IOWA CITY – For the first time in four seasons, the University of Iowa will have all 10 wrestlers in the national tournament field.
The third-ranked Hawkeyes earned nine automatic berths and one at-large bid for the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships at Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City, Okla., beginning Thursday at 11 a.m. It is the 18th time since 1968 Iowa has qualified all 10 wrestlers and the first since 2010.
“I think it’s pretty important,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “It’s big.”
The Hawkeyes have had at least eight NCAA qualifiers in all eight seasons under Brands. Brody Grothus, ranked 13th nationally at 149, did not place at the Big Ten, but earned one of four wildcard selections at the weight class.
“I think we earned our way in by what we did during the year,” Brands said. “I don’t think it was a surprise. I think we were the No. 1 guy in two out of three categories, for sure.”
Grothus appreciates the chance to continue his season after the disappointing conference tournament.
"I'm going to make the most of this opportunity," Grothus said. "I'm going to go down to Oklahoma City and help my team win a national title."
Top-ranked Penn State has won the last three NCAA team titles, following Iowa’s three straight titles from 2009-10. The Hawkeyes will need an impact from each wrestler to return to the top.
“That has been the philosophy from 2011, 2012 and on into 2014,” Brands said. “I think we have to have 10 weights contribute or some stellar performances, which we have the capability to do both”
Iowa wrestled well in a runner-up finish at the Big Ten Championships. The time for speculation and prediction is done. The Hawkeyes will have to be at their best this week, turning potential into production. Brands said he believes in his wrestlers.
“We have shown it can be a strong performance in each one of these guys,” Brands said. “Now, we have to do it consistently over three days.”
The Hawkeyes are looking for their 24th national championship and has won 14 when it has its entire 10-man lineup. They were fourth last year with Tony Ramos (133), Derek St. John (157), 174-pounder Mike Evans and Ethen Lofthouse at 184, earning All-American honors.
Iowa has nine seeded wrestlers, including second-seeded and defending NCAA champion St. John. Ramos is third, Evans is fourth and Nick Moore, Lofthouse and Bobby Telford are fifth at 165, 184 and heavyweight. Red-shirt freshman Cory Clark is also projected to earn All-American honors, receiving the eighth seed at 125. Nathan Burak (11th at 197) is also seeded.“I think all our guys are looking forward to this,” Brands said. “If I was speaking for them, I would say all of them, regardless of where they’re at in the bracket, like their chances.”