IOWA CITY — The time has come for Cash Wilcke to, well, cash in.
Iowa’s two-time NCAA qualifier has created more opportunities to score this season. For the junior 184-pounder, it’s a matter of converting those chances against top-tier competition.
“He’s more active,” Iowa Coach Tom Brands said about Wilcke, who dropped down after two years at 197. “Now, we’ve got to finish.”
“You look at those opportunities that he’s had in those matches against top-(seven) ranked guys … finish. If we finish, they’re all different.”
Wilcke looks for his first victory over a top-10 opponent when third-ranked Iowa travels to No. 9 Nebraska for a Big Ten Conference dual Sunday at Lincoln, Neb., starting at noon. Wilcke, ranked 15th nationally, is expected to face No. 4 Taylor Venz (15-3).
“I’ve wrestled him before,” Wilcke said. “I know it’s going to be a good match. It’s going to be a dogfight. I’m looking forward to it.”
The season has been successful for the two-time state champ from Ida Grove OABCIG. He is 13-3 this season with five bonus-point victories and was a Midlands finalist.
“I’ve been wrestling pretty good,” said Wilcke, who was one win away from All-American honors in each of his first two seasons. “Obviously, you want to win every match but there are things I can work on and things I have been working on that I’ve gotten a lot better. Now is the time to put it all together.”
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Wilcke has been referred to as one of the most athletic Hawkeyes in the lineup since his freshman year. He possesses the ability to score, averaging about seven points in victories not decided by pin. The inability to finish moves for crucial scores has surfaced in his three losses by a combined five points.
“Every match that I’ve lost that’s what’s cost me,” Wilcke said. “I’m right there with those guys.”
Finishing shots is the focus. Brands said it takes a little extra effort to avoid settling for a stalemate and get deeper penetration to be able to close shot attempts. Wilcke said he works with anyone who wants to help with technique.
“I know he’s about that, so it’s not something that you’re looking to see different,” Brands said of Wilcke. “It’s more we have to keep getting better when we get to the leg.”
The coaching staff has helped past wrestlers in this same area. Former Hawkeye Luke Lofthouse made huge strides when he learned to take his time to finish takedown attempts, becoming an All-American. Even though the two have contrasting styles, the same gains can be made.
“Luke Lofthouse was a plodding, heavy-footed, very strong plow horse and that’s a compliment to him. It’s just how he wrestled,” Brands said. “Wilcke is a light-footed elf and very quick, explosive and dynamic, so they’re different.
“There are some similarities in philosophy. Probably a little different method because of how their skills were.”
Wilcke garnered a lot of attention during preseason media day when Brands referred to him as “Wolfcke,” noting that he was leaner and hungrier than before previous seasons. Brands reiterated that he makes the lineup better at the lower weight.
Wilcke has noticed a difference physically as well.
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“I feel great,” Wilcke said. “My body is moving a lot better. My body is holding up a lot more this year. Just the last couple weeks I’ve gotten some really good training in and going to keep that going.”
Wilcke vs. Venz is one of eight possible matchups against Nebraska (9-3, 3-2) with two ranked wrestlers. At 157, seventh-ranked Kaleb Young (13-2) faces No. 2 Tyler Berger (17-2). All five upper weights, 125 and 141 feature two in the nation’s top-19 of their respective weights.
Iowa (10-0, 5-0) faces its toughest challenge of the season, on paper.
“We have to get ready for all 10,” Brands said. “We’re going to put 10 guys on the mat and we’re going to expect to see 10 top-notch performances.”
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