Notebook: Hawkeye grapplers begin their postseason on Friday night


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Iowa’s Ethen Lofthouse collected an 11-7 victory over Edinboro’s Vince Pickett on Feb. 16. That was the first time the junior had won a dual match in Carver-Hawkeye Arena since Jan. 6, when he beat Purdue’s Andy Wiseman, 16-5 — a 40-day layoff between bouts.

The time that separated No. 2 Iowa’s duals with No. 15 Edinboro and Purdue, though, wasn’t empty. The Hawkeyes wrestled eight duals but just three were at home. And since the Black and Gold traveled to Minneapolis and beat No. 4 Minnesota, 16-15, the Iowa coaching staff has alternated wrestlers at the 184-pound spot in the lineup.

Lofthouse received the call against the Gophers on Jan. 26 and lost, 6-3. Grant Gambrall then took his place in the dual against No. 1 Penn State on Feb. 1 and lost by major decision. Lofthouse returned to the starting spot for Illinois on Feb. 8 and won, 9-5, before Iowa switched back to Gambrall for the home dual against Nebraska on Feb. 10, where he lost a match that went down to the wire.

“It’s more of a trade thing with [Lofthouse] and Gambrall,” Iowa head wrestling coach Tom Brands said. “It’s not like we benched Lofthouse … You’re alternating there. There’s no decision there, and there’s no favorite.”

Brands and the Iowa wrestling coaching staff initially began alternating Lofthouse and Gambrall because of Gambrall’s attitude in the practice room. He showed a better demeanor, and Brands said that Gambrall, a former All-American for the Hawkeyes, probably earned a shot.

The 184-pound spot has since worked like a two-man revolving door for the Hawkeyes, and it will continue to do so this upcoming weekend when Iowa travels back to Minneapolis for the National Wrestling Coaches Association National Dual Championship Finals. Both Gambrall and Lofthouse will make the trip with the team.

“We’re allowed 15 guys,” Brands said. “We’ll have two 49-pounders and two 84-pounders.”

Evans anxious for redemption

Mike Evans is hoping that the seeds hold true this weekend — at least until the actual finals, that is.

Evans, ranked third in the country at 174-pounds, is hoping to exact revenge on both of the wrestlers who have given him his only two losses this season. Evans has lost to Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry, ranked No. 2, on Jan. 13 and to Minnesota’s Logan Storley, ranked No. 1, on Jan. 26.

The Blair Academy product will only get his chance to avenge his losses, though, if second-seeded Iowa wrestles both third-seeded Minnesota and top-seeded Oklahoma State. It’s likely that it will happen, too — should the seeds hold true, the Hawkeyes dual the host Golden Gophers on Saturday afternoon and then will face the Cowboys in Saturday night’s finals.

The team comes first and foremost for Evans, as well as the rest of the team. But the Enola, Penn., native can’t help but think just a tiny bit about the possibility of toppling the two wrestlers who have marred his record this season.

“What I’m thinking about is the match in front of me,” Evans said. “And it just so happens that those guys are going to be the matches in front of me.”

Telford finding his stride

January was a rough month for Iowa’s big man. Bobby Telford, ranked sixth nationally at heavyweight, struggled to find a rhythm in 2013’s opening month. The first match Telford wrestled in the new year resulted in his first loss of the season — a 3-2 nail-biter to Ohio State’s Peter Capone.

The Hockessin, Del., native rebounded with a 4-1 win two days later against Purdue’s Alex White, but slowly fell into a slump thereafter. Telford didn’t win another match in January, and missed two duals because of an illness. Since the calendar turned, though, Telford has begun to find his stride again. He’s 4-0 this month and has outscored his opponents 28-6 in three of those matches. His one other match this month ended in a first-period fall.

That momentum, he’s hoping, will carry into this weekend, where Telford can also avenge two losses from earlier this season. “You’re going up there to make a statement to the country,” Telford said. “It’s another shot. It’s another shot before the postseason.”

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