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And they do not include making changes to the current format of the National Duals. Mark Emmert / The Register

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Alex Meyer is a difficult man to pin down.

The 174-pounder has spent the past five years toning his muscles and honing his craft in the Iowa wrestling room, emerging often enough to produce an 82-20 record.

But hand him a rifle or hand him a scalpel and a different view emerges.

Hawkeyes coach Tom Brands tells an amusing story about a trek to a Montana wrestling camp during the off-season, and a challenge he issued to Meyer one day involving prairie dogs.

“Hey, you want to sit in bed and wait for the clinic to start or do you want to get out of bed at the crack of dawn and get out where the buffalo roam and take some shots?” Brands demanded. “You know what? He sprang out of bed before the sun came up.”

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Meyer is handy with a rifle, Brands noted approvingly, after being asked what he learned about the senior from Southeast Polk in his senior season.

“Being a good shot in wrestling and with a rifle? There’s a correlation there,” said Brands, who is also known for his marksmanship.

“I like to shoot guns and be outside,” the soft-spoken Meyer nodded Tuesday after the Brands story was relayed to him.

How much that helps with his wrestling is an open question, but it should be noted that Meyer’s future also is likely to require him to keep a steady hand.

Meyer graduated in December with a degree in human physiology and has an application pending to attend medical school at Iowa. He has taken to job-shadowing doctors while in college. He’s watched two open-heart surgeries and witnessed a liver transplant. He intends to be a surgeon.

And if you’re wondering what all this has to do with wrestling, Meyer’s initial fascination with medicine arose out of his sport.

“How far can the body go? How it adapts as we train and get better and just how tough it is, is really what fascinates me,” Meyer said. “That’s what we do in here. And you see it in hospitals and different patients.”

Meyer expects to learn in a couple of weeks whether he’s been accepted at the University of Iowa medical school. If not now, he’ll just reapply for next year, he said.

All that can wait because he’s still got a month of wrestling left, beginning with Saturday’s trip to Edinboro (Pa.) for the National Duals. After that is the Big Ten Championships March 4-5 and then the ultimate test, the NCAAs in St. Louis from March 16-18.

It was at his debut at the NCAAs a year ago that Meyer had his finest moment, earning all-America honors despite losing his initial match 10-9 to Lehigh’s Gordon Wolf. Meyer plowed through four must-win contests after that just to finish eighth, the cutoff for all-America designation.

“That’s super tough. Give him a lot of credit for coming back that far,” said Nathan Burak, who finished fourth at the NCAAs at 197 pounds as a Hawkeye senior a year ago. “He has a great gas tank. He’s a goer. He can go for a long time.”

Meyer entered this season aiming to improve his mental focus. He calls it his “imagination,” and it involves thinking through every match before it happens. That allows him to react more instinctively once the whistle blows.

Younger brother Aaron Meyer, a redshirt freshman at Iowa, said he’s noticed the difference.

“He looks more relaxed. At the beginning of the year, he seemed a little tense,” Aaron Meyer said. “I just feel like he’s going out there not thinking as much and that’s really showed when the time counts.”

Burak, who still rooms with Alex Meyer, has been impressed as well, pointing to an 11-3 major decision over Wisconsin’s Ryan Christensen as emblematic of his friend’s improvement. That was one of eight major decisions for Meyer this year, ranking second on the team.

“From start to end, he was scoring points, keeping moving. He’s getting faster starts this year,” Burak said.

Alex Meyer is 19-5 this season, ranked 11th at 174 pounds. A national championship might seem to be beyond his reach, but not in his imagination. He knows he cannot afford another first-match loss at the NCAAs. After that? Meyer is thinking seven minutes at a time.

“It depends on the day, I guess. Wrestling is kind of a funny sport. I’m sure there’ll be upsets. I’m sure it will be crazy,” Meyer said.

“Seven minutes doesn’t sound like a whole lot of time. But it feels like you can actually mentally break someone in seven minutes. Seven minutes is like a commercial break for football. In a wrestling match, you can make someone cry. People have quit wrestling in seven minutes before. So you absolutely have to be ready to go.”

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