Iowa extends Brands' contract

Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands in 2008. (Matthew Putney/ THE WATERLOO COURIER)

IOWA CITY - As Iowa wrestlers settle into new expanded training facilities at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, the lineup remains unsettled.

And despite a collection of four all-Americans who are among a group eight returning NCAA qualifiers, coach Tom Brands likes it that way.

"We do have eight returning weight classes, and even beyond the two classes where we don't have guys returning, there could be more than two new faces in there," Brands said Wednesday at Iowa's annual media day.

"It's like our daddies and moms always used to tell us growing up, you don't get what you deserve, you get what you earn."

Wrestlers will attempt to earn their lineup opportunities beginning today with the start of wrestle-offs, but Brands said it is likely the lineup will remain fluid early this season.

"Unless those eight returning starters just grab the bull by the horns and catch fire and go - and they've got a lot of work to do for that to happen - you're going to see where guys are going to get a chance."

Brands points to heavyweight as an example of the level of competition he would like to have at every weight class.

Iowa returns an NCAA qualifier at the weight, senior Blake Rasing, but he is being pushed by redshirt freshman Bobby Telford.

Rasing won the Big Ten title in his weight class, but had an early exit at the NCAA tourney, while Telford experienced success in freestyle age-group competition and at open meets over the past year.

"Telford is a motivated heavyweight, what you would expect young guys to come into the program as, hungry and motivated and not worrying about what is in front of them," Brands said.

"He wants to stamp his own name in that record book, ... and Blake, he's not going to lay down. It's very healthy competition, and we like both those guys. They're both capable."

Rasing welcomes the challenge.

"It's a good situation. We're only going to push each other," Rasing said. "I've been through it before, and the competition is only going to make me better, which in turn only helps the team, which is a good thing."

Iowa did not crown an NCAA champion a year ago - 2010 NCAA champ Matt McDonough was the only Hawkeye to reach the finals in 2011 - and a third-place team finish has left the Hawkeyes with plenty of motivation.

"We all walked out of there last March feeling like we still had something left to prove," said senior Montell Marion, a fourth-place finisher at 141. "I think that's a healthy thing. We're a hungry team."

Brands senses that as well.

"I don't know if there is ever a year if there is across-the-board satisfaction," he said. "There is still work to do."

That extends to McDonough, the only NCAA champion on the Hawkeyes roster.

"There is always something to prove, a way that you can improve," McDonough said. "That is the motivation that is there for me every day of the year."

Brands would like to see McDonough, a junior, become more of a vocal leader. It's an area Brands said his team has struggled with since Brent Metcalf completed his eligibility in 2010.

"We need guys to not just say, ‘Hey, I'm doing it right, look at me.' We need them to grab guys and say, ‘I'm an extension of the coaching staff, and what you're doing is out of line, and by God you're going to get it right or you might have to answer to soap in the pillow case," Brands said. "We need a guy or two like that."

At a glance

2010-11 record: 15-0-1, 8-0 Big Ten (first), second at Big Ten Championships, third in NCAA Championships

Coach: Tom Brands (114-26-1 overall, 97-7-1 entering sixth season at Iowa

Returning all-Americans: 125, Matt McDonough, jr., second; 141, Montell Marion, sr., fourth; 157, Derek St. John, soph., fourth; 184, Grant Gambrall, jr., third

Other returning NCAA qualifiers: 133, Tony Ramos, soph.; 174, Ethen Lofthouse, soph.; Hwt., Blake Rasing, sr.

2011-12 schedule

November - 19, at Lindenwood Open, 9 a.m.; 25, Iowa City Duals, vs. Baker, 3 p.m., vs. Cornell College, 5 p.m., vs. Iowa Central CC, 7 p.m.

December - 2, Illinois, 7 p.m.; 4, at Iowa State, 2 p.m.; 8, Northern Iowa, 7 p.m.; 29-30, at Midlands Championships

January - 6, at Indiana, 6 p.m.; 7, Oklahoma State, 7 p.m.; 13, at Nebraska, 7 p.m.; 15, Northwestern, 1 p.m.; 20, at Ohio State, 6 p.m.; 22, at Penn State, 2 p.m.; 29, Minnesota, 3 p.m.

February - 5, Wisconsin, 1 p.m.; 12, at National Duals Regionals at Iowa State; 19, at National Duals Championships at site TBA

March - 3-4, at Big Ten Championships at Purdue; 15-17, at NCAA Championships at St. Louis