Tom Brands senses a buzz around the Iowa wrestling team he is preparing for competition.
The 13th-year coach gets it, appreciating the quality of the depth he works with on a daily basis in the wrestling room at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
But, that doesn’t mean Brands has changed his own thoughts as the season approaches.
“My mentality hasn’t changed at all. We want to win a championship. We want to win one every year,’’ Brands said Monday while speaking at the Davenport Grid Club. “It’s been too long.’’
Iowa hasn’t won the NCAA team championship since 2010 and Brands said it will take more than growth from six returning all-Americans and the healthy return of two-time all-American Michael Kemerer from knee surgery to make that happen.
“We like our guys, but we have to find a way to upgrade our performances at the weights where we under-performed,’’ Brands said. “That’s where it starts.’’
From Brands’ perspective, that start means finishing the season with NCAA performances that beat the seeds Iowa wrestlers earn in the bracket.
It means not “settling’’ for being an all-American.
“Seventh or eighth place is nice, but is it really that great? We shouldn’t be settling for that,’’ Brands said. “Is seventh place worthy of being called an all-American?’’
Brands doesn’t sense satisfaction in the Iowa wrestling room and he likes it that way.
He sees a need for growth in several weight classes that have been problematic for Iowa in recent years, starting at 141 pounds.
“Max Murin or whoever it is needs to take the position and own it,’’ Brands said. “We’d rather not be experimenting with the lineup. We don’t want to have a quarterback by committee or anything close to that.’’
Murin returns at 141 after qualifying for nationals last season while splitting time with Carter Happel and Vince Turk, who is moving up to 149 this season.
“We need stability there,’’ Brands said, looking to build on the foundation that Spencer Lee and Austin DeSanto provide the Iowa lineup.
Lee, a returning two-time NCAA champion, and DeSanto, a fifth-place finisher at the NCAA tourney last March, have additional competition with the leadership provided by the return of 133-pound senior Paul Glynn of Bettendorf and the roster addition of Penn State transfer and four-year Pennsylvania state prep champion Gavin Teasdale.
Turk will challenge returning all-American Pat Lugo at 149 in a lineup that returns all-Americans Kaleb Young at 157, Alex Marinelli at 165 and Jacob Warner at 197.
Kemerer, who Brands said is back at full strength since recovering from knee surgery last fall, is back at 174 in a lineup that returns Cash Wilcke at 184 and will likely include Tony Cassioppi, the winner of this year’s U.S. Junior Freestyle National Championship, working along with Aaron Costello at 285.
Returning letterwinner Myles Wilson and redshirt freshman Nelson Brands, the son of Hawkeye assistant coach Terry Brands, will add to the mix and depth in the upper middle weights.
Tom Brands also likes what he has seen so far from a pair of freshmen listed at 184: Two-time Illinois state champ Abe Assad and two-time Minnesota state champ Zach Glazier.
“They’re two big strong competitors,’’ Brands said. “We’ve recruited well. The room has a lot of quality in it right now, guys pushing each other to get better which is what we need. We need that competition driving guys to get to the next level. That’s where it starts.’’