Big weekend awaits Hawkeye wrestling


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Tom Brands insists every weekend of competition for his Hawkeye wrestling team is an important one.

But even Brands, the fifth-year Iowa head coach, acknowledged the special importance of the big tests — on both a team and individual level —that await Iowa this weekend.

“This is a big weekend,” he said. “They’re all big. But you don’t always have an opportunity to wrestle the No. 1 team in a dual meet in their arena.”

That opportunity will come on Jan. 30, when the No. 8 Hawkeyes travel to University Park, Pa. for a clash with top-ranked Penn State. Before that, though, comes a dual tonight at Northwestern, which Brands said the team is not overlooking.

The first big test of the weekend will come tonight for Matt McDonough, who will have a chance to avenge his only loss of the season against Northwestern’s top-ranked Brandon Precin. McDonough lost, 3-1, to Precin on Dec. 30 at the Midlands Championships, which knocked the Marion native from his position atop the rankings.

McDonough said he’s been looking forward to this match since that last one.

“You’ve got to believe it,” he said. “It never feels good to lose. It’s a big deal, getting another chance at [Precin] before NCAAs. It’s a chance to wrestle the best in the country.”

Redshirt freshman Derek St. John also has a potentially season-defining weekend ahead of him. St. John, ranked 14th by Intermat, will face No. 7 Jason Welch tonight. On Jan. 30, will bring an even bigger test when he meets fellow redshirt freshman David Taylor of Penn State, who is ranked third in the country. The two split a pair of matches at a freestyle tournament in April 2010, according to buckeyewrestling.com, but Taylor has outperformed St. John this season in posting a 25-0 record.

“Big weekend for [St. John],” Brands said. “Taylor’s setting the world on fire, that seems to be what everyone’s talking about. Big challenge, and [St. John] has a chance to make a statement — and that’s an understatement.”

Both duals will likely feature several close matches, which makes Jan. 22’s strong late-match performances against Ohio State important.

Senior Luke Lofthouse won despite giving up an early takedown. He said he knew he could have enough offense late in the match to make up the deficit.

“It’s a long match,” Lofthouse said. “I’ve got to be on my attacks earlier and more often. But with the way I wrestle, the guy’s going to get tired. I’m not concerned about giving up points, because I know I’m going to score points as well.”

Brands said he didn’t necessarily attribute the improved third periods to better conditioning, instead saying the Hawks simply “got ready to wrestle.”

They’ll need to get ready to wrestle again this weekend. Brands said he’s confident they will.

“[Penn State] is the clear No. 1 now. They’re blowing people out,” he said. “Yeah, it fires you up. We’re battlers. We have to ready to go at that whistle.”

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