Hawkeye grappler Dziewa hopes to 'open some eyes' at Big Ten tournament

BY SAM LOUWAGIE | MARCH 08, 2013 5:00 AM

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A weigh-in rule kept Josh Dziewa from getting his chance for almost the whole season.

Iowa wrestling head coach Tom Brands said the Hawkeyes needed Dziewa to weigh in at 141 pounds all year so he could back up senior Mark Ballweg at that weight class. So while Iowa struggled all season at 149 pounds, the team couldn’t afford try the slick-scoring sophomore there.

The regular season is over now. And Dziewa’s time is here.

“It’s a big chance,” he said. “I’ve just been waiting for my opportunity.”

Dziewa has only cracked Iowa’s starting lineup twice in his career, and he’s won a major decision both times — against Northern Iowa’s Clay Welter in December 2011 and a 10-2 victory in an appearance at the National Duals last month.

After Iowa stumbled to fourth place at the National Duals, sophomore Mike Evans said the team needed to hammer in some “loose nails” in its lineup in order to compete in the postseason. One of those loose nails all season has been 149 pounds.

Lingering injuries have limited sophomore Mike Kelly this season. Brody Grothus has struggled, allowing his eight dual-meet opponents to score almost 9 points per match against him. The two have shared the 149-pound spot all season, and Iowa hasn’t won a match at that weight in a dual meet since December.

Dziewa beat Grothus in a practice-room competition, so the sophomore will bump up a weight. He was given the No. 9 preliminary seed this week. He’ll need to finish in the top seven to qualify for the NCAA Tournament, something Iowa hasn’t been able to do at 149 in the past two seasons.

“If I do my job, I’m capable of winning the tournament,” he said. “It’s not a matter of taking seventh and qualifying for nationals … It’s just staying strong mentally. I’ve been wrestling my whole life, and it’s not really a matter of size.”

The jump from 141 to 149 hasn’t always proven to be easy. Ballweg tried to make it at times the last two seasons. A top-10 wrestler at 141 pounds this season according to Intermat, he struggled just to score points against 149-pound opponents.

But Brands said Dziewa is the team’s best chance at postseason success.

“I think we know he can wrestle; he knows what he’s capable of,” Brands said. “Sometimes you get a chance and open people’s eyes, but you pretty much know how they can perform … We feel like he’s our best chance, and we’re going with it.”

Dziewa wrestles with an unconventional style, using “funk” he picked up in Pennsylvania high-school wrestling. Last season, he scored a 5-point move early in a match with a twisting, somersaulting move he couldn’t even explain.

That style could help him sneak up on opponents. But Dziewa said he isn’t counting on the element of surprise.

“It doesn’t matter. They can know what I do or not know,” he said. “I’ve got moves to both sides; I can do whatever. I’m just going to go out there and wrestle hard — that’s the end of it.”

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