Jan. 24, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Growing up in Hayward, Minn., Ben Berhow watched his share of wrestling duals between the universities of Iowa and Minnesota.
Berhow became a Gopher wrestler, compiling a record of 78-48 from 2007-10. During his career he faced Hawkeye heavyweights Matt Fields, Jordan Johnson, Dan Erekson, and Blake Rasing.
“As a competitor you always knew if you were going to Carver-Hawkeye Arena you better be ready for a battle,” Berhow said. “When it comes down to it, we have two very tough programs that respect each other. That respect makes for good wrestling and a good rivalry.”
No. 2 Iowa (11-1 overall, 4-0 in the Big Ten) and No. 4 Minnesota (7-1, 3-1) compete Saturday at 1 p.m. (CT) with the Border Brawl traveling trophy belt on the line. As far as school colors go, Berhow has retained the gold, but traded maroon for black: he now sits in one of the Hawkeye coaching chairs as a volunteer assistant.
“It will good to see (the Minnesota coaches), but once that whistle blows, I’m an Iowa Hawkeye and you want to go out there and dominate,” Berhow said.
“As a competitor you always knew if you were going to Carver-Hawkeye Arena you better be ready for a battle. When it comes down to it, we have two very tough programs that respect each other. That respect makes for good wrestling and a good rivalry.”
UI assistant coach
From 2011-13, Berhow was on Minnesota’s staff, but behind the scenes in an unofficial administrative assistant role. When UI head coach Tom Brands had an opening, Berhow was interested.
“It was the right time and an opportunity to go to an historic program and advance my coaching career,” he said.
In his brief coaching career, Berhow has already instructed some greats. He has been in the room with Tony Nelson, a two-time NCAA champion heavyweight for the Gophers, who will face Iowa’s Bobby Telford (16-1) for a sixth time. Five of Telford’s 16 career losses have come against Nelson — none by more than two points.
In the latest rankings by Intermat, Nelson is No. 2, Telford is No. 3.
“They are both tough competitors and they both have one thing in mind and that’s winning and being at the top of the podium,” Berhow said. “They are both physical, aggressive heavyweights.
“It will be a battle. Tony is going to be ready, Telford is going to be ready to rock and be ready for battle. It’s going to be an exciting match.”
Nelson compiled a record of 55-3 when Berhow was on the Minnesota staff; he is 21-2 this season. Telford has won five straight matches.
“We have an actual coach that can take a guy off and coach when we’re doing things that aren’t in the heavyweight’s wheelhouse,” Brands said. “He can take them to the side and coach them as a heavyweight. That’s important.
“Ben is a heavyweight’s heavyweight. We have enough guys that can attack legs and hit knee pulls, grab legs, and pick them up in the air and finish. Now we need guys that can wrestle like a heavyweight and can give heavyweight specific tips.”
Berhow has experienced both sides of this rivalry between what he calls tough-minded programs with similar coaching philosophies.
“They want to score a lot of points and make it exciting,” Berhow said.