Hawkeyes Juggle Moving Parts

Nov. 8, 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 — What a difference a year makes.

Just before wrestle-offs in 2011, Grant Gambrall was pegged by most publications to repeat as a 184-pound All-American. Unfortunately, his health didn’t agree with those projections, so when Gambrall returned to the mat after rehabbing from concussion symptoms, he found himself weighing in as Iowa’s 197-pounder.

He wrestled 14 matches at 197 before working his way back into the 184-pound weight class and qualifying for the NCAA tournament for a second straight year. But Gambrall didn’t finish the season as originally planned, posting a 2-2 mark in the national tournament and falling short of the medal stand.

“Last year you could say I was out of shape,” said the fifth-year senior. “So I started out at ’97 and as the season progressed, the weight came off and I was back down to the weight I’ve been at since I got here.”

That was the logic most preseason prognosticators used when determining their 2013 preseason ratings. All three rankings — WIN Magazine, Intermat and Amateur Wrestling News — have Gambrall ranked among the top 12 in the country at 184 pounds.

But on Wednesday, at the team’s annual media day, Gambrall announced he is again on the move, and will compete for the 174-pound starting spot.

“Each year I kind of thought that I could go 74,” said Gambrall. “But it was kind of up in the air and I decided against it. This year, I thought it was the right choice. I was weighing lower than I had in previous years by a little bit, and generally as the season progresses, I tend to lose weight so I decided to go ahead with ’74.”

Gambrall’s decision to drop down a weight class initially looked like the Hawkeyes may be playing with a stacked deck at 174 pounds. Ethen Lofthouse, an All-American 174-pounder in 2012, is back for his junior season, and Mike Evans, a sophomore who entered last year’s NCAA tournament as the fifth-seeded 165-pounder, was rumored to be considering a jump up to the 174-pound class.

The log-jam eventually worked itself out though, and the potential 174-pound All-American wrestle-off never materialized. Evans remains Iowa’s 165-pounder and Lofthouse will flip-flop positions with Gambrall and compete at 184 pounds.

“Very little dialogue and things just seem to work themselves out,” UI head coach Tom Brands said of the moving parts. “I don’t think anybody’s trying to avoid anybody. In Lofthouse’s case, he has been between weights in his head since March. He got big — when I say big, he’s not 220 pounds, but he can go either way and be effective.

Mike Evans was a ’65-pounder last year, and we’ve got to get him to complete the three-day tournament at the end of the year. We all know his capabilities. I’m not going to say it’s a no-brainer, but sometimes some of these things have a way to work themselves out.”

Brands said outside of those three names, the Hawkeyes still have plenty of depth in the lineup. Jeremy Fahler saw limited dual action at 184 pounds last season, and freshmen Sammy Brooks and Alex Meyer are recognized as some of the top newcomers in the country.

“We have a lot of options there,” said Brands. “It’s about winning and performance. We’ll see how those three do their job and figure it out from there.”

The lineup becomes clearer this weekend when Iowa hosts its intrasquad tournament inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex. Competition begins Thursday at 5 p.m. (CT). Semifinals will be contested Friday at 4:30 p.m,. and the finals begin Saturday at 8:30 a.m. Doors open Saturday at 7 a.m., and the public is invited to attend.