Iowa wrestling returns from break with inaugural Soldier Salute at Xtream Arena
Iowa wrestling coach and parade grand marshal Tom Brands yells “Go Hawks” to the crowd during the Iowa Homecoming Parade along Clinton Street in Iowa City, Iowa on Friday, Oct. 28, 2022. (Savannah Blake/The gazette)
The University of Iowa hasn’t had a wrestling match in nearly three weeks.
The stretch is a bit longer than most years. During the period between the finals and the party, the Hawkeye wrestlers were still at work, honing their craft and recharging their batteries for the next busy part of their season.
Coach Tom Brands has witnessed the Hawkeyes’ “not satisfied” approach after going 7-0 in a 27-12 win at Tennessee-Chattanooga on Dec. 12.
“They always want to do better,” Brands said. “They’re learning as they go, improving every day, and having fun doing it.”
Second-ranked Iowa will return to action at Soldier Salute, a two-day men’s and women’s open tournament that begins Thursday at Xtream Arena in Coralville. The event will recognize and honor past, present and future service members with all annual proceeds shared between the United Service Organization and a development fund for the continued growth of high school girls wrestling.
The competition follows the Dan Gable Donnybrook and the United Wrestling World Cup men’s and women’s freestyle at the same venue.
“This is a pretty good chain of events for sports fans, in general, for sure,” Brands said. “So much for wrestling fans. It’s a tribute to this community.”
The last three weeks provided an opportunity for recovery and individualized training. Iowa’s 141-pounder Real Woods spent the time working on his neutral offense finishes, teaming up with Brands to improve from experiences in the first half of the season. He also said he spends quality time with friends and family.
“That short break is really good for us,” Woods said. “For me, I like to disconnect and have a little bit of freedom. Just renewing my mind and body to be able to go really hard at this Big Ten program.
Woods will be one of 29 Hawkeyes in the field. Three-time NCAA champion and two-time Hodge Trophy winner Spencer Lee at 125, Max Murin (149), Patrick Kennedy at 165 pounds, Abe Assad (184), Jacob Warner at 197 and Tony Cassioppi at heavyweight are among the wrestlers attached for Iowa. .
The Soldier Salute is Iowa’s only two-day individual tournament during the regular season that resembles the postseason tournament format. The event will allow the Hawkeyes to iron out their routines for multiple sessions each day and consecutive weigh-in days.
“It mimics season after season,” Brands said. “This is important.”
The Hawkeyes have had a long history of competing in the Ken Kraft Midlands Championship hosted by Northwestern. When that tournament was canceled the last two seasons, an alternative was needed. Enter Soldier Salute, which tried to hold an event last year but couldn’t pull it off on short notice.
“We ended up going to the Chattanooga tournament last year because of that, so we want to make sure we have a place to fight and we know it’s going to be here,” Brands said. “This is not a knock on anyone. It’s just the way we have to operate to make sure we’re in a good place when it comes to the holiday wrestling tournament season, so to speak.”
Members of the Iowa women’s wrestling program will wrestle in the event. The Hawkeyes are practicing on campus but won’t officially compete until next season. They have competed unaffiliated in open tournaments already. Ten wrestlers are expected to compete, including former Bettendorf prep Ella Schmit, former South Winneshiek prep and USA World Cup team member Felicity Taylor, Kylie Welker, Reese Larramendy, Emilie and Brianna Gonzalez, Bella Mir , Sterling Dias, Ava Baystrella and .
Northern Iowa will have 15 wrestlers in the men’s field. None of the Panthers’ full-time starters will compete. Garrett Funk and Cory Land will fight at 133, while Connor Thorpe is 141. Adam Allard, Cael Rehnavardi, Gable Fox and Ryder Downey will all wrestle at 149. Wade Mitchell, RJ Weston and Evan Yant are expected to be at 157 and former Union Community State Champion Adam Ahrendsen will wrestle at 197 for the Panthers.
UNI will have three unattached competitors, including freshman 197-pounder Wyatt Voelker. The former two-time West Delaware state champion is 11-0 as a redshirt, winning three open titles this season.
Wrestlers from out-of-state programs have ties to Iowa. Former Iowa City West standout Grant O’Dell will wrestle at 157 pounds for Bellarmine, while Wyoming 133-pounder Aidan Noonan was a three-time state champion for Cascade.
The North Carolina duo of Cade and Carson Tenold, who each won individual state titles and helped Don Bosco to the Class 1A team title, will compete at 174 and 184, respectively. Former Union standout Jack Thomsen is one of 12 South Dakota State wrestlers entered. He will fight at the age of 165.
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