Iowa men’s wrestler Nelson Brands earns gutsy win in season debut

The 174-pounder returned to the mat against Penn after breaking his collarbone six weeks ago in a motorcycle accident.


Jerod Ringwald

Iowa’s 174-pound Nelson Brands grapples with Penn’s No. 19 174-pound Nick Incontrera during a wrestling meet between No. 2 Iowa and No. 21 Penn at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2022. Brands defeated Incontrera by decision, 5-1. The Hawkeyes defeated the Quakers, 26-11.

Kenna Roering, Sports Reporter

Senior 174-pounder Nelson Brands made his return to the mat on Saturday afternoon as the No. 2 Iowa men’s wrestling team defeated No. 21 Penn, 26-11, at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Brands — the son of Iowa men’s wrestling’s associate head coach Terry Brands — made his season debut against Quaker No. 19 Nick Incontrera and won via decision, 5-1.

Nelson Brands, who posted a 5-1 overall record at 174 pounds last season before undergoing Tommy John surgery, was in a motorcycle accident six weeks ago and broke his collarbone. The Iowa City native said this is the longest he’s been off the mat since he started wrestling in fifth grade. 

“It was good to get those nerves out, you know,” Nelson Brands said after the dual. “You don’t wrestle for that long, you have those nerves again and those butterflies. It was awesome to get those out.” 

Nelson Brands had collarbone surgery around six weeks ago and hasn’t encountered any further complications. His projected recovery time was six to eight weeks.

He asked Iowa head coach Tom Brands, his uncle, if he could wrestle during the Hawkeyes’ three-dual road trip to New York against Army, Sacred Heart, and Buffalo, on Nov. 17-18. Tom Brands declined. But around four days ago, Nelson Brands got the green light. 

“You have to make the decision that’s best for him, and after that, it’s [Nelson’s] call,” Tom said after the dual. “We have a great medical team, and when it’s the athletes call and they want to go, then they’re going.”

Incontrera scored the first points of the match off an escape, but Nelson Brands earned two takedowns toward the end of the second and third period to secure the decision. 

Nelson Brands said he was mentally prepared to go, but the collarbone injury may have prevented him from taking as many shots as he wanted to. 

“[Before the takedown in the second period] I was being too stingy,” Nelson Brands said. “Definitely felt like I could get to his legs fairly easily, and I didn’t. I was being kind of a wuss, to take the words out of [Spencer Lee’s] mouth. For my first match back, I’ll give myself a little bit of leeway, but I definitely need to open up my matches more.”

Nelson Brands was just one of several gusty wins for the Hawkeyes on Saturday. Iowa led 17-0 before Penn rattled off three consecutive victories to get within six points.

RELATED: Live results | Iowa men’s wrestling takes on Penn 

The Hawkeyes responded with two wins to end the dual and secure a 5-0 start to the season. Iowa’s sixth-ranked 149-pounder Max Murin edged Penn’s 10th-ranked Doug Zapf, 6-4, in sudden victory. 

Then, Hawkeye 157-pounder No. 29 Cobe Siebrecht came back from a 9-1 deficit to pin Quakers’ No. 10 Anthony Artalona.

Despite the win, Tom Brands is determined to get a better lineup out on the mat. 125-pound three-time national champion Spencer Lee, 133-pound Big 12 champion Brody Teske, and 141-pound two-time Pac-12 champion Real Woods did not compete against Penn. Those three weight classes were the only losses of the day for Iowa. 

The Hawkeyes are back at Carver-Hawkeye Arena on Dec. 4 for the annual Cy-Hawk series against No. 9 Iowa State at 1:30 p.m. 

“There’s no slouches out there from Penn,” Tom said. “It’s not a moral win for them either, I guarantee you that. Not with that staff and not with what I saw. We’ve got to get better and that’s where we’re at. We’re going a week from tomorrow.”