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Wrestlers ready for Michigan State, then a break

BY CODY GOODWIN | DECEMBER 05, 2014 5:00 AM

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Tom Brands constantly preaches that his team is moving forward and that its focus is always on the upcoming competition. Last week, Iowa’s attention was on No. 12 Iowa State. Once that dual ended, the wrestlers immediately shifted their attention to Michigan State.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that senior Mike Evans didn’t know that after the second-ranked Hawkeyes wrestle the Spartans on Saturday night, the team has a 22-day break before its next competition.

“That’s news to me,” said Evans, Iowa’s starting 174-pounder. “I don’t look at the schedule. I wait until Brands tells me we’re going to wrestle again.”

Such a long layoff between competitions is an abnormality for the Iowa-wrestling team — at least in recent seasons.

Last year, Iowa traveled to Edinboro for a dual on Dec. 5 after wrestling the Cyclones four days earlier, then hosted Buffalo on Dec. 12 and Penn State on Dec. 21 before traveling to Evanston, Illinois, for the Midlands Championships.

During the 2012-13 season, the Hawkeyes hosted Lehigh on Dec. 6 after Iowa State on Dec. 1, then traveled to New York for the Grapple at the Garden on Dec. 16, in which they wrestled both Hofstra and Bucknell.

Iowa stayed out East an extra day and wrestled Buffalo before returning home for some time off. The team opened its Big Ten schedule against Ohio State on Jan. 4. (The Hawkeyes didn’t make an official trip to the Midlands that year, opting instead to send certain wrestlers to compete unattached.)

Generally speaking, Brands said, he likes to have another dual to the schedule before finals week.

“We usually have a dual meet on that Thursday, and this year, we didn’t,” he said. “I was planning on a dual meet where — we didn’t really get an answer [from a potential opponent].

“Next year, we’ll definitely address that. We’ll bring in a school from the East or maybe a West Coast school, and we’ll reciprocate there. We got a little bit late in the scheduling process there.”

The extra time off after this year’s Michigan State dual won’t be much of a challenge, Brands said. He knows his team will keep its focus because of the ultimate goal it has in mind.

“It’s just an extra five days, is all,” he said. “If you’re focused, you do what your marching orders are. You got to battle where the battle is, and the battle will be more in-between their ears, I suppose.”

All of this is not to say Iowa is looking past Michigan State. Saturday night’s dual is Iowa’s 2014-15 Big Ten opener. The Hawkeyes have won 16-straight conference-opening duals, the last loss coming against Penn State in 1997-98, when the Nittany Lions won 25-17 in Iowa City.

It’ll be the first step in Iowa’s defense of last year’s Big Ten Dual Meet title, an honor it shared with both Minnesota and Penn State. All three teams finished 7-1 in conference duals.

(Although, if we’re getting technical here: Minnesota beat both Iowa and Penn State, while Penn State beat Iowa in a nonconference dual that was set up on Twitter.)

“We have to be ready to go,” Iowa 125-pounder Thomas Gilman said. “People coming to Carver-Hawkeye Arena are always ready to go. They might not be the most-talented team, but we have to be ready to go.”

Follow @codygoodwin on Twitter for updates, news, and analysis about the Iowa wrestling team.


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