Three consecutive championships

December 2, 2019


Peter Klopfenstein

Iowa head coach Tom Brands jumps out of his seat to yell encouragement to Charlie Falck as he locks up Stanford’s Tanner Gardner in the Scottrade Center on Friday, March 21, 2008. Falck later lost in the semifinals to Indiana’s Angel Escobedo.

After tabbing Iowa’s first NCAA champion in two years in 2007, Tom had something — however small — to build on.

Mark Perry was back after winning the 165-pound individual title during his junior season, and next to him came the now-eligible transfers from Virginia Tech.

“It was getting an avalanche of guys in there,” Tom said. “When you’re putting a team together, you have to have a majority of good people that have this blend of accountability for the sport of wrestling, accountability for your social life, and accountability for your academics.

“We had that quickly, and then we needed to continue that.”

In 2008, seven Hawkeyes earned All-American honors to win the team title with 117.5 points — 38.5 more than second-place Ohio State. Perry repeated as the 165-pound champion, and Brent Metcalf was named the Outstanding Wrestler after winning the 149-pound title. It was the first time since 2001 that Iowa had more than one individual champion.

That success came from the wrestlers on the mat, of course. To get there was a journey in itself that involved all 38 wrestlers on Iowa’s roster and one of the most difficult levels of accountability to go through.

Two-time All-American Daniel Dennis was a backup that year, staying ready in the room while working as a training partner to wrestlers that would stand on the podium in March.

“There was some talk of transferring and that was never an option in my head just because of how the coaches were and how committed I felt they were to me, developing me and getting me better,” Dennis said.

That accountability factor — both in life and in wrestling — was heightened when Terry was added onto the coaching staff before the 2008-09 season. Tom wanted his brother, and no one else. He kept a coaching position vacant for months until Terry decided to return home after spending the previous three years with USA Wrestling.

Like so many others that come back to help, he wanted to give back to the program that gave him so much. Together, Tom and Terry show athletes the level of accountability that Gable instilled in them.

“You never turn a blind eye as a coach,” Terry said. “I don’t turn a blind eye; it doesn’t matter what level they are. It doesn’t matter what level they think they are, whether it’s [Austin] DeSanto, Spencer Lee, or an incoming freshman. You correct the problems as they go on.”

In 2009, Dennis took the 133-pound spot in the lineup and placed seventh at NCAAs as Iowa went on to beat Ohio State again, this time by just 4.5 points.

In 2010, its third-consecutive national championship and its last to date, Iowa put eight wrestlers on the podium with All-American honors. The Hawkeyes didn’t have that many All-Americans since the final year of Gable’s tenure. It won the title with a 44.5-point lead on second-place Cornell.

“Tom set a bar of the standard of the program, which was set by Gable before him, [former head coach Gary] Kurdelmeier [before him],” Morningstar said. “We wanted to get it back on the map.

“The standard was set, and we did everything in our power to uphold that standard.”

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