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Iowa’s Real Woods places second at NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships
Woods one of three All-Americans that could return to next year’s lineup for the Hawkeyes
TULSA, Okla. — Real Woods came to the University of Iowa with his sights set on a national title.
In one season with the Hawkeyes, the graduate from Stanford and returning All-American posted his best college finish.
Woods suffered a 6-4 defeat to Northern Colorado’s Andrew Alirez in the 141-pound final and placed second at the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships on Saturday night at BOK Center. He extended Iowa’s streak of at least one national finalist to 33 straight years.
Top-seeded Woods said the immediate takeaways were negative, including frustration and heartbreak, but there was solace in moving one step closer to his gold-medal dream.
“I’m definitely proud of myself,” Woods said. “I never let that fly. I’m never disappointed in myself. Interestingly enough, even after this outcome, I’m not disappointed in myself. I’m simply angry.”
The result and corresponding response are indicative of the daily challenges everyone faces. Woods recognizes that and presses on.
“It hurts,” Woods said. “Like I said, I’m not disappointed in myself. I’m very proud of myself. I’m ready to move forward and that’s what life’s about. That’s what is so beautiful about this sport. This is the kind of stuff you’re going to deal with in life. Through any hardship you’re going to deal with this pain and the fact that you need to move forward and continue to move on and grow. That’s just life.”
Woods is wired exactly that way and will be a strong example to follow for his Hawkeye teammates.
“We have to come back strong,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said. “We will. We have character. I believe that.
“You’ve got to build ... Real Woods will move on because of his character, who he is and his roots, his family, people who have coached him and that’s it.”
After a scoreless first, Woods took a 2-0 lead with two nearfall off a tilt. Just eight seconds later, as Alirez made it to his feet, they got tangled up in a scramble that resulted in a reversal, four-point nearfall and a 6-4 advantage that would hold for Northern Colorado’s first NCAA title.
“I wanted it so bad I put myself in an exposed position and it bit me in the butt,” Woods said. “I guess it is what it is.”
Woods (20-1) improved on his sixth-place finish a year ago. Attention shifts to the future and growing as a wrestler to take that one last step.
“I feel like I’m poised, calm (and) composed, but staying focused from moment to moment in a match,” Woods said. “Small mistakes like that, it’s crazy, can change a whole result.”
Iowa had six All-Americans, including fourth-place heavyweight Tony Cassioppi and fifth-place duo Nelson Brands (174) and 197-pounder Jacob Warner. Max Murin (149) and Spencer Lee (125) were sixth.
Iowa has had at least five All-Americans in 10 straight seasons. it was the 15th time Iowa had five or more All-Americans in 17 seasons under Tom Brands.
Woods, Cassioppi and Brands could return for next season, as well as 184-pound national qualifier Abe Assad, who was a National Wrestling Coaches Association All-American in 2020.
“The other thing that has to be said is you have to have to give celebration status to the guys that earned it,” Brands said. “We had six All-Americans, so it’s not sucking your thumb walking out of here.”
Iowa also has NCAA qualifiers Drake Ayala (125), Brody Teske (133), Cobe Siebrecht at 157 and 165-pounder Patrick Kennedy, who was the sixth seed this year, expected back.
Mix in some incoming talent with the 48 points returning from this season and the Hawkeyes could reload after their 48th NCAA team trophy and seventh national runner-up team finish.
“I’m excited,” Woods said. “We have an incredible team. It’s led by the best coaches in the world so I’m really excited about the future.”
The Hawkeyes will have to replace lineup stalwarts Lee, Murin and Warner, who helped Iowa win the 2021 NCAA team title and garnered 12 combined All-America honors.
“We’ve got some guys coming back that we have to have them thinking the right way right away walking out of this building,” Tom Brands said. “And, that’s it in a nutshell.”