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Dennis not intimidated by top-ranked foes

BY J.T. BUGOS | FEBRUARY 18, 2010 7:30 AM

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In two of his last four matches, Daniel Dennis has faced the nation’s top-ranked 133-pounder.

The senior grappler scored a thrilling upset over defending NCAA champion Franklin Gomez of Michigan State on Jan. 31, 3-2, in the first tiebreaker period.

But the 133-pound Hawkeye fell to current No. 1 Jayson Ness of Minnesota, 8-4, on Sunday.
His recent loss to Ness aside, Dennis has performed dominantly against the two top Big Ten grapplers. He is 2-0 against Gomez in dual meets and also holds a 2-1 record against Ness.

Dennis couldn’t come up with any specific reasons for his success against the Spartan and Golden Gopher, though.

“I don’t really look at it as successful as it could have been considering the outcome of the last dual meet,” he said. “I’d like to think it’s because I’m a competitor when it comes time to wrestle. I’d like to believe when I’m wrestling my will to win will prevail.”

Iowa head coach Tom Brands said confidence breeds success for Dennis, and when he’s confident, he’s good.

Dennis has no reason to doubt himself, the head coach said, even with after posting a result he didn’t want four days ago. The wrestler didn’t show any doubt in himself but said his mind proved to be more enemy than ally.

“Ideally, you aren’t thinking when you wrestle,” Dennis said. “That’s something that maybe I’m doing too much. I think going out there it’s going to be critical to be confident and know you’re going to win than believing it while you’re wrestling and proving it in the result.”

Dennis’ confidence couldn’t overcome the length of Ness, though.

As opposed to the stocky Gomez, the Golden Gopher’s lanky build caused the 5-4 Dennis some problems. But the Hawkeye said the body type of his opponent shouldn’t change much in how the match plays out.

“It changes some things, but it doesn’t change the pace,” the third-ranked grappler said. “You are aware of some things, but it doesn’t change your mentality of attack. Maybe it changes the holds that become an option or that you see open up.”

Dennis said he is “extremely excited” about the Big Ten championships and any opportunity to wrestle Ness and Gomez again. But first he must spin his loss into a gain.

“I’m doing my best to get a positive outcome from it,” he said. “You never want to lose, that’s never good. You always want to get your hand raised, but I think you can take something from every match, and I think it’s going to turn into a positive.”

Brands said Dennis surprised Ness with the way he wrestled, which the fourth-year head coach said played to the strengths of the Minnesota grappler.

Should Dennis rectify his mistakes, he has a chance to improve on his seventh-place NCAA finish from last year, starting this weekend when Iowa will take on No. 4 Ohio State and No. 19 Wisconsin.

The Badgers boast the sixth-ranked 133-pounder in Tyler Graff.

“There’s reasons why he lost that are pretty clear and evident,” Brands said. “You have to work on them, iron them out, and feel good about how you ironed them out and they won’t happen again. But it’s not going to be automatic.

“He’s an open-minded guy, and he evaluates things the right way, so good for him. He’s just got to keep it going.”


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