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Wrestling is perfect, but not

BY CODY GOODWIN | JANUARY 20, 2015 5:00 AM

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Tom Brands knew he’d get fined if he answered the question honestly after top-ranked Iowa beat sixth-ranked Illinois, 25-12, on Jan. 16.

His team won seven of 10 bouts in the dual, but Brands was continually in the referee’s ear, hoping he’d get a few stall calls so the Fighting Illini wrestlers would wrestle more rather than actively stall.

“You want me to say it? I’ll say it. How much do they fine you for that?” he asked. “I’ll tell you what: You talk about a guy not wanting to get intimidated. That’s all I’ll say. He didn’t want to get intimidated, and he made a point.

“But hey, we got a lot of work to do. We got a lot of work to do.”

It’d be hard to find any Division I wrestling coach in the country that would be dissatisfied with a 9-0 start (4-0 against Big Ten competition), but those last eight words — “We got a lot of work to do” — are a staple in each of Brands’ post-dual press conference.

There’s reason to believe that he’s right, of course, because Iowa, although unbeaten, still hasn’t pieced together a complete performance in a dual so far this season.

Three key factors play into a statement like that: upset losses, points left on the board, and normal starters being held from the lineup because of health or other issues. In Iowa’s six duals after the Iowa City Duals in November, there have been numerous instances of all three.

In five of the six duals, at least one Iowa wrestler was upset in his respective match, the outlier being the 37-0 win over Michigan State on Dec. 6. Against third-ranked Ohio State on Jan. 4, two Hawkeyes were upset — but Iowa still won by 4.

Even more, the 18-14 win over the Buckeyes has been the only dual in which every Iowa starter was healthy and finally in the lineup — and that includes Brandon Sorensen, who has seemingly taken over as the guy at 149. In the other five duals, at least one starter has sat out because of health or other reasons.

But perhaps the biggest reason to believe that Iowa can wrestle better — the one Brands presses most often — is all the team points Iowa has left off the board in each dual.

In those six duals, Iowa wrestlers have had three instances in which another takedown would have secured the major decision as opposed to a normal decision. There’s also been another seven individual matches decided by 5 points.

Those, in Brands’ dream world, could’ve become majors with some more work.

“It feels good when you’re dominant and dictating everything,” 125-pounder Thomas Gilman said. “We take a lot of pride in that — especially when you just enforce your will on a guy.”

To Brands, though, each dual has been different. Against Iowa State, he said Iowa left points off the board. Against Ohio State, his team scored just one first-period takedown. Against Illinois, two Hawkeyes lost in bonus-point fashion.

But that he hasn’t seen a perfect performance, despite winning each dual so far, is why Brands continually says that his team has to get better — and it’s something the wrestlers are very aware of.

“I believe it’s little changes that will make the big difference,” said 141-pounder Josh Dziewa, who’s 2-3 in his last five matches. “There are opportunities to blow [opponents] out of the water. I just have to figure out how to do it.”

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


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