Iowa City, UI police learn defensive tactics from Hawkeye wrestlers

Training aims to help if altercation turns physical

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IOWA CITY — Local police got a few tips on defensive tactics from the University of Iowa wrestling team.

According to a news release, officers from the Iowa City, University of Iowa and Oelwein police departments recently grappled with members of the Hawkeye wrestling program and coaching staff. The idea of the training was to teach officers some new skills to apply when they’re forced to physically control a subject and take them to the ground.

“There are times when we take a person to the ground and we’re on the ground and have to control them,” said Iowa City Police Sgt. Doug Hart, the department’s training coordinator. Hart worked with head wrestling coach Tom Brands to set up the training.

Officers worked with Iowa wrestlers Matt McDonough, Mike Evans and Thomas Gilman, as well as defensive tactics instructors Ian Alke and Niles Mercer. Hart said the training took place April 3-7 and was for all physically capable officers, as well as investigators and command staff who were able to make the training.

The training was the brainchild of UI Public Safety Director Scott Beckner and Iowa City Police Chief Jody Matherly, a formerly certified high school wrestling coach.

“There are times when an officer’s de-escalation efforts and verbal commands fail quickly and they have no option but to go hands-on to take a person into custody,” Matherly said in the news release. “While our officers learn defensive tactics at the basic police academy — and continue to practice with state-certified instructors — we can always find opportunities to do more.”

Iowa City police and UI public safety will continue to collaborate in the future, the news release said.

Hart said he was impressed both with the training and the culture of the UI wrestling program, especially with how it related to community involvement.

“I was very impressed with how they assisted us,” he said.

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Officers, wrestlers talk about defensive tactics training

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