Brands, Hawkeyes ready to roll

March 2, 2010

Brands Press Conference Photo Gallery (Tuesday, March 2) | Interviews With the Hawkeyes

IOWA CITY, Iowa — Tom Brands didn’t need an opening statement Tuesday to validate the University of Iowa’s eagerness for the upcoming Big Ten conference wrestling championships. After all, the rest of this month is sacred time for the top-ranked and defending national champion Hawkeyes.

“It’s that time of year where it’s business time,” Brands said at a press conference inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “You want 10 weight classes contributing. You have 10 guys who believe that they’re the champion with that philosophy that is engrained over time.”

The Hawkeyes, already with 33 league championships, are searching for their third consecutive conference title March 6-7 in Ann Arbor, Mich. Seniors Brent Metcalf (149 pounds) and Dan Erekson (285) are defending conference champions.

“We’re fired up. We’re making sure that we feel good about ourselves,” said Metcalf, who has twice been named outstanding wrestler of the Big Ten championships. “You want to go out feeling good about (the season) and the best way to do that is to go out and win. Right now it’s in our control. We have to do everything we can to make sure we put ourselves in a good position.”

Metcalf is the top seed at his weight class, followed by Ohio State’s Lance Palmer, who is rated No. 2 nationally. Metcalf defeated Palmer 3-1 on Feb. 19 in Iowa City — one of just four regular decisions for Metcalf on the season.

“I’m glad (Ohio State) feels good about that match, let’s put it that way,” Brands said. “I believe in our guy and I don’t believe in locker room material and I don’t believe in bulletin board material. I believe in facts. I’m not a superstitious guy and I’m glad they feel they’ve closed the gap.”

Metcalf is one of six Hawkeyes expected to qualify for Sunday’s final according to the preliminary seeds. Metcalf, Jay Borschel (174) and Chad Beatty (197) are seeded No. 1, while Matt McDonough (125), Ryan Morningstar (165) and Erekson (285) are seeded second. McDonough is a freshman, the other five are seniors.

“That shows that the strength of our team is with our seniors,” Brands said. “We’ve had the benefit of great leadership and great young guys that are about the right things and have come together and risen above a lot of turmoil that may have side-tracked a weaker mind.”

“Right now we’re ready to roll. It’s time to go. You can only train so much and then you have to let the horse run, let the lion hunt, let the sniper zero in. You can only hold that edge so long in the training room and then it’s time to go. We’re there.”
UI head coach
Tom Brands

Metcalf (29-0), McDonough (29-0), Borschel (28-0) and Erekson (8-0) enter the tournament with undefeated records. Brands sees more in common between Metcalf and McDonough than just their won-loss records.

“Metcalf’s a thoroughbred of the thoroughbreds; McDonough’s kind of a quarter-horse thoroughbred,” Brands said. “Study horses and then you’ll know what I mean.”

Brands said the ingredient for success this weekend and March 18-20 and the NCAA championships is to score bonus points and to have 10 wrestlers contributing to the overall team score. Nine of the 10 weight classes for Iowa are secure; the only question mark remains at 157 between juniors Aaron Janssen and Jake Kerr.

“We seem to have our best lineup going into this, even though we only know nine guys for sure right now,” Brands said. “We have our best lineup put back together as far as health. Everybody sitting in that room should believe that they’re the champion at their weight class.”

The league tournament will mark the return of Beatty, who hasn’t competed since injuring a foot in December. Junior Luke Lofthouse filled in and went 20-13 on the season.

“It’s his senior year, he’s had experience with catastrophic injuries that have derailed him,” Brands said. “Fun or not, it’s reality, so get tough and he’s getting tough. I love seeing that progress now compared to the last couple years. The doctors have cleared off on it and everybody feels as good as they can about it and away we go.”

UI sophomore Montell Marion (141) and senior Phillip Keddy (184) are seeded third at their respective weight classes.

“Right now we’re ready to roll,” Brands said. “It’s time to go. You can only train so much and then you have to let the horse run, let the lion hunt, let the sniper zero in. You can only hold that edge so long in the training room and then it’s time to go. We’re there.”

Last season the Hawkeyes scored 141 points and won the league tournament by 27 ½ points over runner-up Illinois. Dennis was fifth at 133, Morningstar was runner-up at 165, Borschel was third at 174, Keddy was runner-up at 184 and Beatty was fourth at 197.

The first session begins at 10 a.m. (Iowa time) on Saturday, March 6, inside Crisler Arena.