Feb. 9, 2016
- Read the February issue of Hawk Talk Monthly
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly iOS app
- Download your Hawk Talk Monthly android app
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye iPad and iPhone app!
- Download your Iowa Hawkeye Android app!
- Big Ten Network: Free Hawkeye Video
- 24 Hawkeyes to Watch
By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — More than 1,200 miles separate Dan Gable’s statue in front of Carver-Hawkeye Arena and Armory Gymnasium in Havre, Montana.
The undefeated and second-ranked University of Iowa wrestling team (15-0 overall) will make that trek later this week to take on Montana State University-Northern on Friday beginning at 8 p.m. (CT).
The Lights, members of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics, are 9-1.
“You’re still going into a hostile environment, but at the same time I think they appreciate seeing guys in the flesh like Thomas Gilman, Brandon Sorensen, Cory Clark, and Nathan Burak,” UI head coach Tom Brands said Tuesday in the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex. “Our entire lineup is gaining notoriety and probably becoming household names as they go forward with their careers.”
Barnstorming around the country to promote the sport is nothing new for Iowa. The Hawkeyes have gone to Edinboro (2013), Buffalo (2012), Tennessee-Chattanooga (2012), Bucknell (2009), and Boise State (2008) since Brands took over as head coach in 2006.
“We look to get out and promote and we haven’t been out west (in a few years),” Brands said. “There are two programs out there — the University of Great Falls and Montana State-Northern. (Associate head coach) Terry (Brands) used to work out there. Terry coached (Montana State-Northern head coach) Terry Thivierge. It comes together, it’s relationships.”
Six Montana State-Northern wrestlers are ranked in NAIA, led by junior Garrett DeMers who is top-ranked at 197 pounds. Senior heavyweight Toby Cheff is second, freshman 125-pounder Quintel Fuchs and freshman 141-pounder Matt Weber are fifth, senior 174-pounder Willie Miller is seventh, and freshman 149-pounder Drake Randall is 11th.
“There is always a benefit, it’s competition, it doesn’t matter what the level is. It is the next event on the calendar. That’s what we talk about and that’s how our guys get ready anyway. It is a tool to sharpen yourself for the postseason.”
UI wrestling coach
The Hawkeyes counter with eight ranked wrestlers in NCAA Division I, six in the top eight of at least one national poll.
“There is always a benefit, it’s competition, it doesn’t matter what the level is,” Brands said. “It is the next event on the calendar. That’s what we talk about and that’s how our guys get ready anyway. It is a tool to sharpen yourself for the postseason.”
A lot of good has happened within the Hawkeye program since opening the season with an 18-16 victory over then No. 1 Oklahoma State at the Grapple on the Gridiron. Iowa went on to win its next 14 duals, including a perfect run through nine Big Ten Conference duals. A 45-0 win over No. 20 Indiana on Feb. 5 guaranteed the Hawkeyes at least a share of the regular season league title, something they have won or shared eight of the last nine seasons.
“Have we made progress? I think we have made progress,” Brands said. “You start with a high-powered team in a dual meet you don’t normally do and the results were favorable. We have gotten better since then, even though you like that result. That is the main thing.”
Iowa returns to Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Feb. 22 for the NWCA DI Duals Series. As for a possible opponent for the Hawkeyes, Brands suggested No. 3 North Carolina State, No. 5 Missouri, and No. 7 Oklahoma.
“I give credit to (Penn State head coach Cael) Sanderson because it is his deal,” Brands said of the national duals format. “The most important thing to realize is we are trying to get the best matchup for the national championship. That is the No. 1 thing. Then after that I think it is interesting matchups. We have to do our job this weekend as well.”