Depth is one of the Hawks' strengths
Andy Hamilton ? Iowa City Press-Citizen ? November 12, 2009

Iowa's All-America heavyweight just got his surgically-repaired arm out of a sling Monday, two of the team's top contenders at 141 pounds might not be in the lineup until after Christmas, and one of the Hawkeyes' prized freshmen is a few weeks from getting on the mat again.

It's a good thing depth is one of Iowa wrestling's strong suits.

The Hawkeyes could be without heavyweight Dan Erekson until January, and Joe Slaton and Montell Marion might be absent from the lineup nearly as long.

Erekson underwent surgery last month to repair a pectoral tear. At the time of the injury, the senior said the timetable for his return was somewhere in the range of two to three months.

"Everything's going good, on schedule," Erekson said. "I got the sling off Monday. The last couple weeks I've been riding the bike, lifting weights. At six weeks, I can get more active."

Erekson returned from a midseason ankle injury last season to win the Big Ten title and place fourth at the NCAA Championships. He said the pectoral tear sounded like Velcro coming apart.

"Right away, you think negative things," Erekson said.

"But I've been in that spot before, I've been injured. You've got to reverse it right away and be positive. How can I get better? What do I need to do?"

Erekson said he will be back in the Iowa lineup "when I can kick somebody's butt." In the meantime, sophomores Jordan Johnson and Blake Rasing are expected to take his place.

Iowa coach Tom Brands said he expects Erekson will be ready for the start of the Big Ten dual season in January, if not sooner.

"If we had to rush it, we probably could, but there's no reason to," Brands said.

The forecast isn't as clear with Slaton and Marion. Brands said the Hawkeyes are "wading through some issues" with the 141-pounders.

Slaton did not compete last weekend in Iowa's wrestle-offs. Marion beat senior Dan LeClere in the final round, but Brands indicated Wednesday that LeClere would open the season as the starter for the Hawkeyes.

"Right now, he's the number one guy for whatever reason," Brands said. "He's got a job to do. If he does the job and doesn't look back.... He's going to be head-to-head with Slaton and Marion at the Midlands. The Midlands will be a big proving ground of where we're at at those weight classes."

Freshman Tony Ramos, a three-time Illinois state high school champion, said he's close to getting back on the mat after undergoing surgery nearly six weeks ago to repair a fractured knee.

Ramos said he's on track to possibly start drilling again in three weeks and hopes to wrestle Dec. 29-30 at the Midlands Championships.

"They had to go in and pull a chip out and pin it down in place," Ramos said. "I'm way ahead (of schedule). (Doctors) told me three or four months. They were thinking January or February."