Wrestlers travel to Utah Valley

BY J.T. BUGOS | FEBRUARY 05, 2010 7:30 AM

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Phillip Keddy is going home.

On Saturday, the 184-pound senior will travel to his hometown of Vernal, Utah, where the top-ranked Iowa wrestling team will take on Utah Valley.

“It’s real exciting, and it’s a great opportunity to be able to go home and wrestle close to my family,” Keddy said. “It will be a special event regardless, because it will be at my high school, where wrestling really started for me.”

Keddy said his parents and grandfather travel to Iowa City frequently to watch him in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but other close family members don’t often see the All-American compete.

As exciting as the trip will be for Keddy, it isn’t a vacation.

“It’s still a business trip, and we’re out there to showcase the way we like to wrestle,” the 12th-ranked grappler said. “No matter what the environment is, you have to treat it all the same and try to get ready the same.”

For Iowa 197-pounder Luke Lofthouse, the trip will also be a homecoming.

Filling in for the injured Chad Beatty, who continues to recover from foot surgery, the Avon, Utah, native went 2-0 in Iowa City last week against Penn State and Michigan State.

Lofthouse said he and the Iowa coaching staff have worked on strengthening his leg shots, which helped him rack up double-digit points (10-7) in a victory against the Spartans on Sunday.

“I’ve had some good matches, and there are some I lost that I shouldn’t have,” he said. “It’s just a road that you’re taking, and when you’re winning, you feel good, and when you’re losing you don’t feel as good. It’s good to win a couple matches in a row — that’s helped my confidence quite a bit.”

Lofthouse will also have family on hand on Saturday, including nieces and nephews who have never seen him wrestle before.

Like Keddy, Lofthouse said his preparation and pre-match intensity will not be any different. Only the people in the stands will change, he said.

“When you step on the mat, you’re usually pretty jacked up already, and if you’re not, you’re going to be in for a rough night,” Lofthouse said. “It doesn’t matter if there are thousands of people in the stands or 10 people in the stands. You’re still going to prepare the same way.”

For the first time this year, Utah Valley is eligible to send wrestlers to the NCAA Tournament.

Iowa head coach Tom Brands said the Wolverines have quality wrestlers, some who competed at the Midlands Championships, and they are eager to face Iowa.

Keddy isn’t looking past this weekend’s opponent. Even though Utah Valley might be considered a lower profile match than some on Iowa’s Big Ten slate, upsets can occur if the team isn’t focused, he said.

“These guys are Division-I athletes, and they’re coming out fired up and ready to wrestle,” the 184-pounder said. “You can’t treat them any different just because they don’t have a number before their name. We definitely won’t be taking them lightly. We’re going out there to compete and wrestle to our best ability.”

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