By DARREN MILLER
IOWA CITY, Iowa — With a 5-0 record, University of Iowa senior Topher Carton is off to the fastest start of his collegiate wrestling career. But the ultimate goal is to finish strong at the Big Ten Conference and NCAA championships.
Carton, a 141-pounder from Rock Island, Illinois, opened his true freshman season with a 2-0 record, his redshirt freshman season 4-0, and 3-0 as a sophomore and junior. But his previous seasons ended at the Roger Denker Open, Grand View Open, following a loss by fall at the Midlands Championships, and after a 1-point loss in a dual at Nebraska in January.
He wants to be the guy at 141 in the month of March.
“It’s a matter of not taking anything for granted and continuing to progress and get better,” Carton said Tuesday in the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex. “It’s November, there is a lot of time until March. It doesn’t matter until you get to Big Tens and NCAAs — anything can happen as far as people can come on and get better, people can get hurt. You have to continue to get better and develop yourself as a wrestler. That’s what my job is.”
The past four seasons, the Hawkeyes were represented at 141 in the postseason by Brody Grothus (2016), Josh Dziewa (2014-15), and Mark Ballweg (2013). Carton can do the math and he wants to be in the lineup four months from now when the Big Ten Championships open March 4 in Bloomington, Indiana.
“As I have grown and matured in the sport, I learned just because you have the spot now doesn’t mean it’s yours,” Carton said. “You have to win and perform. The fans like points and wins — you have to continue to get better. There are four months until March. That’s a lot of time to improve your wrestling and mentality.”
Carton rolled to the finals of the Luther Open on Nov. 12, posting a major decision, two technical falls, and a fall. He defeated teammate Paul Glynn, a redshirt freshman, 4-2 in the final.
UI head coach Tom Brands said Carton made a statement at the Luther Open, now he needs to keep rolling.
“This isn’t something you get in November and then you hold onto it,” Brands said. “This is something that is important to realize that November and December don’t mean anything and every time out you’re trying to improve yourself. That’s the nature of competition.”
The depth at 141 will also keep Carton on his toes. Battling for mat time are Glynn (4-1), redshirt freshman Vince Turk (1-0), and true freshman Carter Happel (7-0 competing unattached).
“We all train to win a national championship,” Carton said. “You have three or four guys right behind you ready to plug themselves in and keep rolling. You have to be diligent about your process, preparing for matches, weight control, and routine. You want to make sure you are doing everything to make yourself the best wrestler you can be.”
Carton owns a career record of 50-16 with nine dual starts and a 4-1 record inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. He will be on Mediacom Mat on Friday when Iowa hosts Iowa Central at 9 a.m. (CT) and Cornell College at 10:30 as part of the Iowa City Duals.
He said the Luther Open provided an opportunity to compete against unfamiliar opponents. In a potential Friday rematch, Carton defeated Cornell College’s Josh Martin, 15-4, in a Luther Open quarterfinal.
“Looking back at the film I saw things I need to work on,” Carton said. “I want to continue to get better and fine-tune everything and develop as a wrestler from all areas of the mat.”