March 18, 2013
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Paths have been laid out at each of the 10 weight classes for the 2013 NCAA Championships, so "it's away we go" says University of Iowa head wrestling coach Tom Brands.
The Hawkeyes are represented in 9-of-10 brackets this weekend in Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines, Iowa, and four Iowa wrestlers have top-four seeds. Juniors Tony Ramos (133 pounds) and Derek St. John (157) are both seeded No. 2, while senior Matt McDonough (125) and sophomore Mike Evans (174) are third.
"We have capable guys," Brands said Monday during a media session inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex. "We have nine going, and that's an improvement over a year ago. You don't like going with less that than 10, but nine is better than eight.
"The path has been laid in front of them at each weight. The seeds are out, and it's one match at a time and do what you do best."
Senior Matt McDonough will be one of the main attractions at the NCAA Championships, as he attempts to join one of the elite lists in the storied history of Iowa wrestling as he chases his third NCAA title and becoming a four-time finalist. The Marion, Iowa, native won the national tournament in 2010 and 2012, and a third title would make him the seventh wrestling in school history to win three NCAA championships.
"It's that time of the year, a time to rise to the occasion, to be a Saturday-nighter. (It's a time) to go into the tournament without any bars held back and wrestle with nothing to lose. When you're done after this tournament, you're done. It's the end of the season, (so it's about) throwing it all out there."
"It's that time of the year, a time to rise to the occasion, to be a Saturday-nighter," said McDonough, referencing the finals on Saturday night. "(It's a time) to go into the tournament without any bars held back and wrestle with nothing to lose. When you're done after this tournament, you're done. It's the end of the season, (so it's about) throwing it all out there."
After finishing third as a team at the 2013 Big Ten Championships, Brands says the Hawkeyes have had a working, improving attitude inside the practice room, but now it's about doing what is necessary to get that final edge.
"It's doing what you do to get the last peak or edge out of yourself right now," said Brands. "We're at a peak. This is the most exciting point of the year. Everything else you talk about, you allude to this point of the year, and sometimes you intentionally stay away from it, but you're always geared toward this."
Four of Iowa's nine participants return to a venue where they have fond memories. Seniors Mark Ballweg and McDonough, St. John and redshirt freshman Nick Moore won a combined 10 Iowa high school state championships inside Wells Fargo Arena.
"It's fun to know I started my high school success there," said McDonough. "I made a name for myself in Wells Fargo Arena in the state wrestling tournament, and I get a chance to go back there one last time in my college career to put on a show."
McDonough is seeded third in the 125-pound bracket behind Missouri's Alan Waters and Illinois' Jesse Delgado. McDonough lost to Waters, 4-0, at the NWCA National Duals, and to Delgado twice, most recently in the finals of the Big Ten Championships.
McDonough says it's motivating to have an opportunity for redemption.
"You know you're right there," he said. "It's striving for that goal and the guys that are seeded ahead of you. I have a loss to the two seed and one seed, and I know that I am more than capable of turning both of those matches in a different direction.
"That's motivating that you have that chance to meet and compete against them and do yourself some justice by improving on previous performances."
With the event being held in Des Moines, the Hawkeyes know the arena will be pro-Iowa and provide extra motivation.
"Seeing how crazy Iowa fans are in Carver and having that support is going to be awesome," said Evans. "There are going to be so many people there and so many people that are knowledgeable about the sport... it's going to be awesome."
The first session of the 2013 NCAA Championships begin at 11 a.m. (CT) on Thursday. The ESPN family of networks will provide full coverage of the entire tournament and hawkeyesports.com will have exclusive video highlights for all sessions of the championships.