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Notebook: Burak to wrestle at Midlands

BY JORDAN HANSEN | DECEMBER 18, 2014 5:00 AM

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Nathan Burak, Iowa’s 197-pounder who has battled injuries throughout the early portion of the season, will make an unofficial return for the 52nd-annual Ken Kraft Midlands Championships on Dec. 29-30.

Unofficial because there’s a catch: he’ll compete unattached, which is significant because it keeps him eligible to redshirt this season.

This situation is similar to last year, when Burak kept his redshirt through the Midlands. Head coach Tom Brands said, like last year, he’s looking for Burak to wrestle well before pulling his redshirt.

Burak took third at last year’s Midlands and earned All-American honors at the national championships three months later.

In any case, Burak said he’s working to improve upon last year’s finish — both at the Midlands and NCAAs. He appeared confident about his status when he spoke on Wednesday.

“I’m feeling strong, I’m feeling good — I’m ready to go,” he said. “I’ll go out there, and preform to the very best of my ability, and go to dominate, and go to win. I trust the coaches and whatever they decide is ultimately best for me, and I want what’s best for me, so I’m going to go along with whatever they decide.”

Brands said Burak is handling the situation well — and to his credit, the wrestler repeatedly said he had complete faith in his coach’s decision.

“He wants to go, but we got to make sure it’s the right thing, and this Midlands will tell us a lot,” Brands said. “That’s what we got to stay on, that plan. We got to stay on it and do the right thing. It’s not just for the program; it’s for him too.

“When you have that option, you have to be smart about that option.”

Brand-new guys

Seventeen wrestlers will make the trip to Evanston, Illinois, for the Midlands, and that includes three freshmen in the midst of their redshirt seasons.

Seth Gross, Burke Paddock, and Sam Stoll — listed at 141, 165/174, and 285, respectively — have a combined record of 36-8 (albeit in smaller tournaments), and they will all get their first taste of major competition over winter break.

“We’re greedy. We want to see more and more and more, and we realize there is a learning curve and this is a big test to see where they’re at,” Brands said. “They’re doing finals right now, and, you know, the first time you go through this, there are things that are new to them, so they’re gaining experience every day.”

Looking for ‘the guy’

Brands said the Midlands could help determine who Iowa’s starter at 149-pounds will be.

The weight has been a revolving door early this season; junior Brody Grothus and redshirt freshman Brandon Sorensen have each been vying for the spot.

While both wrestlers have just one loss and have had their chances to prove themselves in competition, Grothus seemingly has the advantage. He’s coming off a dominant tech-fall win over Kaelen Richard of Michigan State and also owns a head-to-head win over Sorensen.

Regardless of previous history, both will travel to the Midlands, where Brands said he hopes for further separation.

“You take it one match at a time — that might be beating a dead horse there — but that really is the philosophy to take,” Grothus said. “You don’t worry about any other guys. I’m not worried about what Sorensen or [Jason] Tsirtsis [of Northwestern] is doing.

“If we meet up, I’ll take care of business.”

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


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