"A little higher, a little...YES! Right There! That's the spot!"
OK, good news time: This past weekend, Iowa wrestling won the Big Ten tournament. Brent Metcalf, a sophomore (SOPHOMORE! YEE!), took home a championship at 149 pounds against a field that included the defending NCAA champion and two other former NCAA finalists. He also won the tournament's Outstanding Wrestler award and Big Ten Wrestler of the Year. Mark Perry took home second at 165 pounds. It was a lackluster performance by the Hawkeyes, though; no other wrestler made the finals. Where Iowa made their stand and won the title was in the consolation bracket. Four Iowa wrestlers finished third at their weight classes, and nine of Iowa's ten entrants won team points - and qualified for the NCAA Championships - by finishing in the top eight.
We've previously documented the strength of Big Ten wrestling, but the final polls tell the true tale. Iowa, obviously, is ranked #1. Minnesota is #2. Michigan is #3, thanks in no small part to fraternal twins Rick & Scott Steiner.
The Steiners, with their Big Ten Tag Team Championship belts
Four other BXI teams (OSU, Illinois, NU, and PSU) occupy spots 8-11. Indiana and Wisconsin are in the top 20. The Big Ten is so good, Michigan State finished winless in the conference and still garnered enough votes to finish #29.
So, Coach Brands, how does it feel to win the toughest conference in the land?
[The NCAA Championship] is what we shoot for. This team is strong, but we've got to get stronger. We're going to have to have nine guys go in and wrestle tough. We are very confident right now. Our goal is to win individual championships at each weight class. If you don't think you are going to be a champion, you need to get on the same page. We've got to learn to be tougher in tough situations. Nothing else matters except getting yourself ready for your match. We are not celebrating. We have some fine-tuning to do.
Not exactly "We're going to Disneyland!" Tom Brands might well be an axe murderer.
The NCAA's are in St. Louis on March 20-22. Given their depth and apparent ability to recover from a bad round of matches, Iowa is the favorite to win. Every member of this team might be killed by their coach if they don't do just that.