By Courtney Baumann | firstname.lastname@example.org
ST. LOUIS – It’s the NCAA Wrestling National Tournament. The energy, the atmosphere, and just about everything else is amped up.
That’s not necessarily the case behind the scenes, though.
The key to staying focused, according to Iowa wrestlers, is being patient and not letting that excess energy get in the way of the end goal.
It’s not something that comes naturally, although it may seem like it when looking at Hawkeyes such as Michael Kemerer. Kemerer, just a redshirt freshman making his first appearance at the national tournament, has had composure unmatched by his opponents over the course of the first day.
Kemerer admitted to having nerves before his first match, but said it didn’t take long for them to disappear.
“It’s exciting, it’s awesome, it’s cool to see it from that perspective now instead of being in the stands… It’s fun to win out there,” Kemerer said. “Once you get out there and make contact it goes away. You just start thinking about wrestling and the next hold. It changes everything.”
He knew coming into the tournament that the level of competition would be different from what he’s been used to throughout the regular season. Kemerer said words of wisdom on how to handle the tournament often involved reminders that it’s the end of the season for everyone else, too, and that’s obvious.
“It’s the end of the year, it’s when it counts. A lot of them step their game up,” Kemerer said. “Be ready for them to step it up, but don’t change what you’re doing. Just be ready.”
For senior Thomas Gilman, that patience didn’t come as quickly as it did for Kemerer, but has been something he’s learned as he has matured during his years at Iowa.
While in the past he may have spent his off time during the tournament on his phone constantly checking for updates on what other guys are doing or overthinking his own wrestling, Gilman instead took the time between sessions today to go back to the hotel. He rested and caught up on the books he’s reading – “The Victors, Eisenhower and His Boys: The Men of World War II” by Stephen Ambrose. He highly recommends it.
When asked to compare his demeanor this tournament compared to ones in the past, he said it’s a difficult thing to do because he’s tried to forget them and move forward.
“I got kind of memory loss a little bit, for good reason. I think I’m confident, I’m mature, I know what I gotta do. I’m not caught up in thinking about silly things,” Gilman said. “I know how to relax more… The older I get, the more I gotta detach myself. Once I’m out of here, it’s time to relax.”
Junior Brandon Sorensen is one of the four others moving on to the quarterfinals alongside Kemerer and Gilman, and he also has stressed the importance of getting the proper amount of rest, hydration, and nutrition before and between matches in order to stay on top.
His strategy has worked so far, as he won his first match of the day by fall in the first period and tacked on a 6-1 decision over Big Ten foe Andrew Crone to move to Friday still in the championship bracket.
“Focus in on one match at a time, you know the one that’s right in front of you. Not looking far ahead,” Sorensen said. “Getting good food, feeling good about yourself, staying relaxed, laying down when you’ve go the time, then getting ready and getting hot when you gotta go.”