It’s been five years since Iowa had a wrestler earn back-to-back titles at the Big Ten Championships.
Sammy Brooks and Cory Clark will attempt to change that beginning today at Indiana, looking to repeat the feat last accomplished by Matt McDonough in 2011 and 2012.
“It’s the goal, to get back and win it again. Winning is the goal every match I wrestle,’’ Brooks said. “I don’t worry about seeds or anything. Just get on the mat and leave it all out there.’’
The Iowa 184-pound senior won a Big Ten title a year ago as a third-seeded entry, and at 21-2 Brooks is seeded second to Penn State’s unbeaten Bo Nickal in the weight class this year.
Clark, who became a Big Ten champ as a second seed a year ago, is seeded third following an injury-filled senior season.
Dealing with a shoulder injury throughout much of the season, Clark brings a 12-2 record into the meet which begins at 9 a.m. today and concludes with a 2 p.m. championship session Sunday.
He is seeded behind one-time NCAA champion Nathan Tomasello of Ohio State and Nebraska’s Eric Montoya, who defeated Clark 9-6 in a dual at Carver-Hawkeye Arena last month.
“I feel like I am ready to go,’’ Clark said. “I can tell it’s the end of the year just because of how things have been going. Things get a little shorter and sweeter. Your body starts feeling good and your mind feels strong. I can definitely feel that things are coming on.’’
Clark, who has wrestled with a shoulder brace and had a wrist taped since returning from an early-season absence, has sat out a few matches he normally would have competed in.
“It’s been tough,’’ Clark said. “I’d rather be out there scrapping every day, but that wasn’t always the best thing for me to do.’’
Coach Tom Brands has said the decision to occasionally hold Clark out of the lineup has been a coach’s call.
“If it were up to him, he would be out there every match,’’ Brands said. “He’s a competitor and I want him to be at his best when it’s the time he needs to be at his best. He understands that. He doesn’t necessarily always like it, but he understands it.’’
Brands said Clark is probably as healthy and ready for the postseason as he has been at any point in his career.
“He’s ready to go,’’ Brands said.
Thomas Gilman, Iowa’s top-ranked and 24-0 senior at 125, is the only top-seeded Hawkeye in seeds which include three wrestlers from both Penn State and Ohio State filling the top line of the bracket.
Gilman, who has never won a Big Ten title in his career, has scored bonus points in 21 of his victories this season and feels prepared.
“I want to win a Big Ten title,’’ he said. “I feel healthy. I feel ready. It’s time to go get it.’’
Brands likes the mindset he senses from his team, which also has second-seeded entries in Brandon Sorensen at 149 and Michael Kemerer at 157.
Returning all-American Alex Meyer at 174 and Joey Gunther at 165 are seeded fifth, Davenport Assumption alum Topher Carton opens as the sixth seed at 141 and Cash Wilcke is seeded seventh at 197.
“We have five guys who are top three seeds. They’re all capable,’’ Brands said. “We have to got to get ready to wrestle. Team success for us starts with good individual results. If guys take care of themselves, the team thing falls into place. That’s where we are at with that. It’s time for our best wrestling to show up.’’