Iowa Hawkeyes

Long road for Phillip Laux leads to Iowa wrestling Senior Day

Iowa City always felt like home for Hawkeyes 133-pounder

Iowa's Phillip Laux, top, wrestles Wisconsin's Eli Stickley in the 133 pound match during a dual meet at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. Laux won by decision 6-2. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa's Phillip Laux, top, wrestles Wisconsin's Eli Stickley in the 133 pound match during a dual meet at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. Laux won by decision 6-2. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Phillip Laux has traveled a long and winding path in his college wrestling career.

Even with a couple brief twists and turns, the road always led back home to Iowa City.

Laux will be one of three seniors recognized during Iowa’s annual Senior Day after the seventh-ranked Hawkeyes face No. 17 Northwestern at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, beginning at 10 a.m.

Laux and his roommates, Brandon Sorensen and former Monticello prep Logan McQuillen, are the only seniors to be honored, following the dual.

“I’m just excited for the opportunity,” Laux said. “It’s been an eventful college career and to finish it here, having the coaching staff be nothing but gracious to me. I’ve learned a lot from them. Tough lessons. Just how to be a better man, how to take care of my body, be the best wrestler I can be.”

Laux went 23-1 at 125 pounds, competing in open tournaments. As a sophomore, he was 3-3 in limited action at 125 and 133. In his second stint, he was 10-8 last season, going 2-1 in Big Ten matches at 133. Laux has shared action with Paul Glynn as the starting 133-pounder, owning a 9-4 mark.

The academic all-Big Ten Business Management major has contributed just as much through his character.

“He’s a good teammate,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “I think he’s a popular teammate. He’s one of those guys where if you’re needing the shirt off his back he’d take it off for you.

“You can’t ask for much more than that.”

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The journey started at Wisconsin for one year after winning two Class 3A state titles for Iowa City West. He quickly realized that wasn’t the place for him, returning to Iowa City without representing the Badgers.

During his time wrestling behind Thomas Gilman and Cory Clark, Laux flirted with another Big Ten program. He briefly transferred to Northwestern after his sophomore season, but came back to the Hawkeyes without stepping on the mat for the Wildcats.

He wrestled in a club at CHA and ascended the prep ranks in its shadow. This always felt like home to Laux.

“I was around the Iowa room and really enjoyed the environment,” Laux said. “The way they go about their business and the way they feel about wrestling just resonated with me.”

The Iowa coaching staff welcomed him back each time, as long as he bought in to the program. Brands said Laux is very loyal.

“It’s one of those things where this is what we’re about and if you want to be a part of this then we’re all for it,” Brands said. “The rest is really up to him, whether he’s going to thrive from a wrestling, academic or a social sense. He’s done well.”

The Iowa coaches were a big part of why he wanted to remain with the program. Laux realized how they tried to guide wrestlers to be the best person they can be.

“They care about you as a person,” Laux said. “They want the best for you.”

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Wrestling and his faith have played a major role in his life. The two in some ways are woven together and seem inseparable.

Laux said wrestling is unlike other sports, teaching self-discipline, time management and health.

“Wrestling to me represents life,” Laux said. “It’s a battle every day. You have your positives and negatives and you have to move forward no matter what, like Tom says.

“In that respect, wrestling has meant a lot to me. I don’t think there are a lot of other sports like it.”

Laux is active in campus ministry. He is involved in multiple groups, including Athletes In Action, which has led to getting to know more Hawkeye athletes and lifelong friendships. His faith inspires him to make a difference, demonstrating an example to treat others well.

“It grounds me and gives me a hope in such a dark world when we have all this fighting, conflict and negativity,” Laux said. “It allows me to see hope.”

Laux will step in front of the CHA crowd for the final time. It has been a long six years with multiple stops. It’s fitting that he will be flanked by Sorensen and McQuillen.

The bonds forged with them and others are his greatest highlight.

“Growing alongside my roommates has been a lot of fun,” Laux said. “They’ve been great roommates.

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“We’ve become close and I am very thankful for that. The relationships with them, my teammates and the coaches is what will stick with me.”

l Comments: (319) 368-8679; kj.pilcher@thegazette.com

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