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Hawkeye wrestling camp strives for excellence

BY CONRAD SWANSON | JULY 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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The University of Iowa is hosting an intensive wrestling camp from July 4-14, the longest and most competitive of four Iowa wrestling camps this July.

Unlike most other Iowa summer camps, the majority of the 210 wrestlers in attendance came from out-of-state. Two wrestlers even came from out of the country — one flew in from Japan, and the other came from England.

All the wrestlers, however, had a common goal: to hone their wrestling skills under the supervision of Tom and Terry Brands, with occasional appearances by Dan Gable.

“It’s the most exceptional camp we have, whether it’s the techniques, the intensity, or the overall experience,” said Josh Berka, the director of UI sport camps since 2005.

The success of this camp is something that many coaches travel a long ways to find. Victor Lorenzano, a high-school coach based in St. Cloud, Fla., has brought his Celebration High wrestlers to Iowa City for 22 years. He brought 10 kids this year, and he has brought as many as 25 in previous summers.

He said there was some difficulty raising the money for his athletes to come wrestle at the camp this year, and he attributed the difficulty to a slow economy. Some last-minute donations made the trip possible, though, and Lorenzano said feels the camp is well worth the trouble.

“We’ve gone other places, but nobody does as good of a job as Tom, Terry, and Dan — nobody cares as much about your experience,” he said.

Luke Eustice, Iowa’s director of wrestling operations, credits the influence of Iowa’s wrestling program and the difference between the wrestling program and other high-profile Hawkeye sports programs.

“Our program goes behind Iowa borders,” he said. “The high standards of what we want to accomplish each year is something everyone can see.”

Eustice also attributes the success of the wrestling camps to the program’s availability to the public, something that is not common among all Hawkeye sports programs.

“Our program is pretty accessible; anyone can come and watch practice,” he said. “There’s a lot of access to coaches and players, and you don’t get that with football and basketball.”

The camp was held at the hot and humid Recreation Building, and although 210 young wrestlers were training at once, the coaches gave their orders at normal volume. The room wasn’t filled with shouts or music; instead, the air was filled with the thud of bodies on the wrestling mats and the occasional quiet squeak of wrestling shoes.

The wrestlers themselves appeared to be composed, and they quickly formed circles around the coaches for instruction. The circles broke with a unified clap, a testament to the camp’s discipline.

As Eustice kept an attentive eye on the wrestlers, he said what the coaches teach extends beyond the mat or the wrestling room.

“We teach the mentality, the amount of work it takes to be good, and high standards of excellence both on and off the mat,” he said. “While they’re learning about that, they also learn the wrestling moves and techniques. The work they put in carries over to their jobs, school, their social life — everything.”


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