Hawkeyes Have Another Unique Opportunity

Jan. 18, 2012

Editor’s Note: The following first appeared in the University of Iowa’s Hawk Talk Daily, an e-newsletter that offers a daily look at the Iowa Hawkeyes, delivered free each morning to thousands of fans of the Hawkeyes worldwide.

IOWA CITY, Iowa — As Tom Brands puts it, the time for getting ramped, amped and hyped up is down the road a bit. For now, the University of Iowa wrestling team is making the most of its practice time before embarking on a crucial two-match road swing against top 10 opponents.

The No. 2 Hawkeyes (9-1 overall, 4-0 Big Ten Conference) face No. 8 Ohio State (8-2, 2-2) on Friday in Columbus, Ohio, and top-ranked Penn State (7-1, 3-1) on Sunday in State College, Pa.

“Like any big road trip, we’ve been pointing to it for a while,” Brands said. “Now it’s time to get ready to go. We have a lot of preparation yet.”

Hawkeye 174-pound sophomore Ethen Lofthouse headlines the weekend with matches against two nationally ranked opponents in Buckeye sophomore Nick Heflin and Penn State sophomore Ed Ruth. Lofthouse (14-4) was undefeated last weekend, winning by decision against Tyler Koehn of Nebraska and Lee Munster of Northwestern. The 5-2 win against Munster avenged a loss in the finals of the 2011 Midlands Championships.

“My approach this weekend is the same as I would approach any other match,” Lofthouse said. “I’ve wrestled both (Heflin and Ruth) before, so I know what I need to do. As a team we have the same urgency, maybe a little more after not having the showcase we wanted against Northwestern (a 24-13 Hawkeye victory on Jan. 15). We know what’s ahead of us. If everyone does their part, good things will happen.”

After placing seventh at Midlands, UI freshman 165-pounder Mike Evans has suddenly become one of the team’s hottest competitors. Evans (18-2) has won five consecutive bouts and he will take on No. 1 ranked and defending national finalist David Taylor of Penn State on Sunday. Taylor’s only collegiate loss was in the 157-pound finals of the 2011 NCAA Championships.

“I’m definitely excited; it’s an opportunity,” Evans said. “It’s an opportunity to keep putting myself forward.”

A relative unknown to Hawkeye fans early in the season, Evans, a native of Pennsylvania, is becoming a favorite. He snapped a 10-match win streak belonging to Nebraska’s Robert Kokesh, 7-3, on Jan. 13, when Kokesh entered the dual ranked third in the country. Now he will try to hand Taylor his second loss in 57 tries.

“It’s going to be a dogfight, but you have to look at Ohio State first,” Evans said.

While Lofthouse and Evans are relishing in recent success on the mat, 285-pound freshman Bobby Telford is looking to get back on track. After beginning the season with 14 wins in a row, Telford has dropped four straight. He will take on No. 15 Peter Capone of Ohio State on Friday and No. 6 Cameron Wade of Penn State on Sunday.

“Ohio State’s first on our agenda,” Telford said. “They have some firepower, and no one’s overlooking them. But in the back of your mind you’re kind of thinking about Sunday at Penn State. But first things first: you have to put a good week of practice together and then take care of business on Friday, travel, then get ready to take care of business Sunday.”

Regardless of the outcomes this weekend, the events will be seen as an important push toward the postseason. Individual rankings and seeds at the Big Ten Championships (March 3-4 in West Lafayette, Ind.) are on the line.

“We need to make a statement with maybe some upsets from the expert’s point of view,” Brands said. “It’s an opportunity to go out and do what you’re capable of doing.”

A match to keep your eyes on Friday is at 133 pounds between Hawkeye sophomore Tony Ramos (19-1) and Ohio State redshirt freshman Logan Stieber (18-1). Stieber and Ruth shared the most recent Big Ten Conference Wrestler of the Week award.

The dual at Ohio State begins at 6 p.m. (CT) and the match at Penn State begins at 1 p.m. (CT).