Hawks' Dennis driven in offseason
By Andy Hamilton ? Iowa City Press-Citizen ? May 18, 2009
The part that excited Daniel Dennis most about his performance Saturday at the Northern Plains regional freestyle meet wasn?t winning the tournament, beating the reigning NCAA champ or dominating in the finals.
It was the opportunity that was created Saturday at Young Arena in Waterloo.
The Iowa All-American qualified for the World Team Trials by winning the 132.25-pound bracket. Dennis, who will be a senior with the Hawkeyes in the fall, earned a ticket to wrestle May 30 in Council Bluffs.
?I?m just trying to do what I feel helps me get better in wrestling and what helps me advance is wrestling in the offseason, trying to make as many gains as I can during the offseason when everyone?s not working as hard as they are during the season,? Dennis said. ?That?s when I feel I?ve got to ramp it up. I?m going to go after every opportunity I can to get better and build on where I?m at right now.?
Dennis is quick to point out where he is now isn?t where he wants to be. He wants to be known as an NCAA champion rather than just an All-American. He was ranked No. 1 in the country for more than a month this past season, but he finished seventh at 133 pounds at the NCAA Championships in March. Michigan State?s Franklin Gomez won the national title.
?I?m excited about this summer and how much I can gain because I have to,? Dennis said. ?I didn?t finish this season where I wanted, and I have to get a lot better.?
Saturday was a step, although perhaps not as emphatic as Dennis wanted. He rallied to beat Luke Smith, formerly of Central Michigan, 5-5, 3-0, 4-0 in the opening round before drilling Matt Rein 6-0, 7-0, pulling out a three-period 1-0, 0-2, 1-0 win against Gomez in the semifinals and handling Northwestern All-American Brandon Precin 7-0, 2-0 in the finals.
?I?m glad to come out with a win,? Dennis said. ?But I went three periods with Gomez, I went three periods with (Smith) and I?m not real excited with how I wrestled. I think there are some errors I?m going to have to correct. I?m not down on (the performance), but I think there?s a lot to gain, there?s a lot more to put on the table.?
The victory against Gomez was Dennis? third in three tries against the Michigan State star. Dennis won their only folkstyle meeting in February and posted a freestyle victory last spring on his way to the title at the University Nationals.
Dennis won the first period against Gomez, scoring the only point on a push out after getting in deep on a shot. He claimed the decisive third period on a takedown out of the leg clinch.
?It?s a match where I went to one hold hard and I scored one time,? Dennis said. ?Then after that, there?s no reason for me to let up and I did, I let up a lot in that match and there?s no reason for that. Whether it?s a mental block or not, I have to get over that and be able to attack him multiple times a period, and I didn?t do that in that match. I let him come to me and it came down to a coin flip, which is ridiculous.?
Nevertheless, Dennis will get the chance to compete in Council Bluffs against a field that includes Iowa assistant Mike Zadick, who earned an automatic ticket to the tournament?s final series by winning the U.S. Nationals in April.
?I?m excited for the opportunity,? Dennis said. ?I wrestle with Zadick every week. We drill, we wrestle live and it?s an unbelievable positive. Wrestling with (Iowa assistant Doug) Schwab is an unbelievable positive. That?s what I?m excited about? this summer and how much I can gain right now, because I have to. I didn?t finish this season where I wanted, and I have to get a lot better.?
Reach Andy Hamilton at 339-7368 or email@example.com.