Thursday, July 12, 2007

Hawkeye wrestlers land former Iowa champ

By Andy Hamilton
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Montell Marion grew up in Des Moines, but it took a 1,700-mile roundtrip for him to get to the Iowa wrestling room.

Marion, a two-time state champion and four-time finalist at West Des Moines Valley and Des Moines Roosevelt, said Thursday that he will join the Hawkeyes this fall, completing his winding road to Iowa.

Marion, a 2006 Roosevelt graduate, signed a letter of intent to attend Northern Iowa as a high school senior, but opted instead to spend the past year at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs where he started thinking about a career with the Hawkeyes.

?It had nothing to do with (UNI coach) Brad Penrith, first of all, I want to say that,? Marion said of his decision to train in Colorado Springs. ?He?s a good guy; he?s real cool. The campus is good, the wrestling team is good. But to be honest, I asked myself if I wanted to be a mediocre wrestler or if I wanted to put my name on the map and if I wanted to turn some heads and if I want to walk around campus having people know me as a part of the wrestling team. I decided I had to go do some more training to be able to catch up.

?The fact is, if I went to school right out of high school I would?ve been young. I started school early. I had the opportunity to catch up and really level the playing field with my future opponents.?

Marion trained in Colorado Springs under the watch of former Hawkeye Terry Brands, the U.S. freestyle resident coach and twin brother of Iowa coach Tom Brands.

?If you ask (Terry), he?d pretty much say we get along and he likes me a lot; he tells me that all the time and I like the way he coaches,? Marion said. ?I started thinking that he could put in a good word for me at Iowa with his brother, and then I just started leaning toward Iowa.?

The projected 133-pounder in college has all four years of eligibility plus a redshirt season at his disposal.

Marion compiled a 151-6 career record, losing in the state finals as a freshman and sophomore before capturing his first state title in 2005 at Valley. He enrolled at Roosevelt in 2006 and won the 130-pound title, finishing 36-0.

Looking back now, Marion said he wishes he could?ve taken the Olympic Training Center experiences into high school.

?I think I easily could?ve had four state titles instead of two,? he said, ?and I could?ve won (freestyle Junior Nationals in) Fargo instead of being a three-time All-American.?

Marion said he was on the same training regimen as the U.S. Olympic hopefuls in Colorado Springs. He said his training there was geared toward ?areas of concentration? where wrestlers would focus on turning positions of weakness into strength.

?A lot of stuff was work on fundamentals that I wish I had in high school, which would?ve put me a lot further,? he said.

?My hand-fighting got a lot better. When I took a shot before, I wasn?t really running through the shot and they got me doing that. That?s a freestyle setting, so of course I learned a lot of freestyle, and I know going to Iowa I?m going to have to concentrate on the down position because that?s a big part of wrestling in college. You?ve got to be able to escape and you?ve got to be able to ride in critical situations.?