Wrestling 2006-07 Season Preview

Oct. 4, 2006


New leadership, old goals and expectations. A new coaching staff hopes to guide the 2006-07 University of Iowa wrestling team to the domination experienced by the Hawkeyes in the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Former Hawkeye wrestler Tom Brands was named the eighth head coach in school history on April 5, 2006. Brands, a 1996 Olympic gold medalist, was a four-time All-American, three-time NCAA and Big Ten champion for the Hawkeyes from 1989-92. He was inducted into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2001. After his collegiate career, Brands served as an assistant coach at Iowa for 12 seasons (1993-2004). He helped the Hawkeyes to a 177-27 dual record, seven NCAA and eight Big Ten titles, while crowning 23 NCAA Champions, 73 all-Americans and 36 Big Ten Champions. The past two seasons (2005-06), Brands coached at Virginia Tech University. During his tenure, the Hokies crowned five conference champions and two all-Americans, won the 2005 regular season Atlantic Coast Conference title, set a school record for dual meet wins (16) and had a school-record five wrestlers qualify for the NCAA Championships.

Brands’ first assistant coach appointment was non-other than wrestling great Dan Gable. In a role reversal, Gable, who coached Brands during his collegiate career and hired him as an assistant coach in 1993, is now an assistant coach in the practice room that bears his name. Iowa’s winningest wrestling coach, Gable led the Hawkeyes from 1977 to 1997, compiling a career dual record of 355-21-5, crowning 152 all-Americans, 45 NCAA champions, 106 Big Ten champions and 10 Olympians. Under Gable the Hawkeyes won 15 NCAA titles, including nine straight from 1978-86, and 21 straight Big Ten titles. The nine straight NCAA titles equaled the longest streak of national titles won by any school in any sport (Yale golf-1905-13 and Southern Cal track-1935-43). Gable’s Hawkeye squads averaged over 17 wins and just one loss per year. As a competitor, Gable won a gold medal at the 1972 Olympics. During his prep and college careers, Gable compiled an unbelievable record of 182-1.

Brands rounded out the staff by hiring former Hawkeyes Wes Hand, Doug Schwab and Mike Zadick. Hand, who is an assistant coach, served four years (2002-06) in the same capacity at Virginia Tech. Zadick will serve as volunteer assistant coach and Schwab will be the strength and conditioning coach. The trio earned a combined eight all-America honors at Iowa and won one NCAA and four Big Ten titles. While they competed at Iowa, the Hawkeyes won four NCAA and three Big Ten team titles. Zadick won the silver medal at the 2006 World Championships in September.

Brands and the new staff will have ample bodies and talent to work with. The Hawkeyes return three all-Americans in senior Eric Luedke (165/174) and juniors Alex Tsirtsis (141) and Mark Perry (165), and an NCAA qualifier at six weights. The 2006-07 team has strong depth in the lower and middle weights, with four or more wrestlers vying for varsity time at six spots.

In order for the Hawkeyes to return to team and individual dominance, Brands is expecting his wrestlers to train and compete at a high level. Independent training and confident mentalities are part of that regimen. To be on the same page as this coaching staff, each member of the roster needs to believe that he can be the NCAA champion at his weight class. While the team has been up and down in terms of success in recent years, the Hawkeyes have not crowned an individual NCAA or Big Ten champion since Cliff Moore won both in 2004. Before that season, Iowa had crowned at least one NCAA champion every year but two since 1980 and at least one Big Ten champion every year since 1969.

A large group of newcomers will provide immediate depth. Joining Brands from Virginia Tech are transfers Joe Slaton (133), Dan LeClere (141), Brent Metcalf (149/157), T.H. Leet (165) and Jay Borschel (174). The five redshirted the 2005-06 season with the Hokies, and are appealing a Virginia Tech ruling that prevents them from being eligible this year. If the appeal is lost, all five will have to sit out the 2006-07 season and lose a year of eligibility. If the ruling is overturned, all five would be available to compete immediately. The group brings a combined total of 17 state titles, including four-timers Borschel, LeClere and Metcalf. Borschel (Marion), LeClere (Coggon) and Slaton (Cedar Rapids) are all eastern Iowa natives.

Iowa’s freshman class includes Matt Ballweg (149-Waverly, IA), Travis Blasco (141, Old Bridge, NJ), Aaron Janssen (157/165-Emmetsburg, IA), Jake Kerr (157-Oskaloosa, IA), Nick Kolegraff (157-Milford, IA), Brooks Kopsa (157-Gilman, IA), Billy Murphy (133-Hughson, CA) and Dane Wilson (197-Oakland, IA). Blasco was a four-time national prep champion at Mark Perry’s alma mater, Blair Academy, while Janssen and Murphy each won two state titles.

The Hawkeyes will open the 2006-07 season Nov. 18 at the Kaufman-Brand Open in Omaha, NE. Brands will coach his first Hawkeye dual meet at Northern Iowa on Nov. 21 and his first home dual Nov. 25. The Hawkeyes are scheduled to host eight home duals this season, facing Arizona State (Nov. 25), Iowa State (Dec. 3), Coe College (Dec. 7), North Carolina State (Dec. 7), Wisconsin (Jan. 27), Michigan State (Feb. 11), Ohio State (Feb. 16) and Minnesota (Feb. 18). Iowa will compete in the N.W.C.A. National Duals in Cedar Falls Jan. 13-14, and will travel to Oklahoma State (Jan. 19), Northwestern (Jan. 21), Purdue (Jan. 26), Michigan (Feb. 2) and Penn State (Feb. 4) for dual meets. The Iowa State and Minnesota duals are scheduled to be aired on Iowa Public Television, while the Oklahoma State dual is set for an ESPNU telecast. The Big Ten Championships will be held March 3-4 in East Lansing, MI, and the NCAA Championships are set for March 15-17 in Auburn Hills, MI.

