DAVENPORT, Iowa | Wrestlers with Quad-Cities roots could provide Iowa with solutions in two problematic weight classes this season.
Iowa coach Tom Brands said Monday following an appearance at the Davenport Grid Club that he is as anxious to see which Hawkeyes will seize control in the 141- and 149-pound weight classes as he is to find out which of two heralded redshirt freshmen, Cory Clark or Thomas Gilman, will replace Matt McDonough at 125.
“When you look at it, 141 and 149 is something we have to get fixed,’’ Brands said. “If we want to get to where we want to get to, we need answers there.’’
Mark Ballweg qualified for the NCAA Championships at 141 a year ago during a 23-7 senior season and the Hawkeyes did not earn an NCAA entry at 149 when first-time starter Josh Dziewa failed to qualify at the Big Ten finals.
Brody Grothus, a sophomore from Davenport Assumption, finished 6-8 at 149 for Iowa last season and figures into the mix at the two weights again where the competition is expected to include redshirt freshmen Connor Ryan of Bettendorf, Topher Carton of Assumption and senior Nick Trizzino of Bettendorf.
Dziewa returns for his junior season as does Ethan Owens and both will factor in at those weights as well.
“We’ll go into the season with openings at 141 and 149 and see how it plays out,’’ Brands said. “It’s early, but we would like for guys to step up and take over at those weights. We need to be more than just competitive there.’’
Grothus has the most experience at the collegiate level among that group and while Brands likes the aggressive approach he saw from him a year ago as a redshirt freshman, he expects him to learn from his experiences as well.
“There were times when he did a great job putting a guy down on his noggin, doing a lot of good things, but then he would try to do the same thing and end up on his own noggin. It can’t work that way,’’ Brands said. “He has to learn from those situations and hopefully he has, hopefully he’ll compete a little smarter. That’s what comes down, being smarter on the mat at times.’’
The Hawkeyes return four all-Americans from a team which finished fourth in the 2013 NCAA Championships and the beyond the vacancies at the middle weights, Brands knows he has a competitive situation on his hands at 125 and he believes that returning all-American Ethen Lofthouse at 184 will be challenged by Sam Brooks and Alex Meyer.
As for the competition between Clark and Gilman, Brands doesn’t expect it to be resolved solely by a preseason wrestle off.
“Whoever it going to get the nod there is going to need to go to the Midlands in December and prove that they’ve earned it. There will be a lot of checks along the way to see just who will be the guy,’’ Brands said.
Brands also indicated that heavyweight Bobby Telford is now healthy after undergoing knee surgery offseason knee surgery.