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Iowa wrestlers look to Ballweg for 149

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | DECEMBER 08, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa's 149-pound wrestlers need to get tough so they can produce a starter.

The Hawkeyes (5-0) will host Northern Iowa (1-2) in Carver-Hawkeye Arena tonight and will continue to iron out their problem areas — including the 149-pound lineup spot — against the Panthers.

The spot is one of the three weight classes without a consistent starter, and the 149-pound Hawkeyes are all fighting for a chance to wrestle.

Junior Mark Ballweg filled the spot for the Hawkeyes' last two meets. He is projected to challenge Northern Iowa's 149-pound wrestler Clay Welter tonight, even though he started the season and still weighs in at 141.

Ballweg wrestled at 141 in the Linwood University Open on Nov. 19 and captured third place in the tournament. He was pinned in 1:43 by Jacob Wadley in the first round, but battled back with six-straight wins and claimed third place when he faced Wadley again. Ballweg pinned him in 19 seconds.

The junior lost an 8-4 decision to Illinois' Eric Terrazas once he was bumped up to the 149-pound spot last weekend. He wrestled at 149 pounds again against Iowa State's Joe Cozart, and won 3-1 in overtime with a hard takedown.

But head coach Tom Brands said his current 149-pound starter looked timid on the mat, and that needs to change.

"You can see hesitancy there, and there's no reason," Brands said. "When he sees the film, he can't believe it, either. [The media] can't believe it; we can't believe it as coaches; his family and brothers can't believe it; his teammates can't believe it. And then he watches it, and he can't believe it, so [he's] got to pick it up and just let things fly."

Redshirt freshman Jacob Ballweg agreed that his brother needs to get loose on the mat.

"I think he just has to decide to just take risks and believe in his offense," he said. "He needs to not be afraid to take risks and then just believe in what he can do."

Mark Ballweg declined to comment on Tuesday.

Brands said six of his wrestlers are in contention for the 149-pound spot — and they know it.

"The weights that are up for grabs; it's not a secret," he said. "We want to see guys who are going out there to score points, and wrestle hard and smart, and do the things that puts them in contention to win championships."

Dylan Carew is one of the six fighting for the spot. The sophomore planned to wrestle as a starter for the Hawkeyes in 2010-11 despite competing with a torn left ACL. But Carew then tore his right ACL as well and subsequently sat out the rest of the season to undergo surgery and recover.

Carew said he's fully recovered from the injuries and now only needs to do "small, everyday things" to stay healthy, such as devoting extra time to stretching and icing. After a year out of competition, he said, he's ready to compete with his teammates for a spot at 149.

"We've got three, four guys who all want to wrestle, all who are going to try to do everything that they can to wrestle," he said. "It will all come down to what the coaches think is the best option for this team … At the end of the day, the bottom line is that they know who the best guy is to wrestle, and they're going to wrestle the best guy."

Follow DI wrestling reporter Molly Irene Olmstead on Twitter.


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