.”

Last season, the Hawkeyes won their 22nd national championship. The air around the victory was somber, though — Iowa crowned no individual champions.

Brands named seniors Ryan Morningstar, Dan Erekson, and Phillip Keddy as wrestlers who might have felt the best leaving the Scottrade Center in St. Louis last March. Brent Metcalf and Jay Borschel, also seniors, might have felt the worst.

“There were guys that didn’t get what they wanted and expected to get, and maybe part the problem was expecting it to happen,” Metcalf said. “That’s a good lesson to be learned for this year. We still don’t feel like we’re the best of the best. The nature of the sport is the best guy at the end of the day is the guy with his hand raised, and that’s when you’re going to feel good about it.”

Even with the spiritually disappointing finish last spring, confidence still flows from every Hawkeye.
Senior 197-pounder Chad Beatty said if each individual takes care of his goals, the team will be happier at the end of the year.

Metcalf said this year’s team is great on paper, but the biggest thing needed is a collective feeling of being the best 10-man squad in the country.

“The fact is we have a pretty talented group of guys here who can go out and put a lot of points on the board,” the Davison, Mich., native said. “That doesn’t mean it’s automatic, though, and we have to keep that in mind as a team. The talent’s there — we’ve shown it and proven it — but we have to go and perform when it matters the most.”

Iowa enters the season as the No. 1-ranked team in the country. But for Brands, rankings should be discarded during the preseason.

He noted two years ago when Iowa won its first of two consecutive national championships, Minnesota had started the year at No. 1. Iowa State then beat the Golden Gophers and ascended to the top spot — until the Hawkeyes later took down the Cyclones in Ames.

“It doesn’t really matter if we’re No. 1,” Brands said. “There’s good teams out there whether you’re 1, 2, or 3. By the time the Midlands Championships are over, and the dust settles, if we’ve done our job, we’ll be No. 1. If we do our job, and the end of March rolls around, we’ll be No. 1 then, too.”

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