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Eyes of the wrestling world focus on Iowa City

IOWA CITY, Iowa — A relaxed, confident Tom Brands delivered one of the shortest opening statements Tuesday at a media conference four days before his top-ranked University of Iowa wrestling team tangles with No. 2 Iowa State.

 

“Whatever, we’re ready,” Brands said before fielding questions.

 

The defending national champion Hawkeyes, winners of 22 consecutive duals, host Iowa State on Saturday, Dec. 6, with a 7 p.m. start inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. As of 2 p.m. Tuesday, 11,832 tickets have already been sold for the dual. The UI wants to break the all-time dual-meet record of 15,646 set Feb. 1, 2002, by Minnesota (against Iowa).

 

“There’s a lot of reasons for fuel on the fire and (No. 1 versus No. 2) probably adds to it,” Brands said. “The way I approach competition my entire life, checkers and Monopoly were important when you were playing them. So every match is important.”

 

The teams have a combined dual record of 11-0 (Iowa is 8-0, Iowa State is 3-0) and the wrestlers listed on the probable starting lineup sheet own a combined season record of 134-9 against collegiate competition. Iowa’s Brent Metcalf is top-rated at 157 pounds by USA Today/NWCA/Intermat and Iowa State’s Jake Varner is No. 1 at 197. Four others are rated second at their respective weight classes — Iowa’s Charlie Falck at 125, Iowa State’s Nick Gallick at 141, Iowa’s Jay Borschel at 174 and Iowa State’s David Zabriskie at 285.

“It’s huge,” Falck said. “Iowa-Iowa State. It’s wrestling.”

 

Brands is undefeated in two meetings against Cyclone coach Cael Sanderson. The Hawkeyes won 20-13 last season at Iowa State and 24-6 in 2006 at home. Metcalf said that prior to last season’s meeting, former UI head coach Dan Gable told the Hawkeyes to `show up, dominate and go home.’

 

“Now we’re at home, so it’s show up and dominate I guess,” Metcalf said.

 

Every point is valuable when the top two teams meet. Hawkeyes Falck, Metcalf and 184-pounder Phillip Keddy were unanimous in saying that by wrestling the Iowa style, bonus points will come naturally.

 

“I think bonus points will be an important part of the dual meet,” Metcalf said. “If things go our way, it shouldn’t even matter. We get bonus points because that’s the style we wrestle and that’s the attitude we approach it.”

 

“That’s the mentality of our team,” Keddy said. “We’re looking for bonus points all the time.”

Brands likes his team and wouldn’t trade places with or for anyone in Ames.

 

“This is a big match,” Brands said. “We’ve got 10 weights to contest and we have 10 guys to put out on the mat to contest it the way it needs to be contested. We’re aware of what we’re up against and we wouldn’t trade one ingredient…not one ingredient. That doesn’t mean that we’re content and that we don’t believe that we have work to do here. It means that we believe in our guys. I wouldn’t trade one individual, one coach, one iota of the style we wrestle, not one iota of how we approach the sport.”

 

The Hawkeyes will be without 197-pounder Chad Beatty on Saturday. Beatty received an unspecified injury against Central Michigan and Brands said “he could go if it were March,” but his name was not printed on list of Saturday probables. In his place were junior Rick Loera, sophomore Luke Lofthouse and freshman Brodie Ambrose.

 

“This is a great chance for a guy at 197,” Brands said. “You’re wrestling the No. 1-ranked guy in America (Varner) and he appears to be pretty solid. This is a good opportunity for someone who isn’t proven on the national stage.”

 

The UI has a goal of not only breaking the dual attendance record, but filling Carver-Hawkeye Arena with 16,000 wrestling fans. Brands understands what it takes to sell tickets.

 

“Without a product, you don’t generate the excitement,” Brands said. “Winning is promotion. We have to give fans a reason to come.”

 

It might be days before the big dual, but Brands already has his game face on. He left the media conference repeatedly clapping his hands as he exited the press room.

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