Wrestlers worry about their former classmates
By Andy Hamilton
Iowa City Press-Citizen
T.H. Leet went back to his apartment Monday morning after class, flipped on his television and the words at the bottom of the screen immediately grabbed the Iowa wrestler's attention.
The banner across the monitor mentioned a shooting at Virginia Tech. And at first, Leet thought it was about what happened at his former school in August when an escaped jail inmate killed a hospital guard and a deputy sheriff before he was found hiding in a briar patch near a trail where Tom Brands used to send the Hokie wrestlers on runs.
"I thought it was a flashback to that," Leet said. "But it's a whole new thing, and I couldn't believe it."
At least 33 people were killed Monday on the Virginia Tech campus in the deadliest shooting in U.S. history. The story sent shockwaves across the country, and the ripples reached the Iowa wrestling offices on the second floor of Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Leet and four others transferred from Virginia Tech to Iowa last summer to follow Brands, who left the Hokies to become the Hawkeyes' coach in April. Three members of the Iowa coaching staff also were at Virginia Tech last year.
"That's a place that I considered home for four years, and it's still a big part of my life, and it obviously hits closer to home when something like that happens at a place you're familiar with," Iowa assistant coach Wes Hand said. "But anytime something like that happens it's obviously a tragedy. ... It's pretty sick and crazy that someone would do that."
Two people were killed at about 7:15 a.m. (EST) Monday morning in Ambler Johnston Hall, a dormitory next door to Cochrane Hall, where Leet and teammates Brent Metcalf, Jay Borschel, Dan LeClere and Joey Slaton lived last year.
"Watching the news and watching the cars drive by, the streets and seeing the buildings, I did all that, and I walked by those same buildings, and I lived in a dorm 10 feet from the first shooting," Borschel said. "It's weird to think about that."
More than 30 people were killed nearly two hours later across campus at Norris Hall, a building where Metcalf and Iowa administrative assistant Mike Faust took classes last spring.
"It's scary because our dorm was next door to West A.J.," Leet said. "We had been in it multiple times. And then the engineering building, I know Brent was going into engineering and they have science classes in it, too, so Jay or Dan, any of them could've been in there. It's scary thinking about that."
Said Faust: "If the coaching changes hadn't been made, I would've stayed down there and trained this year. There is a high probability I could've been in the area."
The five transfers from Virginia Tech, all redshirt freshmen, sat out this past season at Iowa. They were denied transfer releases from Virginia Tech and filed a lawsuit against their former school in an attempt to gain immediate eligibility for the Hawkeyes.
Faust, an All-American heavyweight for the Hokies in 2006, said cell phone circuits were busy when he tried to contact some of his former teammates who still attend Virginia Tech. He eventually got through to senior Steve Borja and found out none of the Hokie wrestlers had been injured.
Leet said he talked to two of his former teammates, including Sheridan Moran, who Leet said was in the vicinity of both shooting sites Monday morning.
"It was scary because he went in this morning and lifted and was eating breakfast at a place that's probably 100 yards from the dorm that had the first shooting," Leet said. "And then he went to class and he went all the way across the drill field, which was where the second shooting was at. He said he didn't see any cops until he came out of a test at 9:30 and there were cops behind dumpsters everywhere telling him to get down and take cover."
The television inside the Iowa wrestling office was tuned into coverage of the shootings Monday afternoon while several of the Hawkeyes with connections to Virginia Tech tried to digest what transpired at their former school.
"I think it's a little bit easier (for things to sink in) for us because we've got a little bit of perspective, we're not in the middle of things," Leet said. "Even so, being there last year, makes it more real. Iowa is real similar to Tech as far as the community is really involved with the school and it's a big school and it could happen anywhere."