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Hansen: Hats off to Hawkeye middleweights

[ 0 ] January 29, 2012 |

By MARC HANSEN

Reigster Sports Columnist

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Tom Brands declined to answer questions after Iowa’s endless two-match losing streak finally ended Sunday with a 19-17 victory over Minnesota.

The Iowa wrestling coach issued a brief statement and, bang, he was out of there like a shot. Next up was Gopher coach J Robinson, whose phone started ringing — barking, actually — just as he was beginning his post-match media session. (He has two Labrador retrievers, in case you were wondering, and it was his wife calling.)

“Truly, it is,” he said.

Even though Minnesota lost a close one, the Minnesota coach did answer questions about No. 6 Iowa’s victory over his No. 3 Gophers.

It was a weird postgame but not that surprising. We’re talking about wrestlers here. As a group, they are not known to be the world’s most rigid conformists.

The meet pretty much spoke for itself anyway. The Hawkeyes are strong in the lower weights and not so strong in the upper weights. On this day, the middleweights made the difference.

Matt McDonough, who started the Hawkeyes off with a win — the way he usually does at 125 — said all you needed to know. A national champ in 2010 and a runner-up last year, McDonough knows what it takes to win at the highest level.

The two stars of the meet, in his mind, were Mike Evans and Nick Moore, who’d lost one after the other against defending national champion Penn State.

“My hats go off to both of those guys, especially Evans,” McDonough said. “The dual was decided by two points, and those guys went out and got bonus points.”

They sure did. Evans with a pin at 165. Moore with an 11-2 major decision at 157. McDonough wasn’t finished.

“Frickin’ guys came out hard,” he continued. “They started a match and they finished it. . . Guys had been coming out too timid. The guys coming out here were coming out like warriors, like they’re savages, like they’re barbarians. They came out, tough and hard and didn’t stop wrestling for seven minutes.”

A college wrestling team with its sights set on a national championship needs all the warriors, savages and barbarians it can get. John Smith down at Oklahoma State isn’t fielding a team of wallflowers and librarians.

Terry Brands seemed to be in a better mood than his twin brother Sunday. At one point, the Hawkeye assistant even showed a carefree, frivolous side few knew existed.

When Evans pinned Cody Yohn to give Iowa a 19-4 lead, the crowd of 9,000 or so went off. The Hawkeye bench erupted. The coaches bounced up and down and performed happy yet unidentifiable little dance steps.

Terry Brands turned around, reached into the second row, snatched somebody’s hat and tossed it into the air. That somebody was former Hawkeye great Royce Alger, who was decked out in a snappy black plaid fedora. Grabbing Alger’s headwear isn’t usually recommended behavior but he didn’t seem to mind just this once.

Tom Brands, the boss, hasn’t had much to be carefree and frivolous about this month. In the last three weeks, his team suffered losses to No. 2 Oklahoma State, No. 7 Ohio State and No. 3 Penn State.

It wasn’t as if the Hawkeyes were losing to Oklahoma City Community College, Ohio Wesleyan and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, but it didn’t matter.

Few take these things harder than Tom Brands. But if losing two matches in a row is reason to break the glass, call 911 and load up on canned goods, imagine what happens when the Hawkeyes lose three in a row.

Fortunately, we didn’t find out. You have to go back to 2006 for that. Only three times in 21 years did the legendary Dan Gable lose three dual meets in a season.

Until last week, Brands had never suffered a losing streak of any duration as Iowa’s head coach. The word out of the wrestling room was that he was slightly tense. It was not a good time to be in the wrestling room.

Despite the win Sunday, Iowa still has some holes to fill in time for the postseason, which is the only season that counts in college wrestling.

With Derek St. John battling knee problems, the Hawkeyes must rely on McDonough, Tony Ramos and Montell Marion to carry the load.

After retreating to the wrestling room, Brands told Flowrestling.com the Hawkeyes have lacked urgency lately.

“It’s time to grow up,” he said. “We’re potty trained. Let’s get going. . . That’s a good team and we should have buried ‘em. It’s a cheap shot to say, but we could have. We got to pick it up some places.”

Warriors, barbarians and savages wanted.

Register sports columnist Marc Hansen can be reached at (515) 284-8534 or mahansen@dmreg.com. Follow him at Twitter.com/marcdmr.

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Category: Wrestling

About Marc Hansen: Marc Hansen is a sports columnist for The Des Moines Register. View author profile.

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