The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa men’s wrestler Real Woods keeping calm approach amid struggles

The 141-pounder has struggled as of late but bounced back on senior day.
Sahithi Shankaiahgari
Iowa’s No. 1 141-pound Real Woods wrestles Purdue’s No. 32 Greyson Clark during a wrestling dual between No. 3 Iowa and Purdue at Carver-Hawkeye Area on Friday, Jan. 19, 2024. The Hawkeyes defeated the Boilermakers, 34-6. Woods defeated Clark by major decision, 8-0.

Iowa men’s wrestler Real Woods was undefeated and in the NCAA title match just over a year ago, but it’s a different story this season for the 141-pounder.

Woods, who started the season ranked No. 1, dropped back-to-back matches during the Hawkeyes’ two losses against Michigan and Penn State. He struggled to score a takedown in those bouts, something the 2023 Big Ten Champion had no problem doing in his first year with the Hawkeyes.

Woods showcased an offensive and aggressive style last season that earned him 12 bonus point victories, including four tech falls and two pins.

“When you’re the target, people are going to prepare and strategize against you.” Woods said earlier this season. “People are going to be more stingy. Wrestlers are going to come in, and they’re going to be ready to go.”

The Stanford transfer has a 13-2 record this season with six bonus-point victories, one major decision, and five tech falls. Woods also placed first at the 2023 Soldier Salute and beat North Carolina’s No. 5 Lachlan McNeil, 8-4, in the finals.

Woods had a promising start to the Big Ten schedule, earning three straight ranked wins. The All-American beat No. 7 Brock Hardy 8-2 in Iowa’s first Big Ten dual against Nebraska before beating Minnesota’s No. 17 Vance VomBaur 5-2. He then earned his first bonus point win of the conference schedule against Purdue’s No. 32 Greyson Clark 8-0.

Woods’ two losses came against Michigan’s No. 19 Sergio Lemley and Penn State’s No. 1 Beau Bartlett. Lemley beat Woods 14-2 and nearly pinned him in the match’s final seconds. Bartlett beat Woods 7-2 in front of a sold-out Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Before the losses, Woods was missing from Iowa’s lineup against Illinois and Northwestern. Brody Teske wrestled in place of Woods and won both matches. It’s unknown if Woods was left out due to injury or if head coach Tom Brands just wanted to give the redshirt senior a rest before the final duals of the year.

Brands took some responsibility for Woods’ two losses.

“I think, you know, it’s partly my fault,” Brands said. “I try to maybe push him into certain things. Just go out and wrestle your match how you want to wrestle and score a lot of points. It doesn’t matter how you get it done.”

Woods said he’s still developing as a wrestler, particularly in his decision-making. He’s trying to figure out when to shoot takedowns and be aggressive or adopt a patient approach and opt for precision. He described it as an “interesting recipe,” but added that figuring it out is challenging him and helping him grow.

“I take a lot of pride in staying calm,” Woods said on his approach on the mat. “Growing up, it was something that was really instilled [in me] to try to be collected while in the match and not get rattled.”

That calm approach helped Woods get back in the win column on Feb. 18 against Wisconsin. It was Woods’ chance to say goodbye to the Hawkeye faithful, and he did so by pinning his opponent Felix Lettini in the second period. Woods thanked the fans for their support by blowing kisses to the crowd and making a hand heart to the camera as he ran off the mat.

“Every win is elevating, and even losses are elevating,” Woods said. “I think those losses were more elevating than this win particularly.”

His dreams of becoming an NCAA Champion are still on the line as the Hawkeyes inch closer to March.

“I’m just ready to move forward,” Woods said, “I’m ready for the postseason.”

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About the Contributor
Isaac Elzinga
Isaac Elzinga, Sports Reporter
Isaac Elzinga is a junior at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass communication. This is his first year working at The Daily Iowan; he also works as a producer for 1600 ESPN a sports radio station in Cedar Rapids.