MINNEAPOLIS — Carver-Hawkeye Arena will always be home for Mark Ironside.
Iowa’s four-time All-American excited Hawkeye home crowds with his relentless attack on the mat.
Even though Minnesota is a longtime Iowa rival, the current Iowa wrestling radio analyst to play-by-play colleague Steven Grace experienced a special memory at Williams Arena, which serves as host to this weekend’s Big Ten Wrestling Championships.
The venue served as the site that Ironside’s paternal grandfather, Tom, watched him compete in person in 1997. Ironside captured the 134-pound title that year, his third Big Ten championship en route to becoming the 10th of 16 current four-time conference champions.
“I can remember seeing grandpa in the stands,” Ironside said. “He had cancer and I knew it was his last trip. It was really, really hard physically for him to be here, but it was really cool have him there in person and the whole family.”
Ironside is one of three brothers that won state titles for Cedar Rapids Jefferson. He estimated between 30 to 40 family members attended. Ironside recalled where they sat and going up to hang with them between rounds.
The tournament also gave his father, Joe, something to cheer about and take his mind off Tom’s illness.
“I wasn’t just wrestling for me or grandpa,” Ironside said. “It was also for my dad, giving him something to be happy about.”
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Tom enjoyed his family’s activities and was unconditionally supportive. Ironside remembered a Cedar Hills Little League baseball game when he struggled as a pitcher. The performance only resulted in more encouragement.
“He was right behind home plate, saying ‘That’s my grandson. Atta boy, Mark,’” Ironside said. “He was still cheering me on. Just a great fan.
“He loved to follow it.”
The conference title was a precursor to Ironside’s first NCAA crown a couple weeks later. Tom died at home shortly after the national tournament, but listened to the radio call from the hospital.
“It was cool to bring home the bracket and show it to him before he passed,” Ironside said. “He was an awesome guy. We were really close.”
Storr advances for Michigan
Kanen Storr could have been one of the cornerstones of Iowa State’s rebuilding efforts under head coach Kevin Dresser. He was 40-12 in two seasons with the Cyclones and placed fifth at the 2016 Midlands Championships as a redshirt.
The three-time state champion for Leslie (Mich.) High School opted to leave Ames. He landed back in his home state, where he posted a 227-3 record as a prep, joining the Michigan program where his brother, Zehlin, once wrestled.
Storr has become a contributor to the Wolverines’ lineup. He improved to 23-4 and reached the 141-pound semifinals. Storr opened with consecutive decisions, beating Wisconsin’s fourth-seeded Tristan Moran, 2-1. The victory secured a top-six finish and his first NCAA Championships berth, claiming one of the conference’s nine automatic spots in that class.
Home sweet home for Minnesota
Minnesota hasn’t been mentioned in the same breath as conference contenders Penn State, Ohio State or Iowa. Michigan has been a team that has garnered the remaining attention.
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The host Gophers were in second place after the opening session Saturday. Minnesota had 54 points, leading third-place Ohio State by a half-point. Minnesota pushed five into the semifinals, securing NCAA berths at 125, 149, 157, 174 and heavyweight.
The Gophers were led by Steve Bleise. He upended Northwestern’s third-seeded Ryan Deakin, 7-5, in tiebreaker 1 in the 157 quarterfinals.
Minnesota was seventh a year ago.
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