Brody Grothus strikes first in Iowa's three-way battle at 149

Chad Leistikow

The Iowa wrestling lineup's 149-pound question hasn't reached a final answer.

But for now, the returning veteran has maintained a foothold over two enticing challengers.

Brody Grothus won the Luther Open championship Saturday in Decorah, defeating Hawkeye teammates Brandon Sorensen and Edwin Cooper along the way.

In this file photo, Brody Grothus is shown winning a match last season. Grothus beat Brandon Sorensen, 3-2, and Edwin Cooper, 9-6, on Saturday.

In doing so, he has the first leg up on securing the most unsettled spot in coach Tom Brands' starting 10.

"All three of those guys are going to help our team this year," Brands said. "Brody certainly established himself today."

Grothus, a junior who went 24-12 a year ago and 5-7 against ranked opponents, battled to a tight 3-2 win over Sorensen in the semifinals. In the finals, Cooper got the opening takedown but Grothus rallied to a 9-6 decision.

"I know I didn't wrestle my best today," Grothus said. "But no one wants to be wrestling their best right now. I got tough, found ways to win."

Whoever winds up at 149 will be a critical cog in the Hawkeyes' bid for their first national championship since 2010. Iowa enters the season ranked No. 1 in the USA TODAY/NWCA Coaches Poll.

It figures to be an ongoing puzzle at 149. Grothus' challengers have immense upside. Sorensen, a redshirt freshman, was a four-time Iowa high school champion at Denver-Tripoli. Cooper, a junior transfer, was a Division II national runner-up at Upper Iowa last season.

There's also the possibility that Sorensen or Cooper could move up to 157 pounds and challenge Mike Kelly, who won a championship Saturday.

"One of my recruiting philosophies is, the best guys will find their way into the lineup," Brands said.

"We have a situation where we have three really good guys, and Mike Kelly up there at 57. Really, you've got three options and 49 and three options at 57. That's the way I look at it."

Brands said Cooper and Sorensen remained upbeat despite falling to Grothus.

"That's important to me," Brands said.

Iowa won every weight class at the Luther Open for the second consecutive year. Cory Clark ( 133) and Bobby Telford (heavyweight) pinned their way to titles.

A good season opener for the Hawkeyes?

"That's a funny choice of words. I'm not feeling good. I'm looking for perfection," Brands said. "Until we get it, we're going to keep working."