Jan. 27, 2016
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — University of Iowa senior Nathan Burak admits lessons can be learned from a loss on the wrestling mat. That isn’t his preferred source for gaining knowledge.
Burak, 17-0 and ranked third to fifth nationally at 197 pounds, is one of three Hawkeyes in the 10-person lineup with an undefeated record with one event left before the calendar flips to February. Junior 125-pounder Thomas Gilman (17-0) and sophomore 149-pounder Brandon Sorensen (19-0) also have spotless individual marks heading into Friday’s Border Battle against No. 23 Minnesota.
“You can learn from a loss, but you can also learn from victories,” Burak said. “I would rather learn from a victory than a loss and keep moving forward.”
Burak’s win streak is actually 18, dating to the 2015 NCAA Championships. He defeated Michigan’s Max Huntley, 6-5, in the seventh-place match in St. Louis.
Burak and Golden Gopher junior Brett Pfarr will be one of the marquee bouts Friday on Mediacom Mat. Pfarr is rated third or fourth and has a record of 26-2.
“You have to be ready like you’re wrestling the national champion,” Burak said. “The guy I have (Friday) is having a good year, so am I, so I have to do what I’m good at: Get after my offense, get to my leg attacks, put him down hard, and keep him down.”
The last time an Iowa wrestling team had three undefeated competitors this late in a season was 2009-10 with Matt McDonough (22-0), Brent Metcalf (22-0), and Jay Borschel (21-0). All three won individual national championships that season, but only Borschel remained perfect at 37-0.
“You have to be ready like you’re wrestling the national champion. The guy I have (Friday) is having a good year, so am I, so I have to do what I’m good at: Get after my offense, get to my leg attacks, put him down hard, and keep him down.”
UI 197-pound wrestler
“It is a badge of honor for sure,” UI head coach Tom Brands said. “How easy is it to do? I don’t know. (Penn State head coach) Cael Sanderson won 159 in a row (when he competed for Iowa State from 1998-2002), that is tough to do. The best way to march is probably to take it one at a time.”
Fifteen Iowa wrestlers have finished a season undefeated (with a minimum of 20 matches), including Brands (45-0 in 1990-91) and UI associate head coach Terry Brands (35-0 in 1991-92). Ironically, the Hawkeyes’ all-time wins leader — Wisconsin head coach Barry Davis — won 162 times, but never completed a perfect season.
While Burak continued a winning streak when the 2015-16 season began, Gilman and Sorensen started over. Both lost decisions in the third-place match at last season’s NCAA Championships.
“When you look at 14 or 15-0, that looks difficult, but you have to take it one match at a time,” Gilman said. “You don’t look to go 30-0, that is a tall task. You have to take it one match at a time and one week at a time. I’m not looking forward or back, I want to be in the moment.”
For Gilman, a more telling statistic is scoring bonus points. Of his 17 wins, six have been by fall, five by technical fall, and three by major decision.
“The only thing I have been following are my bonus points,” Gilman said.
The second ranked Hawkeyes (13-0 overall, 7-0 Big Ten) and Minnesota (7-6, 3-2) begin Friday at 8:03 p.m. (CT). The dual will be televised by BTN.
Speaking of winning streaks, Iowa has won 19 consecutive Big Ten duals, its longest since winning 39 in a row from 2007-12. The Hawkeyes’ last league loss was to the Golden Gophers, 19-15, in 2014.
“Every match is important and every next match is the most important match in your career,” Brands said. “If you have that philosophy, you’re probably wired the right way.”