Tom Brands, after a 55-0 win over Iowa Central and 45-0 over Cornell College.
IOWA CITY, Ia. – For the Iowa wrestling program, the annual Iowa City Duals are about routine and building to bigger things.
The matches are less competitive than in practice, as the 100-0 combined score in season-opening dual wins Friday against Iowa Central Community College and Cornell College would indicate.
But there’s a purpose to back-to-back 9 a.m. duals on a weekday.
“Early morning,” 11th-year coach Tom Brands said afterward, “is important for us.”
That's because the Big Ten Championships March 4-5 in Bloomington, Ind., and the NCAA Championships March 16-18 in St. Louis, Mo., begin bright and early, too.
The top-ranked 125-pounder is 5-0 with five pins this season.
“Our season is going to be defined by waking up in a routine where you’re getting an early-morning weigh-in, then going into a match," Brands said. "First day of the national tournament in St. Louis is going to be a two-hour weigh-in. It’s going to be an early day.”
A few hundred fans came over to Carver-Hawkeye Arena and had their game faces on, ready to get a glimpse of the early 2016-17 product.
They had to like what little they saw.
Iowa's top-ranked seniors, 125-pounder Thomas Gilman and 133-pounder Cory Clark, were on the mat for less than four minutes each in recording two pins.
What do they get out of this?
“I’m wrestling whoever you put out there,” said Gilman, now 5-0 with five pins. “Put (Virginia Tech’s) Joey Dance out there, put (Penn State’s Nick) Suriano out there. Doesn’t matter. I’m going to put them down hard, the result will be the same.”
Even in dominance, wrestlers can find regret.
“Hard to be satisfied in this sport when you’re trying to be a national champion,” Clark said. “I sometimes wish I would’ve maybe cut the guy to get some more takedowns to get more mat time. But you can’t really be disappointed by pinning the kid in the first period.”
Newcomers got their first taste of competing at one of college wrestling’s temples.
Fedshirt freshman Michael Kemerer was one of them. The 157-pounder from Murrysville, Pa., picked up a first-period pin and first-period technical fall in his Carver debut.
“It goes all the way back to the process. Last year watching all those guys wrestle makes you hungry,” Kemerer, now 7-0, said. “It’s nice to finally wrestle in here.”
Brands took the opportunity to experiment with his lineup.
With Vince Turk out, he got to see Topher Carton make a claim for the 141-pound spot with a pin and technical fall.
He saw redshirt freshman Cash Wilcke look impressive with a pin and technical fall at 197 pounds.
With regular 184-pounder Sammy Brooks out (“Just being smart,” per Brands), he saw redshirt freshman Jeremiah Moody excite the crowd with three foot sweeps in a 70-second pin.
Brands also challenged Joey Gunther, Alex Meyer and Mitch Bowman by moving them up a weight class. They all won.
Tougher tests are ahead. The Big Ten Conference opener is Nov. 27 at Purdue. Iowa State comes to town Dec. 10. Back-to-back-to-back duals loom against Oklahoma State (Jan. 15), Penn State (Jan. 20) and Ohio State (Jan. 27).
Iowa can never be accused of a soft schedule.
The Iowa City Duals – in which Iowa is now 27-0 all-time with wrestlers going a combined 262-8 – remain an important piece of the ultimate preparation.
“Any opponent can beat you. A man with two legs and two arms – and sometimes a man with one leg and two arms – and a head and a brain can beat you,” Brands said. “If you’re not ready to go, you know what, you’re going to get beat.”
IOWA CITY DUALS RESULTS
Iowa 55, Iowa Central CC 0
125: Thomas Gilman (I) pinned Joseph Sibomana, 1:33.
133: Cory Clark (I) pinned Zak Hensley, 2:05.
141: Topher Carton (I) won by tech. fall over Nick Santos, 16-1 (3:48).
149: Brandon Sorensen (I) pinned Kennan Cook, :37.
157: Michael Kemerer (I) pinned Carlos Champaign, 2:01.
165: Joey Gunther (I) won by tech. fall over Jonah Egli, 21-6 (6:45).
174: Alex Meyer (I) major dec. Antrez Clagon, 13-1.
184: Jeremiah Moody (I) pinned Anthony Jones, 1:10.
197: Cash Wilcke (I) won by tech. fall over Jacob Becker, 24-8 (5:49).
Hwt.: Mitch Bowman (I) pinned Amari Latimer, 1:32.
Iowa 45, Cornell College 0
125: Thomas Gilman (I) pinned Vikash Hypio, 2:23
133: Cory Clark (I) pinned Brody Lamb, 1:36.
141: Topher Carton (I) pinned Josh Martin, 4:23.
149: Brandon Sorensen (I) major dec. Leonard Bloom, 18-6.
157: Michael Kemerer (I) won by tech. fall over Aaron Engle, 16-1 (2:31).
165: Skyler St. John (I) dec. Ben Hewson, 7-4.
174: Joey Gunther (I) dec. Michael Maksimovic, 9-5.
184: Alex Meyer (I) dec. Brian Cristion, 7-0.
197: Cash Wilcke (I) pinned Ben Bergen, 2:43.
Hwt.: Steven Holloway (I) dec. Tyler Ortmann, 3-2.