IOWA CITY — University of Iowa is heading to Big Sky country.
The rare road trip is a chance to display the Hawkeyes’ talent to a group of fans in a different part of the country, highlighting college wrestling at the same time.
“We look to get out and promote,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said during the program’s weekly media gathering Tuesday. “We haven’t been out west.”
The second-ranked Hawkeyes will face Montana State Northern Friday night in Havre, Mont., beginning at 8 p.m. Iowa is 15-0 overall, while Northern is 9-1.
The dual marks the second meeting between the two programs. Iowa defeated the Lights, 50-0, in November 1995 in Great Falls, Mont.
The connection between the Hawkeyes and the six-time NAIA national champion lies in the coaching staffs.
Iowa associate head coach Terry Brands was an assistant for the Northern Lights for the 2001-02 season, leaving to become head coach at Tennessee-Chattanooga. Northern Coach Tyson Thivierge wrestled under Terry Brands, winning the 184-pound national title in 2002.
“Terry used to work out there,” said Tom Brands, noting the history between his brother and Thivierge. “It just comes together.
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Tom Brands praised the athletic administration for their support. The trip creates good exposure for the program and the sport. Approval didn’t need any additional measures.
“We have a travel budget,” Brands said. “As long as we are within the framework of that or we submit something, if there is something completely out of whack they will question us, but I think our administration trusts what we’re doing and it’s important to get out to other corners of the wrestling world that don’t see this type of program in their neck of the woods. I think this is a good thing.”
Any competition is beneficial. Wrestlers receive another opportunity to fine tune their routine, preparing for the next event, regardless of the opponent or organization. They get a chance for live action and face a hungry opponent.
“They have a pretty good heavyweight,” Tom Brands said. “It doesn’t matter what level they are. A guy has two arms, two legs and a brain he’s going to go out there and try to beat you.”
The Hawkeyes have made appearances like this in the past. Brands noted they competed in South Dakota when Lincoln McIlravy was on the team. Iowa wrestled Buena Vista and South Dakota State at Spencer in 1996. They wrestled Purdue at a high school in 2010 as well. Although the home fans want to see their team do well, they welcome the chance to watch some of the nation’s top wrestlers in person, including All-Americans Thomas Gilman (125), Cory Clark (133), Brandon Sorensen at 149 and 197-pounder Nathan Burak.
“You’re still going into a hostile environment,” Brands said, “but at the same time I think they appreciate seeing guys in the flesh.”
The season is starting to come to a close. After this dual, Iowa will compete in the National Wrestling Coaches Association National Dual Series and then Big Ten and NCAA Championships loom.
“This is something when they come back they will be getting ready for the National Duals,” Tom Brands said. “It’s a tool to sharpen yourself for the postseason and what’s next.”
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