University of Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands made an appearance Thursday at a meeting with members of Iowa's Presidential Committee on Athletics in Iowa City.
The Hawkeyes completed a season witha second straight third-place finish at the Big Ten Championships and a fourth-place finish at the NCAA Championships in March at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
Iowa remains a top attraction and one of the country's best program's, but they have lost some ground when it comes to contending for team titles. Brands said the goal is to fix that immediately.
"The good upswing, we had another meet this year where we had 15,000-plus. We won the Big Ten in the dual meet season," Brands said at the event attended by a Gazette multimedia j0urnalist. "The bad is you’re third in the Big Ten, fourth in nationals, 50 points out of being the champion. That gap continues to get wider over the last three years, and that’s something that we want to fix right away. We don’t want to wait to fix it."
Penn State won its third straight conference and national team title. A stretch that Cael Sanderson strategically set up with his red-shirting of three-time finalist David Taylor and two-time national champs Ed Ruth and Quentin Wright. Taylor and Ruth return for one more season and Wright has graduated.
The championship quest is not based on teams losing talent and stepping back, but to step forward and surpass the competition. The Hawkeyes have to progress better and the coaches need to stimulate that growth, according to Brands. He is confident both can be accomplished.
"If you wait for graduation, for high-powered teams to graduate their best guys, and I think that’s the wrong mentality," Brands said. "I think we’ve got to develop better and be better coaches and I think we can do that."
The Hawkeyes had four All-Americans this season, including 157-pound national champion and two-time finalist Derek St. John. Tony Ramos, a two-time All-American, was a national runner-up at 133. Ethen Lofthouse (184) earned his second All-American finish, while Mike Evans (174) placed sixth in his second NCAA tournament appearance. Iowa also has All-American heavyweight Bobby Telford returning. He was well on his way to the awards stand when a knee injury in his second win of the tournament forced him to default from the tournament.
NCAA qualifiers Nick Moore (165) and Nathan Burak (197) come back with national tournament wins.
The Hawkeyes could see the infusion of young talent, including Cory Clark and Thomas Gilman. Both had solid red-shirt seasons. Clark defeated eventual Illinois national champion Jesse Delgado at the UNI Open in December. Upperweight Sam Brooks also is a highly-touted freshman.Brands and UI Athletics Director Gary Barta spoke about wrestling's future in the Olympics. Read Scott Dochterman's article on Brands' optimism on the sport remaining in the games.