Iowa men’s wrestler Brennan Swafford to make Carver-Hawkeye Arena debut

The senior transfer from Graceland University will participate in his first dual as a Hawkeye on Friday against Minnesota.


Ayrton Breckenridge

A referee raises Iowa’s 174-pound Brennan Swafford hand after defeating Little Rock’s Triston Wills during the first day of the Southern Scuffle at McKenzie Arena at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in Chattanooga, Tenn., on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. Swafford defeated Wills, 9-7. Swafford will wrestle in the semifinals on Sunday, Jan. 2, 2022.

Chloe Peterson, Assistant Sports Editor

Iowa men’s wrestling senior Brennan Swafford picked his walkout song moments before he met with reporters over Zoom on Wednesday.

But his selection will remain a mystery until Friday night, when Swafford makes his Hawkeye debut at 174 pounds against Minnesota.

“I’m going to keep it a secret,” Swafford said. 

The senior out of Mediapolis, Iowa, transferred to the University of Iowa from Graceland University prior to the 2021-22 season. Swafford was a two-time NAIA national champion at Graceland.

When Swafford transferred from Graceland to the Iowa wrestling room, he had to acclimate to the Hawkeyes’ intensity in practice and in competition.

“Just in this room, there’s pretty much zero room for error,” Swafford said. “. . . In here, it’s just a whole different level of intensity and having to be focused. Being focused especially, having to make sure that everything you do is tip-top level perfect on your fundamentals and technique. You’ve just gotta bring it every day.”

Swafford and the Hawkeye men’s wrestling team’s original plan was for him to redshirt the 2021-22 season, as he had academic eligibility issues transferring from Graceland to Iowa.

“I don’t think that decision for him was an easy one, to transfer,” head coach Tom Brands said. “To leave a comfort zone. But he’s gotten better, he fits in very well here, he’s very coachable.

“We like Brennan Swafford,” Brands added. “Taking him out of redshirt is a no-brainer. There were progression issues toward his degree. He’s a very good student, it was just basically snags in why he wasn’t eligible right away.”

In the fall semester, Swafford competed unattached at the Luther Open, Harold Nichols Open, and the UNI Open. He placed third at the UNI Open, and earned second place at both the Luther and Harold Nichols Open.

Swafford cleared up the snags after his first semester at Iowa to become eligible to compete in the Black and Gold singlet this season. 

The Hawkeyes officially pulled Swafford’s redshirt when he competed at the Southern Scuffle in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on Jan. 1. 

“Putting on the singlet at the Southern Scuffle was a pretty surreal moment for me,” Swafford said. “It’s a lifelong dream of mine to wear the Black and Gold.”

Swafford won his first three matches at the Southern Scuffle and advanced to the semifinals, finishing in sixth place.

The Hawkeye senior has a 12-6 overall record in his first season at Iowa, and Brands still sees room for improvement.

“The things that we see in the practice room that hold him back are the things that hold him back in his matches,” Brands said. “But I can tell you one thing: That he’s better in the competition arena than he is in the practice room … That’s a little bit of a message that, ‘We gotta pick it up in the practice room a little bit, but we love your effort out in the competition arena.’ He’s been nothing but a great addition to our team.”

Swafford is listed in the probable lineup for the Hawkeyes’ duals against Minnesota and Purdue this weekend. The 174-pound slot in Iowa’s lineup is traditionally filled by junior Nelson Brands or senior Michael Kemerer.

Kemerer, a four-time All-American in his seventh year with the Hawkeye men’s wrestling program, has not yet seen the mat in 2021-22. Nelson Brands is 5-1 in the six duals he’s participated in this season.

Tom Brands did not specify if Nelson Brands or Kemerer will wrestle later in the 2021-22 season.

Swafford and the Hawkeye men’s wrestling team will take on Minnesota on Friday at 8 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The dual will be aired on Big Ten Network.

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