IOWA CITY – Tom Brands gets why Iowa wrestling fans are excited about the possibilities.
He gets it because he is excited about the possibilities.
A new generation of Hawkeye wrestlers is on the brink of contributing as Iowa prepares for the start of its first major competition of the season, the 55th Midlands Championships.
Because of ongoing renovations at Welsh-Ryan Arena, the tradition-filled holiday tournament hosted by Northwestern is being held at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates, Illinois over the next two days and Brands is as anxious as anybody to see what a talented group of Iowa freshmen can do.
Redshirt freshman Alex Marinelli made his Hawkeye debut earlier this month and freshmen Spencer Lee, Max Murin, Jacob Warner and Aaron Costello, limited to competition in open tournaments so far, will be part of the Midlands field either as part of Iowa’s tourney roster or as at-large entries.
“We’ll have 15 guys there, and maybe one or two, three more,’’ Brands said. “We’ll have some young firepower in there that won’t be scoring points (for the team), and we’ll have 10 guys that are in there scoring points for this team.’’
Brands concedes that this year’s Hawkeye freshman class is worthy of the buzz it is creating.
“These freshmen are a little bit different,’’ he said.
He describes their collective availability as “day to day, event by event,’’ preferring not to rush any of them into competition.
Lee, a two-time Junior World champion working his way back from an anterior cruciate ligament tear, dominated the field at 125 pounds while competing unattached at the UNI Open earlier this month.
Brands describes him as a “unique individual’’ with unlimited possibilities.
“He’s a competitor from the word go,’’ Brands said. “We are going to be careful in what we do with him. He’s entertaining to watch. He brings a lot of boom, boom, boom to the mat.’’
Lee is anxious to begin competition in earnest at the collegiate level.
“Being out eight months, it’s time to get going again and I’m looking forward to being out there,’’ Lee said. “I feel good. I feel ready. I’m looking forward to the competition at this level and I want to get it going.’’
Warner, competing at 197 so far this season, looks forward to the challenges that the Midlands provides.
“The Midlands is a big tournament every year and it’s something I’ve been looking forward to being part of,’’ Warner said. “There will be a lot of good guys there and this will be a chance to see where I’m at and a good opportunity to learn against some really good wrestlers. I’m excited to see what I can do.’’
Two Hawkeyes, Brandon Sorensen and Michael Kemerer, will be defending Midlands championships they won a year ago when competition begins this morning.
The tournament’s championship session is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday.