Sept. 2, 2008
Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 7, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2008-09 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Twice during his decorated, yet incomplete, collegiate wrestling career, Charlie Falck climbed the All-American award’s stand. Twice he was disappointed.
“I want to win a national championship,” said the University of Iowa 125-pound senior.
Winning an individual championship drives Falck, who was eighth in the nation as a sophomore and sixth a year ago. Last season he was the only wrestler to defeat eventual national champion Angel Escobedo of Indiana. But when the national tournament culminated March 22 in St. Louis, Escobedo stood on top of the podium and Falck — after closing the season with three consecutive losses — was sixth.
“The way I ended the season is motivating because it was embarrassing,” he said. “When you want something that’s up here and you get what’s down there and crash, that’s not what you want. That’s embarrassing to me, my family, the University of Iowa — everybody. I don’t want to embarrass anyone.”
It could be argued that the demands Falck places on himself are what make him — and the UI program — so successful. In reality, he turned in an impressive junior campaign, going 31-7 in collegiate bouts, including a team-high 21 dual victories. Not only was Falck 7-0 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena (including a 4-2 victory over Escobedo on Feb. 15), but he was 21-1 in duals and 7-1 in Big Ten Conference duals. He scored 78 team points in dual matches, which ranked third on the team. Falck has won 16 of his last 19 Big Ten duals.
“Charlie is a natural leader and a critical spark plug for this team,” UI head coach Tom Brands said. “He is also a good example socially. He gets good grades and he keeps our guys in line.”
Falck possesses a wrestling style of his own.
“I try to attack and be in-your-face the whole time,” Falck said. “I try to be a grinder, but I think I have pretty good skills so I feel I can be kind of slick and sometimes I’m kind of funky. There are bits and pieces of everything wrapped up in one.”
Being in the 125-pound weight division, Falck was instrumental in setting the tone last season as the Hawkeyes compiled a 17-1 dual record before claiming their 32nd Big Ten championship and 21st NCAA championship. Iowa won the national title with 117 ½ points — 38 ½ more than runner-up Ohio State.
“It’s good being on a national championship team, but I want my own (individual title). It feels good watching the team come together over the past year. The first year when Coach Brands got here we were kind of separated and then we started coming together. After we won the national championship, everybody’s really been focused on the team and realizing that we want to get everybody on the team better.”
UI 125-pound wrestler
“It’s outstanding knowing Charlie will wrestle first for us in most duals,” Brands said. “The way he starts matches, too — he starts matches quickly. We get good bang for our buck. Now he needs to finish with an exclamation point.”
“It’s good being on a national championship team, but I want my own (individual title),” Falck said. “It feels good watching the team come together over the past year. The first year when Coach Brands got here we were kind of separated and then we started coming together. After we won the national championship, everybody’s really been focused on the team and realizing that we want to get everybody on the team better.”
The sport of wrestling has taken Falck on quite a journey. He grew up in Strawberry Point, Iowa, idolizing all things Hawkeye, especially wrestlers like Tom Brands, Mike Zadick, Mark Ironside and Chad Zaputil.
“I can’t pick out anyone that wasn’t an Iowa guy that I idolized when I was a kid,” Falck said.
In eighth grade he packed his bags, left home and stayed with a “host family” while attending school in Apple Valley, Minn. Falck was a four-time Minnesota state champion with a career prep record of 213-11. He was a Cadet national champion and runner-up and placed second at the Junior National tournament.
“I knew what I wanted and the whole reason for going to Apple Valley was just to get better,” Falck said. “It wasn’t to get away and be a traitor. I wanted to improve my wrestling skills. You have an opportunity, why wouldn’t you take it?”
When the college recruiting process began, Falck tried to stay impartial, but he knew that wrestling for Iowa was his ultimate wish.
“I always wanted to be a Hawkeye, but I put that aside and looked at all the schools to see what they had to offer and what fit me best,” Falck said. “It was kind of a homecoming when I came back to Iowa. I hadn’t been with my family for five years, so that was kind of a big thing.”
As a freshman at the UI, Falck compiled a 14-11 record against collegiate competition, but did not place at the Big Ten Tournament and did not qualify for nationals. He red-shirted during the 2005-06 season. Brands came on the scene prior to the start of his sophomore season of 2006-07.
“Words can’t really describe what Coach Brands has meant to the program,” Falck said. “I could sit here and say a thousand great things about him and it still doesn’t do justice. Since he’s come here, he has taught people to be responsible and accountable for what they do on and off the mat. Our guys don’t cut corners when it comes to class — that’s a big thing because if you start doing that, it’s going to carry over onto the wrestling mat. He’s kept us focused in on the main goals — balancing school and wrestling.”
Falck was 24-10 as a sophomore and in two seasons under Brands, has won 55 times, including a 36-5 dual record. Falck was runner-up in the Big Ten Tournament in 2007 and fourth in 2008. His career record is 69-28.
There will be a new set of challenges as preparations begin for the 2008-09 campaign. Iowa is once again at the top of the wrestling world with a bull’s eye on its collective back.
“This is when it gets hard and we want to do it again and then do it again the next year,” Falck said. “Each year it’s going to get harder because now everyone’s gunning for you because you’re at the top. We have to keep working hard and prove we can do it again.”
The goal in the Iowa room has switched from reaching the top to widening the gap. An NCAA victory of less than 38 ½ points might not be well-received by the athletes in Iowa City.
“Now everyone is trying to catch us and we want to widen the gap, turn on the afterburners and blow them out of the water,” Falck said. “You don’t want to win by two or three points. Like Metcalf said right after he won (an individual 149-pound national championship), we want to win by a big number.”
Iowa has 17 four-time All-Americans and Falck has an opportunity to become the 28th Hawkeye three-time All-American. Aiding Falck’s quest is what he calls “the best coaches in the world,” a “great” Iowa fan base and the hallowed Dan Gable Wrestling Complex, where champions are made.
“The intensity in the room is usually high,” Falck said. “There are guys battling day-in and day-out. You leave your friendships outside the door because you might get into some heated battles with guys, but once you step foot in the locker room, you’re friends again. That’s what I like about it.”
With a little fine-tuning, Brands agrees that Falck has the potential to be the best 125-pound wrestler in the nation.
“Charlie’s willing to do what it takes,” Brands said. “Now he has to learn to wrestle out of his comfort zone. He does not have to be in close matches. He is a legitimate contender and he needs to believe a little more that he’s a championship-quality competitor.”
Falck said he enjoys competing in hostile environments, especially at Oklahoma State. Of course, there is no place like home.
“The Iowa fans know what’s going on,” Falck said. “Other fans might come and yell, but they’re not yelling for a certain reason. Iowa fans know what’s going on. They’re smart and they’re loud.” Falck intends to give them plenty cheer for in 2008-09.
Falck’s Career Record
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