Perry ready for Big Tens
Senior eyes team title
Ryan Young - The Daily Iowan
For much of Mark Perry's career, he was the overshadowed underdog.
As a redshirt freshman, he placed second in both the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments. Moving up to 174 pounds for his sophomore season, Perry again ended as a runner-up in the conference championships but finished third in the national tourney.
And last season in his junior campaign, when he went back down to 165 pounds, the story line stayed the same - for the most part.
Seeded at No. 2 in the Big Ten Tournament, seemingly destined to once again repeat his past achievements, Perry pulled off an upset over Michigan's top-seeded Eric Tannenbaum to seize the conference crown.
Then, his success continued. Winning and pinning his way to the NCAA finals, Perry managed an unlikely victory over long-time nemesis and graduated Oklahoma State grappler Johny Hendricks - Iowa's only individual championship last season, and the pinnacle of Perry's cumulated three years as a Hawkeye wrestler.
Now, as the nationally No. 1-ranked wrestler entering his final postseason, the 165-pound defending national champion said he just wants his collegiate career to end with top-ranked Iowa hoisting a group title trophy.
"The thing that is the biggest motivation is, you know, it's my senior year, and I've always wanted to be a part of a national-championship team," Perry said. "And finally, I think we have the caliber of athletes at every single weight who have the ability to accomplish that."
But there is another spur prodding Perry's pursuit from the outside - one stemming from his recent bout with misfortune.
Prior to rehabilitating a surgically repaired knee in mid-January, Perry only competed in 10 dual meets and two tournaments.
Since then, questions have risen concerning his ability to be mat-ready for the Hawkeyes, as well as his mindset coming off of an injury.
Questions that the 6-foot Iowa middleweight is using to galvanize himself.
"A way that I've always motivated myself is by convincing myself that people are against me, trying to prove them wrong," he said. "I think a lot of people think it's hard to come back from an injury and, right away, compete in the Big Tens and nationals.
"I just want to prove to myself, more importantly, and other people that I can go through all of this and still come out on top."
Although, it was possible Perry could have gotten a chance to physically argue his case to doubters before the end of the regular season.
Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands told media on Tuesday that Perry could have entered the lineup as early mid-February and wrestled against either Indiana or Michigan had he been needed.
Competing against Illinois in the Hawkeyes' final meet was also a possibility, with Perry reportedly practicing at 100 percent during the past four weeks.
"The fur has been flying in our room with Mark Perry," Brands said. "He was ready to go against Illinois. He warmed up for Illinois. He could have went the week before that if we had to have used him."
For the Big Ten Tournament, Perry said he isn't worried about any bulleyes on his backside. In fact, he said, with tournament time having been his specialty, he's putting the targets on everyone else.
When asked if he is afraid his opponents will purposely target his knee to gain an advantage in any of his upcoming matches, Perry said, "They can't really do anything. It's healed."
And despite the 165-pounder missing every scheduled Big Ten dual, there isn't any doubt in Brands' mind that Perry won't be as successful as he was last season.
"He was ready, because he's Mark Perry," the second-year coach said. "He's been training his whole life for this, so down time doesn't concern me when you have a mindset like that and you have an attitude like that.
"Anybody that knows Mark Perry knows that this is the Mark Perry time of year. He's ready, and he's Mark Perry at his best right now."
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