Nov. 6, 2014
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — It’s November, there is crispness in the air, and the University of Iowa wrestling team is ranked No. 1 in the USA Today/NWCA Preseason Coaches Poll.
Defining the top-ranked Hawkeyes can’t be done now, with temperatures in the 40s and leaves on the ground. A better gauge would be what transpired when the thermometer was pushing triple digits and green leaves were wilting in punishing Midwestern heat.
Enter UI senior Nick Moore, who was 23-5 last season at 165 pounds.
He was 15-1 in duals (8-0 in Big Ten duals) and took a 10-match winning streak into postseason. After winning his first two bouts in the Big Ten Championships, Moore dropped three of his next five matches and missed becoming an All-American.
Now is the time to bring the heat, something Moore has been doing since summer.
“The one thing you see with (Moore) is that he’s training angry and alone,” UI head coach Tom Brands said Thursday inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena at Iowa’s annual media day. “There were days when it was the dog days of summer and you would drive up Hawkins on that bumpy, curved road and (Moore) is running that hill in full sweats and a stocking cap and it’s 95 degrees. You don’t coach that into guys.”
Maybe not to Moore’s extreme, but it’s safe to assume he isn’t the only Hawkeye training alone or angry. Nine Iowa wrestlers are ranked in the top 10 of their weight divisions, led by senior Bobby Telford (third, 285), senior Mike Evans (fourth, 174), and sophomore Thomas Gilman (fourth, 125).
“It’s fall, it’s time,” Brands said. “We have a roomful of guys that I think are ready to go, so you’re always fired up.”
Without speaking in code, encryption, or just plain gobbledy gook, Moore is back. The Hawkeyes are back.
“Getting back on top of the heap, I don’t think you change a lot. We have to do some things differently as far as personnel and getting guys to do things differently so they become consistent. If you’re asking me to go a completely different direction, that’s not going to happen.”
UI wrestling coach
“Hey, it’s time again,” Brands emphasized.
Iowa returns four All-Americans from a team that went 15-2 in duals, placed second in the Big Ten and fourth at the NCAA Championships. Of the seven returning national qualifiers, four Hawkeyes reached the award stand: sophomore Cory Clark (fifth, 125), senior Evans (sixth, 174), junior Nathan Burak (eighth, 197), and Telford (fourth, 285).
Now that the Hawkeyes are ranked at the top, the key is staying there throughout a grueling league schedule. Iowa has dual meets against six of the top nine teams in the country including a road date at No. 8 Oklahoma State on Jan. 11.
“Getting back on top of the heap, I don’t think you change a lot,” Brands said. “We have to do some things differently as far as personnel and getting guys to do things differently so they become consistent. If you’re asking me to go a completely different direction, that’s not going to happen.”
Since winning its third consecutive national title in 2010, Iowa has finished third twice and fourth twice at the NCAA Championships. Consistency is a buzzword for the Hawkeyes to get back on top of the wrestling world. If preseason rankings have any merit, their lineup is consistently powerful, with nine wrestlers ranked in the top 10, but none predicted to be an NCAA finalist.
“Consistency is that you are a proponent and advocate for a style of wrestling that is entertaining and puts points on the scoreboard,” Brands said. “Does it need to be done in the room or does it have more to do with the competition arena? Both, because one impacts the other.
“It’s easier to go forward when you have success when it’s in front of everybody and the lights are on. It’s easy to go forward the next day in that wrestling room, and then when you do it in the wrestling room, it’s easier to duplicate that in your competition.”
Iowa opens the season Nov. 15 at the Luther Open. The first home competition will be Nov. 21 with the Iowa City Duals against Baker University, Iowa Central Community College, and Cornell College.