Here is a weight-by-weight breakdown of the 2006-07 Hawkeyes:

125 Pounds
Senior Lucas Magnani (Long Island, NY) and sophomore Charlie Falck (Strawberry Point, IA) both bring dual meet experience to this weight. Magnani went 13-17 in collegiate matches, 8-8 in duals and 3-3 in Big Ten duals last season. He placed sixth at the Big Ten Championships and advanced to the NCAA meet. Falck posted a 14-17 collegiate mark as a true freshman in 2004-05, going 7-5 in duals and 3-4 in Big Ten duals.

133 Pounds
Senior Mario Galanakis (Greenfield, IA), sophomore Daniel Dennis (Ingleside, IL), redshirt freshman Joe Slaton (Cedar Rapids, IA) and freshman Billy Murphy (Hughson, CA) will compete at 133. Galanakis, who sat out the 2005-06 season, posted a 17-9 collegiate mark as a junior in 2004-05. He went 12-3 in dual matches and 6-2 in Big Ten duals, placing fifth at the Big Ten Championships to qualify for the NCAA meet. Dennis went 15-18 in collegiate matches, 7-11 in duals and 1-7 in Big Ten duals as a true freshman last season. Slaton, a two-time state champion with a prep career record of 165-11, could make an impact pending the Virginia Tech transfer ruling. Murphy posted a 168-3 career prep record while winning two state titles.

141 Pounds
Junior Alex Tsirtsis (Griffith, IN) is one of Iowa’s three returning all-Americans and will be wrestling his third season at 141 pounds. He posted a 22-10 collegiate record last season, going 12-6 in dual matches and 6-2 in Big Ten duals. Tsirtsis placed third at the 2006 Big Ten Championships and seventh at the NCAA meet. Sophomore Derek Coorough (Hillsboro, WI), redshirt freshman Dan LeClere (Coggon, IA) and freshman Travis Blasco (Old Bridge, NJ) will provide depth.

149 Pounds
Replacing four-year starter and two-time all-American Ty Eustice will fall on the shoulders of one of four Hawkeyes. Seniors Alex Grunder (Wilton, IA) and Brett Stedman (Sioux City, IA) have been wrestling behind Eustice their entire careers, but have little meet experience. Redshirt freshman Brent Metcalf (Davison, MI) brings four state titles and an undefeated prep mark of 228-0 with 156 pins to the room, but the Virginia Tech transfer rule may prevent him from competing this season. Freshman Matt Ballweg (Waverly, IA) is a two-time state champion with a 164-9 high school career record

157 Pounds
Brands will have another two-time all-American and four-year starter to replace in Joe Johnston. Top candidates are redshirt freshman Ryan Morningstar (Lisbon, IA), junior Brad Medchill (Woodlands, TX) and senior Joe Uker (Osage, IA). Morningstar redshirted the 2005-06 season, winning the 20-and-under title at the 2006 Kaufman-Brand Open while competing unattached. Medchill and Uker both have limited meet experience. Metcalf could also compete here if the transfer rule is lifted. Freshmen Aaron Janssen (Emmetsburg, IA), Jake Kerr (Oskaloosa, IA), Nick Kolegraff (Milford, IA) and Brooks Kopsa (Gilman, IA) will provide depth.

165 Pounds
Two-time all-American Mark Perry will move back down to 165 after competing at 174 last season. Even though he missed eight duals due to injury in 2005-06, he scored the third-most team points in dual competition (45) and posted a 21-4 collegiate mark. Perry is a two-time Big Ten runner-up and has led the team in pins each of the last two years. Senior Eric Luedke earned all-America honors here last season, and will either redshirt or move up to 174. Senior Ben Stedman (Sioux City, IA), redshirt freshman T.H. Leet (Atlanta, GA) and Janssen will provide depth.

174 Pounds
Luedke, who earned all-America honors last season at 165, leads the candidates to fill this spot after Perry’s move to 165. Luedke went 23-15, 7-7 in dual matches and 5-3 in Big Ten duals in his first season with the Hawkeyes last year. Ben Stedman and redshirt freshmen Chad Beatty (Wilton, IA), Jay Borschel (Marion, IA), Rick Loera (Park Ridge, IL) will back up. Borschel is a four-time state champion with a 163-1 prep career mark. He won the 20-and-under title at the 2005 Kaufman-Brand Open and posted a 28-5 season record while redshirting at Virginia Tech.

184 Pounds
Two untested wrestlers are the top candidates to replace two-time all-American and three-year starter Paul Bradley. Redshirt freshmen Phillip Keddy (Vernal, UT) and Loera will battle for the spot. Keddy went 4-2 while competing unattached last season, while Loera when 3-4. Keddy was a two-time prep state champion.

197 Pounds
Sophomore Dan Erekson returns after posting a 16-19 record last season. The Eagle, ID, native went 4-11 in dual meets and 2-6 in Big Ten duals after joining the varsity lineup after Midlands. He placed sixth at the Big Ten Championships to qualify for the national meet. Freshman Dane Wilson (Oakland, IA) will provide depth.

Junior Matt Fields (Lowden, IA) returns as Iowa’s lone heavyweight. He posted a 15-6 record last season before suffering a season-ending injury against Minnesota. As a true freshman, he went 24-12 and placed fifth at the Big Ten Championships to qualify for the NCAA meet.