Rasing takes home a title

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | MARCH 07, 2011 7:20 AM

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EVANSTON, Ill. — Blake Rasing stood with his hands on his hips, waiting for the end of an injury time-out. The Iowa heavyweight had just slammed Minnesota’s Tony Nelson to his back — a 5-point move with the takedown and near-fall points — in the Big Ten title match, and Nelson clutched his knee in pain.

Had Nelson been unable to continue wrestling, Rasing would have received an injury forfeit and Iowa would have taken home the team title. But Rasing said he knew that wouldn’t happen, calling the injury time-out a “break” for his opponent.

“I’ve seen Minnesota a couple other times,” he said. “And someone else took a break, too, with less than a minute left. So I’d seen that before. [Nelson] came back with a lot more energy after that break. He was flat on his belly when he took it.”

Rasing waited for the “break” to end and then closed out a 5-2 victory that made him one of Iowa’s two Big Ten champions.

The championship was the culmination of a season of steady improvement for the junior heavyweight. Rasing failed to place at the Midlands Championships on Dec. 29-30 and spent much of this season as one of Iowa’s two unranked starting wrestlers.

But heavyweight coach Kurt Backes said he saw a Big Ten champion in Rasing from the beginning of the season — simply one in need of some fine-tuning.

“He’s come a ways, but we knew he was very good in the beginning,” Backes said. “It was just building, building, and building. And having him believing in what he can do.”

Rasing said small, specific adjustments have made all the difference in his late-season run.

“At first, I thought it was a big change,” he said. “But when I look back, really just positioning was the biggest thing. It was too easy for people to get to my legs early in the year. My leg defense has improved a lot.”

Backes credited that improved defense to better positioning. The first-year assistant coach said Rasing had a habit of bending at the waist, leaving his knees straight and easy to attack. But now, Backes said, Rasing does a good job of bending his knees and staying low. It showed this weekend: Rasing wasn’t taken down once during the tournament.

By the end of the regular season, Rasing had transformed from a question mark to one of Iowa’s steadiest performers. Head coach Tom Brands praised his heavyweight’s ability to win important matches, citing his win against Oklahoma State’s Blake Rosholt on Jan. 16 that salvaged a tie for the Hawkeyes.

“He’s going to be ready to wrestle when it’s time to wrestle, when it’s for all the marbles,” the fifth-year coach said. “He started to figure that out a little bit in the middle of January. He won a big match at Oklahoma State. He’s won some big matches.”

Rasing’s run to the finals helped keep Iowa close heading into the third and final session of the tournament. His title brought the Hawkeyes within a single point of champion Penn State.

And while Rasing said the team’s second-place finish slightly dulled the excitement of his individual championship, he said he did all he could in taking home an individual title.

“You want to win everything,” Rasing said. “But I did, I won it. And that’s the most I can do.”

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