Hawkeye wrestler Burak gets ready for “big time.”


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Nathan Burak is not a typical true freshman.

But that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a case of nerves before his first match in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Burak made his début in a Hawkeye singlet at the Iowa City Duals on Nov. 24. Iowa led Cornell College 44-0 when the Colorado Springs, Colo., native stepped onto the mat at 197 pounds.

After a back-and-forth beginning, he fell into an 8-4 hole early in the third period. He used a few sharp takedowns to get back into the match, but his rally fell short. Cornell’s Alex Coolidge pulled out a 9-8 decision.

“It was his first time out there; the kid had first-time jitters,” Iowa junior Tony Ramos said. “Getting these two matches under his belt now, instead of in a big-time match in Carver-Hawkeye Arena, is good for him. He’s just going to keep on improving.”

It’s rare for Iowa head coach Tom Brands to take the redshirt off a true freshman wrestler. But Burak chose last year to put off college and train in his hometown at the Olympic Training Center, where he worked extensively with USA Wrestling Coaches.

He said he improved his strength, his offense, and “a lot of little things that made me a lot better.” Brands called the experience “basically a redshirt.” So when Burak won the 197-pound wrestle off, the coaching staff didn’t hesitate to name him the starter.

“That was always my plan, to be in the starting lineup,” Burak said after the Iowa City Duals. “But it didn’t go the way I had planned my first two matches at Carver to go.”

Brands said jitters weren’t the problem. He called Burak’s opponent “the best guy in the building” at 197 pounds. Coolidge was 25-11 last season for Cornell and was named the team’s most improved wrestler.

“That was a good test for him,” Brands said. “Let him learn. I don’t think it was an indication at all.”

Burak did bounce back in his second match, picking up a 15-9 win in an exhibition match against Iowa Central’s Brandon Bradney.

“I need to go out there and have some fun,” Burak said. “Make sure I’m moving my feet, pressuring the other guy and getting to my attacks more … I have to build off that, focus on the good, put the bad in the past, and focus on what’s coming up next.”

What’s coming up next is fierce rival Iowa State and No. 14-ranked Kyven Gadson at 197 pounds. Carver-Hawkeye Arena will be a lot louder for that dual, and Brands said Burak would need to clean some things up.

“He responded to some adversity,” Brands said. “He’s doing some things where he’s getting himself in trouble, and he’s got to be making adjustments. Which I think he did, but he’s going to have to make those a little quicker and a little bit more pronounced in the big time.”

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