Wrestling to take on Nebraska, Purdue

Iowa+125-pounder+Thomas+Gilman+wrestles+against+Ohio+Universitys+Shakur+Laney+during+the+53rd+Annual+Midland+Championships+at+Welsh-Ryan+Arena+in+Evanston%2C+IL+on+Tuesday%2C+Dec.+29%2C+2015.+The+Hawkeyes+lead+the+tournament+after+the+first+day+in+first+with+96+points+followed+by+Nebraska+with+78.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FValerie+Burke%29

Iowa 125-pounder Thomas Gilman wrestles against Ohio University’s Shakur Laney during the 53rd Annual Midland Championships at Welsh-Ryan Arena in Evanston, IL on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015. The Hawkeyes lead the tournament after the first day in first with 96 points followed by Nebraska with 78. (The Daily Iowan/Valerie Burke)

After a tournament and three road dual meets, the Iowa wrestling team is glad to be back at home to face Purdue today.

However, home cooking won’t last long.

The Hawkeyes will be on the road again Jan. 24 to face a ranked Nebraska squad. It’s one last quirk in the long month of January that contains six duals and ends with a home meet against Minnesota Jan. 29.

“We’ve done this before, and our guys have had this kind of quick turnaround before,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “There’s an event on a date at a place, and you have to be ready for it.”

While Purdue shouldn’t give the Hawkeyes a whole lot of trouble, Nebraska is a different story.

The Huskers have eight wrestlers ranked among Flowrestling’s top 20, five in the top 10.

Hawkeyes Thomas Gilman (125), Brandon Sorensen (149), Patrick Rhoads/Burke Paddock (165), Sammy Brooks (184), and Nathan Burak (197) will likely all draw ranked Nebraska wrestlers.

“It doesn’t matter who we’re wrestling or where we’re going, teams are going to want to puff out their chest and give us their best match,” Brooks said. “Everyone wants to try to knock down Iowa, and that’s something we just deal with.”

Iowa will be favored in four of the top-10 matches, with 165-pounds being the exception. Rhoads has not been good recently, and Paddock was added to the probable lineups for both matches.

Brody Grothus was also listed in the probable lineups at 141 pounds, and he could see action during the weekend as well. Grothus is slowly returning from an injury, though fellow 141-pounder Topher Carton has been serviceable recently.

Regardless of injuries or back-to-back meets, the Hawkeyes say they’ll be ready.

“We’re going to be 110 percent against Nebraska,” Brooks said. “And we’re going to be 110 percent against Purdue, too.”

Because Iowa does not face Penn State, Michigan, or Ohio State this season, Sunday’s meet against Nebraska will probably be Iowa’s last major test until the National Duals at the end of February.

The Hawkeyes’ last three Big Ten meets will be used as preparation for championship season, something the team aware of but not trying to focus on.

“There’s still a lot of wrestling left, and I’m just trying to take things one match at a time,” heavyweight Sam Stoll said. “But the urgency, maybe we’re feeling it a little bit.”

These meets also represent the last chances wrestlers have to improve their seeding before the Big Ten and NCAA tourneys. A loss could knock a wrestler out of a top seed, complicating his championship hopes.

Things are picking up for Iowa, which looks the part of a team that could contend for a national title. While there’s still quite a bit of work for Iowa to do before Big Tens and the national tournament, it seems the coaching staff has the Hawks right where they want to be heading into the final stretch.

“Right now, things are starting to become clear,” Brands said. “That’s important, and they have to just keep doing what they’re doing.”

 

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