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IOWA CITY — Alex Meyer knows his strengths.
Iowa Coach Tom Brands understands when his senior 174-pounder is at his best. After all, toughness and a relentless motor have worn down opponents for 70 career victories and an All-American finish last season.
“I think being a grinder for me is a good thing,” Meyer said. “Being solid and stingy and making it a long match for the other guys. Seven minutes isn’t that long of a time but you have to make it feel a lot longer than that.”
Meyer will attempt to post his first 8-0 start when third-ranked Iowa faces No. 20 South Dakota State on Friday at Frost Arena in Brookings, S.D. Fifth-ranked Meyer is expected to wrestle No. 11 David Kocer in the Hawkeyes' (3-0) first trip to SDSU (1-1).
“I feel good,” Meyer said. “I’m getting things going.
“The schedule is starting to ramp up so I feel good about where we’re going.”
Meyer is coming off a 25-10 victory over Purdue’s Ben Thornton, scoring a career-best in points and surpassing the 20-point mark for the sixth time in college. He defeated Kocer 5-2 last season at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“He has good scoring ability,” Brands said. “He has heavy hips. Specifically, sometimes he lets them get lifted a little bit. Watching this opponent from last year, he lifted us a little bit when he’d get in on us. We have to be heavier with our hips because we’ve got heavy hips.
“We can make guys pay in that area. He’s getting better there, too.”
Meyer takes the mat with a little more confidence. He has learned from another year of experience and his fifth overall with the Hawkeyes. Meyer has scored double-digit points in five of his wins, including two technical falls and three major decisions.
“I’m more comfortable out there,” Meyer said. “I’m getting to my attacks. I’m just a little bit older, being around, and it’s getting better.”
Brands said Meyer’s success is based on staying in good positions and dictating the pace of the match. Another key is wrestling style without pressing certain situations and still keeping an urgency to score.
Meyer has been able to win or pull away in the second half of matches, scoring the final four points to beat Kocer last year.
“If Meyer does what Meyer does best, he tends to crack matches open and that’s what we want,” Brands said. “It’s just not getting ahead of yourself and don’t try to do too much all at once.
“The thing about Meyer that you look at his past, that has kept him in and the things he has done well, is he doesn’t get rattled. He wrestles the seven minutes. So, if something bad happens he can brush it off and go on. That’s what we like about him.”
Brands said he also likes his work ethic outside of competition. It enables him to maintain pressure for an entire match.
“The thing about Meyer is the way that he approaches the sport,” Brands said. “He’s in shape. You’re going to have to go seven minutes.”
Meyer is more consistent in putting up big points early this season. His performances have drawn criticism at times from demanding Hawkeye fans, looking for gaudy scoring totals and pins. Meyer said he has heard it but doesn’t let it affect him and his daily wrestling.
“The fans kind of give him the business sometimes,” Brands said. “I’m sitting in that chair and I’m going ‘Meyer, don’t listen to the fans. Wrestle your match.’ Not everybody can be Lincoln McIlravy. Some guys are going to grind matches out and Meyer is a grinder.”
Last season was Meyer’s first as a full-time starter. He reached the NCAA Championships, losing his first match and then battling through a consolation bracket littered with highly-seeded and ranked opponents. Meyer placed eighth. He was happy but far from satisfied.
“It was nice to be on the stand, but that’s not what I’m looking for and not what my teammates expect of me,” Meyer said. “There is definitely desire. It eats at me a little bit in a good way. I want to do better for myself and for my teammates.”
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