By Jordan Hansen
Strange as it may seem, the Iowa wrestling team will be in Montana this evening to take on Montana State-Northern, a National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics school.
While the timing of the meet is a little strange — the Hawkeyes just finished their Big Ten slate — promotion is something Iowa head coach Tom Brands believes firmly in doing.
“It’s important to get out to the other corners of the wrestling world that don’t see this type of program in their neck of the woods,” he said. “I think it’s a good thing. We’ve been in a lot of these over the years, I think it’s important to do, and we haven’t done it in a while.”
The choice, however, was not random. Iowa associate head coach Terry Brands was an assistant for the Northern Lights from 2001-02.
Tyson Thivierge, the current Northern head coach, wrestled under Terry Brands during his year at the school, and the pair apparently stayed in contact.
“It all just came together,” Tom Brands said simply. “Good relationships.”
Strangely enough, tonight’s dual will not be the first time the two schools have met. In 1996, Iowa went out to Montana and beat the Northern Lights, 50-0.
However, Northern will not be a complete pushover. The team is ranked third by Intermat in its level and has six team national championships to its credit. The team also boasts five wrestlers in the top 10 at their weight classes.
There might be several matches that could give Iowa some fits. At 197, Northern wrestler Garrett DeMers was a runner-up for the title last season.
DeMers is ranked No. 1 at the weight and has complied a 30-4 record this year.
“You have to be ready to go, ready to get after it like any other match,” Iowa 197-pounder Nathan Burak said. “I’ve always wanted to go to Montana; it looks like a beautiful state, and I just am excited to be able to go.”
Two other weights — 174 and 285 — are both manned by seniors for Northern, and they might be able to make things interesting with Iowa’s Alex Meyer and Sam Stoll.
Experience is something that’s hard to find on the Lights’ roster; seven of their starting wrestlers are redshirt-freshman or younger. With that said, they still take things seriously.
“You’re still going into a hostile environment,” Brands said. “It’s competition, it doesn’t matter what the level is, and when you go through the season, it’s ‘What’s the next event on the calendar?’ And that’s been the mentality all season.”
There was tangible excitement among the wrestlers when asked about the trip, and it seems like this is something the team has looked forward to for quite some time.
Iowa left on Thursday and likely will not be back until Feb. 14, giving the team a bit of time together before the championship portion of the schedule begins.
Once the Hawkeyes get back from their weekend getaway to the west, the National Duals lurk just around the corner. While their opponent in that event is yet to be determined, it will very likely be a current top-five team.
Though for the moment, all that will be out of the wrestlers’ minds — and that isn’t a bad thing. It’s the calm before the storm, and Iowa’s spending it in one of the most beautiful places in the world.
“It’s pretty cool to be able to do this,” Iowa 184-pounder Sammy Brooks said. “It’s just one more place to go and whup some tail.”
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