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Once-dominant Hawke wrestlers look to rebound from losses

BY MOLLY IRENE OLMSTEAD | JANUARY 25, 2012 7:20 AM

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The Iowa wrestling team is 9-3, 2-2 in the Big Ten, and has fallen from a No. 2 national ranking to No. 5 — a place head coach Tom Brands said the Hawkeyes haven't been in a long time.

Three losses in three weeks can hurt a team so accustomed to perfect seasons and national championships, and Brands said he fears last weekend's loss to Ohio State may have affected the team's poor performance against Penn State two days later.

"I know one thing: Their heads aren't right when you're losing seven bouts in a match," Brands said. "Your head isn't right when your teammates are going down like flies in front of you and you don't do anything to stop it."

Iowa's first step to dealing with the loss is acknowledging it and then figuring out how to do things differently.

"You've got to be woken up by something like that," junior Matt McDonough said. "You can't just go, 'Oh, well, we lost.' … We've got to get it figured out, and we've got to improve our wrestling. Win or lose really isn't as important as how you're wrestling, and obviously losing shows you need to work on things."

Brands has placed an added emphasis on the importance of each wrestler doing his job by continuing to train hard and to wrestle aggressively.

"We're not in a team sport where each guy can give a little percentage, and it collectively can add up," McDonough said. "Every guy's got to go out there to be the best in the country."

Brands said the Hawkeyes know what they need to do.

"We have to prove ourselves capable in tough matches," Brand said. "Lately, it hasn't happened. You look at the Oklahoma State meet; [if] we win that last match, we win the dual. You look at Penn State; we win the last two matches there, we win the dual.

"And that's simple to me — but there's a lot of fight that goes into that."

Rasing's return

Blake Rasing, the returning Big Ten heavyweight champion, got the nod from Brands against the Buckeyes and jumped off the bench to get back into the lineup.

Brands said his staff had reasons for pulling Bobby Telford from the lineup other than his four-match losing streak.

"It's interesting talking to some of our guys or listening or being a fly on the wall and how Telford was very driven in the preseason months to run anybody out of the room that was his competitor — and then, maybe, has gotten complacent," Brands said. "He doesn't happen to agree with it, and I happen to like that he doesn't agree with it."

Rasing was raring to go. With his team hopelessly trailing Ohio State, 21-6, the heavyweight won the final match of the night with a 6-2 decision.

"I didn't take a back seat just because I wasn't 'the guy,' " Rasing said. "I always knew that, with an injury or something, I could be the next man in. That's something I was training for, and I was ready for."

The New Hampton native said stepping back onto the mat wasn't necessarily a pressure situation, because his experience at the 2011 Big Ten championships prepared him for pressure. Instead, it was a motivating opportunity.

"It's also motivation when your teammates are going down to right the wrong a little bit," Rasing said. "I was wrestling for both [my team and myself]. First, it's for me. I want that win for myself, and then for the team as well."

Follow DI wrestling reporter Molly Irene Olmstead on Twitter.


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