Brands: `We Feel Good About Our Guys'
NCAA Tournament opens Thursday with pigtail matches at 10 a.m. (CT)
March 16, 2011
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PHILADELPHIA -- What the University of Iowa wrestling team lacks in national tournament experience, it makes up for in readiness. That was a message from Hawkeye head coach Tom Brands on Wednesday at a press conference for five coaches at Wells Fargo Center.
Iowa is in pursuit of its fourth consecutive NCAA championship March 17-19. Brands was joined Wednesday by coaches Rob Koll (Cornell University), Greg Randall (Boise State), Cael Sanderson (Penn State) and John Smith (Oklahoma State).
Seven of the nine UI qualifiers have yet to compete at nationals. That doesn't faze Brands.
"They are ready because they've been getting ready their whole life for big competitions -- state competitions, high school national tournaments," Brands said. "What do I expect? Ferocious, tough mind, body and spirit and battle. Does that guarantee automatic results in our favor? No, but it helps our chances. Our expectations are high. Our guys live the way they live to get the results they want and now's the time to see it shake out."
Wrestling action begins Thursday on eight mats at 10 a.m. (CT) with pigtails and first-round competition. The Hawkeyes making their first appearance at the NCAA Tournament are freshman Tony Ramos (133 pounds), freshman Derek St. John (157), senior Aaron Janssen (165), freshman Ethen Lofthouse (174), sophomore Grant Gambrall (184), senior Luke Lofthouse (197) and junior Blake Rasing (285).
Sophomore Matt McDonough is the defending national champion at 125 and junior Montell Marion is the defending runner-up at 141.
"You don't know what's going to happen -- ever," Brands said. "You come here with a high-powered team and you don't know what's going to happen. It comes down to being ready to go. Battle, be ready, do what you do best. We feel good if our guys do what I just described."
Iowa's nine qualifiers will compete for the school's 24th NCAA team title during the three-day event. McDonough is seeded second; Ramos, sixth; Marion, fifth; St. John, sixth; Janssen, 11th; Ethen Lofthouse, ninth; Gambrall, 12th; Luke Lofthouse, fifth and Rasing, seventh.
"The idea is to be in this position at the end of the tournament when you're answering questions that are fun to answer," Brands said. "We've got work to do and zero hour is upon us."