By Courtney Baumann
When the Iowa wrestling team has its final Big Ten dual competition Feb. 12 against Nebraska, the five seniors who have spent five years in the wrestling room will be recognized as they compete in Carver-Hawkeye one last time.
It’s difficult to look past what the senior class has done for the program.
Four of them have combined for seven All-American honors. Cory Clark and Sammy Brooks have won Big Ten titles. Thomas Gilman and Clark have placed second at nationals — Clark has done so twice.
After this weekend, if Gilman, Clark, and Brooks win their matchups against Indiana and the Huskers, all three would be within 10 wins of breaking 100 over their careers.
“They’ve become leaders, they’ve become pillars of this program,” Iowa head coach Tom Brands said. “Gilman’s probably the natural leader with his vocalness and the way that he competes, but you’re looking at Meyer who’s an Academic All-American, you’re looking at Cory Clark, who’s the credential leader. You’re looking at Sam Brooks, a guy that everybody likes. Then you’re talking about Topher Carton, who had to wait five years to get in the lineup.”
The wrestlers will be the first to say they all have their own quirks, which add to the diversity of the group.
Where Gilman and Carton are on the more serious side, Clark and Brooks — Brooks in particular — are the funny guys. Meyer is the scholar. He’s a human physiology major who has won three Academic All-Big Tentitles in addition to his Academic All-American.
“We’ve got a lot of serious guys. Gilman’s always talking about war and something scary, so someone’s got to keep levity,” Brooks said after making a grand entrance for the media and carting Gilman off on his shoulders. “That’s something I like.”
This weekend, four of the seniors will see competition against ranked opponents, which is nothing out of the ordinary for the group.
Top-ranked 125-pounder Gilman will face off with No. 5 Tim Lambert, whom he has beaten all five times the two have sparred. No. 4 Clark gets No. 5 Eric Montoya, whom he has beaten both times as well. No. 18 Carton will see No. 10 Colton McCrystal. He beat the Husker by technical fall at the 2015 Midlands Championships. Finally, No. 5 Brooks will face both No. 7 Nate Jackson of Indiana and No. 3 T.J. Dudley of Nebraska. He is a combined 3-3 against the two.
Although it will be the seniors’ last time wrestling in Carver, there is still plenty of season left for the five to continue to show their worth to the program.
“Senior Days are funny because there’s more to do,” Brands said. “It’s a good sendoff for them, fans get to see them. It’s important, but there is still a lot of wrestling left in the season.”
While all five hope to see their NCAA title dreams finally come true, Carton has an added incentive to see his way to the podium in March.
Of the senior group, Carton is the only wrestler without an All-American title and has never seen action at nationals.
“Obviously, I haven’t achieved my goals yet, but it’s really hard not to buy in and not work out with intensity and not train with a purpose when you have a group like these guys. I’m the only senior that’s not on there right now,” Carton said, pointing to the All-American board in the wrestling room. “That’s a bit of motivation and can put a fire under you.”