Hawkeye wrestlers dominate at Luther Open


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DECORAH — The surest fact at the Luther Open on Nov. 16 was that, before the semifinal rounds even started, an Iowa wrestler would take home the 184-pound title.

It seems almost silly to say — especially on a day in which Iowa wrestlers combined to win 102 matches, compiled 48 total pins, and of the 20 total losses, 11 came when two Hawkeyes wrestled each other. In the 184-pound bracket, four Iowa wrestlers progressed to the semifinals, guaranteeing that a Hawkeye would win the weight class.

Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands said afterward it was encouraging to watch his team dominate, even with the competition being Division II and Division III teams. And just like 184 pounds, there were a few weight classes in which Hawkeyes showed depth and talent, making the battle for some roster spots a bit more interesting.

“When you’re wrestling head-to-head in the finals, that’s good,” Brands said. “When we’re four deep in a weight, that’s good … we need it. We need depth.”

Iowa’s Ethen Lofthouse ended up winning the 184-pound weight class over the weekend, and he will more than likely be the guy at season’s end. But after the Luther Open, it’s apparent that three other 184-pounders are pushing him in the practice room.

The most notable are Sammy Brooks and Alex Meyer, two redshirt freshmen who entered the 2012-13 season as blue-chip recruits from Oak Park, Ill., and Pleasant Hill, Iowa, respectively. Brooks topped Meyer in the semifinals at Luther, 6-3, before losing to Lofthouse in the finals, 3-2.

The battle for the 149-pound roster spot became a bit more interesting, too. Mike Kelly took the weight with a 6-1 win over Upper Iowa’s Edwin Cooper — the same Edwin Cooper that was supposed to be a Hawkeye but was arrested last July — in the finals.

Kelly has taken the lead, of sorts, because of his 5-0 showing at Luther. But still in position to earn the roster spot are Brody Grothus and Connor Ryan, who finished third and fourth, respectively, over the weekend. Grothus lost to Cooper in the first semifinal, and Ryan lost to Kelly in the other.

Grothus was predominately the starter last season after winning the wrestle-off, but both he and Kelly sustained injuries during the season, causing Brands to insert Josh Dziewa into the 149-pound spot for the Big Ten championships.

“At Big Tens, I scored 5 points in two matches,” Dziewa said at the team’s media day on Nov. 7. “That’s not going to get it done. That’s not going to beat the best guys.”

Dziewa has been slated by many Iowa wrestling fans to be the 141-pounder this season, but he will be pushed and challenged by both Ethan Owens and Topher Carton. Dziewa wrestled them both at Luther. He topped Owens in the semifinals, 2-0, and beat Carton in the finals, 4-0.

As the season progresses, some of these wrestlers will earn starting spots, and others will wait another year. But, as Tony Ramos points out to both Cory Clark and Thomas Gilman — two other Iowa wrestlers who are battling for the 125-pound starting spot — the lineup isn’t set until early in March.

“It’s going to come down to who wants it more every day in practice, who’s willing to go that extra mile and then performances,” Ramos said. “Who’s going to score points, who’s going to take the risk … you don’t know if you’re starting until the day they tell you you’re going to the Big Ten Tournament.”

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