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Wrestler Gambrall struggling at heavier weight class

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | JANUARY 27, 2012 7:20 AM

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Grant Gambrall was past the defense and deep into a shot on his opponent's legs. All he had to do was trip them up for a takedown.

It was overtime of Gambrall's Jan. 22 match against Penn State true freshman Morgan McIntosh. Iowa trailed in the team score by 3. A win from Gambrall would have tied the score and left the dual up to the heavyweights. A loss would have put the nail in the coffin of the Hawkeyes' second-straight team defeat.

Gambrall couldn't finish the shot.

McIntosh fought it off and scored a takedown a short time later to hand Gambrall his fourth loss in his last five matches.

This losing is new for Gambrall. He went 25-8 last season and placed third at the NCAA Tournament. He appears on promotional posters as one of the Hawkeyes' four returning All-Americans.

But that was when he was a 184-pounder. That was before an off-season concussion forced him up a weight class, where he's struggled all season to score against larger opponents.

"Some of it is the weight, some of it is just not being smart when I get in on the leg," Gambrall said. "The last couple duals, I was in on some deep shots. I didn't finish quickly enough or didn't finish as technically sound as I should. There are more problems than just size."

Gambrall was taken down twice in the third period in an 8-4 loss to unranked Oklahoma State sophomore Blake Rosholt on Jan. 7. He couldn't manage a takedown — and was the rare Iowa wrestler called for stalling — in a 2-1 loss to unranked John Schoen of Northwestern a week later. He was taken down with 45 seconds left to lose against Ohio State on Jan. 20.

Gambrall was wrestling with a teammate in the Iowa practice room last June when he hit his head hard on the mat. The resulting concussion kept the Iowa City native out of action until October.

"I pretty much didn't do anything for five months," he said. "I was watching practices every day. I kept busy watching film. But since I started wrestling in first grade, I've never gone five months without training."

It became impossible for the idle Gambrall to keep his weight down as the months passed, and his weight climbed over 200 pounds for the first time in his life. The junior realized he would have to enter the season as Iowa's 197-pounder.

Iowa 125-pounder Matt McDonough said on Tuesday the Hawkeyes "weren't in the right mindset" in their back-to-back team losses to Ohio State and Penn State last weekend. Gambrall admitted that "there's been some mental things probably [going wrong]" in his performances.

Head coach Tom Brands said the increased weight was not the problem, instead pointing out Gambrall's struggles late in matches.

"It's not weight when you're out front riding the guy, and he grabs a leg, and you give up a reversal with 12 seconds to go," Brands said. "That's positioning and head smarts … ask him if it's weight."

Gambrall said if he were wrestling his best, his weight wouldn't be an issue. But he acknowledged 184 is his more "natural" weight. And while the Big Ten meet is just a little more than a month away, Gambrall indicated that a return to 184 pounds this season is "definitely" possible.

Whether he stays at his current weight or drops to his natural one, Gambrall said he'll need to improve significantly to place high come tournament time.

"Last year, I didn't get into my best form until the end of the season. I try to make that the case every year," he said. "You'd like to be untouchable and bulletproof all the time, but that's obviously not where I'm at right now."

Follow DI wrestling reporter Sam Louwagie on Twitter.


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