IOWA CITY, Iowa — As Iowa’s fourth-ranked wrestling team works through a variety of early-season injuries and illnesses, coach Tom Brands has watched a number of backups gain valuable experience.
He hasn’t always liked what he’s seen.
Brands appreciates the contributions those wrestlers have made filling in, but he believes the objective should be to gain more than competitive experience at the varsity level.
Following Saturday’s dual win over Lehigh, Brands pointed to losses by Jeremiah Moody at 174 pounds, Steven Holloway at 197 and Aaron Costello at 285 as examples.
Each lost to rated opponents, giving up bonus points in the process, and that is what particularly caught Brands’ attention.
"Guys like Costello and Moody — guys we are relying on as backups — they need to go with those top-tier guys in the country," Brands said. "Costello, I think he can stay in there with those guys. He’s getting good experience, but that’s not what it’s about. Moody, same thing."
As Iowa works to put its entire lineup together for the Midlands Championships beginning on Dec. 29 — including the likely debut of former North Scott prep Mitch Bowman at the Hawkeyes’ injury-riddled 174-pound position — that’s something Brands expects his entire roster to understand.
"It’s not just about getting experience," he said. "Over the last month, we’ve relied heavily on backups, and it’s important that those backups continue to get better."
Moody filled in last weekend at the spot where injuries have sidelined returning all-American Michael Kemerer and Myles Wilson.
Brands said Bowman is working within the rules to cut the weight he needs to trim to be eligible to compete at 174 at the Midlands.
"We have a guy working to get down who we feel can help us there," Brands said.
Bowman last competed at 174 as a redshirt freshman during the 2015-16 season, posting a 10-5 record. He has seen action at 184, 197 and 285 since, qualifying for the NCAA tourney at 184 last season while recording bonus points for the Hawkeyes in eight of his 14 wins.
Meanwhile, Brands expects the rest of the Iowa lineup to continue to learn from the experiences they’ve had early this season.
He used Cash Wilcke’s match at 184 as an example.
Wilcke wasn’t feeling the best but used a pair of late takedowns to win 6-4 in sudden victory over Lehigh backup Andrew Price.
"That match was too slow at the beginning, but then that guy started to fade. You know what, you don’t have to wait," Brands said. "Cash Wilcke, he didn’t feel good, but he gutted it out and that guy faded. We didn’t start wrestling and putting things together until that guy faded. I think he can get to those guys in the first period. Why wait? That’s a lesson. That’s how you talk to him."
Brands figures by the time the Midlands begins, the time for talk will have ended.
"There are a lot of pieces we still need to put together," he said. "We need to get the pieces in place and go from there."