Fifteen years of dedication has led to this chance.
Brody Grothus is primed to pin down the opportunity to make the University of Iowa starting wrestling lineup.
The red-shirt freshman won the 149-pound wrestle-off last weekend, and will be the starter for the fourth-ranked Hawkeyes’ season-opening dual Friday against Cumberland (Tenn.) at University of Tennessee-Chattanooga. Iowa will also wrestle No. 17 Virginia and host UTC.
Grothus, a state champion and three-time state finalist for Davenport Assumption, said the realization of competing officially as a Hawkeye can be exciting and overwhelming.
“Every time I think about it I get goosebumps,” said Grothus, who was 18-6 during his red-shirt year last season. “This is ultimately where that desire and passion comes out and what you work for is to really showcase your skills as part of a team that can be something great.”
One of his biggest influences knows about being a part of great Hawkeye teams. Pete Bush was the 1982 190-pound NCAA champion and three-time Big Ten titleist for the Hawkeyes, was Grothus’ coach at Davenport Assumption. Bush attended the wrestle-off, and has often provided advice for his former pupil. Grothus said there is no better person to assist you than a national champion who knows what it takes to succeed at Iowa.
“He’s made me the wrestler I am,” Grothus said. “He’s taught me a lot about the passion and the grind. it’s not always going to be easy.
“Whenever I’m struggling, I give him a call. He’s been through a lot and he’s a great person to have on your team.”
Grothus earned his spot with an 8-2 wrestle-off win over red-shirt freshman Pat Rhoads, who beat last season’s starter Mike Kelly, 7-4, in the semifinal. He could be tested immediately with a possible match against No. 10 Derek Valenti of Virginia.
“I think this opportunity this weekend to have a ranked opponent will show I’m capable of earning this spot,” Grothus said. “I’m getting the first crack at it and I don’t want to give it up.”
The wrestle-off win was the equivalent of get a foot in the door. His performance in competition will determine whether he busts it down and resides there the rest of the year.
“We don’t take much from the wrestle-off except it sets our lineup for the early season,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “Guys have an opportunity now to grab the bull by the horns . Don’t look back. Perform and perform in a way that we’re happy. The coaching staff (says) that’s our guy.”
Brands said he has liked what he has seen from Grothus in his time in the Hawkeye wrestling room.
“He has the ability,” Brands said. “He certainly can score points.”
Grothus has a flair for funk when wrestling. He can use the unorthodox scrambling ability to score plenty of match points with potential for falls. Grothus had five falls last season. The boost is needed at one of two weights that did not have a Hawkeye representative at the NCAA Championships in March.
“I really feel like the big upside of mine is I can score those bonus points that the team always needs,” Grothus said. “I’m a pinner. That’s what I love to do and what I try to do every match.”
The red-shirt season allowed Grothus to make the transition, teaching him a need to improve his technique so it can be complemented by the big-time moves. Getting handled by some of the top wrestlers in his own practice room and experienced coaches proved that the moves in high school won’t necessarily worked against more skilled wrestlers.
“At the college level, everybody’s so solid you have to go back to the basics,” Grothus said. “You have to go to square one. You have to build on those.”
Some Hawkeyes will travel to the Lindenwood Open, while the starters and a few reserves will head to UTC. As for 141 and 149, which expected to be highly competitive weights, the wrestle-off winners will make their case. Ballweg defeated Josh Dziewa in the 141-pound wrestle-off final.
“I know Dziewa wants to be the guy and I know Kelly and Rhoads want to be the guys,” Brands said. “These guys will go to Lindenwoood, that were not the intrasquad champion, and they will sort it out down there amongst themselves and the rest of the tournament and then we’ll re-evaluate.”