Brooks steps in and produces for Hawkeye wrestlers

Red-shirt has been asked to fill in at heavier weight

K.J. Pilcher
Published: December 11 2013 | 4:52 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 12:44 am in
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IOWA CITY - When Sam Brooks committed to the University of Iowa, he said he wanted to wrestle in front of the Hawkeye fans at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Judging by his unselfish approach, the red-shirt freshman is willing to do anything possible to make it happen, wrestling at a higher weight to contribute to the lineup.

"I'm going to wrestle wherever they want me to wrestle," said Brooks, who has weighed in at 184 but  wrestled 197 in Iowa's last two duals. "I'll keep doing whatever the coaches want, hopefully, getting in more and more."

The third-ranked Hawkeyes could call on him again when they host University of Buffalo tonight at CHA, giving him the chance to compete in front of the home crowd. The dual is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Brooks' versatility has bolstered upper-weight depth for the Hawkeyes. People have noticed he is not content with serving as a reserve, showing a willingness to move up.

"He's throwing his hat in the ring to be in there somewhere," Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. "That's what we want."

Brooks has posted an 8-3 record, including a 1-1 mark at 197 in Iowa's last two duals filling in for NCAA qualifier Nathan Burak, who has not wrestled due to an undisclosed injury. He has handled the size disadvantage, keeping on track for certification at 184. Brands said he has had some good performances.

"He's good," Brands said. "He's weighing in at 184. There's a little difference weighing in at 184 and wrestling 197 than some of the lighter weights."

Brooks, a prep standout for Oak Park-River Forest (Ill.) High School, has two runner-up finishes in open tournaments, losing a 3-2 decision to teammate Ethen Lofthouse in the Luther Open. He is coming off an 11-0 major decision over Edinboro's Vince Pickett last week, helping the Hawkeyes to a 22-19 victory. He has been impressive, but areas can be improved.

"Wrestle hard in all situations," Brooks said. "If I'm wrestling hard for seven minutes can do pretty well no matter which weight I'm at."

Even in the dual bout he lost, Brooks was a score away from winning. He nearly upset Iowa State's third-ranked Kyven Gadsen, a returning All-American at 197, but fell 3-2. Brooks said increasing the tempo of the match and being more offensive could have made a difference.

"I'm right there and all that stuff," Brooks said. "My takeaway is there are still a lot of things to work on. If I get five or six of those shots, even if I don't finish all of them, that's a much different match."

Confidence grew even before the season started. Brooks secured the 84-kilogram spot on the U.S. Junior World Team, winning the U.S. Trials. He competed in the Junior World Championships in September and the FILA Junior Pan American Championships in July.

"It's more experience against tough competition," Brooks said. "Any tough matches like that is going to be a positive. Even if you don't get what you want, you take away the right things. It helped quite a bit."

Brands said Burak and heavyweight Bobby Telford could possibly return to this lineup against Buffalo (1-4). The Bulls do not have a ranked wrestler and just two who are four wins over a .500-record.

He has stressed for the team to have a sense of urgency on the mat, looking to score constantly and distance from their opponent.

"What these guys have to realize is that when you go out you have an opportunity," Brands said. "When you have an opportunity take care of business so you can feel good when you go forward when it's over and you look back on it you feel good about it."

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