We Must Break You is the weekly round-up of news regarding the Iowa wrestling program, a breakdown of the rankings, and a look ahead to the weekend's action. Feel free to send any links, tips, suggestions, complaints, or bribes to firstname.lastname@example.org
Nothing at all to do with Iowa wrestling, but HOLY HELL THAT IS FUCKING AMAZING
We're in the quietest stretch of the season in the land o' grappling -- no meets since last Thursday's smash-and-grab job against UNI and nothing on the slate until the Midlands Championships about two weeks from now -- so this week's installment will be fairly brief.
Of Mice and Montell. There have been persistent rumors that Montell Marion, the NCAA Tournament runner-up a year ago and Iowa's only other returning All-American (along with Matt McDonough), could be back in the Iowa line-up in time for second semester, months after he ran afoul of the law and earned himself a one-way trip to Suspensionville. Andy Hamilton dug into the matter this week and either Fred Mims has one hell of a poker face or Iowa fans probably shouldn't start waiting for Montell Marion to walk through that door:
"Not right now that I am aware of," said Mims, who oversees the program. "He’s been lobbying and been doing a lot of great things that you would hope a young person would be doing on their own and he has been. He’s had some conversations with our athletics director (Gary Barta) and (Iowa coach) Tom (Brands). He’s called me once or twice and given me updates on what he’s doing, but there’s no change in status."
When asked Tuesday if there was a crack in the door for Marion’s return, Mims said: "You never want to deny a person an opportunity, but I want to say it would take something substantial to change his situation."
So you're saying there's a chance, Fred? But seriously: don't hold your breath. On one hand, Marion might not have stayed in school at Iowa for this long if he didn't think he had a chance to get back onto the team. On the other hand, it certainly doesn't sound that optimistic. Even if he is able to return, it's unclear what kind of shape he would be in, which means he might not even be an upgrade over current options. But regardless of whether Marion is able to return to the Iowa wrestling team, we're happy to read that he's been keeping his nose clean and getting his life (and academics) in order; so many of the guys who've dealt with some of the same obstacles Montell has have simply lost the plot in their lives and fallen apart.
MOAR BALLWEG. Your weekly Ballweg Bros. update comes from the Daily Iowan, who profiled Mark Ballweg, the middle brother and starter at 141 lbs. this year -- and the year's most pleasant surprise. Expectations for Ballweg were pretty low (perhaps unfairly influenced by the struggles his older brother Matt had in recent years), but all he's done is gone undefeated and rise as high as 12th in some rankings -- not too shabby. As always, though, there's room for improvement:
Head coach Tom Brands is looking for Ballweg to blow matches open. Brands doesn't see any reason to wrestle tight matches, and instead of 3-0 victories — such as Ballweg's most recent at Northern Iowa — he wants to pile up points on the way to bonus-point wins.
"He's tough on top, and there are certainly things he needs to improve on," the fifth-year head coach said. "I'll tell you what, his top wrestling has helped his overall wrestling. But we have to widen the gap and open things up, and the way you do that is with offense."
As long as Ballweg keeps winning, we aren't going to quibble too much with how he gets there, but there's no question that Brands is right to emphasize bonus points. This year, more than any other in recent memory, could be defined by Iowa's ability to pick up bonus points. Bonus points are a luxury in duals against overmatched teams like UNI, but against stiffer competition (like Oklahoma State, Penn State, and Minnesota) or in the Big Ten and NCAA Tournaments, bonus points could be a necessity for Iowa to win.
Rankings like whoa. Your weekly rankings round-up:
TEAM: #4 (Intermat) / #7 (NWCA/USA Today) / #7 (d1collegewrestling) / #5 (TheOpenMat)
INDIV (Intermat / TheOpenMat / d1collegewrestling / AWN)
125: Matt McDonough (#1 / #1 / #1 / #1)
133: Tony Ramos (#8 / #9 / #10 / #9)
141: Mark Ballweg (#13 / #12 / #12 / #17)
157: Derek St. John (#8 / #7 / #10 / #12)
165: Jake Kerr (#12 / #12 / #11 / #14)
174: Ethen Lofthouse (none / #20 / #24 / none)
184: Grant Gambrall (#4 / #6 / #4 / #9)
197: Luke Lofthouse (#12 / #18 / #13 / #18)
HWT: Blake Rasing (#15 / #11 / #14 / #15)
The team rankings are basically the same as a week ago -- save the Intermat ranking, where Iowa jumps from 7th to 4th. McD stays the same -- atop the heap at 125. Ramos moves up slightly in a few rankings -- and finally debuts in the AWN rankings. Ballweg is unchanged at 141. 149 remains a void; in related news, there is absolutely no proof that Iowa is planning to add a mysterious new wrestler named Trent Bretcalf at that weight in January. DSJ, Kerr, and Ethen Lofthouse remain essentially the same at their respective rankings. Gambrall moves up slightly in most rankings -- and is now in the top five in the Intermat and d1collegewrestling rankings, which is pretty remarkable. Rasing also moves up a few spots after picking up a win over the also-ranked Christian Brantley of UNI.
NEXT WEEK-ISH: A preview of the Midlands Championships.