ST. LOUIS, Mo. – On the eve of the biggest tournament of his life, Sammy Brooks brought a book to read.
For the Iowa 184-pounder making his first appearance at the NCAA Wrestling Championships, waiting for Thursday's opening match was the hardest part.
"We come here and work out for an hour, two hours," the ninth-seeded sophomore said. "Then we're sitting in the hotel. There's not really much to do. Play cards or watch TV. It's brutal. You've just got to sit there."
The NCAA newcomer talks about what he does to pass the time and his sleeping habits before big meets.
Brooks said he might take a walk later Wednesday, but he knew sleeping could be a lost cause.
"I never really get much sleep the night before," Brooks said. "I think it's a combination of making weight — I don't really feel as good. And nerves a little bit. I'm tossing and turning quite a bit."
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Though Iowa has a senior-laden lineup, Brooks is one of four first-timers at the NCAAs. The others: sophomore Thomas Gilman (125), freshman Brandon Sorensen (149) and senior Michael Kelly (157).
Second-timer Cory Clark expected the nerves would hit him, too.
"Everyone gets nerves to some extent," the third-seeded 133-pounder said. "When people say they don't get nervous, I don't know if I believe they don't get nervous at all."
The Iowa 133-pounder is coming off a runner-up finish at the Big Tens and owns a 26-5 record.
Seed talk: Gilman could've viewed his No. 6 seed negatively, considering he beat No. 2 Nahshon Garrett of Cornell and split with No. 4 Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State. But four losses (three in overtime) by a combined six points hurt his case.
"I feel like I got what I deserved," Gilman said, "and I've just got to scrap it out."
Gilman opens Thursday against Stanford's Evan Silver (16-10). With a win, he'd likely face 11th seed Jordan Conaway of Penn State — who he narrowly beat twice, 6-5 and 5-4 — then No. 3 seed Joey Dance of Virginia Tech, who beat Gilman in the Midlands Championships final.
The Hawkeye 125-pounder lost four matches this year, three in overtime, and has wins over the #2 and #4 seeds.
"A guy like Conaway, widen that gap. A guy like Dance, beat him — but also by a wide margin," Gilman said. "It's exciting to wrestle guys you've already wrestled and show your improvement throughout the year."
Steely: Iowa's Tom Brands sat focused at a press conference featuring the coaches of the top five team-title contenders Wednesday. One website reporter posed, "For the most part, you've got a pretty serious look on your face up there. Do you feel pressure leading the Iowa Hawkeyes?"
"We're ready to go. We love competition," Brands responded. "We have a knock against us that we're too serious. But come live with me for a week, and we'll have a lot of fun."
Brands finished the answer by flashing two thumbs up and a toothy smile.