Oct. 15, 2009
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Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Wednesday, Aug. 12, 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 2009-10 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 — During a wrestling season that spanned four months and included 24 duals and three tournaments, University of Iowa senior Phillip Keddy lost to a grand total of two individuals.
That was two too many for the two-time All-American Hawkeye 184-pounder.
“Undefeated national title — for me, there’s no other choice,” Keddy said. “I know I’m capable. There are a lot of tough guys who have wrestled close with me. I have to take advantage of my style and I need to be prepared for whoever comes to the top.”
Last season Keddy (34-5) was runner-up at the Big Ten championships in State College, Pa., and fourth at the NCAA championship in St. Louis. Both placements were improvements over his sophomore season when he was third in the conference and sixth in the nation. The only losses of the season for Keddy came against two-time NCAA champion Jake Herbert of Northwestern (three times) and Rider third-place national finisher Doug Umbehauer (twice). Both Herbert and Umbehauer have graduated.
“Herbert is a great wrestler and he’s talented,” Keddy said. “I learned to improve over each match against him. (As a team) we fell apart in our eyes at the national tournament. The way I wrestled, I feel the same way. Umbehauer is a talented wrestler, but I felt I never should have lost to him. The losses to Umbehauer really stung deep with me and those are the kinds of things I have to prevent this year. I was wrestling not to lose something I didn’t even have yet, so I have to go out and take it away from them and wrestle a dominant style.”
Keddy graduated from Uintah High School in Vernal, Utah, where he was a two-time state champion and a member of the National Honor Society. A study in steady improvement in college, Keddy red-shirted during the 2005-06 season and then posted a 14-16 record as a freshman in 2006-07. He showed an upgrade of 9 ½ matches as a sophomore, finishing 28-11 (16-5 in duals) and earning his first All-American recognition. Keddy improved by six matches between his sophomore and junior seasons and for his career is now 76-32. The last two seasons he is 62-16 (79.5 winning percentage).
“Undefeated national title — for me, there’s no other choice. I know I’m capable. There are a lot of tough guys who have wrestled close with me. I have to take advantage of my style and I need to be prepared for whoever comes to the top.”
UI senior 184-pounder
“Maturity more than anything and figuring out what he wants,” said UI head wrestling coach Tom Brands, explaining Keddy’s improvement. “It started to click knowing that there’s a price to pay and you have to come together at a higher level of wrestling. But more than anything, it is maturity based on the experience of getting a knot in your head and turning a negative into a positive.”
Keddy has another opportunity to rest on top of the NCAA awards stand.
“Basically this is my last shot,” Keddy said. “I felt I came up short the last two years — a national title was the only thing I wanted where I wouldn’t feel I had some sort of regret. These last two years being an All-American have been good, but the goal is a national title and I have to put everything into it because I only have one more shot.”
Growing up in Utah, Keddy said he was sheltered from the college wrestling scene. Coaches weren’t exactly beating down his door until his senior season, a year when Keddy won the 171-pound title at the Walsh Ironman tournament and was runner-up at senior nationals. Two of the coaches paying attention to Keddy’s prowess were then UI head coach Jim Zalesky and current Hawkeye head coach Tom Brands, who was at Virginia Tech.
“Coming to Iowa and experiencing the atmosphere and the fan base and how people put you on a pedestal and look at you as a little bit of a celebrity as far as loving the sport of wrestling here…” Keddy said. “This was something I wanted to be a part of. One of the biggest reasons I came to Iowa was the incredible fan base and the support which is unmatched. It’s an awesome experience.”
Brands said he knew Keddy’s high school coach and received a glowing recommendation about his work ethic, attitude and how he approaches the sport on and off the mat. During competition, Keddy displays a unique style.
“Phil Keddy is slippery,” Brands said. “He’s hard to hold onto and he’s hard to put down. You grab a hold of him and think you’re going somewhere with him and he’s gone before you do anything. He’s explosive, strong, has a good build and he’s slippery. What he does out there on the mat, he’s earned it.”
The Hawkeyes completed the 12th undefeated dual season in school history by going 24-0 in 2008-09. That is just one of the impressive accomplishments. They also won the Midlands Championship (156 ½ to 153 ½ over Iowa State) and the Cliff Keen/N.W.C.A National Duals with wins over Wyoming, Minnesota, Nebraska and Cornell (23-13 in the finals). Iowa won its 33rd Big Ten championship by 27 ½ points over runner-up Illinois and out-distanced Ohio State 96 ½ to 92 for its 22nd NCAA title.
“I feel a lot better now than I did a year ago. There cannot be an automatic mindset. It’s not automatic just because you put on a certain singlet in front of these fans in this arena.”
UI head coach Tom Brands
Still, when the team left St. Louis after the national championships, there was a sense of emptiness.
“It felt horrible to be honest,” Keddy said. “It was bittersweet for sure. We’ll always remember winning a national title, but at the same time, you look at the potential and it was a complete letdown for us. We still got the job done. We fought back when we had to, but we know we can’t let that happen again. It could be a blessing in disguise — we don’t have anything wrapped up.”
“I feel a lot better now than I did a year ago,” Brands said. “There cannot be an automatic mindset. It’s not automatic just because you put on a certain singlet in front of these fans in this arena.”
Keddy played a key role in securing the 2009 NCAA team title by posting a 6-1 decision over Vince Jones of Nebraska — one of four consecutive wins by the Hawkeyes on the final morning of the tournament.
“The consolation bracket wins national titles,” Keddy said. “I felt I had already let myself and the Hawkeye fans down to where I had to go back and make it up as much as I could.”
“These guys are great at getting themselves ready to go,” Brands said. “They just need to believe they belong in rounds that are career-defining. That’s when you have to be tough.”
Keddy will graduate with a double major in health and sports studies and recreation management. He would like to coach wrestling — after the 2009-10 season, of course.
“There’s one more bullet and it has to count,” Keddy said. “We have to set an example for the new guys coming in so they can continue what we’ve been doing.”