By Taylor McNitt
All season, sophomore Vince Turk has battled to be the go-to guy at 141.
He started the season with three clear victories wrestling that spot, but losses against Rider and Illinois complicated his mission. For the rest of the season — until Iowa State’s No. 18 Ian Parker — he came up short against ranked opponents.
The struggle meant that sometimes, he didn’t get the call, and often, Carter Happel filled in.
“Both those guys bring a lot of energy into that room,” said head coach Tom Brands at the beginning of the season. “They both want the same thing. You’re not going to be satisfied if you’re not the guy. It’s going to make our team better.”
From the beginning of the season, it was a competition. And yet, their on-and-off records complicated the final decision.
It took a wrestle-off for Brands to determine who got to go to the Big Ten Championships.
“Earning it is a lot better than just waiting around for that hand out,” Turk said. “I’m glad I earned it.”
Getting to that point in his career was no simple thing for Turk. While being recruited, he caught the eye of Brands after being a two-time Illinois state champion.
He redshirted his first season with the Hawkeyes, and his second was a miss, thanks to an injury from his first match.
“Turk has waited a long time to get in the lineup,” said Brands. “He’s had some frustrating injuries he’s dealt with very well. Last year, he made the decision after the Luther Open to what amounted to a season-ending surgery. And now he’s on pace and page to be the guy.”
And after too much back-and-forth, Turk finally did become the guy, the guy who came up from the bottom to take fifth at Big Tens.
“[It wasn’t] so much learning about myself but just going out there and proving it to everyone else,” Turk said. “My coaches, my family — they all know what I actually have — I’ve just got to show it, use it.”
He showed it by taking down Wisconsin’s Eli Stickley in the first round with a 6-0 decision.
The second round, however, didn’t work out so well for Turk. He went against Ohio State’s No. 4 Joey McKenna, who went on to take first place. Despite this, Turk managed to only lose by a 4-0 decision.
This loss put him in the consolation bracket, where two more victories by decision against Michigan’s Sal Profaci and Nebraska’s No. 12 Chad Red boosted him to the consolation semifinals.
Penn State’s No. 8 Nick Lee, who had just fallen from the championship semifinals, was next in Turk’s line of competition. Turk was unable to keep his streak of victories to make it to the battle for third, but he did keep Lee’s margin of victory within a mere 8-3 decision.
Turk’s last match of the championships was back against Stickley, and Turk, for a second time, emerged triumphant with a fifth-place finish. His performance over the weekend earned him a spot in the NCAAs on March 15.
“My confidence is definitely going to go up — [I have to] just keep pushing the pace,” Turk said. “Even though I didn’t get what I wanted, I’m just going to keep moving forward, getting ready for nationals.”