March 6, 2013
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IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The stakes are higher and motivation is greater for the University of Iowa wrestling team with postseason action commencing Saturday at the 2013 Big Ten Championships.
"It's the postseason, it's game time," senior Matt McDonough said Wednesday inside the Dan Gable Wrestling Complex. "It's the time you get excited for every single year. The season, as far as you're concerned, the next event is the most important, but the postseason is where champions are made.
"The in-season matches are a barometer and a battle, and you want to win every single one of them, but to be the NCAA champion, you have to win all your matches in the postseason, and that's what I am out there trying to do."
The 2013 Big Ten Championships will be contested March 9-10 in Champaign, Ill., inside Assembly Hall. Five of the nation's top-ranked wrestlers, and six No. 2s, will compete in the tournament.
"I feel good about our guys, I always have and that won't change," said UI head coach Tom Brands. "This is the most exciting time of the year and this is where you put your name on the wall with the best of this program, which are some of the best in the history of college wrestling."
"I feel good about our guys, I always have and that won't change. This is the most exciting time of the year and this is where you put your name on the wall with the best of this program, which are some of the best in the history of college wrestling."
All 10 Iowa wrestlers earned preliminary seeds, including top seeds McDonough (125 pounds) and Derek St. John (157 pounds). Junior Tony Ramos is the No. 2 seed at 133, and senior Mark Ballweg is the No. 3 seed at 141.
Brands says regardless of the seeds, the team needs to focus match-by-match and not look ahead.
"Once those brackets are laid out, it's one match at a time into the awards, into creating credentials and accolades for yourself," he said. "We have to have some urgency and score points. You have to put the clamps on in situations where they're starting to get away from you. You have to do it now.
"You cannot let it come down to close matches and come up short. You have to cement things and take control of situations that are controllable instead of letting controllable situations spiral out of control."
McDonough and St. John enter the tournament as the top seeds, but both wrestlers are coming off losses against Missouri at the NWCA National Duals. McDonough lost 4-0 to fourth-ranked Alan Waters, while St. John fell 4-3 to No. 19 Kyle Brady.
"They're pretty determined to make sure it doesn't happen in the future," said Brands. "We work on it and those two things together make a guy hungry, and that's what we want."
Two of the question marks in the lineup will be filled by Josh Dziewa at 149 pounds and Ethen Lofthouse at 184. Dziewa is moving up a weight class, while Lofthouse won a wrestle-off with Grant Gambrall to secure the spot.
"We know he can wrestle, and he knows what he is capable of," Brands said of Dwiewa. "We feel like he's our best chance, and we're going with it. It's more of a coaching call, but he has earned it as well."
Dwiewa is looking to make a statement and take advantage of his opportunity.
"If I do my job, and do what I am capable of doing, I am looking to win the tournament," said Dwiewa, who is 15-2 this season. "It's not a matter of taking seventh place and qualifying for the national tournament. That's not even in the discussion. Whatever seed, whoever I wrestle, I am wrestling hard for seven minutes, looking to bang heads."
After top-seeded Logan Stieber of Ohio State missed the Jan. 4 dual in Iowa City, Ramos circled March 10 on his calendar. Stieber has handed Ramos three of his 10 career losses, which includes victories in last season's Big Ten final and in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships.
"I have thought about it, and it's going to be exciting," said Ramos, who is 23-0 this season. "I have to get through two rounds before that. I am preparing for it and am ready for it."
The Big Ten Digital Network will stream the duration of the championships online at BTN.com. The BTN will provide live coverage of Sunday's finals beginning at 1:30 p.m. (CT).