Decision-time approaches for Tom Brands at 149 pounds
IOWA CITY, Ia. – As the three-way jockeying continues in Iowa's wrestling room to determine a starter at 149 pounds, a little perspective helps.
This isn't 2010 – when head coach Tom Brands literally pulled a piece of paper out of a hat to determine a starter at 157 between Jake Kerr and Aaron Janssen.
Brands has three terrific options, which is underscored by junior Brody Grothus being ranked eighth nationally at 149 by Intermat – but might be a backup if Brandon Sorensen or Edwin Cooper beat him out.
"That's kind of funny to think about," Grothus said. "But obviously rankings don't mean anything. We want to be two or three guys deep here, with guys that have the ability to win a national title."
A decision, though it won't be the final one, is coming soon. No. 1-ranked Iowa hosts Iowa State at 7 p.m. Saturday, and somebody will be picked to battle Cyclones sophomore Gabe Moreno (9-0) at 149.
Brands was cleverly coy when pressed on the matter before Tuesday's practice.
"We're going to put the best guy on the mat who we see for this weekend. Then we'll continue to re-evaluate," Brands said. "How's that for a company line?"
Sorensen has the latest leg up. The redshirt freshman won the Joe Parisi Open over the weekend. Brands sent the trio to St. Charles, Mo., in an effort to let them settle things on the mat.
Sorensen decisioned Cooper 3-1 in the semifinals. Grothus pinned Cooper for third place.
One Saturday earlier, Grothus had the upper hand. He beat Sorensen in an overtime semifinal at the Luther Open, then Cooper in the final.
"I need to create bigger wins, bigger margins," Sorensen said. "Bonus points are big. All that's big. And I need to be consistent every match."
Brands loves all three options. He also would love one of them to clearly emerge.
"Yeah, we want to see separation there. Let's kick some tail," Brands said. "Don't even make it a quarterback controversy."
The decision is an important one for Iowa's positioning to make a run at its first national title since 2010. Iowa didn't have an NCAA qualifier at 149 from 2011-13 until Grothus broke through last season.
Now Sorensen, a four-time Iowa high school champ, and transfer Cooper have made the weight even stronger. So strong that it might behoove Brands to slide one of them up to 157 pounds, where Iowa has an unranked starter in Mike Kelly.
Cooper, who was a Division II national runner-up at 149 for Upper Iowa last year, might be the most likely candidate to make the move. He's open to it. But not yet.
"It's not a problem to really go up a weight or to stay at 49," Cooper said. "Right now, 49 seems like the weight I've been at and good at."
Don't be surprised if the battle carries into the Dec. 29-30 Midlands Championships in Evanston, Ill.
This week, though, somebody will be on the mat – probably Sorensen or Grothus.
"We're leaning a certain way maybe," Brands said. "We've got to have all three ready to go anyway."
SATURDAY'S DUAL: IOWA STATE AT IOWA
When, where: 7 p.m. at Carver-Hawkeye Arena
Tickets: $15 for adults, $8 for youths
TV: Mediacom Channel 22 will carry the match, with Rob Brooks and Dan Gable on the call.
Live blog: Visit DesMoinesRegister.com or HawkCentral.com to follow every weight with reporters Andy Hamilton and Chad Leistikow