Wrestling's high noon
Eric Mandel - The Daily Iowan
Issue date: 12/7/07 Section: Sports

When Joe Slaton, Dan LeClere, Jay Borschel, and Bent Metcalf transferred from Virginia Tech, most hoped they were the key to bringing Iowa wrestling back to glory.

With 2007 NCAA champion Mark Perry sitting on the sidelines for the showdown in Ames with No. 1 Iowa State, the torch quickly passes to the four newbies, but coach Tom Brands clarified that they are not the only Hawkeyes who need to step up.

"I think [the Virginia Tech transfers] were all expecting great things out of themselves, otherwise they wouldn't have come over, but so does the rest of the lineup," the coach said. "The Virginia Tech division went away a while ago, and so we are going to have four of those guys in the lineup, but we are going to have 10 Hawkeyes in the lineup."

Long before the Cyclones disposed of top-ranked Minnesota last weekend, and even before the Hawkeyes dropped ISU, 24-6, last season at Carver in front of 13,732 fans, there has been a bitter battle a-brewin'.

Now Brands and his fourth-ranked squad hope to force the Hawkeye style and attitude to mirror last season's contest, in which six of the eight Hawkeye wins were decided by two points or fewer.

"The hyped matchups are the same as the key matchups, and that is the same as the lineup for each team," Brands said. "I don't look at the key matchups; we've got to wrestle to our ability and above it. We've got to wrestle above our ability, according to the experts, which means 10 guys have got to get ready to wrestle 10 weight classes."

One weight class that the experts flipped from a Hawkeye advantage to the Cyclones is at 165 pounds, where Perry, a senior, learned he will be in street clothes after being disqualified in the St. Edwards Duals on Nov. 24. The Stillwater, Okla., native expected to serve his suspension during last weekend's Northern Iowa Open, but its cancellation because of inclement weather conditions forced Iowa Associate Athletics Director Fred Mims to sit him for the upcoming intrastate battle instead.

Without his most accomplished wrestler, Brands said, the outside expectations have been lowered, which actually sucked some of the pressure out of the equation.

"I don't know if it puts more pressure [on the lineup]; if anything, it puts less pressure," he said. "You were looking at the best lineup and now you have a lesser lineup. Pressure is the same for both sides and is something that can be an unbelievable catalyst if you use it the right way.

"We are not talking about average high-school wrestler who dabbled in success, we are talking about guys with great success, and this is what they have aspired to since they were young. The decision was made to have Perry sit and now we wrestle 10 without Perry. It's not like we were mandated to forfeit at 165; just forced to sit Mark Perry."

As for the grappler weighing in for Perry against Jon Reader, all signs point to freshman Jake Kerr, who is 1-1 against the sixth-ranked redshirt freshman in head-to-head competition.

"We like Jake Kerr - we recruited him because we like him," Brands said. "This is why you have depth, and this is what Jake Kerr has worked for his entire career, and now he has that opportunity."

So what's left? Go time.

"There is no bigger stage," Brands said. "Wanna talk about pressure, well, we can talk about it all day long, but a lot of wrestlers have risen to the occasion and defined themselves in matches like this.

"? We're pretty ready to go. The date is on the calendar, and it's zero hour, and away we go."

E-mail DI reporter Eric Mandel at:

eric-mandel@uiowa.edu