Wednesday, November 14, 2007

4 Iowans to join Hawks today

By Andy Hamilton
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Tom Brands is putting the Iowa back in Iowa wrestling.

Brands and the Hawkeyes are expected to sign four wrestlers -- all highly ranked Iowans -- to national letters of intent today when the fall signing period begins.

West High stars Nate Moore and Grant Gambrall, Linn-Mar two-time state champion Matt McDonough and Waverly-Shell Rock state champ Mark Ballweg made verbal commitments to Iowa, giving the Hawkeyes four of the top five prospects in the state and four of the top 46 recruits in the country, according to InterMat.

Moore, a Junior National freestyle champion and projected 125-pounder, is ranked the eighth-best prospect in the country by InterMat and was the first wrestler to commit to Iowa's class. McDonough, Ballweg and Gambrall were Junior National All-Americans last year. Collectively, they have a 465-38 record in high school.

Iowa's class included two-time Illinois state champion Jordan Blanton until he backed out of his commitment last week when the Hawkeyes asked him to reallocate scholarship funds so they could have the finances to redshirt Alex Tsirtsis this year and bring him back for his senior season in 2008-09.

NCAA rules prohibit Brands and Iowa officials from commenting on prospective recruits until they have signed a letter of intent.

"(Brands) really didn't go against his word, and I don't want people to think less of him as a person or a coach because it was my decision," Blanton said. "They didn't force me away. It was just something as a team that they had to do and it made me look at a couple options, and that's the way it went. But he didn't completely renege on his offer or anything like that. He didn't do anything bad, and I don't want him to have the reputation that he does that kind of thing."

Blanton, a projected 174-pounder in college, said he is considering Illinois and other schools that have recently come back into the picture for his services.

Reach Andy Hamilton at 339-7368 or