Iowa wrestling won't slow down over break


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Three weeks separate the Iowa wrestling team's most recent meet, against Northern Iowa on Dec. 8, and its next contest on Dec. 29.

The Hawkeyes said they'll use the extra time to iron some things out; goals include completing the starting lineup and solving conditioning issues for a few wrestlers who jumped up a class.

"We have a little bit of a break, and we have to address some issues," head coach Tom Brands said after the Northern Iowa meet. "We will address them."

The Hawkeyes have wrestled three different athletes at 149 pounds in six dual meets: redshirt freshmen Jacob Ballweg and Josh Dziewa and junior Mark Ballweg. Iowa won three of the six matches.

"There's about five or six guys who want to be [in the meet]," Dziewa said following his 14-6 major decision against Northern Iowa. "[Coach Brands] has given plenty of guys their opportunity … Hopefully, I can get another opportunity and continue to improve."

Dziewa, who recently moved from the 141 pounds to 149, said he's barely cutting any weight before competitions — only around four pounds. But he said he needs to take more time to gain some muscle.

"[Brands] said, 'Let's get bigger,' " Dziewa said. "I haven't gotten much bigger — not yet — but I feel good."

Newly appointed 197-pounder Grant Gambrall recently left the 184-pound class because he gained weight when he was injured during the off-season. Gambrall has won both his matches at 197 this year, a 4-3 decision against Cornell and 7-3 decision against Northern Iowa.

But he said he still isn't satisfied with the level of his conditioning.

The three-week pause in back-to-back competitions can help wrestlers such as Gambrall and Dziewa adjust to their new weight classes with some uninterrupted conditioning. Brands said the pause will be a break "but not a break," because the team will maintain the intensity of its current training throughout the holidays.

Iowa's two 184-pound options, Jeremy Fahler and Vinnie Wagner, haven't consistently been successful this season.

The Hawkeyes haven't seen a victory at 184-pounds since the Iowa City Duals, on Nov. 25.

Fahler wrestled in two matches at the Duals and scored two major decisions but lost a 17-8 major decision to Illinois' Tony Delgado a week later.

Wagner also scored a major decision on Nov. 25 but lost his next two contests — a 10-9 battle with Iowa State's Boaz Beard and a 13-2 major decision to Northern Iowa's fifth-ranked Ryan Loder.

Brands said Wagner is still working toward his full potential and estimated the senior was at about "70 percent capacity" at the end of last month after he was injured during the team's wrestle-offs in early November.

But Wagner, a full-time medical student bombarded by a rigorous academic schedule, said he knows the winter break training will help him improve at the 184-pound spot.

"Over winter break, we'll have a lot of time to get a lot of good training in without classes interfering," Wagner said. "That will really benefit me at this point."

Follow DI wrestling reporter Molly Irene Olmstead on Twitter.

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