This week's "On Iowa Live" video podcast is definitely worth a watch, and not just to see the fine folks at the Gazette look awkward on video. No, this week's show is worth watching because their main guest is Tom Brands, who is a intense and informative as you'd hope he would be. He's also remarkably candid, which is not something you always get from coaches on shows like this. Of course, I get the feeling that Brands doesn't have much use for "coachspeak."
The first video is below (you'll have to skip through the first few minutes to get to Brands):
The other clip can be found by clicking here.
* Skipping Midlands this year was not a decision taken lightly (and, as Brands half-joked, it's a decision that potentially costs him money, since his contract includes a bonus for winning Midlands), but it's a decision that was made largely because of the schedule. The Midlands Championships are on December 29-30; Iowa has a dual meet with Ohio State on January 4. Doing both events might leave Iowa too drained to perform at a high level in the OSU dual and since Midlands is the only one of those two events that Iowa can control... see ya next year, Evanston. There are definite downsides to not participating in an individual tournament like that during the season (less exposure to different wrestlers that you might see later in the year, less experience wrestling multiple matches in one day, less experience dealing with making weight for a tournament, etc.), but I can see Brands' POV as well. It's worth wondering, though, that if Iowa had a dual with a weaker Big Ten team -- Indiana or Michigan State, perhaps -- if Brands would feel quite so strongly about skipping Midlands.
* Because that was my other takeaway from Brands' explanation for skipping Midlands this year: the Ohio State dual on January 4 is a really, really big dual for Iowa. Last year, if you'll recall, Ohio State smoked Iowa in the dual, 21-9. That was Iowa's worst loss in a dual meet since a 29-13 defeat to Minnesota in 2007. It's clear that Brands hasn't forgotten that dual and it seems equally clear he won't let his wrestlers forget it, either. So that could be a really fun dual. (It could also be a very important dual in terms of seeding at the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, especially at 133, since it figures to give us the first match of the season between Tony Ramos and OSU's Logan Stieber.)
* Matt McDonough is super-intense and (apparently) has relatively little trouble making the 125 lb. weight limit. Brands also noted that he's lost at least one match every season so far, so if he needed any extra motivation other than the hallowed ground of being a three-time NCAA champion/four-time NCAA finalist, going undefeated this year might fit the bill.
* Finally, Brands also gave a quick update of what the roster looks like heading into the season:
125: Matt McDonough (duh)
133: Tony Ramos (also duh)
141: Mark Ballweg and Josh Dwieza
149: Mike Kelly, Jake Kadel, and Brody Grothus
157: Derek St. John (Brands also mentioned Nick Moore here, but... no)
165: Mike Evans and Nick Moore
174: Ethen Lofthouse and Grant Gambrall
184: Grant Gambrall and Jeremy Fahler
197: Tomas Lira and Nathan Burak
HWT: Bobby Telford
We'll talk about all of those weights in greater detail as the A Winner is You! series continues this month (and next), but that's just a snapshot to keep in mind for now. No real surprises there; Gambrall at 174 will turn a few heads, but it had been heavily rumored for a while -- this is just official confirmation that it's a possibility. (It's hard to believe that Lofthouse wouldn't attempt to move up to 184 if Gambrall did win the spot at 174, so you might want to mentally consider him in the race at 184 as well.) The mention of Kadel at 149 is a little interesting and perhaps a sign of just how wide-open the race is at that weight. Brands also singled out three true freshmen -- Thomas Gilman, Cory Clark, and Nathan Burak. Gilman and Clark are at 125/133 and won't be seeing the mat this year (since they're behind two NCAA title contenders), but it's exciting to hear them already getting praise. Burak is at 197 and given the paucity of options at that weight, it seems like a real possibility that he could start at this weight this year. May we live in interesting times.