Morningstar looks for separation

BY J.T. BUGOS | JANUARY 20, 2010 7:30 AM

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Ryan Morningstar frequently wrestles matches that would cause even the most casual fans to inch to the edges of their seats.

Often, the difference between winning and losing to the 165-pound senior hinges on one takedown.
In his most recent bout against Oklahoma State on Jan. 16, Morningstar fell to Alex Meade, 5-3. The Lisbon, Iowa, native managed his three points on one-point escapes.

“We have to continually remind him that he’s good when he’s on offense,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “Sometimes, I think that he doesn’t have the urgency because he thinks it’s going to end up OK. It’s never going to end up OK unless you force what you’re about, and he hasn’t really done that as much as he can.”

Against Iowa State’s Jon Reader, each of his three matches were decided by one point.

When Iowa traveled to Ames on Dec. 6, 2009, Reader bested Morningstar, 4-3. At the Midlands Championships, Morningstar again fell to the Cyclone, 3-2. In the finals of the National Duals, Morningstar scored some revenge in his 5-4 decision.

Prior to this season, he had been undefeated in three matches against the Iowa State standout.
Morningstar said the difference between winning and losing to top competition, such as Reader, is getting to the an opponents legs earlier, in addition to finishing takedown attempts. But the senior has shown he is capable of scoring points in bunches.

Against Joe Grygelko of Minnesota, Morningstar scored nine near-fall points in a 17-2 technical fall win. Alex Ward of Nebraska also fell victim to near-fall points when Morningstar scored an 11-2 major decision against the Husker.

Morningstar said part of the reason for his scoring bursts can be attributed to facing a lower level of competition. Although, he said he can score points against high-caliber opponents, too.

“Everyone at this level is pretty tough, and they’re at this level for a reason,” the All-American said. “So it’s not going to be a snap of the fingers, and I’m going to be automatically widening the gap on guys.”

Brands said Morningstar, by nature, is a wrestler who grapples in low-scoring matches. That doesn’t mean those matches have to be close or come-from-behind wins, though.

Separating from other 165-pounders, Brands said, lies in what happens in the practice room.

“It’s not automatic, and it’s not easy,” the fourth-year Iowa head coach said. “The higher level you go, the more it is between your ears, and that’s a good thing. He’s capable, just do it.”

Unlike teammates 149-pounder Brent Metcalf, 174-pounder Jay Borschel, and 125-pounder Matt McDonough, Morningstar is not undefeated. But like his fellow Hawkeyes, he is a threat to win the national title.

And neither he nor Brands doubt his ability to be the top 165-pounder by season’s end.

“The Oklahoma State match was definitely a setback, but it’s early,” Morningstar said. “There are definitely bumps along the road to the national title. They don’t hand out the awards and accolades in the middle of January, so I’m looking forward to March.”

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