Nov. 20, 2015
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — It has taken five years, three schools, and two weight classes, but Edwin Cooper, Jr., has finally found a home.
The senior from Joliet, Illinois, is in the University of Iowa starting lineup at 157 pounds. It may not be the weight class he targeted when he arrived on campus — he won the 2012 junior college national championship at 149 — but it’s the weight that gives him an opportunity to compete for a championship, and now the starting spot is his to lose.
“I feel like I’ve done a good job of holding a spot, where now I have control of whether or not it’s going to be my call to go out there on the mat,” Cooper said. “I’ve done my work in the practice room. Now I need to perform better, especially on high stage levels like last weekend at Kinnick Stadium.”
Cooper earned the starting nod in the season opener against Oklahoma State at the “Grapple on the Gridiron” on Nov. 14. He lost 14-11, giving up eight near fall points, but there was some good to go with the bad.
“He didn’t unravel completely. He stayed in there,” said UI head coach Tom Brands.
“The mistakes he was making lasted the entire match. He didn’t really learn from one to the other.”
More good? Cooper’s self-evaluation was not far off from his coach’s.
“I put up a lot of points last weekend, but there were also a lot of points out there that I gave up,” he said. “I’ve got to be aware of my surroundings and get the job done when it’s live combat action.”
Cooper’s next opportunity starts today at 11 a.m. (CT) when Maryland visits Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The Terps feature 20th-ranked Lou Mascola at 157. Following the Big Ten opener, the Hawkeyes host Grand Canyon, Iowa Central Community College, and Cornell College in the Iowa City Duals.
There are four matches scheduled to start over a span of 4 1/2 hours, and Cooper wants them all.
“I have to be ready to go from start to finish,” he said. “Keep attacking and working on my angles with shots and shots and shots… keep scoring points.”
Cooper should also be relatively more comfortable than he was in his season debut, where he and 19 others competed outside and in front of a NCAA record 42,287 fans. Unlike Kinnick Stadium, Cooper has wrestled inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena before. He had three wins as an Iowa Central freshman at the 2011 Iowa City Duals, and in 2014, he defeated Michigan State’s Roger Wildmo, 6-5, in his only career Big Ten match.
The Michigan State match was Cooper’s first career appearance at 157. He won a national championship for Iowa Central at 149 pounds in 2011, and reached the 149-pound finals of the NCAA DII Championships competing for Upper Iowa in 2014.
Cooper was 7-3 at 149 pounds last season, his first at Iowa, and he’s 5-3 all-time at 157. Those are modest Division I numbers, but they came in part-time work. This year he’s ready to take ownership of a new opportunity.
“It’s going to be a great year,” Cooper said. “I just have to keep doing the right things and stay focused on what I need to do to help this team.”