Wrestlers face Iowa State in season's first big test

BY J.T. BUGOS | DECEMBER 03, 2010 7:20 AM

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The season gets real for the Iowa wrestling team tonight.

Up until now, the Hawkeyes have toyed with opponents such as Iowa Central, Coe College, and Chattanooga.

Enter 21st-ranked Iowa State.

In previous matches, Iowa grapplers weren't in the spotlight on the mat. But head coach Tom Brands admits that now "it's real," and his squad may ramp up its intensity or shrink in the limelight of a high-powered matchup.

Despite the arrival of the Cyclones iin Iowa City, the Hawkeye wrestlers insist this match is like any other.

"I think it's a possibility where maybe you let the emotional aspect of it get in the way a little bit," senior 197-pounder Luke Lofthouse said. "It's a possibility with every competition. It's another opponent — granted it's the same state, big history, big rivalry — but every match is the same way."

While it may be just another opponent in the Iowa wrestling room, this match may prove to be the stepping stone for a young Hawkeye squad. Matt McDonough proved that last season.

He took a 13-7 decision over Andrew Long, his first matchup with a ranked wrestler, and rode it to the 125-pound national title.

"You're going out there expecting to face someone who wants to knock your head off," the sophomore said. "Regardless of what everyone else says, Iowa State brings a good team to Iowa City. They're going to be looking to bring us down. And just as much as beating the No. 1 team in the country, you got to beat whoever else you face."

Derek St. John noted the whole season is a stepping stone, but the dual with Iowa State certainly looms larger than other meets. The Hawkeye grapplers will be challenged for the first time, and as many in the wrestling room noted, the Hawkeyes "will find out what they're made of."

"It's our first big test, and I know what I'm capable of, and I know how I'm preparing, and I'm expecting nothing else but a win," said 174-pounder Ethen Lofthouse, who will wrestle third-ranked Jon Reader. "I expect the same from everyone else on the team. I can only do what I can take care of myself, and hopefully, everybody else comes ready to wrestle."

As Luke Lofthouse pointed out, emotion will be one major test. With a more-than-likely packed Carver-Hawkeye Arena, can the Hawkeyes control not only their emotions but the emotions of the crowd and keep momentum in their favor?

"What if you have to be the guy that stops that and has to push it the other direction?" Brands said. "I'm not shooting my mouth off, but I'm saying that we're going to find out how tough we are. We have to expect that there's going to be some situations like that.

"Ideally, we do what we've been doing. Realistically, we have to be ready for that adversity."

The wrestlers have to "seize the moment," as Brands said. Create a household name for yourself, the fifth-year head coach said.

One meet doesn't define a wrestler's career, but it can make sure a grappler's name isn't lost in the shuffle with other Iowa greats such as Ed Banach, Lincoln McIlravy, or Brent Metcalf.

"I don't look at it as make or break," Brands said. "I look at it as an opportunity to etch something grand and glorious in the fan's memory."

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