Notebook: Grapplers embrace lineup changes


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The Iowa wrestling team only graduated one starting senior, but the lineup will still look drastically different this season.

Two upperweight wrestlers, Grant Gambrall and Ethen Lofthouse, have swapped positions from where they finished in spring of 2012. Gambrall will move down to 174 and Lofthouse up to 184.

Senior Mark Ballweg, who made a few appearances at 149 pounds last season, has become the 141-pound starter.

And wrestle-offs will determine whether junior Tomas Lira or true freshman Nathan Burak will claim the 197-pound slot.

The team’s weaker weight classes last season that didn’t fare well at the NCAA Tournament — 149, 165, 184, and 197 — all have numerous grapplers who can fill the role throughout the season.

“Last year, we left some points off the board, when you’re talking about realizing your full fire power,” head coach Tom Brands said during the team’s media day. “The formula isn’t complicated, it’s very simple. Ten weight classes, you want 10 weight classes scoring points.”

Four weeks ago, at the beginning of the season, three athletes — Mike Evans, Lofthouse, and Gambrall — were all vying for the 174-pound slot.

But the situation worked itself out, with Evans deciding to stay at 165 and Lofthouse and Gambrall switching classes.

Gambrall finished third at the NCAA Tournament in 2011 at 184 pounds but then suffered concussion symptoms in the off-season and had to move to 197 for much of the 2011-12 season. He didn’t place at last year’s national tournament even after cutting back down to 184.

“Each year I’ve kind of thought that I could go [1]74, but it was kind of up in the air and I always ended up deciding against it,” Gambrall said. “But this year I just felt it was the right choice.”

Morningstar steps into coaching role

Iowa alum Ryan Morningstar was appointed a full-time assistant coach in September, and he has fit into his new role well. Brands said the 2009 graduate brings a different dynamic to the coaching staff that was missing with former assistant head coach Mike Zadick, who was 33 years old.

The wrestlers, who compete with the assistant coach often in practice, agree that Morningstar is a good fit.

“We had Zadick leave, so it’s nice to have another middle-weight guy coming in,” Evans said. “You can’t replace one with the other, but it’s as good as it’s going to get … It’s the same coaching aspect, but Morningstar can take more of the wear and tear.”

St. John, Evans unfazed by Dake’s weight jump

Three-time national champion Kyle Dake from Cornell became the first wrestler in NCAA history to win three titles at three different weight classes when he beat Iowa’s Derek St. John at 157 pounds last March.

And he’s going for another title this season at 165.

St. John said he has mixed feelings about Dake moving up.

“You really don’t want to go out like that, against somebody like Dake,” the junior said. “There’s not really a whole lot I can say about it.”

The Big Red grappler will have to compete with Penn State superstar David Taylor, who pinned his way into the finals of the 2012 national bracket and won with a major decision.

The pair is, arguably, two of the best wrestlers in the nation.

But Evans said he’s ready to challenge them. He’s been watching their matches and keeping an eye on his competition since the Olympic wrestling trials in April.

And the Hawkeye said he thinks he can beat them.

“I saw a lot of typical college matches, 1-point wins, nobody expanding the gap,” Evans said. “I’m not impressed.”

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