Stoll jumps heavily to the fore

Iowas+Sam+Stoll+holds+onto+Oklahomas+Austin+Marden+at+the+Kinnick+Stadium+on+Saturday%2C+Nov.+14%2C+2015.+The+Hawkeyes+defeated+the+Pistol+Pete%2C+18-16.+%28The+Daily+Iowan%2FPeter+Kim%29

Peter Kim

Iowa’s Sam Stoll holds onto Oklahoma’s Austin Marden at the Kinnick Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2015. The Hawkeyes defeated the Pistol Pete, 18-16. (The Daily Iowan/Peter Kim)

Fewer than 30 seconds into the second period of Sam Stoll’s match against Indiana’s Fletcher Miller, the Iowa heavyweight had the Hoosier on his back.

Miller squirmed, trying to escape, but his effort was futile in the Feb. 5 match. Stoll had him in a bad spot, and slowly the fight left the Indiana wrestler as his shoulders sunk toward the mat. The referee slammed his hand to the ground, giving Stoll his team-leading eighth pin of the season.

At the beginning of the season, heavyweight was an unknown. Iowa lost three-time All-American Bobby Telford to graduation last season, and while Stoll — now a redshirt freshman — was well regarded, no one knew for sure what to expect.

“He’s a stud,” said 197-pounder Nathan Burak, who sometimes wrestles with Stoll. “He’s been dominating matches — people might have thought he was a question mark at the beginning of the season, but no, he has answered that question.”

Stoll is a bona-fide Big Ten and All-American contender and is the highest-rated freshman at heavyweight by most ranking services.

He’s 19-2 on the season, with loses to No. 5 Austin Marsden (Oklahoma State) and top-ranked Nick Gwiazdowski (North Carolina State). Stoll also has six wins against wrestlers who were ranked when they faced him and has been built a strong resumé for good seed at the Big Ten and NCAA Championships.

For all of his success, however, he still is in his first year of eligibility and has yet to participate in any postseason competition. In order for Iowa to make noise at the two major tournaments of the year, the team will need Stoll to put up some points.

It’s pressure, but Iowa head coach Tom Brands seems to think he’s up for the challenge.

“The only question mark now is how consistent he’s going to be moving forward and then what happens once you get in the postseason,” Brands said. “But the way that he carries himself is veteran-like.”

Part of that maturity might have something to do with whom he wrestles on a regular basis. Telford still can be found in the Iowa wrestling room often, training as part of the Hawkeye Wrestling Cub and is able to push Stoll like very few other athletes could.

It’s helped him react faster, and Stoll readily admits his endurance is far ahead of where it was at the beginning of the season.

“I think I’ve done a decent job, my shape’s gotten better throughout the year,” Stoll said. “I’m still sticking to my game plan, pushing the pace in matches and it’s working for me.”

Stoll is extremely good with his upper-body, which comes from his Greco-Roman background. While he still struggles sometimes coming off the bottom, it’s really his lone major flaw and something that can probably be improved with time.

Regardless, he’s gotten more confident in his attacks, his scoring and number of pins has skyrocketed. Stoll can get even better, and that should scare the rest of the Big Ten — if not the country.

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