There aren’t many question marks in the Iowa wrestling lineup, but today gives a few wrestlers the chance to bend and twist those question marks into exclamation points.
Senior Mark Ballweg earned the first chance to take over for Montell Marion at 141 this season, and redshirt freshman Brody Grothus gets the first chance at 149.
“I’m not going to mince words. … It’s about performance,” Iowa coach Tom Brands said. “Do the job and compete ferociously, widen the gap, score points. And we’re happy campers. All of us.”
Iowa opens the 2012-13 season today with three duals in Chattanooga, Tenn. No. 4 Iowa faces Cumberland (Tenn.) at 2:30 p.m., No. 17 Virginia at 4 p.m. and Tennessee-Chattanooga at 6 p.m.
The duals are at the college where Iowa associate head coach Terry Brands coached for three years. The opponents are familiar to Tom Brands, who coached at Virginia Tech before returning to Iowa.
“We have some pretty good tests,” Tom Brands said. “Virginia, their coach is fiery. There’s maybe a little bit of history there. It’s going to be a good test for us.”
It’ll also be the first chance for Ballweg to show he’s ready to contribute again. He was 15-3 two years ago at 141 before Marion rejoined the team.
“I get an opportunity to go out and showcase what I’m capable of,” Ballweg said. “In this program, you have to compete at a high level every time out there, otherwise someone else will be put in.”
It’ll also be interesting to see what Iowa can get out of 149.
The Hawkeye lineup had two weak spots last season. They went 6-12 at 149 and 5-13 at 197 in duals. They also were the only weights that didn’t qualify for the NCAA Tournament.
Grothus went 18-6 unattached last season but said he learned to control his “funk.”
“Guys at this level wouldn’t let me get away with that kind of stuff,” Grothus said. “They put me on my back and made me realize the funk is not going to work.
“If it’s expected, you can’t keep doing it over an over. It’s going to bite you.”
Grothus was a bit of a wild scrambler coming out of Davenport Assumption. Iowa coaches broke him of his worst habits.
“It was more just doing stupid things at the wrong time,” Grothus said. “You don’t need a 5-point move to start the match to really dominate the match.
“It’s a seven-minute match. And by grinding on the guy, you can really wear them down. When he’s exhausted, maybe hit the big move and get the bonus points and get that fall.”
At 197, junior Tomas Lira is expected to get the first crack. He has a 24-17 career record.
But Brands also was intrigued by the true freshman who beat Lira in wrestle-offs — Nathan Burak.
“With 197, we have a guy there that has a potential redshirt. We’re going to be very smart with that,” Brands said. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see us and him pull the trigger and pulling that redshirt off in the future.
“The very near feature.”
Brands said Tuesday that Burak would go to an open tournament at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo. But that might change.
Iowa opens up its home season Nov. 24 with the Iowa duals.