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Brands sees progress but wants more

BY DANNY PAYNE | JANUARY 24, 2014 5:00 AM

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Tom Brands always wants more. It’s no surprise coming from a man who has grown accustomed to winning both as a wrestler and coach. The Iowa head coach with a 1996 Olympic gold medal has enjoyed some key wins this season, and the chance for another will present itself in the form of a dual with No. 3 Minnesota (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten) on Saturday in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Although No. 2 Iowa (11-1, 4-0) has wrestlers ranked at all 10 weight classes, the team boasts not one top spot, according to InterMat. While Tony Ramos and Derek St. John have seen the highest ranking at 133 and 157, respectively, neither has been able to hold on to No. 1.

“You’re seeing some progress; you can’t argue with that,” the eight-year head coach said. “But you know, you’re also seeing some dips and a little bit of inconsistencies.”

Mike Evans is one of the wrestlers who fit Brands’ desire for improvement. While the junior won the Midlands Championships at 174 in December, he has yet to top an opponent ranked higher than him. Losses to Oklahoma State’s Chris Perry, Penn State’s Matt Brown, and most recently Robert Kokesh of Nebraska have prohibited him from jumping ahead of the sixth spot.

The native of Enola, Pa., will square off with the Gophers’ Logan Storley on Saturday. The two wrestled at the National Duals in February 2013 in Minneapolis, and Storley bested Evans in a 3-1 decision. Storley also won a decision over Evans in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament in March 2013.

Evans declined to comment, but the 2012-13 All American will try to pick up his first victory over Storley.

Along with Evans’ featured matchup, all eyes will be on the heavyweights. Two-time NCAA champion Tony Nelson will tilt with Iowa’s Bobby Telford, a former All-American.

Nelson defeated Telford, 3-1, at the National Duals, and fans should expect an entertaining match from the two. In Telford’s last match at home, Jan. 12 against Indiana, the junior attacked No. 7 Adam Chalfant and used an aggressive style en route to a 9-5 overtime decision.

Brody Grothus will also get an opportunity to get back on track against No. 3 Nick Dardanes. The 149-pounder began an impressive winning streak against top-10 opponents beginning at the Midlands.

The stretch ended with a loss to Nebraska’s Jake Sueflohn on Jan. 18. Grothus said he should have won the match and attributed the defeat to a poor mindset.

“I wasn’t prepared in my mind for that match when I stepped out there, and that hurt me,” he said.

The match will mark the second-to-last time Brands’ squad will wrestle in Carver this season, and Iowa will try to keep its Big Ten record unblemished in front of the home crowd.

“You know they’re going be ready; they got upset by Michigan,” Ramos said, referring to Minnesota’s 19-14 loss to the Wolverines on Sunday. “They’re going to be looking to make a statement, so we have to be more ready because of that.”


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