Iowa's Burak has to pay his own way at Midlands

Andy Hamilton

Evanston, Ill. -- The Iowa wrestling team rolled up Monday morning to the Midlands Championships in a chartered bus.

Nathan Burak pulled into the parking lot at Welsh-Ryan Arena in his own pickup and whipped out $75 to pay his tournament entry fee.

This is part of the routine for the unattached veteran on the Iowa roster.

Grab an old singlet and some cash, book a room, get behind the wheel and get ready to compete.

The expenses-paid perks of wrestling for the Iowa Hawkeyes don't apply to those who enter tournaments unattached. That's part of the NCAA redshirt requirements — and competing unattached will cost Burak a few hundred bucks this week.

It's the cost of taking the safe and smart route for the 197-pound All-American.

"You're used to (having) all the nice stuff," Burak said. "At the same time, this is my third year wrestling unattached. I know how the system works."

Burak won all three of his bouts Monday to advance to Tuesday afternoon's semifinals. The No. 1 seed pinned Maryland's Rob Fitzgerald and held off Eastern Michigan's Anthony Abro 6-4 before downing Virginia Tech's Jared Haught 3-1 in the quarterfinals.

Burak overcame a pair of sluggish starts Monday when he brushed off the rust of a six-week layoff.

The junior won the Luther Open on Nov. 15 but hadn't competed since while dealing with a knee issue.

"There really shouldn't be any big challenges (because of the layoff)," Burak said. "I've already competed once this year. I've competed against some of the toughest guys in the country in our room. It's not like I don't compete on a daily basis. The big thing for me is making sure I'm eating enough and getting enough food throughout the day."

Food? Burak has to pay for that this week, too.

But the junior said he's on board with the decision to compete unattached and he said he's "100 percent behind whatever the coaches decide" when it comes to redshirting or competing for the Hawkeyes this season.

"There are some things that are going on with him that are mysteries," Iowa coach Tom Brands said. "We have to decide if it's going to be something that's going to impact his performance.

"We need to be invasive and aggressive to figure out what's going on, and we have a redshirt. Let's make sure we use our options the right way. Let's not just throw him out there and then we've got to do this."

Vikings strong: Grand View won 10 of its 16 matches Monday and there was only one where Nick Mitchell felt the Vikings were overmatched.

Just like it's been in recent years, though, the Midlands Championships served as a learning ground for Grand View.

NAIA national champions Brandon Wright (141) and Jimmie Schuessler (165) remained in the consolation bracket at the end of the tournament's first day while Gustavo Martinez (149) and Nate Stadeker (165) were eliminated Monday night.

"One thing that's different when we come here, these guys that compete at this level all the time they're all close matches all the time and you can't have any letups," Mitchell said. "You give up one takedown early in the match because you're not focused or you're not ready to go in the first minute, that's the difference in the match."