Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Iowa lands prized juco transfer

By Andy Hamilton
Iowa City Press-Citizen

Iowa wasn't Colby Covington's original choice, and he might not have initially been the No. 1 priority for the Hawkeyes.

But in the end, they might turn out to be quite a match.

The 165-pound junior college national champion from Iowa Central said he will sign a letter of intent today to join the current kings of Division I.

"He'll fit right in," said Iowa Central coach Luke Moffitt, who won a Big Ten title during his time with the Hawkeyes. "His attitude right away stuck out to me that (Iowa is) his kind of program with the way Iowa is with (coach) Tom Brands."

Covington picked the Hawkeyes over Iowa State, Oklahoma State, Ohio State, Arizona State, Northern Iowa and others.

"I really respect Brands," Covington said. "He's a real good coach. He's not focused on winning team titles, he's focused on making everybody individual champs. A team trophy will come with that; 300 points will come with that. The biggest thing is he's worried about each and every wrestler on his team. He's a really good guy, I really respect him, and I'm willing to do whatever it takes to be the best and be the national champion."

Covington committed to Arizona State in the fall but didn't sign a binding letter of intent in November. He committed to the Cyclones in early March, but Brands turned his attention toward recruiting after Iowa claimed its first national title in eight years and won over Covington during a visit to Fort Dodge three days after the conclusion of the NCAA Championships.

"In the beginning, I wanted to be a Hawkeye, we just had to get a couple details figured out," Covington said. "I feel really good with my decision because that's where I want to be, I want to be a Hawkeye and I want to win in black and gold. But they had to take their time to get that national title, and then they were worried about me. I had a lot of schools talking to me, and I was going each and every way, but it's good to make a decision and get the process over with."

The timing of Covington's arrival couldn't be better for him or the Hawkeyes. The native of Springfield, Ore., comes into a room stocked with talented workout partners but devoid of an incumbent at his weight. Iowa must replace two-time NCAA champion Mark Perry Jr. at 165.

"I think Colby's ready to step in and place in the top three right away," Moffitt said. "He's to the point where he's starting to outgrow our room and he needs the next level."

Covington is the fifth member of a high-powered recruiting class that will fortify an already rich roster. The Hawkeyes signed four of the top Iowa high school wrestlers -- West High's Nate Moore and Grant Gambrall, Linn-Mar's Matt McDonough and Waverly-Shell Rock's Mark Ballweg -- in November.

Covington has three years of eligibility remaining at the Division I level. He went 26-0 during his first season with the Tritons and redshirted this past year. Wrestling unattached, he placed third behind Perry and Iowa State's Jon Reader in December at the Midlands Championships.

"Coaching wise, he's right where you want to see your kids," Moffitt said. "He has a lot of passion, has a lot of fire and he's real motivated to take things to the next level. You see some kids that leave a two-year program and they have their doubts about going into a big-time school. Obviously, with Iowa being the top program in the country right now, if he had the attitude where he kind of doubted himself we wouldn't be talking right now, but he's got a lot of confidence and fire going to this next level."

Reach Andy Hamilton at 339-7368 or