Nov. 7, 2007
IOWA CITY — The preseason wrestling rankings have been posted and second-year University of Iowa coach Tom Brands already sees things he wants edited.
“We need to be a lot better than where we’re ranked right now,” Brands said Wednesday at his media day press conference in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “If we’re third in one poll (W.I.N. Magazine), we need to be two spots higher. If we’re fourth in the other poll (USA Today/NWCA/Intermat) we need to be three spots higher. That’s the mindset of the program.”
The Hawkeyes finished eighth at the NCAA Championship last season and return 13 letterwinners, six national qualifiers and three All-Americans in junior Charlie Falk (eighth at 125 pounds), senior Alex Tsirtsis (seventh at 141 in 2006) and senior Mark Perry (defending national champion at 165). Iowa will hold its annual team wrestle-offs to determine the starting lineup over a three-day period from Nov. 8-10. A partial squad will compete at the Harold Nichols Open on Saturday, Nov. 10, beginning at 10 a.m., in Hilton Coliseum in Ames.
Brands said that he thinks the program is heading in the right direction in 2007-08, which was not the case a year ago. He said the team lacked the consistency it needed to excel during the entire season.
“My expectations were certainly better than up and down,” Brands said. “We have to be competing for titles across the weight class spectrum. Then we’ll be competing for a title as a team.”
The Hawkeyes will not be lacking depth. Five transfers from Virginia Tech — Joe Slaton (133), Dan LeClere (141), Brent Metcalf (149), T.H. Leet (165) and Jay Borschel (174) — are all eligible. Add to the room 12 true freshmen and there will undoubtedly be vicious competition for every varsity spot.
“We’re getting some pretty good kids in the our room, that’s what we’re doing,” Brands said. “The best guys will find their way into the lineup. What’s hard is when you have one option and he’s not coming around. Easy is letting the best guy go out there at whip some tail.”
Iowa was 14-5 overall last season, 5-3 in the Big Ten. The Hawkeyes were 3-3 in their final six duals and placed third in the conference tournament with one champion (Perry). There are nine league teams ranked in the top 17 of both preseason polls.
“We’re getting some pretty good kids in the our room, that’s what we’re doing. The best guys will find their way into the lineup. What’s hard is when you have one option and he’s not coming around. Easy is letting the best guy go out there at whip some tail.”
UI Coach Tom Brands
“It’s no different,” Brands said. “The challenge is the same every year. The battle is in-state. The battle is Big Ten and regional. The battle is national. The battle is planet Earth. If they find life out there, then the battle will be universal.”
Brands said that a majority of the Hawkeye wrestlers believe they can win a national championship this season. That number has increased from what Brands viewed as a minority a year ago.
“You see a lot more scraps on the mat,” Brands said. “They’re walking with that `I own the mat mentality’ and when they’re walking like that, they’re feeling pretty good about being the next national champion at their weight class.”
One key off-season personnel move was the hiring of Doug Schwab as interim assistant coach. Schwab, a three-time All-American and Big Ten champions for the Hawkeyes from 1998-2001, is also an integral gauge for Brands. If practice begins and Schwab is a busy man, then Brands is smiling. If not, there’s still work to do.
“Schwab is still waiting for more guys to go up to him and say, `I’m going with you today,'” Brands said. “So we’re not quite there yet. When Schwab has a line up behind him of guys wanting to wrestle him, then we’re where we want to be. Right now he’s got Metcalf and Perry.”
Returning starters for Iowa are Falk at 125, Tsirtsis at 141, sophomore Ryan Morningstar at 157, Perry at 165, sophomore Phillip Keddy at 184, junior Dan Erekson at 197 and senior Matt Fields at 285. Last season Perry was a Big Ten champion, Falk was runner-up, Tsirtsis was third, Fields was fourth, Morningstar was fifth and Keddy was seventh.
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