Commentary: Wrestling close to rewards

BY J.T. BUGOS | FEBRUARY 09, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Iowa wrestling team will begin the “real season” in just under a month.

No, the last two and a half months haven’t been a mirage.

The postseason is all that matters to collegiate wrestling’s elite.

The Iowa program isn’t measured by regular-season wins, and a perfect regular season means nothing without a title.

Dominance can’t be grasped without the crown.

If the No. 1 Hawkeyes were to go undefeated in the regular season, not allow a single point in any dual, and finish anywhere but first as a team at the NCAA championships, heads would hang in disappointment.

Like the Chicago Blackhawks’ slogan, “One Goal,” Iowa’s eyes are fixed on one object: a national championship trophy.

Not to say the 19 meets Iowa has won thus far aren’t significant. Each dual victory has brought the Hawkeyes that much closer to their goal.

But the Big Ten and NCAA championships are where the largest leaps are taken. Only the postseason provides what the Hawkeyes individually crave — recognition on the sport’s grandest stage.

Senior Daniel Dennis confirmed this after Iowa’s dual meet against Michigan State on Jan. 31.

The 133-pounder had just beaten Franklin Gomez, the defending national champion, in a thrilling overtime bout. Dennis swatted away questions about the importance of his victory, however, and said the only time an upset matters is in March.

But four meets still remain on the schedule. A road trip to fifth-ranked Minnesota is sandwiched by two home meets — Northwestern and No. 4 Ohio State — before Iowa finishes the season against the No. 13 Badgers in Madison, Wis.

J Robinson and the Golden Gophers received a 28-12 pounding from the Hawkeyes at the Cliff Keen/National Wrestling Coaches Association National Duals on Jan. 10, but the Hawkeyes’ three other foes have managed to avoid Tom Brands’ top-ranked bunch.

And should Iowa’s record remain unblemished after battling the Badgers, the team’s winning streak would stand at 61 dual meets.

From there, it will take more than mere mortals to take down the two-time defending national champions, who are seeking a 23rd title.

Even though three of Iowa’s final four matchups are against highly ranked conference foes, it wouldn’t be preposterous to expect the Hawkeyes to tear through the rest of their schedule like Joey Chestnut tears through a plate of hot dogs.

But if Brands and the Iowa grapplers have taught me anything this year — other than the fact that any one of them could dismember me in a wrestling match — it’s that no match should be overlooked. Even though the postseason produces the most sought-after rewards, the regular season is not insignificant.

And instead of thinking about a 61st dual victory, the Hawkeyes must first notch their 58th on Friday.

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