Josh Dziewa is not a band-aid to slow the bleeding.
The University of Iowa sophomore wants to be the cure for a bit of a wound in the Hawkeyes lineup.
After serving as a reserve at 141, posting a major decision in his only dual appearance of the season and earning the postseason spot in practice, Dziewa will move up into the 149-spot for the Big Ten Wrestling Championships hosted by the University of Illinois this weekend at Champaign, Ill. Competition starts Saturday at 10 a.m. at Assembly Hall with Sunday’s finals televised live on BTN, beginning at 1:30 p.m.
Dziewa is confident about his ability to be successful. The bracket consist of about six ranked wrestlers, including Michigan’s top-seeded Eric Grajales and Minnesota’s No. 2-seed Dylan Ness, No. 3 Ivan Lopouchanski, of Purdue, and Nebraska’s fourth-seeded Jake Sueflohn, who are ranked in the top-10 of various national polls.
Dziewa opens with Penn State’s fifth-seeded and 2011 NCAA 141-pound qualifier Andrew Alton (22-2).
“If I do my job and what I’m capable of doing, I’m looking to win the tournament,” Dziewa said. “It’s not a matter of taking seventh place and qualifying for the national tournament. That’s not even in the discussion. I’m going there with whatever seed, whoever I’ve got and wrestling hard for seven minutes … That’s end of discussion.”
Michael Kelly and Brody Grothus split time as the starter at 149 during the regular season, while Dziewa was a backup to Mark Ballweg, who is the No. 3 seed with 18-4 record at 141. He recorded a 15-2 mark this season, winning 10 straight matches. His latest was a major decision at the NWCA National Duals on Feb. 23, demonstrating he can produce under the spotlight.
“It’s a big chance,” Dziewa said. “I just have to go out there and do me. I’ve been waiting on my opportunity and with Kelly getting hurt it opened some doors, and I got a shot against Missouri ar 141. I just showed I’m able.”
Kelly, who competed in the Big Ten Championships last year, has been hampered by injury. Dziewa and Grothus participated in an unofficial tryout that went in favor of Dziewa. Iowa Coach Tom Brands said he is exposed to Dziewa’s potential throughout the year, and said he feels Dziewa is Iowa’s best option at the weight.
“We feel like he’s our best chance and we’re going with it,” Brands said. “It’s one of those things where it’s more of a coaching call, but he’s also earned it as well.”
Dziewa doesn’t have a match this season against anyone in the field. He could have moved up earlier in the season, but filled his role at 141 due to depth at the weight and certification rules in case he was needed there.
“That is one of the reasons Dziewa didn’t get a shot earlier in the year at 149,” Brands said. “You’re weighing a guy in at 141 to keep his certification and then moving him up to 149 doesn’t do it justice either.”
Dziewa, who is 28-5 in his career as a Hawkeye, is 2-2 at 149 over the last two seasons. Dziewa is not intimidated by the importance of the event or the jump in weight. He has extensive experience, which is why he was a highly-touted recruit from Yardley, Penn., and the key is more mental than physical.
“It’s not really a matter of size, speed or technique,” Dziewa said. “It’s really going to be a matter of knowing I can scrap with these guys.”
Dziewa added, “I’m right there with these guys. I know I can bang heads, so I’m ready and looking forward to it.”
Two years ago, Ballweg made a similar jump from being a backup 141-pounder to a starter at 149. He was unable to qualify for the NCAA tournament. Dziewa hasn’t discussed the situation with Ballweg, and has to approach it his own way.
“I’m a different wrestler than he is, so we have to take advantage of opportunities differently,” Dziewa said. “Take care of business.”
Iowa’s second-ranked 133-pounder seems to have confidence in Dziewa, following his win against Missouri.
“It’s exciting,” Ramos said. “Now, he just has to wrestle seven minutes.”
Ramos (23-0) is also excited about his return to Assembly Hall, where he competed in state tournaments as a prep at Glenbard North High School in Carol Stream, Ill. He is seeded-second, behind only top-ranked and defending national champion Logan Stieber.
Stieber beat him in the finals last year and in the semifinals at the NCAA tournament. The two have not met this season, but Ramos is anxious for the meeting.
“Yeah, I’ve thought about it,” said Ramos, noting he could face a challenge to avenge a loss to Wiscosnin’s third-seeded Tyler Graff in the semifinals. “It’s going to be exciting, but I’ve got to get there. I’m preparing for it and ready for it.”
Matt McDonough (18-2) and Derek St. John (22-1) are seeded No. 1 at 125 and 157, respectively. Mike Evans (17-3) is the second seed at 174. Nick Moore, who is 15-6 at 165, and heavyweight Bobby Telford are both seeded fourth.
Ethen Lofthouse (14-6) won a direct wrestle-off with senior Grant Gambrall, a 2011 All-American, for the spot at 184. Lofthouse placed seventh at 174 in the NCAA Championships last year. He is seeded fifth. Nathan Burak is seeded sixth at 197 for Iowa.
For most it will be their first tournament competition of the season. Iowa is ready.
“It’s a series of matches like a dual-meet weekend or dual-meet tournament,” Brands said. “Absolutely they’re excited. It’s the most exciting time of the year.”
The conference was originally allocated 74 automatic berths to the NCAA Championships March 21-23 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
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