Barring an act of God, the Iowa wrestlers won’t win a team title this weekend.
We can hope for individual titles and, hey, maybe we’ll have a strong weekend and finish in top-three. That certainly wouldn’t be bad.
But there doesn’t seem to be a title in sight.
The last time Iowa won a team title was 2010. The last time it had an actual shot was 2015. And, as you’d expect, it has fans asking questions. I’m not entirely sure what the exact context of this question was, but from Marc Morehouse the other day:
Barta on Brands: "Tom is an Olympic gold medalist who's a national champion here, who knows this place better than anyone else. He's our coach and that's that."— Marc Morehouse (@marcmorehouse) March 9, 2018
Is Tom Brands on the hotseat? Not really.
Should he be? I don’t think so.
Is it okay to talk about the relative lack of success over the past five years? Absolutely.
At some point you have to wonder if the power of the wrestling world has shifted east. The two dominant powers for a long, long time were Oklahoma State and Iowa. Now it’s Penn State and Ohio State.
Is Iowa wrestling still a big deal? Of course. But it feels ... it feels like what Nebraska football is now — a once powerful program that no longer has blue blood status.
That’s not to say Iowa can’t get that sort of status again, just that it’s much harder to gain than lose. The homegrown talent in the Hawkeye State just isn’t as good as elsewhere (see: Ohio and Pennsylvania) and the very best high school wrestlers seem to be staying home.
Another thing that stands out to me? The disparity in post-graduate wrestling club funds. From Cody Goodwin, of the Des Moines Register:
In 2015, the Nittany Lion Wrestling Club had net assets of $5.7 million, according to Flowrestling. That was by far the most of any regional training center/post-graduate wrestling club in the country. The Hawkeye Wrestling Club was second, at $699,997.
That kind of money does a lot. One big thing: It keeps post-graduate wrestlers around — in the case of the NLWC, that’s guys like David Taylor, Nico Megaludis, Jake Varner and many others — to practice with the current group of Penn State wrestlers. Iron sharpens iron.
That’s a problem for Iowa. There’s been a lot of money poured into Penn State wrestling ever since Sanderson has turned the program into a Goliath.
Granted, there are exceptions and we’ve seen that over the past few years. Money isn’t absolutely everything, but it’s a lot in college athletics. It’s certainly part of the reason Brands and Iowa think they need new wrestling facilities.
Personally, I think they’re more than adequate, but this is turning into an arms race. Iowa’s losing and they’re trying to do what they think they need to do, right or wrong.
That’s why I’m going to preach patience.
We are, after all, Iowa fans. If patience isn’t something you have, then this is the wrong fandom for you.
Knee-jerk reactions have never been a hallmark of Iowa athletics and I don’t think they ever will be. Has Brands had quite the success we perhaps envisioned for him as head coach?
Maybe not, but at the end of the day, it’s hard to imagine there’s someone better. Cael Sanderson will never come to Iowa. Nor will Tom Ryan. Anyone else would be a downgrade.
There’s a significant amount of young talent on the Iowa roster. Will they pull through this weekend? I don’t know.
I’m just not ready to give up on this season — or this program — quite yet.