March 2, 2016
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By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — A confident University of Iowa wrestling team seeks its 36th Big Ten Conference Tournament team title Saturday and Sunday with Carver-Hawkeye Arena hosting the event for the first time since 2005.
Four Hawkeyes secured a No. 2 pre-seed: junior Thomas Gilman at 125 pounds, junior Cory Clark at 133, sophomore Brandon Sorenson at 149, and junior Alex Meyer at 174. Gilman and Sorensen finished runner-up last season when the championship was held in Columbus, Ohio.
Three more slots in Iowa’s lineup are seeded third: junior Sammy Brooks at 184, senior Nathan Burak at 197, and freshman Sam Stoll at 285. Stoll lost by medical forfeit — his last time out against defending national champion Nick Gwiazdowski with what appeared to be a knee injury.
“He is doing well and he will be entered in the tournament,” UI head coach Tom Brands said of Stoll.
Last season, the Hawkeyes shared the Big Ten tournament title with Ohio State. This season, Iowa shared the dual championship with top-ranked Penn State at 9-0 (16-1 overall). The Nittany Lions have four top-seeded competitors, followed by Michigan and Ohio State with two, and Illinois and Wisconsin with one.
Brands downplayed the importance of results from the 2015 tournament, citing instead the continued improvement throughout the 2015-16 season.
“It’s part of the built-in experience for the returning guys that competed in (2015) and they’ve seen it,” Brands said. “The biggest thing is from event to event throughout the year and knowing they have wrestled a lot of big matches in their careers. They have to be ready to go and they know that. We’re as confident as we can be, it’s time to let it fly.”
Three of the top four nationally ranked 125-pounders are in the Big Ten, including defending Big Ten and national champion Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State, Gilman (No. 2) and Penn State senior Nico Megaludis (No. 4). Gilman has not faced Tomasello or Megaludis this season.
“I’m excited to be in the same bracket as those guys,” Gilman said. “They haven’t seen me and I haven’t seen them, but I don’t know if it matters. We have all wrestled in the past so there are no surprises. Just because we haven’t wrestled in the last three months doesn’t make a difference. I have wrestled both those guys a handful of times so it is going to be fun.”
In his collegiate career, Gilman is 1-1 against Tomasello and 0-1 against Megaludis.
Five Big Ten 133-pounders are ranked in the top 10 nationally (and nine of the top 19), prompting Clark to refer to the Big Ten event as a “mini national tournament.”
“I take it one match at a time. I know who I have to beat and how to beat them,” Clark said. “I don’t look back or far into the future. I look day-by-day and what is in front of me.”
Iowa will own a heavy home-mat advantage with many of the expected 13,000-plus fans being pro-Hawkeye.
“It is super exciting. The atmosphere will be awesome and fun to wrestle in,” Burak said. “We’ll have a lot of Iowa fans; a lot of good things to get up for and excited about.
“I have to go out and score points. I’m feeling confident and ready to go, I’m confident in my training and excited to compete.”
Session I begins March 5 at 10 a.m. (CT).