IOWA CITY — Iowa wrestling has battled the misperception that the environment is all work and no fun.
The stereotypes started to crack when former All-American and current Hawkeye Wrestling Club member Sammy Brooks delivered a hilarious, yet straight-faced, response, referencing his mullet hairdo in a national television interview after his Big Ten Championships title.
The current Hawkeyes own a balance of humor and hard work. Look no further than redshirt freshman heavyweight Aaron Costello walking around and conducting interviews during media day or two-time All-American Michael Kemerer slipping in a “right meow” media-day response, a la the cast of “Super Troopers.” to get a sense of the team’s personality.
“I think this team is a loose team,” said Brands, noting Kemerer and Costello have a humorous side. “I don’t know if it’s dry or sarcastic or just unique but it’s something and they’re both funny.”
Need more proof? Watch some of the deadpan deliveries in the “Morning Stroll with Sam Stoll” segments online. Look up the Twitter handle of 141-pounder Carter Happel.
Brands said it spans across the entire roster.
“You have to be on your toes,” Brands said. “I think Sam Brooks maybe brought that in a little bit where I think it’s been there for a long, long time but sometimes guys aren’t comfortable with it maybe. Especially around the coaches, maybe.
“I think Brooks brought it around this staff where he’s a funny guy, too. (Brooks) being comfortable means that the guys coming in after him are comfortable. Next thing you know you have a ‘Morning Stroll with Sam Stoll’ and Costello being an interviewer. Good stuff.”
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Iowa NCAA champion Spencer Lee said the Hawkeyes are not what many expect. They don’t match the robot-like picture others paint of them. They work hard, but they counter that with fun.
“We’re loose and fun, but when it comes to being serious that is the stereotype you get,” Lee said. “We’re very serious in the room. In the locker room, we’re all joking with each other.”
Lee said he was part of a group with Austin DeSanto, Vince Turk and Danny Murphy that joked with each other to get through training workouts at 5:30 a.m. At Iowa’s duals at Kent State last week, Lee said they had to police themselves waiting to weigh-in.
“We’re like having so much fun,” Lee said. “Everyone is looking at you like you’re weird. That’s who we are. We enjoy being around each other. We’re family. It’s a lot of fun.”
Pat Lugo highlights Princeton dual
Iowa junior Pat Lugo is slated to face Princeton’s top-ranked Matthew Kolodzik in the 149-pound match of Friday night’s dual at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, starting at 7 p.m.
Lugo pinned Kolodzik last year at the Midlands Championships during Lugo’s redshirt season. Kolodzik finished third at the national tournament last season, beating Iowa’s Brandon Sorensen in the consolation semifinals.
“We know we can go with the guy,” Brands said. “We beat him last year. We know it’s a challenge. He’s the No. 1 guy in America. We know that he’s going to come in ready to go and I know and Pat Lugo knows that he’s better than he showed in the Cal-State Bakersfield dual.”
Lugo (1-1) is ranked 12th, but lost his official Hawkeye debut — a 10-9 decision to Cal State-Bakersfield’s Russell Rohlfing. He said he has learned from his mistakes, including better match preparation after a shorter turnaround following weigh-ins.
Lugo is excited for the opportunity.
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“I can make a big statement,” Lugo said. “I have the No. 1 guy coming in. I’ve wrestled him a couple times before and had good results. I just have to brush that off what happened last weekend and move forward, and make a big statement that lets Iowa Hawkeye fans know I’m here, I’m here to compete, here to wrestle and here to be a national champ.”
Depth shines in first duals
The Hawkeyes were without some key pieces to the lineup while starting 2-0 in duals. Two-time All-American Michael Kemerer (174), Junior Worlds qualifier Jacob Warner (197), NCAA qualifier Vince Turk at 141 and top-ranked heavyweight Sam Stoll didn’t make the first trip.
Iowa didn’t miss a beat, going unbeaten at each of those weights. The Hawkeyes expect anyone taking the mat to get the job done.
“I think our guys did a good job or did their job well in stepping out on the mat, no matter who got the call,” Brands said. “It’s something I think a lot of programs talk about. We certainly talk about it that you’ve got to be ready to go. You’re a heartbeat away from the presidency. I think that showed up a little bit.”
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