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Iowa wrestling: Football coach helped bulk up heavyweight
By DAN McCOOL ? ? March 14, 2009

Iowa City, Ia. - Iowa heavyweight Dan Erekson worked with the Hawkeye football program to improve his chances of earning all-America wrestling honors this week.

The junior from Eagle, Idaho, is 22-6 and ranked No. 5 by W.I.N. Magazine going into the NCAA tournament in St. Louis.

After the decision was made following the 2008 NCAA tournament that Erekson would try to secure the heavyweight spot for the Hawkeyes, he began two-hour, four-times-weekly workouts with Chris Doyle, Iowa's football strength coach.

"He was a huge part of making me feel comfortable with the heavyweight class," Erekson said of Doyle, whose occasional work with an Iowa wrestler dates back to another heavyweight, Steve Mocco.

Doyle said Erekson deserves all of the credit.

"He recognized an opportunity, he identified a need and then he was strong enough to take the necessary steps to address that need," Doyle said. "Dan committed himself to it, and now he's reaping the benefits of that."

In Erekson's case, an athletic 197-pounder had to be groomed into an athletic heavyweight without losing the athletic part.

"It's about taking a guy that maybe has a 6-cylinder engine, taking that out and putting an 8-cylinder engine in," Doyle said. "It's heavier, but it's more powerful and it moves faster because there is more horsepower in there."

The workouts covered everything from adding bulk to adding meals. Erekson dug into a roughly 5,000-calorie per day diet, which included dining on five meals each day when he wasn't working out.

"He's one of the best lifting coaches in the country. That's the thing with coaches, you've got to put total trust in them," Erekson said. "The guys here at Iowa are the best in the nation, some of the best in the world like (wrestling coach) Tom Brands. They know what's best for you, they've dealt with the best athletes and they know how to get people to the top level."

For a guy best known as a freshman 197-pounder when he beat Kurt Backes of Iowa State, Erekson had much to prove as a heavyweight.

He won his first seven matches - five by pin - before losing 5-1 to Iowa State's Dave Zabriskie and then losing 6-2 to Christian Brantley of Northern Iowa - a match in which he drew heat from his coaches for a second injury timeout that gave Brantley a chance to take the lead.

Erekson said he appreciated the in-your-face method Brands used to make sure his point about being tough would get through.

"It really helps me to have somebody up front and tell me, 'Hey, you've got to get tough,' " Erekson said. "If you're working hard, there are going to be times you don't feel good and you've got to push through it. It helps when somebody's in here and you don't feel good, you don't feel like doing it and he's yelling at you that you've got to get through the practice."

Erekson won eight of his next 10 after the Brantley match. When he defaulted against Michigan State because of an ankle injury, Erekson wanted to continue his match.

"He learned from it because when he got injured against Michigan State, he got himself up and walked back to the center of the mat," Brands said. "He was going to go and we pulled the plug on it. When you see that, you know that's progress because he didn't just make the decision (being done), he made the decision to go back out there and then we make the best decision at that time of the year."

Brands said Erekson could have a big week in St. Louis.

"I know that his aspirations are high. I also know that he believes in himself and he's motivated, so the sky's the limit," Brands said. "Has he proven that he can win every time out? He just did it (at the Big Ten tournament). We've got to put together a string of matches where good things are happening every time out. He's in a pretty good frame of mind, so we'll see."

Dan Erekson
HEIGHT: 6-foot-3

WEIGHT: 285 (maximum weight of weight class. He'll weigh in Thursday.)

CLASS: Junior

AWARDS, HONORS: 2009 Big Ten Conference heavyweight champion; sixth place in Big Ten tournament in 2006.

CAREER: 2008-09: 22-6, should be among top six seeds at heavyweight in NCAA tournament this week.

2007-08: withheld from varsity competition.

2006-07: 10-8 record at 197 pounds. Season shortened by a shoulder injury in mid-January.

2005-06: 16-19 record at 197 pounds. NCAA qualifier.