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By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa head wrestling coach Tom Brands believes the Hawkeyes have a fan-favorite in the making at 184 pounds.
Sophomore Sammy Brooks has an 8-0 record at 184 this season, which includes a 9-1 major decision over Iowa State’s 18th-ranked Lelund Weatherspoon on Nov. 29. Brooks is currently ranked ninth by Intermat and seventh by WIN.
“He’s slowly becoming a fan-favorite, that’s what I pick up from Hawkeye nation,” Brands said Tuesday inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex. “People like to watch to watch him wrestle and look forward to his time on the mat.
“People look forward to the things he brings as far as entertainment in wrestling — inside trips, bear hugs — and he has a personality that it’s fun to jump on his train.”
After winning the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series match-up over Iowa State, 28-8, the Hawkeyes return to action Saturday, hosting Michigan State in a Big Ten dual on Mediacom Mat. The dual begins at 7 p.m. (CT).
“We’re moving forward,” said Brands. “(During the Iowa State dual) there were timing issues, and it looked like it was early in the season. It isn’t a knock, and we were able to do things. They could have turned the tables because they had guys that started to turn the tables, but we didn’t let it get to that extreme.”
The Hawkeyes will be favored in all 10 bouts against Michigan State. The lone matchup between ranked opponents comes at 133 pounds where Iowa’s fourth-ranked Cory Clark will face No. 12 Javier Gasca. Clark is 8-0; while Gasca is 8-2.
Following the dual against the Spartans, Iowa will have a 22-day layoff before the Midlands Championships in Evanston, Illinois, on Dec. 29-30. Ideally, Brands would have one additional date on the schedule.
“We usually have a dual (around Dec. 11), but this year we didn’t do it,” he said. “I was planning on a dual meet, but we didn’t get an answer (from the opponent). Next year, we’ll address that. We’ll bring in a school from the east or west and we’ll reciprocate there.”
With the lull in action, Brands will get his competition fix another way, when he faces his brother, associate head coach Terry Brands, in a 50-yard freestyle race during the second intermission of the UI women’s swimming and diving team’s dual against Iowa State on Dec. 13. Former head coach Dan Gable will be the honorary starter.
“I don’t know if I am looking forward to it or not,” said Brands. “I don’t know how a maybe became a yes so quickly. (UI head swimming coach) Marc Long is a marketing genius. I told him `Good for you, don’t take maybe for a no, take it for a yes.'”
Brands says both he and Terry are going into the race cold turkey, and he’s certain it will provide entertainment.
“If you’ve seen us swim, it’s going to be comedy,” he said. “There are a lot of splashes, but no speed.”