IOWA CITY – The stage is set, lights are on and the music begins to play.
The wrestling crowd buzzes with anticipation, turning their eyes to the tunnel that leads to the Carver-Hawkeye Arena floor.
The sounds that weave into the regularly electric atmosphere before the match are more than random selections. They provide a glimpse of the personality and background of the Hawkeye wrestlers.
Fans will get one final chance to associate the various songs with the corresponding Hawkeye on Sunday when third-ranked Iowa faces No. 11 Michigan in its home finale, starting at 2 p.m.
The choices are as different and unique as the wrestlers themselves.
“We have some rap, some rock and Christian music,” Iowa 141-pounder Josh Dziewa said. “That’s like the diversity of our team.”
The factors that lead to their picks vary. Some are energetic and pulse-racing like Mike Evans coming out to the Beastie Boys hit, “Sabotage,” Mike Kelly’s choice of “Shipping Up To Boston” by Dropkick Murphy’s or NCAA champion Derek St. John emerging with AC/DC’s classic, “Hells Bells,” ringing through the rafters.
The opposite is true for others. The song is a way to settle their emotions and promote the right mindset, avoiding nervous energy. Heavyweight Bobby Telford switched his song this season to the Rolling Stones' “Gimme Shelter,” which is a song he listened to in high school in Hockessin, Del.
“I don’t really like the songs that really get me pumped up,” Telford said. “I play music that gets me calmed down and ready to go.”
Familiarity influences some wrestlers. Dziewa takes the mat to the techno song “Sandstorm.” It has a long history for Dziewa. The song plays during the Pennsylvania state tournament. Dziewa’s team at Council Rock High School in Yardley, Pa., would play it during practices to get acclimated to hearing it for competition.
“When I step out on the mat, I hear it and it gets my mind going,” Dziewa said. “It makes me feel comfortable. It’s almost like I’m at home, which is nice.”
There is a small process to have songs approved. Staff makes sure they are relatively family friendly. For the most part, wrestlers have the freedom to pick.
“It’s a personal choice,” said Dziewa, noting he likes Telford’s entrance music. “No one dictates what you come out to.”
Tony Ramos, who has made a habit of igniting the Iowa crowd during an unbeaten record at CHA so far, sends a message to anyone listening. He has had “Run This Town” by Jay-Z, featuring Rihanna all four years, complementing his intimidating stare down from center mat.
“I wanted to have a point or meaning to it,” said Ramos, adding that it was one of the few rap or hip-hop songs used. “I wanted something that would be apparent right away and not look for an underlying meaning.
“It says who is going to run the town. So, are you going to go out there and lay an egg or are you going to put on a show.”
Telford hears that song on Pandora or the radio and immediately sends Ramos a message. The song and Ramos are linked, and that is exactly the way Ramos likes it.
“It’s something right away they out a face or image to it,” 133-pound NCAA finalist Ramos said. “They know it’s one of my favorite songs.”
Nick Moore received compliments on social media for picking “Flower” by Moby. He heard it during a workout and the more it played the more it grew on him.
“I heard it like 10 times and I just liked it,” Moore said. “I looked it up and that’s the song I picked. It just worked out.”
There have been songs that have raised eyebrows with fans, teammates and probably some opponents. The intensity, passionate and tough nature of the sport didn’t seem to fit with the pick of former Hawkeye All-American Grant Gambrall, who graduated after last season.
Gambrall came out to the oldie, “Lions Sleeps Tonight.”
“That’s Gambrall. He was a goofy guy,” Dziewa said with a laugh. “That song played for a good 15 seconds before he walked out on the mat. It got the fans involved, though.”
This year’s award for oddest choice goes to sophomore 149-pounder Brody Grothus. He takes the mat to the Katy Perry smash, “Roar.” He has always had fun with music choices, dating back to his time as a multi-sport athlete at Davenport Assumption.
Grothus consulted his brother, Bryon, who is a former Coe All-American, and “Roar” was the response.
“She’s obviously very good looking, so I wasn’t opposed to it,” Brody Grothus said. “I have to give credit where it is due and it is him.”
He shares the same approach as Telford. Brody Grothus wants to be as loose as possible when he competes.
“I don’t like to be all tensed up,” he said. “I like to be relaxed and in a good state of mind.”
He has receive good-natured ribbing from his teammates, but they can accept it when he scores wins like the one over Oklahoma State’s Josh Kindig, who was ranked third at the time. Then, it is a “to each his own” philosophy.
“We give him a hard time about it,” Ramos said. “If Katy Perry is going to get him going then keep it with Katy Perry.”
Eventually, wrestlers become oblivious to it. The focus on the opponent drowns out the music, especially at this level of competition.
“It’s kind of like putting a poster on a wall and seeing it every single day,” Moore said. “After a while, you know it’s there but walk past it.”
As the music blends into the background, it ultimately contributes to the atmosphere and entertainment for the fans.
2014 Wrestling Walk Out Songs
• Thomas Gilman- Electric Feel
• Tony Ramos- Run this Town
• Josh Dziewa- Sandstorm
• Brody Grothus- Roar
• Mike Kelly- Shipping up to Boston
• Derek St. John- Hells Bells
• Nick Moore- Flower
• Mike Evans- Sabotage
• Ethen Lofthouse- The only way I know
• Sammy Brooks- Icky Thump
• Nathan Burak- Shine
• Bobby Telford- Gimme Shelter
• Alex Meyer- Kick it in the Sticks
• Jeremy Fahler- Levels
• Kris Klapprodt- Answer to No one
• Tomas Lira- La Bamba• Cory Clark Clark- Reynolds