Notebook: Iowa ready for conference championships

BY CODY GOODWIN | MARCH 05, 2015 5:00 AM

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Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands isn’t into clichés. His words are often just a free-flowing stream of conscience thoughts, though they are sometimes strategically packaged, always careful to never reveal too much.

On Wednesday, though, Brands could not help himself. The 2015 Big Ten championships begin this weekend, and as original as his sound bites usually are, there was no other way to describe how he felt about it.

“The cliché thing to say is this is what you live and train for,” Brands said. “And we’re here.

Everything leading up to [this weekend] is important. The problem is that’s all in the rearview mirror now, and we are at the Big Ten championships.

“That is the most important thing on our schedule, up to this point.”

The Hawkeyes, Flowrestling’s top-ranked wrestling team entering the weekend, are the favorites for the league’s tournament crown — but only barely; Ohio State is breathing down Iowa’s proverbial neck. Both teams enter the Big Tens with three top-seeded wrestlers.

Still, Brands’ mentioning of the Big Ten tournament being the most important thing “up to this point” speaks volumes about the team’s goals for the season. In the midst of his free-flowing session with the media, Brands did not shy away from the fact that winning the NCAAs in a few weeks is more important than a conference crown.

But to better the odds of winning the national title, Brands said this weekend is important. It’s a qualifier tournament, after all, and a good showing in Columbus, Ohio, will set Iowa up to make a run in St. Louis starting on March 19.

“Every year, it’s the second most important thing when it’s all done,” Brands said. “We have to do well to put ourselves in position.”

Young guns earn top pre-seeds

It was not surprising to Brands that the three Iowa wrestlers to earn the top pre-seeds were two sophomores and a redshirt freshman — that is, Thomas Gilman (125), Sammy Brooks (184), and Brandon Sorensen (149), respectively.

And really, it wasn’t surprising to any of the wrestlers, either. Gilman, especially, echoed Brands’ sentiments, that all three did their jobs during the regular season and are rewarded with the top pre-seeds for the Big Ten championships.

“Expectations are high, obviously,” Gilman said. “We talked about it a little this week. It doesn’t matter if we’re veterans or if this is our first year at the Big Ten Tournament. Expectations are high, even for the guys that aren’t seeded No. 1.

“We’re going in trying to win 10 weights. Even if you aren’t seeded No. 1, that’s where you’re at in your mind.”

Winning will help rebound

After Iowa lost to Missouri, 18-12, in the National Duals final, the Tigers overtook the Hawkeyes in many of the polls as the No. 1 team in the country. That did not sit well with Iowa. Not at all.

“It lights a fire under your ass,” heavyweight Bobby Telford said. “But we can right the wrong real quick.”

Telford referred to this weekend as an opportunity to prove to the rest of the country that his team is not just a contender but a runaway favorite for the NCAA title, and that means winning the team crown in Columbus in dominating fashion.

“That will ease down the flame a little bit,” Telford said. “And then winning a national championship will extinguish the flame altogether and create a buzz for people to talk about.

“That’ll be something that the people of Iowa and the people of Iowa City can be proud of.”

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

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