Wrestling travels to Michigan, Purdue

BY J.T. BUGOS | JANUARY 22, 2010 7:30 AM

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Iowa wrestling head coach Tom Brands told his team the Hawkeyes need to put their opponents on notice.

He said before practice on Wednesday that he wanted each grappler to score bonus points so future challengers will know Iowa is ready to wrestle. Brands then singled out both 125-pounder Matt McDonough and 133-pounder Daniel Dennis.

Indiana’s Angel Escobedo, the No. 1-ranked 125-pounder, doesn’t want to wrestle McDonough, Brands said. But Franklin Gomez, Michigan State’s No. 1-ranked 133-pounder, might think Dennis has lost a step.

Dennis returned to the lineup in Iowa’s most recent match against Oklahoma State and lost on a last-second takedown.

The senior from Ingleside, Ill., said physically, he feels fine, but mentally, he needs to make some corrections. He understands the urgency to perform better.

Dennis has a chance to make those adjustments; Iowa will face Michigan (4-7) at 6 p.m. today, then venture to Purdue (10-4) on Jan. 24. The Hawkeyes will try to extend their school record 52-match winning streak.

“There weren’t any physical aspects holding me back,” the sixth-ranked All-American said. “It’s just going out there in the right mindset, ready to score points and ready to do what Coach Brands tell us to do, and that’s being ready to wrestle. That’s really all I need to be focusing on and developing when I go out there.”

Another All-American will enter the lineup this weekend when Dan Erekson sees his first action of the season in a return from a pectoral tear. The heavyweight wrestled in a scrimmage match on Jan. 15, winning a 12-2 major decision over Alex Burkle of Coe College.

The Eagle, Idaho, native is considered day-to-day, but Brands said Erekson has shown he’s ready in the practice room and should suit up for one match.

When Brands asked Erekson whether was ready to go, the 285-pounder answered with a simple “Yup.”

After Iowa’s win over Oklahoma State, Brands talked about a new phase of training the Hawkeyes will enter. He said when his wrestlers get ready, they’re peaking and more focused on themselves.

“I know Purdue feels good about where it’s at, and Michigan probably is looking for a bright spot,” Brands said. “Wrestling is an individual sport, and you get ready for individual battles. It’s time to continue the dominance and make noise, because it’s going to affect your seeds and put you in places to win at the end of the year.”

Dennis isn’t concerned about a quick turnaround and lots of travel affecting the team. He said the Hawkeyes have to be ready, or they’ll underperform and get surprised.

“They’re the next date on the calendar, so to me they’re the most important date in the season right now because it’s the one that’s upon us,” Dennis said. “It’s important to be mentally secure and mentally strong at each position. It’s not strenuous if you don’t make it strenuous.

“I think it can be if you think of it as a drag, but I don’t think we have anyone on our team looking at it like that, so it’s going to help us build.”

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