IOWA CITY – The University of Iowa wrestlers will experience a different atmosphere when they return to Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
The opponent won’t be as highly-touted or have the same flair, and there likely won’t be more than 15,000 rabid fans ready to shake the arena’s rafters.
The second-ranked Hawkeyes will own the same approach when they host No. 13 Nebraska Sunday, starting at 2:05 p.m. in its first home dual since dropping formerly top-ranked Penn State on Feb. 1.
The peak of excitement to start the month was in the rear view mirror shortly after the 22-16 win over the Nittany Lions was complete. Iowa coach Tom Brands said you talk about it directly and then it is history, despite the community dwelling on it.
“You accept congratulations maybe, and it’s a big deal,” Brands said. “It was a big deal, but for us it’s time to get over it and we did. We came in the next day and stuck to our routine.”
Iowa (17-1, 7-0 Big Ten) is looking to cap an unbeaten Big Ten season and Nebraska (10-4, 4-3) is the last foe in its way for a fifth conference dual title in six seasons. The key is to keep that same routine and be consistent with preparation.
“You’re just getting ready for another event,” Iowa’s top-ranked 157-pounder Derek St. John said. “Just because there might not be the high-caliber of an opponent, they still have some firepower on that team. They’re going to have some good kids coming here ready to wrestle, especially at my weight.”
The attitude is simple for wrestlers. They have competed for so many years that the when, where and what kind of crowd shouldn’t matter. The outside elements have to be eliminated.
“When it comes down to it you could walk into a gym without a single other person, but you, the other guy and a wrestling mat and you’re going to have the same opportunity,” Iowa’s two-time NCAA champion and three-time national finalist Matt McDonough said. “Maybe throw a ref in there, but other than that that’s all I’m worried about, going out there and wrestling him (the opponent).”
The intensity of the event will be hard to match given the different circumstances. Each wrestler’s motivation and their mindset should be enough to make up for it.
“I think there’s a difference in energy of outside factors, but that internal energy is a constant,” McDonough said. “That has to remain constant day-to-day, (match-to-match) and from arena to arena.”
The Huskers have four ranked wrestlers, including sixth-ranked James Green at 157. Green had St. John on the ropes at last year’s Big Ten Championships before St. John came back for an overtime win. He won’t take this dual lightly.
“I’m getting ready for another big matchup,” St. John said. “I’ll be stepping out on the mat ready to wrestle. You need to have the same outcome either way.”
At 174, Iowa’s fourth-ranked Mike Evans will face No. 2 Robert Kokesh. Evans, who is 13-2 this season and 14-0 lifetime at CHA, has faced four straight top-10 ranked wrestlers and it will be the third time this season he has faced a wrestler ranked second. Evans beat Kokesh twice last season.McDonough will look to begin a new win streak Sunday after suffering a 9-4 loss to Illinois’ Jesse Delgado in the Hawkeyes’ 25-12 win over the Illini on Friday at Champaign, Ill. McDonough had won 42 straight and is 14-1 this season.