'New' wrestler all business


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When you bring up redshirt freshman Derek St. John's name in the Iowa wrestling practice room, one word pops up in everyone's responses.

"He's all business," head coach Tom Brands said. "He's a quiet worker, so he gets a lot done, and nobody knows he's doing it."

Now ask senior Luke Lofthouse.

"He's a really quiet, unassuming guy," Lofthouse said. "He's all about business."

How about St. John himself? Ask him how wrestle-offs went on Nov. 12 and 13.

"I had to wrestle two tough guys in the room," he said. "And I just took care of business."

Today in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, he will attempt to take care of business for the first time as a Hawkeye wrestler when Iowa hosts the Iowa City Duals.

St. John defeated freshman Michael Kelly, 11-4, and senior Matt Ballweg, 6-2, to claim Iowa's starting spot at 157 pounds. He did the same last season, winning two matches before beating senior Aaron Janssen in the final by injury default. But Brands chose to give the Parnell, Iowa, native a year of development as a redshirt.

While competing unattached, St. John went 26-4 and won titles at the Grand View and Wisconsin opens. He said he grew "mentally and physically" from the experience.

He feels ready to begin the season now, he said, and he won't be intimidated by the atmosphere at Carver-Hawkeye.

"I try not to make too big a deal out of it," he said. "It's what you've been training for all summer and fall, so I'm looking forward to just showing up and competing."

St. John said his wrestling is strongest when he's on his feet, and his aggressive, point-scoring style "gives the fans something to watch." He said he could improve his ability to ride out his opponents.

But Brands credited St. John's offensive ability, and Lofthouse praised it as well.

"I love the way he wrestles," Lofthouse said. "It doesn't matter if he's ahead by 10 points or down by 10 points, he's focused and all about putting points on the board. And that's Iowa wrestling. If he goes out and wrestles hard for seven minutes, he's going to be really tough. It's totally up to him."

The Hawkeyes will host Iowa Central Community College and Coe today, but St. John isn't concerned with his opponents. He said he knows little about them, and he plans on simply "wrestling my match."

Brands declined to discuss any expectations or goals he had for St. John but indicated that the redshirt freshman has a fairly lofty ceiling.

"As long as he's working, and his mind's in the right place, he's good enough to accomplish what he sets out to accomplish," Brands said. "It's that simple, really."

He's setting out to accomplish some big things. He doesn't hesitate when asked what his goals for the season are.

"The whole goal's to win a national title, that's about all there is to it," St. John said. "Both team and individually."

Ask him if it's a "championship-or-bust" season, and he'll answer just as quickly, "Of course."

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