Young wrestlers observe Hawkeyes


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Tony Ramos' favorite part of the Hawkeye Wrestling Camps is taking the kids on a tour of Carver-Hawkeye Arena and watching their jaws drop when they see the 15,000-seat venue.

"They walk in and say, 'Oh my God, you guys wrestle here?' They can't believe we fill all the seats," the Iowa 133-pound wrestler said.

Former Iowa wrestler Luke Lofthouse enjoys seeing the campers' eyes get as big as baseballs as they sit in the bleachers of the Recreation Building and watch him practice.

"I don't think they understand that a person can sweat that much," Lofthouse said. "Not until they see it happen."

The campers spend an hour every day just observing the Hawkeye Wrestling Club's optional workout. It makes an undeniable impact on the young wrestlers' careers to witness the training sessions, to see just how hard the college and post-college athletes have to push to stay at the top of the game.

"We have to have the younger generation of wrestlers understand the amount of work ethic that has to go into a daily routine for their development as wrestlers," Iowa associate head coach Terry Brands said. "It's important for their development to watch guys like [former Hawkeyes] Phil Keddy and Dan Dennis work out because it's mind-boggling to the kids how hard they train. It's important to the kids' development to change how they picture success and how success takes place, that you can't just snap your fingers and wave a magic wand. Here at camp they realize that it's work."

Teresa Womack sent her sons — one of whom is a four-time state champion — to Iowa City all the way from Scottsboro, Ala., just so they can watch the "the best wrestling club in the country" and meet the grapplers in person.

"These are athletes they've been watching on TV for years," Womack said. "They're my kids' heroes, and they're getting to actually watch them do what they do. It's huge just to be in the same room with them."

Ramos said that the intensive camp teaches the growing athletes about dedication just as much as it teaches them technique and skills.

"The intensive camp is based on some of our college season workouts," Ramos said. "Some of these kids come in after sitting all summer long, and on the first day, they're dying. They realize that you can't do that, not in wrestling. They understand straight from us that you can't sit all day, that you have to keep working throughout the entire year, that you can't ever stop."

These are invaluable lessons to learn before the age of 18. Lofthouse said he wishes he'd had someone to open his eyes when he was young. The All-American had been exposed to wrestling his entire life through his family but nothing like the caliber of the Hawkeye wrestling culture.

"It would have helped me so much, just seeing the intensity, seeing the drive, seeing the passion," he said. "These are guys who are wrestling and winning at the highest level. They're as good as it gets, and they're still continuing to train. And train hard. I wish I could have seen it then."

Watching the Iowa wrestlers participate in optional practices is invaluable experience for the youngsters, even though they're not on the mats. The campers watch the high-level training that the Hawkeyes endure numerous times a day, year-round. Just seeing it teaches the kids how hard they'll have to work to earn the accolades that the Black and Gold team has.

"When they come to the intensive camp, they learn what true dedication is," Ethen Lofthouse said. "They get to watch the best team in the country practice, and they see our struggles, how it doesn't get easier. They see that even the best guys in our room are struggling through a practice, that it's never easy, that they're always going to have to fight. They understand that that's what wrestling is."

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