Ballweg has room to grow despite hot start

BY J.T. BUGOS | DECEMBER 15, 2010 7:10 AM

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Iowa's Mark Ballweg has risen from unranked to 13th-ranked, from relative unknown to undefeated.

But despite Ballweg's rapid ascension in the rankings and in the hearts of Hawkeye faithful, he isn't being hailed as the next great Iowa wrestler.

"Well, it's still early, so we can't toot his horn too much right now," assistant coach Mike Zadick said. "He's doing a good job."

Zadick was quick to clarify his point. He didn't want to overhype the grappler and wanted to make it clear he believes in him.

The first-year assistant, who frequently practices with Ballweg in the wrestling room, said consistency has separated the 141-pounder from his opponents this season. As he put it, "Having the same Mark Ballweg when he steps on the mat."

That Mark Ballweg is capable of putting opponents on the mat quickly.

"There's a lot there if you're consistent over a period of time … you can build off that and build off his offense," Zadick said. "He does have some really, really impressive offense, but we have to see more of it."

Head coach Tom Brands is looking for Ballweg to blow matches open. Brands doesn't see any reason to wrestle tight matches, and instead of 3-0 victories — such as Ballweg's most recent at Northern Iowa — he wants to pile up points on the way to bonus-point wins.

"He's tough on top, and there are certainly things he needs to improve on," the fifth-year head coach said. "I'll tell you what, his top wrestling has helped his overall wrestling. But we have to widen the gap and open things up, and the way you do that is with offense."

After starting the season with three pins and a technical fall in his first four matches, Ballweg has sandwiched a pin between a 3-1 and 3-0 decision against Iowa State and Northern Iowa — the win against the Cyclones coming against then-No. 11 Chris Drouin. The sophomore said continuity in his prematch routine is important, but he needs to find his offense more.

"I just wasn't pulling the trigger, wasn't really going to it," the sophomore said. "That's something that's more mental. You just have to go out there and hit your attacks."

Ballweg said there might not have necessarily been openings, but that's when he needs to move his opponent and create some.

For now, he's focused on the Midlands Championships, his next test, where a re-energized offensive attack will be key. Ballweg notes he has a long way to go, despite his lofty ranking, and Zadick doesn't dispute that.

"It's too premature to say are we that impressed," he said. "Do we like what we see? Yeah. We like what we see, we want to continue to grow with it and build on it. And that's a good thing."

But again, as Zadick runs into the wrestling room, he wants to make sure one thing is obvious: He has confidence in Mark Ballweg.

"Nobody is ever content with where they're at, and we'll always continue to build," he said. "And he needs to stay motivated and continue to hone in on certain areas and positions. We've seen him early on, we need to continue to see him and see more.

"Right now that's the focus, on continuing to build him, because we have months left until March, and then, hopefully, we'll see what really will come from all that."

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