Time for a stupid question — remember Grapple on the Gridiron? Stupider question — remember when Sammy Brooks, then a junior, posted a tech fall against Jordan Rogers and effectively beat top-ranked Oklahoma State in the most attended dual meet in the history of wrestling?
Of course you do! It’s at the top of my personal list of favorite Brooks moments over the last few seasons. That one’s right up there with his 2015 Big Ten Championship victory over bitter rival T.J. Dudley, every other victory over Dudley, the fact he’s scored bonus points in all but one bout against an Iowa State opponent (sadly that won’t continue against All-World Pud Pat Downey at NCAAs), and many more.
The list goes on and on. Is it getting hot in here?
The Oak Park River Forest product came into our lives on a full-time basis at the beginning of his sophomore season after backing up Ethen Lofthouse and seeing a bit of action up at 197 the year prior. He took third at Big Tens and didn’t place at NCAAs, muddying expectations for his junior campaign.
A 20-3 regular season led to the aforementioned Big Ten title, and perhaps even better, this.
But for all the fun, games, and expectations that come with a conference crown came an underwhelming eighth-place finish in another poor Hawkeye showing on the biggest stage. It was frustrating to watch Brooks falter in a tournament in which he was and is capable of doing real damage in, thus highlighting a somewhat warranted knock on Brooks.
His up-tempo and tough style at the back of the lineup has endeared him to Hawkeye fans, but the ill-timed egg laying — i.e. Penn State — has caused some to hold their horses on the senior.
In his final go-round, Brooks finished with a 20-2 record and bonus points in 80 percent of his matches. Generally good stuff, but losses to Indiana’s Nate Jackson and Penn State’s Bo Nickal are significant blemishes on the résumé. Say another Hawkeye wrestler puts together a quality regular season but loses two tough matches like those — am I worried? Perhaps. Is that the case with Brooks? Absolutely not.
There’s something about the intense confidence Brooks projects that makes me believe he’s going to put together some robust results in the postseason. As any member of the wrestling community and they’ll tell you No. 2 Nickal and top-ranked Gabe Dean of Cornell are unbeatable, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone that says third-ranked Brooks is an upset candidate.
However, that’s not the point of this post. The point of this post is to thank an entertaining grappler night in and night out, to toast an oft-bloodied brawler that could be a mean football player in another life, and to wish Sammy Brooks the best of luck the remainder of his time in a Hawkeye singlet.
Despite lacking a national title, this senior class has been a very fun one to watch develop over the last few seasons, and Brooks is a large part of that. Here’s to the 84-pounder doing his part to break that title absence. It’s not going to be easy, but man, would that be great if it happens.