Wrestler Matt Ballweg cutting to 149 pounds
An Iowa lineup peppered with young wrestlers getting their first opportunity to start lost one of those youngsters last month when redshirt freshman Dylan Carew tore the ACL in his right knee and underwent surgery.
The Hawkeyes hope the solution is to replace youth with experience.
Fifth-year senior Matt Ballweg is in the process of cutting from 157 pounds, his current weight, to the 149-pound slot vacated by Carew's injury. Ballweg said he plans to make weight at 149 by the Midlands Championships, which will begin on Dec. 29.
Sophomore Jeret Chiri has been the initial replacement. Chiri has gone 2-2 in his time in the lineup, and head coach Tom Brands called him "a good option." But he lost two major decisions to Iowa State and Michigan State over the weekend, and Ballweg's presence, Brands said, would add both depth and experience to the weight.
"He's a seasoned guy who's probably wishing he would have done it earlier," Brands said about Ballweg's decision. "We've got to add some depth there and a guy who's seasoned."
Brands said the decision to make the cut was a mutual one between coach and wrestler but said Ballweg approached him first.
Ballweg said he wants the chance to re-enter the lineup in the final year of his Hawkeye wrestling career. He was 10-4 in collegiate competition as a redshirt freshman and 11-17 as a sophomore, but wasn't a regular starter last season, wrestling in only seven matches and winning four of them.
The Waverly, Iowa, native said his four years of experience in the wrestling program would help him take advantage of his opportunity, and his competitiveness can help the Hawkeyes.
"My competitive edge, just going out there and wrestling tough," he said. "Wrestling to the best of my ability and helping the team out."
Another factor motivating him to move down a weight, Ballweg said, is the sight of his younger brother wrestling well as the starter at 141 pounds. Sophomore Mark Ballweg is 6-0 on the season, and Matt Ballweg is excited about wrestling his matches immediately after his brother's.
"It'd be really cool having two brothers in a row," he said. "You see him do well, and then you want to get in there and do well, too. There's a little competitive rivalry."
Mark Ballweg welcomed the thought of his older brother joining him in the starting lineup, and he echoed Brands' belief that more experience on the mat would help the young Hawkeyes.
Brands acknowledged that losing the weight necessary to drop a weight class takes discipline, but Ballweg said he was prepared to do it.
"It's going good," he said. "It's tough, but if I do it the right way and give myself time, I should get down there and feel good."
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