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Wrestling seniors age gracefully

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | FEBRUARY 11, 2011 7:10 AM

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Before Iowa’s dual meet against Indiana Feb. 4, head coach Tom Brands approached senior Aaron Janssen with a request.

“He said, ‘Janssen, I haven’t asked much of you. But I want bonus points,’ ” Janssen said.

Janssen was 17-4 on the season, and ranked 13th by Intermat. But the Emmetsburg, Iowa, native had struggled to accommodate his coach’s request all season, earning bonus points just twice in his seven dual-meet starts for the Hawkeyes — both in shutout wins over Cornell College and Southern Illinois-Edwardsville.

Going into the third period of the match against Indiana, Janssen seemed headed toward another win devoid of bonus points. He had built a 4-1 first period lead, then allowed the Hoosiers’ Ryan LeBlanc to escape but couldn’t score a point in the second period. Janssen had a 4-2 lead going into the final period.

And then he exploded.

With 1:30 left in the match, the Hawkeye recorded a takedown and quickly let LeBlanc up to his feet. In the next minute, he did the same thing three more times, securing the major decision Brands demanded.

The impressive outburst was uncharacteristic of the typically methodical Janssen. But he said he is always capable of that kind of performance, needing only to get out of his own way.

“I kind of felt I owed it not only to my team, but to my coach, to prove that I can go out there and put up bonus points when he asks me,” he said. “I know I can do it. It’s just me in my head telling myself that I just need to get going.”

Brands said Janssen was an attractive recruit five years ago because he was “a big move guy.”

“I think it’s just a matter of him realizing it’s hard work,” Brands said. “And it’s going to continue to be hard work. You’re not always going to feel good out there.”

Janssen isn’t the only senior in Iowa’s lineup making dramatic strides late in the season.

Luke Lofthouse struggled to finish his takedown attempts for much of the year. But his quickly increasing ability to do so has him shooting up the rankings, to No. 8 this week after his Feb. 4 upset of Indiana’s fifth-ranked Matt Powless.

“There’s been progress, and the pace of the progress is starting to pick up a little bit,” Lofthouse said. “And that’s what’s exciting. It’s getting toward the end of the year, but there’s a lot of time left for change and fine-tuning those skills that are going to get me what I want when it comes to march.”

Lofthouse will face 10th-ranked Logan Brown of Purdue tonight and 11th-ranked Anthony Biondo Feb. 13 against Michigan.

The Michigan dual will be the final chance for both Lofthouse and Janssen to wrestle in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Both say they’re unsure how they will react, or what emotions they will feel.

But the match will allow Janssen to wrestle in front of some family members for the first time.

“My grandma and my dad will be down here, and they’ve never been to Iowa City,” he said. “So it’ll have a much greater meaning to me.”


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